Introduction: Vintage Fabric Lamp Shade Revamp

Many years ago, a neighbor gave my teenage daughter a lovely old pole lamp with a fabric lamp shade. Even then, it was in dire need of some TLC.

Fast-forward to my daughter all grown up and moving into her first house. Time and the conditions in my garage had not been kind to the lamp, but my daughter decided she wanted to use it in her new home anyway. She cleaned the pole and base, and I showed her how to rewire it. I was in charge of recovering the lamp shade -- luckily, one of my classmates in junior high recovered a cloth lampshade as a class project and I saw how she did it.

Step 1: Remove Existing Fabric

The first step to refurbish the lamp shade was to remove all of the existing fabric. I took a lot of pictures along the way to make sure I had a handle on the order in which it was originally constructed. To reverse construct it, the fringe came off, then all of the trim. I measured the trim to get a rough idea of how much to buy later.

The layers of fabric came off next. The fabric was in such bad shape it was not possible to make patterns, so I would have to wing it. Finally, the cloth wound around the frame was scraped off.

Step 2: Repair and Clean Up the Frame

The frame was in rough shape! The lamp shade holder ring at the top was missing along with one of its arms. I broke off the two remaining arms and sanded off all of the old loose paint.

I found another lamp shade that had a similar-sized top section and used it as a replacement. Then I used some fine wire to connect the replacement to the old frame. It was a little bulky, but worked nicely.

Everything got a coat of primer and then paint in the same color as the new lining.

The next step was to carefully wrap the frame with seam binding. I couldn't find seam binding in a color that matched the lining so I used matching bias tape instead.

The bias tape was tightly wrapped around the wires of the frame except for the lamp shade holder ring and its three arms. Neatness counts, so as I went along I secured the the ends of the bias tape with a few stitches and wrapped around them whenever possible. Although the bias tape didn't lay as flat as it should, it didn't look too bad.

Note: The bias tape wrap is important because it is used to sew the lining and cover onto the frame.

Step 3: Add the Lining

To cover a curved surface with flat fabric, place the fabric on the bias to get the maximum amount of stretch out of the fabric.

This lamp shade has eight "petals." For the lining, I covered two petals at a time and placed the fabric so the bias aligned with the center of the two petals. My fabric was the same on both sides, but if yours is not, place the "right" side of the fabric toward the frame so the good side shows from underneath.

I pinned the lining fabric to the bias tape along the frame about every 2", starting at the center rib, then on either side and then on the top and bottom. It is best to stretch the fabric slightly and adjust the pins as you go to avoid any puckering or gathering. I cannot stress enough how important this step is!

The next step was to whip stitch the fabric to the bias-tape-wrapped frame on all sides and along the middle between the two petals. Along each side only (the top and bottom are done later), I trimmed the raw edges about 1/2" from each edge of the frame. Then I folded the 1/2" of fabric back over the edges of the petals, pinned it in place and whip stitched it down.

I followed the same steps for the next two adjacent petals and repeated twice more until all of the lining had been sewn in place. Obviously, Miss Molly was very helpful throughout the process.

Step 4: Add the Cover Fabric

Every other panel on this lamp shade was covered with a fancy fabric. If yours does not, you can apply the cover fabric in exactly the same manner as lining, facing the right side of the fabric out. The process is only slightly different if you have alternating fabric panels.

Step 5: Bind the Edges

To bind the edges, i brought the excess lining fabric at the top and bottom of the lamp shade over the front edge and pinned it in place. Then I whip stitched it down and trimmed close to the stitching.

To complete the project, I added fringe along the bottom of the lamp shade and added trim along all of the edges. I have to confess that the glue gun came out at this point -- probably not the best move, but my fingertips were raw!