Friday, October 23, 2009

How To Recover A Vintage Lampshade Without Burning Your Fingerprints Off and Yelling So Loudly The Dog Hides Under The Dining Room Table

This is my how-to guide to recovering vintage lampshades. First, let me state the obvious: I am not a pro at this. In fact, I’ve had many disasters involving me and a lampshade that ended up looking like Rocky’s punching bag. And just for the record, I HAVE burned my fingerprints and Mabel is still under the dining room table.

But hopefully, this will help you avoid some of my pitfalls.

If you’re like me, you love the shape of vintage lamps. There is nothing more fun than taking an old giant 70’s lamp of amber glass, shaped like a genie lantern, and spray painting it daisy yellow. Whoops, I think I just let my current project out of the bag early.

But what I don’t love is the shabby fabric usually accompanying the shades. It’s usually worn, and weird and glossy. More shabby than chic. So that’s where my recovering ventures began.

Step Number One: Examine your shade. If the stars align and heaven shines down on you, you will discover you possess a barrel shade like these. They are the easiest to recover. If not, if your shade is sloped and not completely round, your quest will be harder.

Step Two: Pick your fabric. I really liked using burlap this time b/c it was stretchable and adjustable mid-process. I also really like a sturdy white denim.

Step Three: Cut your fabric to fit the shade. If you possess a sloped shade, here is where the hair pulling begins. There is no easy answer for this that I’ve found. Basically if involves a lot of rolling around on the ground and kicking. One trick I have learned: use painters tape to secure the fabric to your shade when measuring/cutting.

Step Four: Gluing everything down. Some people are super talented, measuring and hemming each side and extend the fabric over the edges and into the lampshade (see this example here). There is an upside to this, which is you don’t have to worry about ribbon trim. But I’m not talented enough to pull it off. Once I did this and when I turned on the light the inside of the shade illuminated the jagged fabric hot-glued on the inside of the shade, which had valleys and peaks like the Ozark Mountains. So I cut my fabric exactly at the edges of the shade, if not a hair shorter (this will all be covered with the ribbon trim).

Some people prefer to use spray glue. I can see the advantages to this. Better adhesion, smoother surfaces. But I had an unfortunate experience with spray adhesive once. I sucked some of it up my nostrils mid-spray and spent the next week thinking pine sol smelled like banana Laffy Taffy. Not to mention the fact that I was CONVINCED my nose hairs would forever be glued together. So, I stick with hot glue. I always start with the top of the shade, working my way around, hot gluing the top down.

Once you have the top secured, start gluing the fabric to the bottom of the shade. This way, you can pull it smooth from the top, creating a smooth surface. Work your way all the way around, and secure the seam that runs from the top to the bottom of the shade. I don’t get too worried about how this looks b/c it always faces the wall. But if you want it to look more polished, fold it under before gluing to hide the jagged edge. REMEMBER to always line up the seam of your fabric with the actual seam of the lampshade. OR ELSE… when the light comes on, you’ll find you have TWO seams illuminated in your newly recovered shade. This has happened to me. Recently. But I don’t want to talk about it.

Step Five: Trim. I use ribbon to trim the top and bottom b/c it hides the jagged edges and, in my opinion, it’s like jewelry for your lampshade. Just a little something extra. Here is where you can go a little crazy, matching the ribbon to coordinating colors, layering different width ribbons on top of each other. It’s the best part of the project in my opinion.

Last, but not least, be cautious with older wiring. Vintage lamps are fun, vintage wiring can be sketchy. Remember to always examine the cords, make sure they’re not crumpled or frayed, and when at all possible, rewire them!

Now go forth and recover. I know, I know. How do you avoid burning your fingerprints? Yeah, I fibbed. You really can’t avoid that. It’s just gonna happen. Sorry.