Lamp Shade from Scratch

I’m blogging with a fury today.  When I say that one reason I blog is because it’s therapeutical (word?  not a word?) for me, I mean I blog because it’s therapeutical for me...gathers my marbles, mends my wits, gets out the jitters…  We were involved in a big fender-bender last night, the kids and I.  A man driving a big pick-up truck with a trailer drifted into my lane while I was stopped at a red light, side swiped the entire side of the pick-up behind me, hit the back corner of our van, and majorly hit the car in front of him who hit the car in front of her, who hit the car in front of him.  It was awful and affected me all night last night…and I had the least amount of damage.  So, here I am, frantically pounding away at the keyboard, still thanking God for protecting all involved, and thinking happy thoughts about…

lamp shades.

Let me put aside all the scary thoughts about car accidents in lieu of telling you fine readers how you can make your own.

diy lamp shade
We made our own to adorn the new chandelier in the kitchen (above pic) and the one attached to Sebastian’s ceiling fan.
sebsroom2 (8)

Buying these new was way out of our budget; like $100+ out.  Plus, there’s no guarantee a shade made to the specific diameter and height you’re looking for even exists.  So, we do what we do and we make.  And so can you.  (FYI, some of the links to products I purchased/used below are affiliate links which means I’ll make a small commission if you click over and buy.  But don’t worry!  It doesn’t affect your price in the slightest!  Thanks for supporting me!)

Here’s what you’ll need:
Lamp Shade Rings
lamp shade rings
You can hunt down a lamp shade at a thrift store or other discount store just to take it apart for its rings and use those or you can buy bottom and top rings from The Lamp Shop like I did.  For the kitchen light, I needed the biggest they had to fit around the chandelier, 24 inches in diameter.  With shipping, I ended up paying around $20 just for the rings but I couldn’t find any local store that just sold rings like this.  When you go to order/search for rings, keep in mind the shape you’d like your shade to be.  You can have it taper at the top (bottom ring larger than the top) or you can keep the top and bottom the same, like I did.


Polystyrene Plastic Sheeting.  I searched for days for this sheeting.  I was so clueless on how thick it had to be and I wanted something semi-transparent so that it didn’t block too much light.  Finally, I settled on this polystyrene plastic. I thought it would be a little more transparent than it actually is but once I was finished making the shades with it and turned the lights on, it wasn’t bad by any means.  I’m really happy with the quality of it and how easily I could cut through it.

Again, it cost me a little over $20 for this roll but I’ll be able to get about 10+ shades out of it because it’s so large.  As I type I have four other shades in this house whose plastic linings are torn or yellowed so they’ll all be getting new plastic out of this roll.

IMG_0757

Fabric.  If you want a shade that doesn’t inhibit light, you’ll want to cover it with a thin fabric.  Quilting fabrics are great for this because they’re thin and you can find solids and lots of patterns.  I went with a plain white broadcloth from JoAnn Fabrics for the kitchen shade.  I like it because it’s really thin and resembles linen.  You can sort of see the texture in the picture below.  The pattern you can see through the broadcloth is my ironing board, so you can see just how thin this fabric is.
IMG_0854
(PS, to figure out length of fabric you’ll need for a drum shade where the top and bottom rings are the same size, multiply the diameter of your lamp rings by 3.14.  Make sure to buy a piece of fabric several inches longer and wider than your finished shade will be though.  You’ll cut it to size once it’s attached to your plastic.  A tapered shade is a little more difficult to make from scratch.  The best way to make one of those would be to find an old tapered shade somewhere, carefully remove the plastic, and trace it onto a new piece.  I’ll have a tutorial on reconstructing a tapered shade sometime in the future as some of mine are!)

Spray Glue
Scissors
Thin Marker or Pencil
Hot Glue Gun and Sticks
An Extra Pair of Hands

Ok.  Once you have everything, you’ll need to cut your plastic to size (figure out the circumference using the above formula and add a half inch for overlap at the ends).  Lay it out in an area large enough that you can lay the entire piece flat.  (I locked myself in our room one day while Anthony was home so I didn’t have to play defense to keep the kids from walking all over it…bedroom workshop.)
IMG_0759
Then, draw the shade out.  Assuming that one side of the plastic I purchased was straight, I lined up a quilting square and drew a straight line with a thin permanent marker along that side to the length I needed my shade to be.  I wanted my shade to be nine inches high (up and down) and it needed to be 78 inches long to cover my rings and overlap at the ends. IMG_0760If you don’t have a quilting square, you can cut a piece of paper to your desired height, line it up along the straight edge of your plastic, and mark along the opposite side.  If you’re using an old piece of existing plastic (the one you’re replacing the new plastic with) then obviously you’ll just have to trace.  :)

Next, cut out your shade plastic.
IMG_0761
(Side note:  I made a lamp shade to cover our living room fan a couple of months ago and had some difficulty cutting the plastic.  It wasn’t this new plastic sheeting I had but the old shade plastic that I was just shortening.  Every time I cut, the plastic cracked at the tip of the scissors when it was closed completely.  I’m not sure if that plastic was just old and brittle or if it was my scissors or what.  So, this time around I didn’t close my scissors completely while I was cutting just to make sure that didn’t happen again.  Make sense?)
 
So now that your plastic is set, covering it with fabric is up next.
The first thing you’ll probably want to do is give it a good ironing to make sure that no wrinkles pop up on your finished shade…because good luck ironing them out if that happens.  ;)
IMG_0853
After it’s nice and wrinkle-free, lay it out on a flat surface.  I’d recommend covering your flat surface with an old sheet or tablecloth first though just to make sure you don’t get glue everywhere. 
IMG_0855As you can see, my fabric was a tad bit longer than my table so I just made sure to get the majority on.

Next up, attached your fabric to the plastic with some spray glue.  I used Duro All-Purpose spray glue (I think I got this at Walmart awhile back).
IMG_0856This stuff can get everywhere so make sure not to spray it around anything important.  I went outside (at 10 ‘o clock at night) to the middle of the backyard, held up the plastic, and sprayed.)  Make sure you spray the outside of the shade and not the inside.  Let the glue dry for a minute or two for a better stick.
Then, lay your plastic on top of your fabric.  To make sure there aren’t any bubbles, it helps to start on one side and sort of roll the fabric on while running your hand down the plastic…if that makes sense.  IMG_0858
If you’re using a patterned fabric, make sure you lay the plastic on straight.  If you lay it on and it’s not straight though, don’t fret.  Just take it off and lay it on again.  It really helps with this step and the following to have someone helping.
Once you have your plastic positioned where you want it, run your hands along the top of it, pressing so that every inch sticks. 

Now, cut the extra fabric off.  At the ends, you’ll want to leave anywhere from a quarter to a half inch to be folded over onto the plastic.
IMG_0859
A good way to figure out how much to leave on the sides is to fold the fabric over the ring while it’s sitting on the very edge of the plastic (see pictures towards the end of the post).  You’ll want to leave enough to completely cover the ring plus a few millimeters.
IMG_0860IMG_0861
Make sure to cut a straight line.  It doesn’t matter too much if it’s slightly thicker in some areas.  You just don’t want any jagged edges you can get from cutting short snips.  I was a little too hasty in spots thinking it wouldn’t matter and you can see those spots on the inside of my shade.  Doh!
IMG_0870
So, now it’s time to get out that glue gun.  Make sure you grab a bunch of extra sticks too so that you don’t have to halt progress to run for some.
IMG_0862
Hot glue is great in that it dries really quick but sometimes that’s the downfall too.  And it’s messy.  If there were such a glue that was thinner, room-temp, and dried quick, I’d be all over it.  But, as far as I know, there isn’t, so hot glue it is.

First, glue both of your ends down.  Just place a very thin line of glue along the very edge of your plastic, fold the fabric over, and press it down.  The thinner your line of glue, the less bulky the ends will be.    IMG_0864
Next, grab both the top and bottom rings and place them directly over the ends and right at the very edge of the plastic.  They shouldn’t be sitting on top of the fabric at all.  Have someone hold them there for you.  (Make sure that if your top ring has a recessed washer ring and bars, that the recess is going into the shade vs. outside or on top of it.  I made that mistake with a recent shade and had to tear it apart and start over.)
IMG_0865
It’s really important to take this next part slow.  You’ll need to work in very small sections to ensure that you have no buckling/warping of the plastic on your shade.  Run a line of glue along a couple of inches of one ring and quickly fold your fabric on top of and over the ring.  Hold until it dries (a few seconds).
IMG_0866
Don’t glue the plastic (made that mistake too).  It makes for a cleaner finish if you just place glue on the ring because, as you fold the fabric over, you’ll push the glue into the crevice between the ring and plastic so it won’t be very noticeable in the end.

Glue a couple of inches on the top ring and then do the same couple of inches on the bottom ring.  Over and over and over.
IMG_0868
Meanwhile, your helper should be rolling the rings along so that whatever part your gluing is closest to the table.  This will help make sure that the plastic is always touching the ring and protecting you from having a less than straight edge once you’re finished.
 
When you’re a few inches from the end, stop gluing.  Roll your shade up so that the seam is visible.  Run a thin line of glue along the end you started with and press the other end to it.
IMG_0869 
Last, finish gluing the rest of the shade where you left off in the same way that you glued before, little by little and with the part you’re gluing laying closest to the table.

I’ll go into more detail on the added stripes and how we attached this shade to the chandelier in another post but the washer at the top of this shade ring was a perfect fit over the threaded rod on the top of our chandelier so it just slipped right on.
IMG_0871
Until that other post, ciao!  Thanks for letting me unload myself onto you through my fingers and a lengthy tutorial.  Now, if someone will actually make a lamp shade and let me know how it goes, it’ll get me to 100% real quick like.  :)

Hasta later.

IMG_6377

9 comments

  1. Your lampshade tutorial looks so easy, I actually want to make a lamp shade now. I am glad you are safe despite the accident last night. The Lord truly watches over us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad it's coherent Emma! I finished writing and editing around midnight last night so I wasn't sure...haha! God does watch over us! That thought has been running through my brain a lot in the past two days! :)

      Delete
  2. This came out beautiful and much cheaper than the one I bought with a similar look.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Lisa! Yours might not have as many hot glue strings still waiting to be wiped off though... ;)

      Delete
  3. LOL, you are too funny. I'm sure it's perfect!

    ReplyDelete
  4. What a great post, I hope to make some but don't hold your breath. You are really great at giving instructions, pretty sure your tips will help me with lots of projects. Thank you, Terry

    ReplyDelete
  5. How to calculate the correct lamp shade size, based on the size of your lamp base?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you for the excellent tutorial. Your shades look terrific!

    ReplyDelete

A penny for your thoughts? Or how about you give your two cents? Whatever the change, I'd love to know what you think and I try my best to respond! If your name is linked to your email, I'll hit you up there. If not, check back! I'd love to see you again anyway! :)