Monday, April 20, 2015

Custom Fabric Lampshades


I have learned a new trick, and it's the cleverest thing in a long time. Maybe you recall this mess, in which I got glue everywhere and invented some new words? A mighty struggle, that project, and I decided I couldn't cover lampshades. Well, behold: it is a lampshade, covered in new fabric, and it is good.

This idea came to me from the wonderfully creative mind of my friend Michelle. She did all her lampshades in plaid last winter, which was stunning, and which made her pretty little house look like a baronial hunting lodge. She also (as ever) made it look easy, and this time it really was easy. You measure a little (hardly at all), cut a little, glue a little, and that's all. You need paper, scissors, fabric, white craft glue, spray adhesive, a pencil, a ruler, and a lampshade you want to cover. These are all over the place in the thrift store, go look. Okay, here's what she told me to do:

Make a panel template. (This process works with those paneled silk lampshades that have individual sides--we'll get to the drum-style shades in a minute.) She used graph paper and accuracy for her plaid masterpieces, but you know me. I just put a piece of paper over one of the sections and traced it.

Cut out as many pieces of fabric as your lampshade has sections. I used a thrifted piece of men's shirting--ravelly, flimsy, hideous to sew. Lovely to glue.

Put a big piece of paper or other protective layer over your work surface. Open a window if you can, because the next step is stinky. Apply spray adhesive (I used Krylon Easy-Tack) to the back of one panel and stick it on the lampshade. It might look like it won't stick for a minute, but be patient. Smooth out any wrinkles or bubbles. Repeat for the other panels. Keep smoothing as you go, and don't panic if it looks like it isn't sticking. It will.

Make some bias edging. Don't cheat, it really must be cut on the bias. There's no need to measure, just cut some lengths--you can trim it later. My bias edging is cut at 1 1/2", then folded in thirds and pressed. Spray the adhesive onto the back of the first piece and stick it to one of the lampshade ribs, between the panels. Trim off any extra. Repeat for the other ribs, and then do the top and bottom edges, just matching one folded edge of the bias tape with the edge of the lampshade. Don't try to turn it to the inside, that's a recipe for tears. Fold the last raw edge under and stick it down with a dab of white craft glue. Let it dry. That's all there is to it. You may need to do a tiny bit of sewing to make a long enough piece of bias edging for the bottom edge of the lampshade, but that's the work of a moment, and you can do it by hand.

We hung it upside down on purpose, because we are quirky that way. Also, it wouldn't fit the fixture the right way up. Why not, right?

You know how it is, once you get going and you've already got glue all over your hands and everything? When you have a new hammer, everything looks like a nail?

We delved into the fabric stash and gave this lamp a new shade, too. I'm sorry there are no process photos of this one, because I was on a roll and also it was getting dark--the method here is a little bit different, but just as easy. [Scrub the glue off your worktable and] spread out a big piece of paper. Roll the lampshade over the paper, using a pencil to trace at the edges. Accuracy is useful here, but if you're going to err, go bigger. Too big can be trimmed. Leave enough allowance at the end for it to overlap. Once you have a paper pattern, use it to cut out your fabric. Now run a line of white craft glue down the seam in the lampshade's existing cover and stick the wrong side of your new fabric to it. Let the glue dry a bit--you want to be able to tug on the fabric a little as you cover the shade to help it lie flat. A couple clothespins are useful here. When the glue is somewhat set, apply a little white glue at the top and bottom edges of the shade a few inches at a time, and stick the fabric to it. You're not gluing the whole fabric, just at the top and bottom edge. It may wrinkle a little, so take the time to smooth it out--when it's smooth, move the clothespins, apply a few more inches of glue and keep going, all the way around. When you get to the end, fold over the last edge and glue it down, overlapping the first edge. You might be able to skip the folding over part, if your cut edge is neat enough, or if, like me, you are too covered in glue to care anymore and are willing to turn that seam toward the wall. Carefully trim off any fabric or fraying threads that stick out above the edges. Now, as before, make some bias binding and use spray adhesive to stick it to the top and bottom edges. Fold over the last edge and glue it down with white glue. That's it, you're done.

Seriously, that's great. Custom fabric lampshades! I feel like a genius. Michelle, thank you.