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Book Review - Lampshades by Katrin Cargill

Rated highly by our professional lampshade makers, ‘Lampshades’ by Katrin Cargill at first glance might look like a very average and potentially dated book, but digging a little deeper this lampshade making gem offer oodles of inspiration, excellent instructional techniques and lampshade styles from the 1990s that can easily be brought up to date. It’s time to soak up some more lampshade making wisdom!

Katrin Cargill has written over 25 books on everything from making soft furnishings to interior styling and crafting techniques, including sewing and painting furniture. Drawing from her experience as a reputable interior designer, her clear passion for lampshades comes shining through, along with her philosophy that lampshades are things of beauty, a focal point for a room. Already resonating with many of our lampshade makers, it’s a philosophy that we definitely cheer along with too!

Published in 1996, ‘Lampshades' isn’t a style over substance book. It reflects the hands-on nature of many craft books of its era, predominantly focused on the instructional elements of lampshade making. The featured 20 lampshade projects all use pleasing and clever fold-out double pages, that give a fantastic level of detail, in both their instructions and illustrations.

The projects are nicely organised into five categories; Shapes; Use of fabrics and trimmings; Table lamps; Wall and ceiling lamps and Floor lamps. While many of the lampshades projects within the categories are interchangeable, this allows Katrin to show and talk around lampshade examples, as a preface for each chapter.

While the book itself is much used and loved by professional soft lampshade makers, it includes a range of projects covering both hard and soft shades, some of which are very accessible for beginner lampshade makers. Making things more interesting the hard shades featured, stray away from the usual drum shades - although there is just one drum lampshade project, 'Stripes around a Drum' - and introduces alternatives such as a tapered square shade ‘Laminated Checked Square’, a scalloped chandelier shade, 'Chandelier Candle Shades’ and a tall conical shade ‘Leather Stitched Chimney’, all of which are made from self-made templates.

For soft shade makers, there’s a wealth of knowledge and inspiration in many of the projects. For gathered and pleated shades alone there are four different projects that include the skills of gathering (Gingham in Gathers) and pleating (Pleated Coolie, Pleated Cone with Collar and Covered Shade). Some of these include more advanced skills such as binding a frame and creating a soft shade lining.

Alongside these sit more challenging shaped soft shaped frames such as the Tall Bowed Madras, the Hessian Half shade, made in with two half templates, and some interesting wall lights that take the form of half-frame ‘shields’ in the Striped Wall shield project, a shape we’ve never seen before. Each project offers plenty of guidance, but some previous knowledge of soft shade making could be useful in some places.

With skirted lampshades being back in fashion due to the current trend in a more whimsical and romantic interior style, there are plenty of skirted shade projects to choose from. The basics of the design is a free-flowing ‘skirt’ that billows out loosely from a 6 strut frame (our French Drum Frames would make a good substitution) or from an existing shade, which is a good starting place for beginners. With a twist on the basic skirt design, projects include the ‘Box Pleated Conical Shade’, ‘Smocked Pattern Shade’, ‘Linen Loose Cover’ and ‘Skirted Pictorial Print Shade’. Each project is a rich source of inspiration with the ‘Linen Loose Cover’ being easy to achieve for anyone with a knowledge of basic sewing skills.

While some of the trimmings may be a little dated, in essence, the ideas and inspiration, as well as the method of application, are still very relevant today and the materials can easily be substituted to achieve a more modern look.

Finally, the back of the book includes some good advice on choosing the right frame for your base, with useful notes on choices of fabrics, trimmings and light fittings. In addition to what is covered in the projects, there are more detailed breakdowns of techniques such as binding the frame, making lampshade patterns along with several stitches and how to find the bias and make bias binding.

Overall we’d encourage anyone who’s interested in moving into more creative and inventive lampshade making, while still staying within a traditional lampshade making skills set to source this book. Covering a diverse range of lampshade projects that are beautifully illustrated, with simple, yet coherent guidance to make each one, it will be a book you’ll refer back to time and time again. Even if it’s just to fold out those clever double project pages!

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