How to Make a Lampshade

Knowing how to make a lampshade can save you money over time. To cut back on decorating costs, you could go with a dozen different ideas for a lampshade. Just decide where the lamp is going, and think of materials you already have.

How To Make A Lampshade
If you have already chosen the lampshade frame you'd like to use-either from the yard sale down the street, the thrift shop up the road, your mother-in-law's basement or your own living room-you are a quarter of the way done. The frame of the lampshade is important. For instance, are you looking for soft and feminine? If so, then a big boxy square frame is not the right choice. Choose bigger or boxier lampshade frames if you plan on redecorating a room that will be filled with testosterone, such as the man cave or den. If you're going retro, a traditional lampshade is also the wrong choice.

Lampshade Ideas
Try creating a lampshade from items you have lying around the house. This saves the landfill from an additional burden, and you get to do your part for the planet-at least for today. Tomorrow you can go green in some other manner, perhaps by turning those boxes of old books into an end table so you have someplace to set the lamp.

Contemporary Lampshade: A contemporary lampshade is generally drum-shaped, while a traditional lampshade is usually bell-shaped. To create a pattern for a simple lampshade, start with the lampshade frame and a few sheets of newsprint. Slowly move the frame over the newsprint, drawing the outline as you go. When the pattern lines meet, remove the frame and cut out the pattern, but allow at least a 1 ½-inch seam allowance all the way around the top and bottom. After you have cut the pattern out, pin it to the backside of the fabric of your choice, and cut the fabric to the correct size.

Place the fabric face down on a flat surface, and then place the frame top of it. Carefully pin the fabric onto the frame. When you have pinned the entire pattern in place, go around the lampshade and smooth the fabric down, stretching it lightly and adjusting the pins so that there are no wrinkles and the fabric is tight. At that point, you can either whip stitch it in place or use a fabric glue to help maintain the shape. If the fabric doesn't curl over the wire frame well, snip the overlap every ½ inch or so, but don't clip into the fabric more than ½ inch, as well. Clipping the fabric along the edges allows more give and makes the fabric easier to work with. Use wooden clothespins to hold the fabric in place while you glue or whipstitch.

If you whipstitch the fabric in place with a needle and thread, you may need to hide the needle marks along the outside of the lampshade. To do this, add beadwork or ribbon along the top and bottom of the lamp. Most fabric stores have curtain accessories that work well on lamps.

Yarn Or String: Items that might end up in the landfill and could be used as lampshade material include yarn, string, ribbon or any other length of material. Using these items means you could make a retro lampshade by adding a variety of hemp or colored threads and ribbons onto the frame, starting at the top and working your way to the bottom of the shade.

Plastic Lids: Other items that will end up in a landfill are the small white plastic lids that come on a variety of food items. The smallest come on milk jugs, and the largest come on Cool Whip, but you can find a variety of sizes in between.

Use lids devoid of advertising, and then cut the lip off each cap. This is harder to do than it sounds. Milk jugs or orange juice containers are quite tough. But thinner plastic containers are easy to work with. Just make sure you cut the lip off evenly all around. Save the caps until you have enough of the correct size to fill the entire lamp frame.

Roll the frame on a large piece of newspaper, tracing the outline as you roll. This is the size of lampshade you will need to fill with lids. Place the pattern on a flat surface, and arrange the lids over it. Use a handheld punch, and punch four small holes into the plastic lids-one on each side-and then place them on a flat surface next to one another, as if you're making a quilt, and connect the lids together with jewelers' wire. The holes should all be uniform and placed at exactly the same spot on each cap so that, once connected, the plastic cap fabric you're creating falls in a uniform pattern. The circles should be connected close together. Use the same wire to attach the lids to the frame. Or, you could leave the lip on the lids and insert a photo into each lid, photo facing outward. Create a conversation piece by using photos from your teenage years.

Magazine Sheets: For something a little more kitschy, use magazine sheets. Simply tear out the magazine sheets and roll each one into a tight pencil-shaped roll. Glue the end of the glossy sheet down and hold it until the glue has set. When you have enough rolls to cover the old lampshade, glue them in place. Make sure you cut the rolls or cylinders to the exact size of the lampshade and always glue them up and down, not sideways. This project was popular in Home Economics classes back in the '60s, and homemade retro home fashions are making a comeback. Since you're already channeling the '60s with this type of lampshade, you might want to go ahead and make a matching wastebasket.

Remember, also, that a handmade lampshade is not necessarily created from fabric or materials that are flame-retardant. Never use a high-wattage bulb with a homemade lampshade. 

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