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Vintage Inspiration - Lampshade Making Book Review

Updated: Nov 23, 2023

For today’s modern lampshade makers, there are plenty of sources of inspiration, but looking back at the styles, techniques, methods and materials used in vintage books, can literally be a light bulb moment, so we’ve fished out a couple of our favourites from the Dannells library.

Lampshade Making History

Lampshade making is a craft that has stood the test of time, since the invention of the light bulb in 1879 and its domestic introduction into homes not long after.

The Victorian era was the start of the boom in lampshade making and lampshades soon became a must have feature of interiors of the time, alongside the more practical purpose of controlling the light from the light bulbs, that rapidly replaced candles in progressive Victorian homes.

Draped in tassels, featuring luxury fabrics such as velvet and using the shape and size of the shade to make a statement, as much as the materials themselves, lampshade making soon became a decorative craft it its own right.

Foyles Handbooks

Written by F.J.Christopher in the early 1950’s for the Foyles Handbook series, ‘Lampshade Making’ and ‘Lampshade Making – Book Number Two’ are gems from our library, that are packed with information that’s easily transferred to contemporary projects.

On further investigation the Foyles handbook series also hosted a range of other craft books including Rafia work and Glove Making, but also wider subjects such as Training Your Dog and Conjuring!

Recognising Lampshade Making as not only a craft to benefit your own interiors, but lucrative side hustle of the time, F.J.Christopher, starts his second book with this forward which conveniently fits with our own ethos towards lampshade making;

Thousands of people are now making lampshades at home for a variety of reasons, which embrace the high cost of shop bought shades, the urge to do some useful handiwork and the need to supplement slender incomes. Whatever the reason for the present great increase of interest in lampshade making, there is no doubt it is one of the most pleasantest of all home occupations.

We second that!

Timeless Techniques

It’s clear from flicking through both books that lampshade making techniques haven’t changed that much since the 1950’s - it’s more that the materials have been adapted to produce easier to make and better quality shades, particularly in the case of drum shades.

For soft shade making there are instructions on everything from covering shaped panels to making a fabric cover to sewing a tailored cover and both books have a lot to offer the beginner or even advanced soft shade maker.

Drum shade making has changed somewhat due to more flexible range of PVC laminates available today and the lack of need for glues when making shades, which have been replaced by high tack double-sided tapes.

A traditional method for calculating an empire shade is included in 'Lampshade Making' and after reading this through we're happy to have the Lampshade Design Service at our fingertips instead on relying on our very rusty maths!

Modern vintage

As well as being packed with techniques, there are many creative themes that are contemporary and suprisingly similar to today’s tastes, but there are a few that would be now deemed unsafe on health and safety grounds!

We love the ‘Thonged Lampshade’, which we’re keen to try as a future project using our Cork laminate, to mirror the trend for natural interiors.

It’s good to see that bottle lampshades have had a place in every home for over six decades. Take a look at our bottle lamp holder adaptor if this kind of project takes your fancy.

The basic principles of the ‘Double cover‘ pictured below is a simple one that could easily be adapted. Rather than painting onto the inner ‘Crinothene’ (an early form of lampshade making PVC) as the tutorial suggests, stencils could be cut from Stick it Lampshade Making PVC and adhered to the inside of the shade before or after making the shade to achieve the same results.

So next time you are looking through the book section in a charity shop, or find one of those rare bookshops tucked away in a backstreet, check out the craft section as you never know what inspiration you might find!

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