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Soft Shade Making Series: Making a soft shade cover from a pattern

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

Making a well-fitting outer cover for your soft shade is critical to achieving an eye-catching and considered lampshade and today, we pick up from our previous post in our Soft Shade Making Series - How to Make a Pattern. In this post we show you how to transfer your lampshade pattern to your chosen fabric, tips on sewing it together and how to fit it to your pre-bound soft lampshade making frame, all with step by step photo tutorials.

Pattern Making Recap

Our previous Soft Shade Making Series post, How to Make a Pattern, covered the following:

  • Finding the bias of your fabric

  • Pinning the fabric to the frame

  • Marking the pattern

To echo what we said when choosing fabric for your lampshade outer, this needs to be a woven fabric, as it will give the best results. As a beginner soft shade maker, we'd recommend a medium weight fabric, as this is forgiving and easy to handle.

Before choosing your fabric, consider the pattern or print on the fabric, as this will be used on the bias, therefore will be turned onto a 45-degree angle. For example, if using a striped fabric, these will not run perpendicular to the struts of the shade, but will be turned so the seams form chevrons on each side.

Tips on choosing a patterned fabric

For your first shade, you may want to consider either a plain fabric or a striped fabric, which will visually help you find the bias of the fabric. If neither of these take your fancy, an all-over pattern is a good place to start, but check the scale of the pattern against the size of frame you choose and which parts of the pattern you want to capture in your final lampshade.

If you are struggling to work out where to lay your patterns, Joanna Heptinstall in her book Sewing Lampshades recommends tracing your pattern onto tracing paper, which is translucent so can be seen through when positioned on the bias of the fabric.

Making the outer fabric pattern

1. Press your outer lampshade fabric and layout with the wrong side facing up. Find the bias of the fabric using steps in the How to Make a Pattern post and mark with tailor's chalk.

2. Position the patterns on the reverse of the fabric so the direction of the bias on both the pattern and fabric match. Pin in place.

3. Cut out the patterns.

4. Pin the wrong sides together.

5. Cut a small notch within the seam allowance to mark the top and the bottom at each side, through both pieces of fabric.

Sewing the Outer Cover

1. Position the fabric at 1.5cm on the needle plate on your sewing machine.

2. Sew a line of stitches along the seam line. We used a basting stitch (i.e. the longest stitch length) , and then checked the fit. If the fit is baggy, sew a few millimetres away towards the centre of the pieces from the original stitch line and check the fit again.

Once you are happy with the fit sew again with small stitches, which are useful for keeping the fabric taut. For both sets of stitching do not lock stitch (i.e. stitching forward and back) at the ends.

3. Remove the basting stitches.

4. Trim back the side seams allowance to at least 1cm. If you don’t plan to add a lining to your shade you can cut your seam allowance narrower, so they aren’t seen from the inside of the shade.

Fitting the outer lampshade cover

1. Remove the temporary binding from the frame (you can do this at an earlier stage, but we prefer to keep them in place in case we need to check anything on the initial pattern).

2. Place the frame on a flat surface sitting the right way and pull the cover over the frame, aligning the sewn seams with two struts, leaving 3-5 cm at the top and the bottom of the lampshade fabric outer. The sewn outer should fit quite snugly.

3. Match the notches to the top and bottom of the frame.

4. On the top ring, pin at the first strut aligned with a seam, pull taut and place a pin through the fabric and the binding, to face in a downward direction. This isn’t so much a technical detail but more so that you don’t catch yourself on the pins.

5. Switch to the bottom ring pulling the fabric taut and pinning again the strut. The notches you cut on the pattern should be in line with the top and bottom of the frame.5.

6. Continue pinning around where each strut meets the top ring.

7. Pin and repin as necessary to get the tension right, so that there are no visible puckers or creases in the fabric outer. Add more pins as needed to ensure the outer is taut and follows the shape of the frame.

8. The end result should show that your notches are still in line and that the seams are aligned with their starting struts.

Pattern Matching

Similar to when making a drum lampshade, there is no guarantee that your pattern will match up at the seams, yet dependent on the size of your frame, the pattern repeats and the positioning of the fabric, this can happen!

Again working with a simple print or pattern that is regular, such as a stripe, makes this more achievable, but whatever your fabric design the pattern templates need to be positioned so that the design will meet at the sewing line, taking into account the 1.5cm seam allowance which will not be seen.

The lampshade below expertly made by @lampshades_and_ragdolls is an example of a perfect seam, where the pattern meets at a 45-degree angle, on the bias.

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!

Read the Full Series

Want the full low down on making a Soft Lampshade? Catch up by reading our Soft Shade Series so far, to help you prepare your lampshade up to this point. Simply click the button below!


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