Create A Custom Lampshade

My Little Blue Lamp with Custom Lampshade

Hello, and welcome to the first tutorial on my home/decor crafty blog.  I didn’t take pictures during the process of this project, because at the time I didn’t quite realize it was going to go on to become a blog entry.   It was only after posting pictures of the finished project, and friends asking how I did it that I realized I should try and explain it.  I’m a pretty experienced crafter, I minored in English in college, and I come from a long line of teachers, so I think maybe I could do a bang-up job if I applied myself.  I self-applied (ooh, it sounds *dirty* when I say it that way!) and this is what I came up with.  Feedback greatly appreciated!

I love poring over images of colorful homes, and recently I’ve noticed that a LOT of the lampshades bedecking all the glossy, pottery lamps are embellished somehow…  Often its grosgrain ribbon trim on the top and bottom edge; sometimes its a surprise colorful lining; or the shades themselves are extra-glossy, as if somehow lacquered to be as shiny as the base they are sitting on.  It is not hard to find plenty of gorgeous things happening on lamps right now, which can make the old functioning ones at home look super boring.  Even worse if that old lamps’ shade is dingy, damaged, or even stained!  I had one that was– as of last week– all three.

My Little Blue Lamp, More “Mid”

It’s a simple drum shade, silk-covered, about 10 inches tall, on a short pottery lamp that was gifted to us as a wedding present.  I love the lamp– and the style and type of hardware on the shade is the ideal setup for that type of base– so I didn’t want to be forced to replace the shade (or just yet, anyway).  However, over the last seven and a half years its been in regular use, so it was looking really rough.   Reeeeally rough.  It had sort of yellowed to a color I’d like to refer to as “dog tooth,” not exactly a tone I’m hoping to decorate with in the future.  And because our house has no window screens, and for the last two summers we have gone through several periods of no air conditioning (or even one week-and-a-half-long case, no electricity) it even had spots of fly poop all over it.  Gross, right?  I dust it fairly regularly, but that is not something you can just wipe off of a silk shade, so the condition persisted disgustingly.  Ugh.  I had HAD IT.

Last week the three of us in this little family made the effort to drive out to the Joann’s Etc. on the other side of town.  Without a doubt, they have the best selection of fabrics in town.  Hob Lob pales in comparison.  (Plus, they’re closed on Sundays, which means I have to plan crafts ahead of time for the weekend.  Sometimes I am not so together.)  While perusing the ever-changing selection, I found a beauty.  This fabric is a med-weight 100% cotton, with a vaguely Asian feel.  We are moving, and I am trying to finish some anticipatory decor crafts ahead of time, knowing that I will be devoting a lot of time to wall painting and unpacking for a while afterward.  “Inspiration Crafts,” as it were.  I’m planning the rooms thematically, so that packing will hopefully be easier and more efficient in the end.  Anyway, the new living room will have a sort of Asian theme, but not really in the way you think….  Sort of kitschy and mid-century and colorful and modern.  This fabric sort of encapsulates that for me.  AND its all the colors I’d already picked out.  How fabulously convenient!  I bought a couple of yards knowing that I would make throw pillows, or put panels on borders of the curtains, or something.

The New Fabric and Preliminary Swatches

When I got home, my eyes hit that lampshade, and I knew.  Its time had come. It was done pissing me off with its gunkiness.   I did a quick inventory, I had everything else I needed to complete the project 0n-hand already.

Materials and Supplies–

*cleaning supplies for shade and shrinking fabric

*newspaper or large paper sheets, tape, pencil

*clean towel

*mod podge decoupage medium (I used the original formula.  In this tutorial I will call it, ‘podge,’ ‘medium,’ and ‘glue’ all meaning this same stuff.)

*clean 1″ wide paintbrush

*hot glue gun and hot glue

*fabric pinking shears, paper scissors

*dish for mod podge, cup of water to receive brush, paper towels, plastic work surface protection (I used a trash bag)

*2 yards or so decorative ribbon or bias tape

*cotton fabric of choice

*cheap masking tape, if desired

*lamp and lampshade of choice
Here was my process:
1.  I ran some hot water in the bath, removed the shade from the lamp, and readied a towel to be the drying area.  I was not super-concerned about how the silk would fare through the wash, since I knew I’d be coating it with the fabric, but if you have concerns about your shade, please do more research and make sure you are using a safe cleaning method.  I’m not an expert on lampshade cleaning or anything, I’m just telling you what I did (and that it worked for me).

2.  Holding the shade over the bath, I spritzed it with my “Mrs Clean” mix (I’m sure I’ll do this in a post later, but its essentially a mix of white vinegar, a few drops of blue dawn, and water in a spray bottle) until thoroughly soaked.  Using a nail brush, I delicately scrubbed at the more soiled areas.  I was surprised– the spritz and the brush actually got most of the grody stuff off…  not enough that I wanted to go back to using it as-is, but enough that I didn’t worry about ruining the new fabric during its application process.  I used the bathwater to give the shade a good rinse.  You don’t want to leave it for any length of time, in case your hardware is prone to rust, but you also don’t want to activate a bunch of soap while you’re trying to decoupage.  Pat dry and place on your towel to dry, I left mine overnight.

3.  While this is drying, you should pre-shrink your fabric in the washer’s hottest setting that the fabric can take, dry it, and press it so that you will have zero cutting errors with your pattern.  This seems like a lot of extra work, but there is a lot of moisture in mod podge, so you don’t want shrinkage to be the slightest of issues, and you won’t be able to press out any big, ugly folds that you notice once the glue is on there.  Better safe and all that, I figure.

4.  Make your pattern.  To do this, I taped a couple of sheets of newspaper together.  Starting at the shade’s backside seam matched along the outer edge of the paper, trace the shade with a sharpened pencil to make a pattern.  Your paper should go all the way around to that seam again.  I like to fold my paper here on the opposite side to quickly mark that line.

5.  Mark off roughly an inch all the way around the pattern, adding two along the folded edge since you have no paper on that far edge you began with.  Trim to this new outside line.

6.  Using your pattern, cut your fabric to size.  You may want to use pinking shears if you have them.  If your lampshade is not straight-up-and-down on the sides like mine is, be sure that you are aligning your fabric so that the design is upright on the pattern, longer curved edge being toward the bottom.  (My pattern was essentially a straight line, so top and bottom didn’t matter so much.)  On one of the short side seam edges, turn about 1″ (this does not have to be exact, just consistent so you get a nice, straight line) and press that fold.  Set aside.

7.  Protect your work surface.  I laid out a plastic trash bag, finding this to be the perfect-sized ‘desktop tarp.’  I also like to get a wet rag to be handy, in case of any drips in areas where I don’t want the podge.   It cleans up fine while its wet, but it dries a doozy.

8.  Pour a generous amount of Mod Podge onto a paper plate or other dish that you have set aside for such purpose.  Orient your shade to its most maneuverable angle (for me this was on its side), seam upright or toward you.  Be sure your hands are clean and all supplies are handy before beginning with the sticky decoupage adhesive.

9. Using a clean brush (I choose a flat paint brush that is fairly cheap– I do not like the foamie ones for this type of project because they break down too quickly and I don’t want any black bits in my project) at the back seam of the shade, apply a thick layer of mod podge about 1″ wide, from top to bottom, being sure to saturate all the way to each edge with the decoupage medium.

10.  Carefully align the unfolded/unpressed edge of your short side seam edges with the shade’s current seam, being sure to orient your pattern upright if your design has an obvious direction.  You’ll want approximately the same amount of fabric overhang at the top and the bottom of the shade.  We’ll deal with it later.

11.  Saturate the outside of the same 1″ swath of the outside of the fabric on the shade, smoothing out all bubbles and wrinkles as you go.  Luckily, this is muuuch easier with fabric than paper.

12.  You are basically going to repeat this last step all the way around, with a little wider band.  So– holding the fabric with your clean thumb if you need, flip back the dry fabric onto your hand/arm holding the shade;  paint another swath of lampshade in a band about 3-4 inches wide, top to bottom, until fully saturated. Then carefully smooth the fabric over the now-moistened part of the shade, and saturate it fully with the mod podge, bonding it to the shade and smoothing the now-tackier glue at the far edge where you left off on the first swath.  You are working that medium into the fabric, saturating the fabric on the outside of the shade, making sure to push all bubbles out to the edges where the dry fabric is, and getting the glue and fabric to be as smoothly adhered to the shade as possible.  (If you were anchoring that first edge with your thumb as suggested, go over that area with your brush as well, to remove as much thumbprint as possible.  Try to be neat and tidy with your hands and brushstrokes, knowing that if you leave a big thumbprint you’ll be able to see it when it all dries.) Don’t slack off on adhering it all the way to the edge, either, this will make it easier to turn the excess in to the inside of the shade.

13.  Repeat, all the way around, until you get about 2″ away from the starting edge.  You should have an extra few inches left of overhang, pressed neatly to just cover your seam line.  If not, now is the time to fudge that area– too long, trim and fingerpress; or if too short, flatten your fold back out, planning to cover your seams via extra bias tape, etc.  Ultimately, this will be the *back* seam of the shade, so it doesn’t have to be perfection.  I would rather be able to use it on a table in the center of a room if I want to, however, so I do try and keep it as nice as possible.  Why limit yourself?  Finish this via the past method of saturation with mod podge, this time saturating two layers of fabric, and taking extra care with the seam as not to get to bulky or awkward.

14.  At this point, pause to evaluate your work.  You can stick your brush in the water (believe me, you DON’T want that baby drying out on you, yuck), carefully place the shade down on your surface, and go wash your hands.  That mod podge starts to build up on my fingers, and when I can’t feel with my fingertips anymore, all things craftastic start to go downhill.  Check your shade– you should have it covered smoothly all the way around, now drying, but with about an inch of dry (er, never saturated) fabric sticking out from the top and bottom. If you’re not looking as nice as you’d like, try and go back and fix it before your decoupage medium dries.  If it looks good, give it a brief chance to dry a little more.  During this time I try and get any excess glue off of my brush, clean up the area for stray drips, etc.

(**note** if your shade is tapered and not straight like mine is, you have an extra step here.  When your shade is DRY, you should snip cuts all the way around the perimeter of your edge, just like you would notch the curves in a sewing project.  Then proceed.)

15.  This is probably the trickiest part, just be diligent here with your decoupage, keep brushing and trying to smooth and alleviate excess glue.  Choose which edge you will work on first, top or bottom, I would recommend going with the edge that was sitting on table during the dry time.  Load your brush with mod podge, and carefully brush a layer of decoupage medium around the bottom 3/4″ (or so– just eyeball it) of the inside of the shade, in about a 4-6 inch section.  You want to kind of go slow and steady here, because you don’t want that glue creeping up farther and farther into the inside of the shade, try to keep it to the bottom inch or less.  So you’ve painted a five inch skinny stripe, and now you want to use your clean fingers and your brush to press the fabric in around the curve of the bottom edge and into the inside of the shade, saturating the fabric with the podge and smoothing out the bubbles as you go, just like you did with the body of the shade.  You’re essentially wrapping the edge of the lampshade with the fabric in a sort of narrow glued hem. It’s pretty easy once you get started.  Go all the way around in segments, being sure to lift off excess decoupage medium, smooth out bubbles, and blend nicely with the now-dry glue on the front of the shade.

15.  Pause, dunk your brush, wash your hands, blah blah while this edge dries a little.  It is just highly likely that you will need to hold the shade with the opposite edge while you work on the other, so its better to not put handprints in it, you know?  This stuff really does dry to tacky pretty fast.  When you’re dry enough (not you– the shade), do the other edge the same way as the first, painting mod podge in a narrow rim around the bottom, and pressing that fabric overhang into place.  It should now look like a completely pretty fabric covered lampshade.  Place down on your trash bag again on the drier edge and allow to dry fully, trying not to rejoice due to your totes adorbs craft project being done.  It isn’t!

16.  You may be tempted to skip this trim step, and you know what?– I get that.  But it’s here for a reason.  Hear me out on the reason, try out your shade on your lamp and THEN decide to skip it, that’s fine.  I’m cool with that.  But I’m trying to spare you the disappointment of *thinking* you’re done, reassembling your lamp, getting the light on, and… seeing that seam of pattern on the inside illuminated through the lampshade.  Somehow adding trim on the OUTSIDE visually ‘breaks’ this line of pattern for your eye, and you stop seeing it.  (Which, actually, makes me think you could be successful placing the same trim only on the INSIDE of the shade, it should work the same way but would be a different look.)  If you fear that you cannot make a straight trim line, use narrow masking tape to mark off a line on the bottom of the shade and match your trim to the top of that line.  I eyeballed it, but I felt really safe doing so.  The process is this– heat glue gun; trim tape/ribbon to a few inches longer than the circumference of the edge; glue trim down, starting at back seam edge of shade again, applying hot glue in small segments, pulling tape taut, and laying it down into the glue.  As you get close to the end and back to the seam of the shade, trim excess and glue neatly.

17.  Repeat with the other edge of the lampshade.

18.  If your back fabric seam on the shade is “ugly” you can at this point cover that line with your remaining ribbon trim and hot glue.  Mine looks nice, so I left it as-is.  I would only do this if it really needs it, as you don’t want to add bulk and have a lampshade that sits wonky on its lamp because its heavy on one side.

18.  Care of your shade is the same regular dusting it got in its silken form, and you can use the occasional damp cloth to wipe it a little, it is actually more durable now than before.

***If you do this project, PLEASE share it with me, I LOVE to see how crafts turn out!  Ask me if you have questions, I’ll try and answer in a timely manner.  I’d also love to know if you come to any mega flaws in my tutorial, I’d rather try and address those issues than to set people up for crafty failure!  Have fun, and thanks for reading!  xoxo ***

Another View of the Finished Lamp



2 Responses to “Create A Custom Lampshade”

  1. Carol

    Amber…thank you so much for taking the time to write out these instructions! They are so complete that I might even give this a try!!!

    Look forward to seeing how the place takes shape…

    Many blessings…


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