DIYdiy projects

diy project: lia’s custom lampshades

by Kate Pruitt

Vintage lampshades have loads of character; you can’t find shades like them in stores today. The sizes, shapes and fittings are the perfect fit for vintage lamps. However, they are often in dire need of an update. In an effort to recycle every last piece of a lamp pair instead of buying new, I started to recover the original shades in fabric. It’s a quick, easy and fun process. I love being able to fully customize the shades with the fabric of my choosing, rather than being limited by the minimal options available in stores. You can use this technique to revamp any boring lampshade to suit your decor. — Lia Fagan

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!


  • fabric
  • lampshade
  • pencil
  • ruler
  • scissors
  • kraft paper or scrap paper (to create shade template)
  • pins
  • sewing machine
  • spray adhesive
  • fabric glue
  • iron


1. Create a template. Trace your lampshade with a pencil by rolling it along craft paper, using the seam as a guide for your starting and ending points.

2. Cut out the paper template and do a test fit around your shade. Trim up the edges if necessary.

3. Lay out your fabric (right side down) and attach your template with pins. Be aware of the fabric direction and make sure to align your template accordingly. In this case, I aligned the template so that the large flower bunches would be centered on the finished shade.

4. Cut out your fabric. Leave an extra 1 1/2″ around the perimeter of the template for hemming.

5. Leaving the template in place, fold the raw edges of the top and bottom inward and pin.

6. Remove the template. Hem the top and bottom edges using a sewing machine. Hem only one of the short sides, using the same method.

7. Iron your fabric to ensure that all wrinkles are removed before adhering it to the shade.

8. Lay the shade on the fabric, seam side up. In a well-ventilated area, apply spray adhesive to the shade in small sections and smooth the fabric over as you go.

9. Attach the raw end of the fabric to the shade first, then overlap it with the finished end. Secure the finished end to the shade with fabric glue.

10. Apply fabric glue to the inside edges of the fabric at the top and bottom. Fold them into the shade, pressing firmly.


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  • Thanks for these directions. I’ve covered lampshades with fabric many times, for a quick change. Its usually a good idea to “test” the fabric on the lampshade with the light “on”. Some fabrics just “glow” with the light on, and some just die. For a no sew option…spray glue the fabric on the shade and trim it close to the top and bottom edge with an exacto knife. Cover the raw edge by gluing on some type of trim: bias tape will give a nice clean tailored edge, or use some kind of funky ball or tassel fringe, gimp, shells…whatever suits your mood.

  • Awesome! I’ve been thinking about getting a new lamp shade for months now, and haven’t come across one that I love; this is the perfect solution! Thanks so much for sharing!

  • I’ve got a lampshade I’d love to recover but it’s a flared square shape. Does this mean I’d have to cut 4 pieces of fabric (1 for each side) and have seams at all the corners? I can’t quite work out how to do it otherwise. Help?!

  • Lovely and very timely! I was just contemplating how to tackle recovering a shade I have with some new fabric. Got the spray adhesive part, alright, but the lightbulb came on when I said aloud – oooh! Make a template!!! So smart!

  • really helpful!! as well, the comment about testing the fabric with the light on before starting the project. thanks. :)

  • I made one without hemming either. It is holding fine, but I would recommend making sure that the edges are even – when you turn on the light, any flaw will show through. I am pretty incompetent at stuff like this, so I would say anyone could do it.

  • Oh…..one more thing….the kind of bulb you use will also drastically change the look of the fabric when the light is on.(unless you have a densely woven opaque fabric where no light will shine through anyway) I absolutely HATE the light from those new energy efficient bulbs we will all be forced to buy. White fabric or designs turn yellow…even with the bulbs promising “white” light. I’ve tried them.

  • Emily M – I’ve never done a square one, but I would assume that you could do it the same way and you’d end up with a wonky looking template, but it could work. Your idea of doing 4 separate pieces would work too, but you’d have to be super neat to make sure the seams lay perfectly along the corners.

    Emma – No sew hem tape would do the job just fine!

    Liz – I got the fabric from my local Fabricland store. I’m not sure if they have that in The States or not, but if they do, they may still have it in stock…

  • I definitely would like to try this. Looks so simple. I love the fabric on the shade, easy to change up during the different seasons. Great post!

  • This is such a great tutorial. Thanks Lia! I get so frustrated when I shop for lamp shades, esp. when I find some great thrift store lamp and want a really special shade for it. Can’t wait to try this!

  • Thanks so much for this timely post! I’ve been wondering how to do this for quite awhile. I don’t have a sewing machine either, but hem tape sounds great.

  • Oh thanks for posting this how to – I saw something like this fleetingly on Nate Berkus show but couldn’t find it online afterwards – so super happy to see it here! have some fabric I want to use but was too scared to venture out on my own!
    The Row House Nest

  • How fun and what perfect timing Lia!

    I have two wonderful old lamps that my Grandmother altered and made from antique dip candle molds. And since I have recently moved, I wanted to give them an overhaul which included (besides repainting them) and adding some fun mod fabric to the shades to match the same fabric I used to sew the curtains and the couch I had reupholstered (reupholstering was too much of a job so I gave that one to the pros).

    Thanks for this, can’t wait to share my efforts based upon your wonderful tutorial! Perfect Timing.

  • What does this do to the maximum watt bulb you can use with the shade? I have been shade shopping lately and it seems like the watts allowed with most shades are kind of low.


  • Love it! So very creative, that fabric is adorable. Thanks for the tutorial. I am going to go around my house and think about which lamp shades need a “redoux”. :)

  • I’ve done this with a hot glue gun before. Mine was never as exact as this, typically ended up pretty close, except for maybe the seam on the back. My seam always tends to be angled funny because of the two different size openings on top and bottom of the shade.

    But I just cut the fabric large enough to where I knew I’d have excess at top and bottom and then at the seam where they met. As I glued, I folded the fabric inbetween the outside fabric and the shade, and butted the edge of the fabric to the edge of the shade. This meant there was no excess to fold inside the shade, but instead was flush with the edge.

  • This is amazing! So many times I have seen lovely lamps with dingy old shades and passed over them at thrift shops… Never. Again.

  • I love this-you make it look really easy! I have a GIANT lamp I sprayed and have been pondering a plan for the shade-I actually tried something and failed-no directions of course-I needed a visua guidel to compliment my lack of engineering skills-THANKS! :)

  • i love this idea, but the vintage lamp i have in mind currently has an pleated lamp shade – any ideas on how to attempt this with one, or any alternatives? thanks!

  • What color is the lamp base? It’s exactly the color I am looking for to re-do an old lamp myself! Super cute!Thanks for the inspiration.

  • I love this tutorial! Thanks so much… I will have to try this!
    Also I wanted to let you know I reblogged the tutorial and linked to your site. Let me know if you don’t want it up.

  • I have a project I am working on. I have 2 clear glass lamps that I have made into sea shell lamps. The shades are a drab plain tan. I want to place fabric or paper on them and as a last resort painting them. The problem I am having is that these shades that fit the 2 lamps are crimped in triangular shape all the way around. I searched for answers before I found your site. I hope you can give me some insight on how to proceed if you have worked with this type shade before? I very much appreciate it in advance.

  • Looks great! Can you please tell me what color and brand of spray paint you used on the lamp base?? I am so in love with that color!!!

  • since you are leaving 1 1/2 inches around all edges do you only put a hem in of 3/4 inches in order to wrap the rest inside the shade?

  • I love the lamp shade but I have the same sewing machine cabinet it belonged to my grandmother and my husband put my electric Singer sewing machine in,now days I don’t sew and then I think I will sell it but so far I haven’t, you did a great job on the lamp shade.

  • I loved your instructions but I need to be able to print instructions out so if you can put on site printing button I would love to use your instructions. Thank-you in advance…Carmen

  • what is the name of that fabric?!? I have been hunting for a floral like that!!
    No fabric land stores in the US i called and they also do not do orders over the phone bummer =( If you Have the name of the fabric that would be most helpful maybe i can track it down that way??

  • So, need to create a template that is 1.5″ beyond the edge of the lamp, but hem 1/2 ” or 3/4″ or 1″ in order to have overlap 1/2″ and glue inside the shade?

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