Velvet, it seems, is never out of fashion. Its opulent qualities lend a touch of luxury to our interiors and for lampshades, it’s no different. With its history steeped in regal influences, in this month's Lampshade Style Guide we explore how velvet has become an accessible and tactile material for lampshade making, the perfect coordinating materials to use to showcase this and plenty of troubleshooting tips from our professional lampshade makers.
A little bit of history
First popular with the Victorians, who favoured intricate fabrics, fringing and beading to decorate their lampshades, velvet was influenced by the regal interiors of the reign of Queen Victoria, namely elegant and ornate. Following the invention of the incandescent light bulb in 1879, lampshades were made to cover electric bulbs in Victorian homes, which were usually soft shades, in a variety of interesting and appealing styles, shapes and sizes.
Velvet itself has a long history and was initially produced in the East, then traded through The Silk Road, with the Italians developing the first velvet industry in Europe. Throughout the Renaissance, velvet was used in everything from clothing to furniture and due to better production methods became a sign of wealth for those that could afford it. It wasn’t until the industrial revolution that velvet became more widely available finding its way into homes via interiors and fashion.
Patterned or plain, velvet lampshades are very much part of our interior style today. And moving from more traditional soft lampshades, velvet Drum and Empires are equally popular and are often teamed with a Metallic Lampshade Making PVC for a touch of decadence, such as those found online at Graham and Green, Made and John Lewis.
Modern patterned velvet prints, with rich colours, lend themselves well to leafy jungle prints and wild animals, echoing more expensive looks such as the House of Hackney and Designers Guild, but by making your own lampshade these become so much more accessible, without the associated price tag.
To contrast the lush and tactile velvet we’ve seen many of our professional lampshade makers team a velvet lampshade outer with a wallpaper inner, to capture a theme which works twofold, juxtaposing detailed illustrations and patterns against the soft pile of the velvet – we think the Victorians would approve!
Advantages and Uses
Velvet depending on its thickness is a good fabric to use to act as a light blocker, meaning that light from the bulb will be sent upwards and downwards rather than through the shade itself, hence the popularity of having doubles sided lampshades, where the inner acts as a feature in the case of wallpaper or a reflector when using a metallic inner.
It’s worth noting that if you are using a darker toned velvet, that doesn’t have a double-sided inner, and uses our regular Lampshade Making PVC, there is a possibility of white shining through, therefore our Clear Lampshade Making PVC makes a better choice. This will of course also depend on the thickness of your velvet.
Velvet Shade Making Tips
When making a velvet lampshade there are a number of things to consider, as the fabric can often be thicker than a regular linen or cotton or even a medium weight upholstery fabric.
As velvet has a tendency to fray many of our Professional Lampshade Makers create a folded seam (see our Folded Seam blog post tutorial here) leaving a tab at the top and the bottom to ensure that there is enough excess at the seam to tuck under.
Along the same lines, if you are cutting your own panel from our Lampshade Making PVC, as opposed to using a Lampshade Making Kit, many of our makers extend the seam overlap by a centimetre or two to accommodate for the thickness of the velvet and to allow for extra tape for sticking the seam.
Karen Cunneen-Bilbow of Fabricate Ireland
I added an extra 1cm to the back seam just to add a double strip of tape so I had a bigger overlap and it worked perfectly.
Another trick to combat excessive fraying, which could diminish your tucking in allowance at the top and bottom of your shade is to apply Fray Stop to the long edges of the fabric.
Sticking the seam
Some velvets are adhesive resistant and finding out if the one you want to use is, means you will need to test this in advance, which you can do by trying Tesa tape, Seamstick or Soft Furnishing Tape on a velvet sample. For more information check out our Top 4 products to secure a lampshade seam post.
Depending on how the velvet sticks, you may need to use more than just tape and our professional lampshade makers offer these tips:
Lucy Lo-Vel of The Light Punk:
I’ll often use two lines of my chosen tape (Seamstick in my world) with a line of gel superglue down the middle of them. Trial and error have made this my chosen method!
Elizabeth Pegg of Silkworms and Cottontails
I use Bostik glue gel to hold the seam in place, non-drip so better control
Penny Martin of Penny The Crafty Crafter
I use the white soft furnishings bond tape on the velvet and some of the other trickier fabrics, placed approximately 2mm inset from the edge and roller well. I find the red Tesa tape won't hold certain velvets. If in doubt a dot or two of super glue will do the trick.
Extending the width of the kisscut
In the final stages of making your shade when tucking under the velvet, it’s advisable to extend the width of your kisscut from the usual 13mm. If you’re not using a kit and cutting your own lampshade panels this is easy to do, however, in a Lampshade Making Kit, this is automatically cut for you.
To extend this when using a kit:
remove the kisscuts after you’ve adhered the fabric
reposition the kisscuts to create a gap between the top and bottom line of the lampshade.
Remember if you are also creating a folded seam, you’ll need to add your ‘tabs’ before cutting around.
I always wrap my red tape around (the rings) for heavier fabrics like velvet & give a bit extra for tucking
Sealing the seams
Needing a little more attention than a regular fabric lampshade seam, closing up the seam on a velvet lampshade may take a little patience and ingenuity! Using a Seam Roller as a first stage, help the adhesion between the tape and the velvet. Leaving the lampshade overnight or for a day or two with weights along the seam can help too – baked beans cans have been mentioned for their circular nature!
Sharon of Made in Marshfield share this tip:
I do like to leave my shades for a few days before passing them on to clients as seams can open up!
Sewing the seam
If your seam is fighting to come open, opting for a needle and thread might be the way to go. It’s a trick our Facebook Lampshade Makers Facebook group use on thicker fabrics and by using a ladder stitch or slip stitch which is invisible to the eye, but keeps the seam together. A circular needle is advisable for this, as this helps you catch the seam and the flat fabric of the lampshade to sew in the stitches.
By sewing within the fabric and the seam edge, as pictured below the two are drawn together to close up the seam. This technique is championed by Jane Warren of The Lampshade Loft, who's shared a brilliant video showing exactly how to achieve this. Simply join our Lampshade Facebook Group using the button below and search 'Ladder stitch', then scroll until you come across Jane’s video.
Selected specifically for lampshade making, our collection of plain Venetian velvets are of beautiful quality and available in five sumptuous colours, Jet, Burgundy, Ruby, Slate and Navy which can be bought by the meter, with each being 150 cm wide. To make your shade making easier we can also laminate these to your choice of Lampshade Making PVC. If you’d like a specific shape or size of shade check out our Lampshade Designer & Pattern Forming Tool? We'd be more than happy to laminate your choice of velvet to whatever template you create!
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