Heaven on Earth

Heaven on Earth

Monday, October 24, 2011

Custom Lampshade Tutorial- Part One.

Remember this?  I bought this sad little porcelain lamp at a yard sale.  It had a hideous (and I am being kind) shade and it was painted in awful colors.  The harp on the lamp was way too tall and the shade was horribly out of porportion for the height of the base. The base got a new red coat and now I am giving it a new hat.  I promised a tutorial on a custom lampshade and here it is.  I finally found a shade and the fabric that I liked to go with the base. The lamp base is a little whimsical, don't you think?  My shade is tapered, with 6 sections and that is what the following tutorial will demonstrate...a tapered, sectioned custom shade using your choice of fabric.
You'll need some supplies.

  1. Lined lamp shade (new or used) to fit your lamp.  I bought mine at a big box store.
  2. Wooden clothespins or bull-dog clips (office supply store).
  3. Scissors.
  4. Scrap of light colored light-weight fabric or waxed/tissue paper to make a pattern.
  5. Pencil.
Before buying your fashion fabric you will need to make a pattern. Get a plain piece of muslin or white fabric that is not too heavy in weight and is light in color so that you can see through it (I used an off-white muslin scrap piece that I had on hand).  If the fabric pattern is sheer enough you can see through it to center a motif from the fabric, if you wish to have the same pattern showing on all of your sections.  An old cotton sheet will work well or you can use lightweight tissue paper.  Fabric works best because it drapes better than paper which makes for a more accurate pattern. 

Let's get started.
  • Carefully remove the horizontal trim from around the top and bottom of your shade.  Next, remove the vertical trim that covers each metal rib. 

Set aside and reserve these trim pieces.  You will need to measure them to determine the total amount of trim that you will either purchase or make to cover the fabric joins.  Drape and pin the muslin fabric over one section of your shade and secure it to both rims with several clothespins or bull-dog clips. 
  • Very carefully make small cuts crosswise into the scrap fabric only (see black arrows).  These clips into the sides of the pattern allow it to bend and form a truer line along the curve.  You will get a more accurate pattern by clipping.  Do not slip and cut your shade lining.  Holding the sides of the scrap fabric with one hand, locate where the metal ribs are by feel and carefully draw a pencil line onto your pattern fabric directly over the metal rib on the left side of one section.  Repeat for the right side rib.  Now draw along the top and bottom rings of the shade onto your pattern fabric.  Remove the clothespins and fabric pattern from the shade form.   
Your pattern should look something like this (you will only have drawn the solid lines at this point in time).
  • Lay the fabric pattern flat and carefully draw broken lines 1/2 inch outside both of the solid lines that you traced along the vertical metal ribs.  These broken lines are your cutting lines.  Cut along the broken lines (at pink arrows) on the sides.
  • Cut directly on the solid pencil lines along the top and bottom (at blue arrows).  You will not need extra fabric for the top and bottom only the sides.  This will be the pattern for your shade sections. 
Fabric has 3 grain lines; crosswise, lengthwise and bias. 
The bias grain line is the diagonal grain line of the fabric and has the most stretch, so you want to place your pattern diagonally on your fabric so that it will better mold to the metal shade frame.
Determine how many sections of fashion fabric you need to cut depending upon your shade frame.  Take the pattern along with you to buy your fashion fabric.  Lay it out on the chosen fabric at the store to determine how much fabric yardage you will need to buy, that way you don't end up with too much (or too little).

After you have purchased and ironed your fashion fabric you are ready for the next tutorial in this series.

Stay tuned for:  Part 2, Covering Your Shade. 


  1. This is going to be good, I can tell. Thank you for the tutorial! I'm anxiously awaiting part 2.

  2. Looking fun Bonnie -- can't wait to see more!

  3. Just wanted to say hello. I just caught up with all your posts that I missed while traveling in Europe. I love the red lamp...you are so clever. I also like your new photo header.

  4. Great looking lamp that you redid. Thanks for the tutorial on making a lampshade, I have 2 I need to redo.