upholstery basics: how to make a lampshade

Although I’m admittedly a chair addict, they’re not my only obsession. I am a sucker for lamps, and after years of collecting lamps in every size, shape and color, I found myself with a lot of lamps and no shades. The success (or failure) of a table lamp has as much to do with the shade as it does the base, yet there are surprisingly few options when it comes to ready-made shades. This month on Upholstery Basics, we’ll make a custom drum shade to inspire your next bright idea. Photography by Mel Cole — Amanda

Read the full how-to after the jump . . .


  • fabric
  • painter’s tape
  • measuring tape
  • chalk
  • square
  • yardstick
  • pressure sensitive styrene
  • pencil
  • scissors
  • hard, flat object like a plastic ruler
  • bottom and top rings
  • bulldog clips
  • white craft glue
  • small paint brush
  • weights for the seam
  • paper tape
  • sewing machine
  • thread
  • iron

Fabric: Amy Butler
Lampshade Supplies: Lamp Shop

Don’t forget to check out Upholstery Basics: Tool Time to learn more about the tools we’re using today.


1. Determine the height and circumference (pi X diameter) of your shade. This shade will be 13″ tall by 13″ in diameter, which is 13″ tall by 40.84″ around (3.1416 (pi) X 13″). We’ll need an extra 1/2″ of width to overlap the connection in the shade (41.34″). For the purposes of making this easier, feel free to round up to the nearest 1/2″ (41.5″).

2. Cut out a piece of pressure sensitive styrene to the exact dimensions from step 1 (13″ tall X 41.5″ wide).

3. Cut out a piece of fabric large enough to cover the shade with a few extra inches around the edge. Tape the fabric (face down) to the table with painter’s tape.

4. Determine how you’d like the pattern centered on the shade and use the square and yardstick to draw the left and bottom edges of the shade.

5. Check the fabric to make sure it’s free of dirt and lint. The pressure sensitive styrene has a sticky side that attaches to the fabric. Peel off the first few inches of paper covering the sticky side, line up the bottom and left edges with the lines from step 4 and stick the shade paper to the fabric.

6. Continue peeling and sticking a few inches at a time until the styrene is completely attached. Use a flat, hard object, like a plastic ruler, to smooth out wrinkles and air pockets. Use the bottom line as a guide for keeping the styrene straight on the fabric.

7. Lay the lampshade rings on the table and ensure that the rings lay flat to the tabletop all the way around. Use the edge of the table to bend the rings, where needed, to get them straight and flat to the table.

8. Attach the top middle of the shade to the top ring using a bulldog clip. With the bottom of the shade against your body, work your way around, attaching the shade to the top ring with bulldog clips. When you get to the end of one side, go back to the middle and work around in the other direction.

9. When the shade is attached all the way around the top, place the shade (top down) on the table and attach the bottom ring to the shade all the way around.

When both rings are attached, the rings should be flush to the top and bottom edges and tight to the shade paper with no gaps.

10. With a pencil, mark the edge of the seam at the top and bottom of the shade and make a mark to indicate which side is the top.

11. Remove the bulldog clips from the shade and lay the shade on the table with the fabric facing up. Use the straight edge to mark a line in chalk connecting the marks from step 10. This will be the seam line on the shade.

12. Flip the shade over and place glue on the fabric beyond the line from step 11.

13. Place the other side on top of the glue and line up its edge with the marked line. Press the seam together.

14. Place a bulldog clip at the top and bottom of the connection and lay weights on top of the seam on the inside of the shade. Allow the glue to dry for 10 minutes.

15. When the seam is secure and the glue has dried, place the shade on the table with the bottom edge up. Place a thin bead of glue all the way around the bottom inside edge of the shade.

16. Place a bulldog clip on the seam of the shade and place the back of the bottom ring on top of the clip to prevent it from falling into the shade. The bottom ring will have a welded joint. Place this joint to the right of the seam. Slip the front of the ring just inside the shade and use the bulldog clips to hold it in place. When the front half of the shade is attached, remove the bulldog clip at the seam and attach the back half of the shade with bulldog clips.

17. When the bottom is attached all the way around, flip the shade over and place the top ring inside the shade. Place a thin bead of glue all the way around the top inside edge of the shade.

18. Carefully pull the top ring up without pulling it out of the shade and use the bulldog clips to attach it to the top edge of the shade. The top ring has braces that attach to the washer in the middle. Line up one of the braces with the seam. Allow the glue to dry for 10 minutes.

The rings should fit the shade perfectly. If you’re having trouble getting them to fit, check that the top ring is on the top side of the shade and make sure there are no gaps between the shade and rings.

19. Remove the bulldog clips from the shade. Lay a pencil flat on the table and mark a line all the way around the top and bottom edges of the shade.

20. Use the small paint brush to apply glue to the bottom half of the paper tape (only a few inches to start). Start just beyond the seam with the bottom edge lined up with the line from step 18 and press the paper tape to the top edge of the shade.

21. Continue gluing all the way around, cutting the end of the tape even with the seam in the shade.

22. Cut out a small triangle centered over every brace in the top ring.

23. Apply glue to the top half of the paper tape and use your fingers to fold the tape around the rings to the inside of the shade. Do your best to tuck the excess tape neatly under the ring.

24. Repeat steps 20–21 and 23 to attach paper tape to the bottom edge of the shade.

25. Follow steps 8–12 from Coil Seat Finale to make bias tape out of the fabric of your choice. Instead of making it 1 1/2″ wide, make it 2″ wide. This will be the trim for the lampshade, so you’ll need enough to cover the seam and go around the top and bottom edges of the lampshade.

26. After you’ve cut out and seamed (if necessary) your bias tape, iron it in half lengthwise. Then iron each half in half.

27. Open up the trim for the seam and cut 3/4″ off of one side, leaving a 1 1/4″ wide bias tape. Apply glue to the backside of the fabric and press the ironed flaps down.

28. When the flaps are glued down, place glue on the backside of the trim and glue it to the seam of the shade.

29. For the trim around the top of the shade, start by cutting the end (with fabric completely folded) at a 45-degree angle. Open up the trim halfway and apply glue to the bottom half.

30. Repeat steps 20 and 21 to attach the trim to the top outside edge of the shade. Instead of lining up the bottom edge of the trim with the bottom edge of the paper tape, place the trim so that the middle rests on the top edge of the shade. Place a bulldog clip on the end to hold it in place as it dries.

31. When you get back to where you started, fold the trim in half and cut it at a 45-degree angle opposite of step 29. The end should cover the cut edge of where we started.

32. Glue the end of the trim on top of where we started.

33. Repeat step 23 to attach the trim to the inside of the shade.

34. Repeat steps 29–33 to attach the trim to the bottom edge of the shade.

Lampshade Tips

  • When choosing fabric for a shade, always hold the fabric up to a window to see how the light shines through the material. Thicker fabrics can prevent light from passing through, causing an undesirable look when illuminated.
  • Keep a wet paper towel handy for wiping off excess glue as you work.
  • Instead of making fabric trim, try velvet or ribbon trim for a simpler alternative. Simply glue the velvet or ribbon to the outside edges of the top and bottom.
  • If you have a shade that works with your lamp but want to cover it with a different fabric, remove the old shade paper from the rings and follow these steps to make a new shade.
  • Finding the pattern for conical shades is tricky, so use old shades as a pattern or order a pattern to your specifications from a lampshade supplier.



  1. Briliant! Nice instructions…

  2. matt says:

    Your craftsmanship, unreal. I’m jealous.

  3. Sidney says:

    Thanks for the tutorial. I’m going to try this for a pendant drum shade in my dining room. Have you ever attached diffuser?

  4. alan says:

    What kind of glue and sticky tape you use ??

  5. David says:

    Thanks heaps for your working instructions. Inspiration has now grabbed hold of me. Best regards David

  6. Ana says:

    Any classes for this december? (About lamps)


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