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Soft Shade Making Series - How to bind a lampshade frame

Updated: May 9

Our third post in our Soft Shade Making Series is about laying the foundations for the lampshade ahead, namely binding your lampshade frame. To help you master this important skill, that's integral to holding your outer fabric and lining in place, we’ll take you step-by-step through how to bind your frame, what to consider and prepare, as well as the tools and materials you’ll need to start your soft shade making journey!

Why do I need to bind a frame?

Binding the frame means that you have a foundation that can be sewn into, allowing you to attach your chosen outer fabric and lining, to the frame.

What type and width of tape should I use?

Cotton tape is the go-to tape for lampshade makers and we supply this in two different widths - 12mm and 20mm. For a small or medium-sized shade, 12mm cotton tape is perfect. The 20mm tape is better for larger shades, as you can cover more surface area. Read our last post in our Soft Shade Making Series for more details on cotton tapes - Soft Shade Making Series: Binding Tape

Where should I start the binding?

There are different schools of thought on where to start the binding. Some professional lampshade makers bind the top and the bottom of the frame first, then the struts of the frame, whereas others prefer to start with the struts they need to bind first, then hide any loose ends within the biding of the top and bottom rings. Before deciding which to do first you should also consider whether you'll need a temporary binding, which is explained below.

How much of the frame should I bind to make a panel template?

The top and bottom of the frame will always need to be bound, as this is where the outer and the lining is attached to the frame. Depending on the number of panels you’d like your soft shade to have will depend on how many struts you will bind. By panel, we mean the piece of templated fabric that will sit between the struts.

What is temporary binding?

Temporary binding is when struts are bound just to make a panel template and then can be removed afterwards, due to the fabric pieces being cut from the templates, sewn together and being pulled over the frame. When creating a temporary binding we’d recommend adding this after binding the top ad the bottom, so it can easily be removed.

Temporary Binding Guide

Take a look at our guide below for which struts you’ll need to temporary bind to make an outer fabric template using a lampshade with 8 struts.

What finish am I looking for when binding the frame?

Ideally, your binding will be:

· Wrapped diagonally around the frame, with half of the tape covered by the next wrap

· Laying flat without any visible lumps, bumps or wrinkles

· Tightly wrapped without any loose areas

Professional lampshade maker Amanda Wheattie of @wyreandgimble offers this expert advice:

For a professional result without ripples or sagging the foundation is key; sturdy frame bound tightly in non-stretch cotton tape. The finished binding should be smooth and free from lumps and bumps and should not budge when you try and move it with your fingers. Trying to stretch and pin to a moving foundation will give a less than satisfactory finish.

What prep should I do before binding my frame?

Measure the amount of tape that you need to bind the top of the frame, by measuring out 3 times the circumference of the top ring. The easiest way to do this is to simply wrap one length around the circumference and multiply this by three. It’s also good to have a needle pre-threaded with an extra-strong cotton or upholstery weight thread.

If you are upcycling an old frame, then make sure that any previous glues or solvent are removed from the frame (white spirit can be useful for this) and any chips to the white paint or plastic coating on the frame are covered and sealed over with white nail polish.

What tools and materials do I need to bind a lampshade frame?

Apart from the Soft Lampshade frame itself, all you'll need for this part of the process is cotton tape, a sharp needle, an extra-strong cotton or upholstery weight thread, dressmaking scissors and or embroidery scissors, and pegs or mini wonder clips.

Binding your first soft shade focuses on keeping the tape tight and short of having an extra hand, we found our Mini Wonder Clips perfect for the job. Gripping tightly around the wrapped lampshade frame they keep the binding tape in place while you plan your next wrap or grab your needle a thread.

How to bind a soft shade frame

1. Position your tape on the inside of the frame diagonal to a strut, making sure the slightly raised edge of the tape is on the right edge of the tape as you are looking at it.

2. Take the tape up and over the ring

3. Then take the tape down diagonally to the left of the strut.

4. Pull the tape up and diagonally over the base of the strut and back over the right of the strut.

5. Continue to wrap the tape on a diagonal along the length of the frame. Each wrap should cover half of the wrap before. By leading with the raised edge at the top in step one, this should be covered in the wrapping of the tape.

6. When reaching the next strut either work past the strut by continually wrapping along the ring with the strut sitting between the wraps Or repeat the starting figure of eight around the base of the strut.

6. When you reach the gimbal arm, simply work around these in the same way your would a strut. We chose to use the continued wrapping method.

How to finish your binding

Joanna Hepinstall in her book Sewing Lampshades suggests to ‘tuck the long end back under the last loop and pull tight to create a flat know, pictured below, followed by the ends being neatly cut close to the knot.

In her book Handmade Lampshades, Natalie Price-Cabrera prefers the sewing method. By taking the binding to the outside edge of the frame at the bottom of a strut, she then stitches securely in place with a prepared needle and thread. Natalie emphasises ‘using a coloured thread to match your binding’ and ‘always stitching on the outside of the frame, so you can’t see the stitching on the inside.

Whichever method you choose, your binding ends must be neat, not bulky and should not be seen through the outer fabric.

How to finish a temporary binding?

As a temporary binding is just that...temporary, there is no need to sew this in place as after you have made your template panel then you’ll need to remove the binding again. Simply finish this with a tight knot, making sure that the binding stays in place.

More binding tips

With over 3,000 professional makers on our Lampshade Makers Facebook Group, there is plenty of soft shade making knowledge available. Join the group here and simply use the search function to find out pretty much anything you need to know!

We loved this clever binding tip from one of our most generous Facebook Group members, Jane Warren of The Lampshade Loft, who's an expert lampshade maker with years of experience, making beautiful lampshades in all shapes and sizes. Jane says:

For these two shade re-makes, I am using over 18meters of lampshade tape to wrap around the rings! The base ring is using over 3.5 meters so a good tip is to put a band around it so it's easy to get around those curves!

1 Comment

Amanda Wheatie
Amanda Wheatie
Mar 16, 2022

Great article with clear instructions and photographs. When finishing I utilise both methods, the flat knot and then secured with some lampshade stitches before cutting off the loose end. : ) .

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