Thursday, September 2, 2010

Shirred Lampshade Tutorial

I've been busy busy busy so I didn't get this done as quickly as I'd hoped.  I've got a few goodies to pop up here on the blog so I figured I'd better get to it before I hit overload.  Make sure you read this tutorial if you have never shirred before.

Before we get started I want to mention two things: first, try and match your top thread to your fabric as best you can.  When the light shines through the stitching is much more subtle.  Second, if you can, keep an eye on where your shirring lines begin and end.  Try to begin and end each row along the same line.  Your backstitching will show up thicker in these areas, and if they're all along the same line you can put this part to the back and no one will notice.  OK, here we go.

To make this lampshade I used a plain white lampshade, the kind that looks like a cone with the top hacked off.  I also used elastic sewing thread (a few dollars at almost any craft store), regular sewing thread, and a yard of fabric.  Depending on your shade you may need more or less, but I'd rather be safe than sorry, so I tend to go overboard.

'Dis my lampshade, yo. 

 I used Michael Miller's 'Henna Garden' in the pink colorway.
If you've ever made a circle skirt these next few steps may seem familiar.  Measure the circumference at the top of the shade.  Mine measured 17 inches.  I  wanted this to fit snugly so I could still see the fabric pattern, so I added an inch for ease, and divided by 4 (you'll see why in a bit).  If you'd like yours to fit a bit looser and show more of the shirring you could add a few inches, but don't go too loose or it won't stay up.  Alternatively, don't go too tight or you'll get lampshade wedgies, haha.  Next, measure the shade from top to bottom.  Mine was 7 inches.  I figured an extra inch at both the top and bottom for hems.  If you look at my picture below, you'll see that my ease-added circumference divided by 4 is 4.5 inches, and my length (with hems) will be 9 inches.   The bottom circumference isn't necessary, but I already drew the picture, so just ignore it.

This is the nicest thing I've drawn in a long time.  No, is.

Next, fold your fabric in half, selvage to selvage.  Then fold it half the other way so that the raw edges meet.  You should have 2 sides that are all folds, and 2 sides that are raw edges.  Now you're going to draw two cutting lines.  This will be less frustrating if you sketch yourself a pattern, unless you're super-duper at drawing circles.  You're going to want to make an arc that is the length of your ease-added top circumference divided by 4 (mine was 4.5 inches, remember?). Then, you're going to make a second arc; mine is 9 inches away (my length measurement).  Cut your pattern on those 2 lines you just drew. 

 I hope you're appreciating this fancy artwork.

  Place your pattern piece and pin down on your fabric, matching the edges up with the folds. Cut.

When you unfold this middle piece, you should have a big fabric doughnut.  Make sure you press it nice and purdy.  I probably should have done that first, but I like to live on the edge.

The next part is kinda boring (sorry, but it can't all be high-kicks and giggles).  On both the top and bottom circumferences, I measured up 3/8 inch, pinned and pressed, and then 3/8 again to enclose the raw edges.  As I factored in an inch for each hem, this leaves me with 1/4 inch above and below the rims of the shade.  If you'd like it to fit more flush then do 1/2 inch hems, but I wanted that extra little bit for a slight ruffly effect.  Then stitch and press those hems down.

 You might want to make some tea for this step.

 This picture serves no purpose other than I always like when people post close-ups of their sewing machines at work.

At this point, you should have a big circle with all raw edges under control.  Now you're going to shir.  Have you read that tutorial yet on shirring?   If you're a procrastinator go and do it now....we'll wait for you to get back.  If you have, then carry on....  I tried to keep my lines between 1/4 and 3/8 inch apart; some of the lines are wonky but you can't really tell because of the shirring.  Keep going until you've got the whole thing shirred.  You should have a scrunchy looking little thing:

It's sort of sad looking, but that's because it's not fulfilling its destiny yet...

Give it a little try-on to see if it fits.  

 See? You can still see the shirring, but you can also see the pattern.

If it's a little too large you can sew a small seam to make it a bit tighter.  I then took it off and pressed the top and bottom edges to neaten up that ruffle a little bit, and to tighten up the shirring.  If you like the looser effect then you don't have to press it at all.  Consider yourself done!

I could have just gotten a whole new lamp...but this way I get a cute shade AND that adorable heart pull chain.

See? Cute!  You may think this would dim the lighting a little bit but I can assure you it does not.  I do the majority of my reading in bed aided by this lamp, and I haven't noticed a difference.  The best part is that it's removable--you can get so many looks without having to spend a ton of money.

My sister requested one, but her lampshade is more of a topless pyramid, so I have to figure out the geometry for that one....actually, she'll probably do it.  I didn't get the math brain...

As ever if you have any questions don't hesitate to ask.


  1. Aack! Too cute! The pull chain is adorbs! :D

    This is making me consider scolding my machine until she learns to deal with elastic thread...

  2. New favorite word: adorbs :)
    That pull chain is why I couldn't get rid of the lamp. The original lampshade was a red and white check but it was kind of beat up....

  3. It's a great tutorial, full of fun and it turned out just fab! Thanks for sharing, I love your artwork too :)
    Kandi x

  4. Thanks! I read other tutorials and think they're probably easy to write, but when I sit down to write one I am overcome by feelings of "Ack!"

  5. I haven't shirred before, but that is so cute! It would be really nice to throw it in the wash rather than try to dust off my current lampshades. :)

  6. It was pretty easy and definitely neat to see take shape!
    I'm sitting here looking at a dusty lampshade right now and thinking "I need to cover that" as opposed to "I need to dust that" haha.

  7. This is a totally clever idea!! (I love that fabric, too.) I have a couple thrifted lamps that I have to figure out new shades for and I am going to bookmark this page so I can try it for one.

  8. Darling- Thanks for auditioning for American Crafter!

  9. bethany,
    so cute! turned out awesome!
    happy crafting!



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