Call me Martha: DIY Lampshades

I read a lot of magazines for my job. They’re usually women’s magazines – Good Housekeeping, Self, Shape, Fitness, Martha, Real Simple, BHG, etc. etc. You’ve gotta know what people are reading before you can pitch an interesting story, after all, and let’s face it – women are the decision makers in this country when it comes to purchasing consumer goods.

While thumbing the pages, I stumble upon a variety of things… pumpkin carving tips, how to make your skin look young again, which vacuum sucks up the most dirt, and the hot colors for interior decorating this season.

I’m married. To a woman. And happily, I promise.

So while reading Real Simple last month on the plane ride to Orlando, I stumbled upon a feature on decorating with Grey. Very masculine. And since I was busy trying to figure out what to do with my spare time this winter, while the outdoor projects are on hold, I decided we’d repaint our currently baby yellow bedroom a different, more cozy color.

Grey it is. So we went to the paint store, and picked out the colors.

Chelsea Grey (accent wall):

And Abalone:

And then started picking out items to decorate the room with. A new quilt and sheets from Restoration Hardware…

Two lamp bases we got on sale at Target during a “mix and match” event.

And while everything was coming together nicely, I couldn’t find lampshades that fit the theme of the room for a reasonable price.

So, being the DIYer that I am, I started searching the world wide web for a solution. “How to make lampshades.”

Turns out, it’s quite simple… you just need a few basic components:

  • Fabric
  • Pressure sensitive styrene
  • Double sided tape
  • Lampshade rings
  • Lamp harp and finial (the part that goes around the light bulb and the nut that holds the shade onto it)

I found the fabric at, the lampshade parts at, and the pressure sensitive styrene at, which is apparently the only place in America that you can buy the stuff.

Once all of the parts arrived, I just had to put them together.

First, I put the harp on the lamp, and attached the top ring. With the ring in place, I measured downward to see how deep to make the shade – in this case 9 ½ inches covered the harp and switch assembly completely.

I then ironed the fabric to be sure I wouldn’t have wrinkles in the final product.

With the fabric smooth, I used a square and tape measure to mark and cut the styrene to the exact dimensions of the shade. And repeated for the second shade.

I then laid the fabric out with the patterned side up, and aligned each of the pieces of styrene 9 ½ inches apart on top of the fabric to see which portion of the pattern to use for the shade. At that point, I added 1 inch to the top and bottom, and using the straight edge, cut the fabric to size. To determine length, i just found the circumference of a circle with a 10″ diameter (the size of the rings)… Approx 31 1/2 inches.

With the fabric cut, I flipped it over, removed the backing from the styrene, and attached it to the center of the fabric, making sure there were no wrinkles or bubbles.

Apply the double-sided tape along the edges, covering the styrene about ¼ inch.

Cut the fabric at the edge of the tape, but at one end, leave about 1 1/2 “ inch of fabric. Fold it over, and iron a seam into the fabric (this will overlap where the shade closes). At this point, remove the backing from the double sided tape, align the rings on the top and the bottom, precisely where the styrene ends, being careful that the pattern on the fabric will be in the right direction. While pressing down firmly, roll the rings along the edge of the styrene. The double sided tape should stick the shade to the rings. Move slowly, being careful to keep the rings straight.

When you’re finished, use fabric glue or a strip of double sided tape to stick the fabric flap you ironed a seam into onto the rest of the shade, completing the ring.

Fold the fabric at the top and the bottom around the rings, pressing firmly so the fabric sticks to the double sided tape and the styrene.

Place the shade on the harp, screw on the finial, and you’re finished.

All in all, the process took about 30 minutes a shade, but saved me about $50. Although the walls are still yellow, when the room is painted, and the new quilt has arrived, the new lamps will fit right in.


  1. Mommy said:

    You continue to amaze me.

    November 3, 2010
  2. Amy said:

    good job, Martha! quite impressive 🙂

    November 4, 2010
  3. hannah said:

    You are INCREDIBLE! I can’t believe you made your own lampshade, WOW! Watch out Martha Stewart!

    December 2, 2010
  4. ElleMartel said:

    Thanks so much! I have been looking for an easy to understand step by step guide of how to make a lampshade. Good work.

    September 5, 2011
  5. Lisa said:

    That’s really beautiful! Thanks for the tip on where to buy the styrene…’Ive looked all over the web and I couldn’t find it either, LOL.

    August 11, 2012
    • Kevin said:

      Thanks, Lisa – good luck on your project!

      August 11, 2012
  6. Kasha Miller said:

    How much did the total project end up being for the lampshade?? 🙂 love the tutorial!! 🙂

    March 3, 2015
    • Kevin said:

      Hi Kasha – it’s been quite some time since I actually built the shades, but I think I ended up spending about $10 per shade, with the finials, rings, styrene and fabric. But they have held up very well, and I still have leftover styrene if I need to make more (I had to buy a full yard of it).

      March 22, 2015

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