Featured: Ruffled Empire Shade

So, you want to make your own lamp shade…

The good news is that anyone can make a lamp shade – in a jiffy.

There is no bad news, so let’s get started.

The easiest (and most common) lamp shade is the conical “empire” shade. You can make the conical structure yourself by purchasing a shade frame or use the structure of an old lamp shade.

You will need:

  • 1 candle-stick lamp
  • 1 metal “empire” lampshade frame
  • 1/3 – 1/2 yd. of fashion fabric (a tightly woven, non-fraying fabric works best)
  • 5 yds. of double-sided satin ribbon, 2″  wide
  • Approx.10 yards of bias tape, (in matching colour) unfolded and pressed open
  • Topstitch thread (in matching colour)
  • Coordinating thread
  • SoboTM fabric adhesive
  • Straight pins


1. Make the Ruched Satin Trim

zigFold the cut end of the satin ribbon at a 45° angle and press. Follow this foldline with a hand-sewn evenly spaced running stitch in a zig-zag pattern. Use the topstitch thread to make the running stitches. Draw up on the running stitches to create the ruched trimming. Make enough trim to go around the circular top and bottom of the shade frame.

2. Tape the Shade Frame

prod_1569_empireThe first thing you’ll need is cotton bias tape in a colour that will match the colour scheme you have in mind for the final lamp shade.  Press the bias tape open flat.

Wrap the cotton tape around each strut (the metal bars that make up the lamp shade structure) and around the rings at the top and bottom. You’ll eventually sew your lamp shade to that, so make sure your cotton tape is wrapped tight. Use the fabric glue to tack the ends of the tape together.

3. Measuring for the Shade Cover

lampshade-mmtMeasure the height of the lampshade (A) and cut the material 2 inches longer. [50 mm]

Measure the distance around the base of the lamp shade frame  (B) (lower circle at the widest point) and cut the material 2 inches wider. [50 mm]

4. Hem the Top and Bottom of Fabric.

32hemming51Turn under ¼” [7 mm] of the top and bottom edge of the fabric and press. Turn these edges under 1″ [25 mm] and press. Machine-stitch the top and bottom hems.

5. Sewing the Shade Cover.

Make a French seam by turning the shade fabric wrong sides together and sew the ends together, using a ¼” [7 mm] seam allowance. Press seam open. Trim seam allowance 1/8″ [35 mm] from stitching.  Fold the material right side together and press a knife-edge along seam. Sew a ¼” [7mm] seam allowance along pressed seam to encase the seam allowance.

Hand-stitch an evenly spaced running stitch along the bottom and the top of the material to shirr the fabric .

6. Draping the Shade Cover.

invisible-stitch1Place the material over the structure and gently pull it down until it fits snugly over the lamp shade frame. Pull the running stitches and draw around the top and bottom of the frame. Now sew the pleated fabric to the cotton tape that you’ve wrapped around the lamp shade frame. Do this by hand using a blind stitch.

6. Finishing the Lampshade.

Now all that remains is the finishing touches to your lamp shade. Attach the satin ruched trim around the top and base of the lampshade by gluing it in place over the stitching. Use straight pins to hold the trim in place while the glue dries. This will give your new lamp shade a finished look.


NOTE: Take care with the colour selection. A good choice here can turn a good lamp shade into an exquisite lamp shade. Consider using a contrasting colour.