How To Recover A Fabric Lampshade

21/06/2012 0 Comment(s)

Hello everybody we thought you might find this interesting. We have just completed another restoration project for two very large antique lampshades for a lovely lady called Ann from Edinburgh in Scotland. We wanted to share our knowledge and experience of making them with you. There is no restoration project we have ever completed that is the same and again in this case these two lampshades were a little trickier than expected, but hey we always complete our projects and you can see with the end result the excellent finished quality.

Ann contacted us two weeks ago to see if our company could take on restoring such huge lampshades, 26 inches wide at the bottom, 22 inches wide at the top and 20 inches in height. Of course we said it would not be a problem. Then they arrived in two massive boxes, you don`t realise when a customer tells you the size how big they actually until you see them in the flesh and let me tell you they looked huge.

We phoned Ann to discuss the price to restore and deliver them back to what we thought must be a mansion she lives in with the size of these lampshades. It is always hard to price up restoration work because you don`t really know how long it is going to take you from start to finish, so a lot of it is just guess work and you hope it does not take you any longer than you quoted for. For this project we had estimated that it would take around 6 to 7 days. In the end it took 8 days to finish the two lampshades. I will get it right one day.

We have taken pictures of all the different stages of this restoration project and tried to explain all the work that was involved step by step. We do hope you find this interesting.


Step 1: Here you can see how the lampshades arrived with us and if you look closely you will see they are a little mis-shaped and the fabric is stained in places. A classic sign of some quality restoration work needed. One thing that is worth knowing when you have an old lamp shade restored you can guarantee that it fits perfectly back on to your base that it came off. This will save you hours, days, weeks or even months trying to find a new one because you won`t find a new one anywhere.



Step 2: Taking the lamp shade apart; We firstly take the brass finial off the top of the lamp shade by unscrewing it from the American fitting inside the lamp shade, most of the time these finials are crossed threaded and are hard work to get off, however on this occasion it was easy.



Step 3: On the majority of old lampshades, the frames are bound really tight using a bias binding fabric tape. The reason why they did this is so they had something to sew the fabric panels to. You have to bear in mind they did not have super glues and adhesives for bonding the fabric to the frames.

This is how they used to make them in the good old days.

We use a very sharp scalpel knife to remove the old fabric, carefully cutting away the stitching that all the panels were sewn to the frame with, cutting as close to the frame as possible and trying not to damage the bias binding fabric tape. The aim is to remove all the old fabric panels from the lamp shade without damaging any. You will need them for templates to cut out the new panels later in the restoration project.



Step 4: After removing all the panels it left just the frame and the bias binding tape. On this shade it was found that the bias binding tape was ok to leave on (this will aid in the super gluing process later on). However if the bias binding tape is a bit tatty and coming away from the frame, it will need to be removed leaving the bare frame, which will then need to be cleaned in hot soapy water and left to dry ready for spraying in white paint.



Step 5 : As we were leaving the bias binding tape on, the only part of the frame that needed re-spraying was the fitting where the frame was exposed. It was sprayed in a white enamel gloss paint then left to dry and harden for at least 48 hours. Always spray old frames outside or somewhere with a lot of ventilation because of fumes etc



Step 6 : We then roll enough fabric off our roll and lay it flat on our cutting table ready for the old fabric templates to be placed on top of it. In this case Ann wanted the lampshades making in a cream dupion fabric. One thing that is extremely important you must always cut out your fabric on the bias, this prevents it from splitting when it is sewn on the sewing machine.


Step 7: The panels from the old lampshades are placed on top of the new cream dupion fabric, then using a black marker pen we drew around the old panels to create a template in nice big thick black lines. When drawing the lines, an excellent tip is to cut out your new panels approximately half an inch wider on each side than the old panels. This will allow for sewing up the seams on the over locker sewing machine. If you do this correctly the new panels will be wide enough to pull over the old lamp shade frames also you must cut the new panels at least 4 inches longer on each end. This is so you can sew the strong nylon string on both ends, ready for pulling the covers tight.



Step 8: Once we had marked out all the templates we used our fabric cutting machine to cut out the panels, however this could have been done with a very sharp pair of material scissors.



Step 9: Here you can see both sets of panels being cut out, the outer panels and the inner linings. The linings will be fitted into the lampshades near the end, just before the braid goes on. We will show how we line a shade in a later blog. (When you have a lamp shade lined on the inside it really does give it that quality finishing touch)



Step 10: To sew the panels together we have a three thread over locker sewing machine which we have adapted to take an extra strong nylon string that runs through the middle of the stitching. (This will become apparent in step 12). Using the over locker is an art in itself you need to take your time and only take off a quarter of an inch of fabric from each side of the panel, this will be perfect to allow the covers to be pulled over the old frames without being too tight. If you take more than a quarter of an inch off the covers will be too tight to pull over the frames. Most lampshades have four panels to sew together like these ones we restored, however some lampshades have several panels to sew together. So always keep this in mind when you are cutting out the new panels and sewing them together.



Step 11: Once the panels are sewn together they form a cover to place over the lamp shade frame. At the minute they fit loosely over the frame, and overlap top and bottom.



Step 12: This is where the strong nylon string sewn between the stitching comes in handy. You need to grab both ends and pull tightly to make the fabric taut on the frame. In the picture below you can see my wife Lynn pulling the covers really tight, resulting in getting the shape and tension right for the correct look of the lampshades. (It is important not to pull the covers on too tight because this can bend or break the old fragile frames.)



Step 13: Once the fabric is on tight it isd time to bond it to the frame using a low odour cyanoacrylate super glue (Don't get it on your skin it burns like hell). The glue is left to dry for approximately 2 hours



Step 14: Once the glue had dried we cut off the surplus fabric from both ends of the lampshades. We did this by cutting along the outside of the old frame being extremely careful not to cut the bias binding tape that is bound around the old frame.



Step 15: This is where we fitted the lining`s on the inside of each lamp shade then cut off the surplus fabric with very sharp scissors from both ends, getting them ready for the finishing touches.


Step 16: Most lampshades don`t have fabric tops like these. Here you can see we are putting some new fabric tops back on to the lampshades using the cyanoacrylate super glue. Once the fabric tops where fitted and the glue had dried we cut off the surplus fabric from around the top being extra careful not to cut the new fabric panels underneath. The old brass finials are now fitted back on the top.



Step 17: My wife says she always find this part of the restoration work the most rewarding of all, dressing the lamp shade, she does like her dresses!!!!!!.  We have a sewing machine which enables us to produce our own braid from the fabric we are using at the time, giving you a perfect matching braid. Below you can see my wife Lynn using a hot melt glue gun to stick the braid to the lampshades. These lampshades only needed a braid to finish them off, however lots of period lampshades have fringes and tassel's etc, and yes we do supply all of these and you can view them in our on line shop.



Step 18: FINALLY! Here is one of the finished lampshades on show in all its glory. We do hope you found this restoration project interesting and if you would like any of your lampshades restored please give Ian a call on 01204 414366 or visit our website



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