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Soft Shade Making Series: Binding Tape

Updated: May 9

In our second post of our new Soft Shade Making Series, today we're talking about binding tapes and how they are an essential part of making a traditional soft lampshade. A binding tape’s main function is to give your chosen fabric a base to be sewn into, and we'll explain why using the right tape gets you the right results, how to measure tape for a frame and what widths of tape to use.

Binding tapes explored

Binding tape, or India tape as it’s also commonly known, is a white or off white light cotton tape that is bound around a traditional lampshade frame, creating a foundation layer for the fabric, that still allows the shape of the frame to shine through.

Available in a variety of widths, the general rule of thumb is that the larger the lampshade the wider the tape, making a narrow tape idea for the smaller 20cm / 8" frames in our range, such as the French Drum, Scalloped Frame and Bowed Empire frame.

Our binding tapes come in 5-meter packs, which are great if you are a beginner to soft shade making, with a choice of two widths, either 12mm or 20mm. With12mm wide cotton tape working well for most mid-sized shades we also have a 50-meter roll, ensuring you always have plenty of tape in stock, whatever the size of your lampshade frame!

What are the essential properties of binding tape?

Not to be mixed up with herringbone tape, cotton tape is 100% cotton and is non-stretch, making it ideal for wrapping around the frame tightly without allowing any movement. This is essential to create the base for attaching the outer fabric of the shade and a lining, ensuring that fabric does not 'bag' after it's sewn into position.

Some cotton tapes have a sharper edge on one side and ideally this, when binding, is hidden within the wrap of the tape so that it’s not visible through the fabric, which is particularly important when working with finer fabrics such as cotton lawn, satin or silk.

How much binding tape do I need to cover a frame?

There are several ways to calculate the amount of binding tape your will need for your shade dependent on your source of knowledge!

Elizabeth Cake in her book Make Your Own Lampshades recommends the following formula;

2 x top circumference of the frame, 2x bottom circumference of the frame and 4 x length of the vertical strut.

The formula that Natalia Price Cabrera offers in her book Handmade Lampshades is simpler and recommends the amount of binding tape needed is 2.5 x the circumference of the top or bottom ring.

Joanna Heptinstall (@lampsahdeschool), author of Sewing Lampshades suggests 3 x the length of the strut or circumference of the ring you want to bind, helpfully adding that if the circumference of a ring requires a long length, shorter pieces may be easier to work with.

If you're considering buying a book to help you on the way, read our book reviews blog posts to help you decide; Make Your Own Lampshade, Handmade Lampshade and Sewing Lampshades.

Can I dye my cotton tape?

Yes! Pre dying your cotton is a great way to get a match with your outer fabric, particularly if you’re not going to line your lampshade. We’d recommend using a hand dye and also adding five inches/12.5 cm of tape before you cut, just in case of shrinkage.

Can I use anything else other than binding tape to wrap a frame?

Provided whatever you use doesn't create unnecessary bulk or have too much stretch we think it's possible. This project below from the Handmade Lampshades book caught our eye and is a decorative twist on normal cotton tape, which was purposely left visible from underneath to create interest. It's worth noting that this shade is made with a thick fabric and the struts are covered to mask any bulk from the alternative binding tape.

How much of the frame should I cover?

Every traditional soft shade will need binding at the top and the bottom of the frame, to ensure a tight and professional finish for your shade.

If you are making a multi-panelled shade, i.e a shade for which each panel will have an individual piece of templated fabric, that will be sewn directly onto the frame, you will need to cover the corresponding number of vertical struts too.

Some lampshades projects also require what is known as a 'temporary bind' along two opposing struts used to secure the fabric in place when you make a panel template, and will be removed afterwards. This method can be used for individual panels or multiple panels templates, which for example could cover half of the shade and will be sewn together to form a fabric sleeve that will be pulled over the top of the shade.

New for Summer 2022 – Soft Shade Making Bundles

As the popularity of making soft lampshades soars, we’ve made it even easier for you to make one of your own! Our NEW Soft Lampshade Making Bundles, include everything you need and are available in a choice of three frames - French Drum, Bowed Empire or Scallop – and are available in a wide variety of sizes. Pick from either black or white cotton tape and upholstery thread to suit your choice of fabric.

Armed with the Soft Lampshade Making Bundle’s top-quality material and tools, all you need to do is simply pick a fabric and follow our Soft Lampshade Making Series to develop your soft lampshade making skills and make a beautiful bespoke shade!

Don't miss our Soft Shade Making series

If you're new to traditional lampshade making, then check out our recent post on soft shade frames here. We've plenty more soft shade making skills, knowledge and step by step tutorials with you to shade and to make sure you don't miss a post, become a member of the blog below.


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