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Give a Boring Lampshade a Brand New Look

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Read Time: 4 min

There is nothing wrong with simple - simple is good. In fact, I do simple well. But sometimes simple can get boring. Like when you buy a simple plain white lampshade to pair with a simple plain-coloured lampbase. It's fine, but it could be better. I felt a handmade touch was in order to give it a little texture, colour and interest. Paint for the base (Rust-Oleum Universal Metallic Spraypaint in Silver followed by Rust-Oleum Glitter in Gold) and an embroidered pattern for the shade.

Any pattern would do - draw your own freehand or print one off from online. Either way, here is how to transfer that pattern to your lampshade, complete with a slight detour of style in the middle of the tutorial (hey, I'm just being realistic - not every craft works out how you imagined and sometimes you need to improvise!)


  • A plain lampshade. This one is a linen-covered plastic drum shade.
  • White paper.
  • Thick black texta.
  • Embroidery thread in colours of your choice.
  • Sticky tape.
  • Scissors.
  • Pencil.
  • Needle.
  • Also helpful: eraser.

Step 1: Draw Your Pattern

Draw your pattern the length of the paper. If your pattern is a one-off image such as a feather or couple of leaves, just make sure it's the right size to fit the height of your shade. If you're repeating the pattern all the way around the shade, like I did, you want to make it easy enough to match up so keep the repetition simple.

Step 2: Get Copying

Make some copies of your pattern - three A4 sheets was enough for this lampshade. I just photocopied them, but you could scan and print or just trace the original.

Step 3: Line Up

Lay out your copies and start to line them up so the pattern continues in one long line. You might need to overlap a little to match it best - it doesn't need to be perfect, just close enough to trace.

Step 4: Make Your Template

Tape together and trim off the excess to make it more manageable.

Step 5: Stick to the Lampshade

With the pattern facing in to the inside of the shade, tape in place. Wrap around the inside of the shade and tape again.

Step 6: Trace Your Pattern

Turn the lamp on so the pattern shows through to the outside. Use a pencil to lightly trace over it onto the shade. This will be covered with the embroidery thread. If it's light enough, any errors can be gently rubbed away with an eraser providing the fabric of the shade is not too delicate.

Step 7: Choose Your Colourway

Remove the paper template from the inside of the shade and work out what coloured thread you want where. Writing it down helps you visualise and ensure you get it right.

Step 8: Thread Your Needle

Wrap the thread around the breadth of the lampshade one and a half times (to estimate the required length) and cut. Thread the embroidery thread through your needle and at the seam of the lampshade, poke just the tip through on the start of the pencil line. Remove.

Step 9: Knot Your Thread

Return the needle to the hole from the other side (the inside of the shade). Pull all the way through and knot the end of the thread.

Step 10: Start Embroidering

Following the pencilled lines, stitch your embroidery. Make a long line of thread on the outside over the pencil mark (no more than one centimetre) then a short one on the inside of just a few millimetres, but not too close that the lampshade perforates and creates on large hole. The plastic of the shade might be a little tough at first, but you'll be quicker than you think once you get going. All up, this embroidery took between two and three hours.

To ensure you are lining it up properly from the inside where there is no stencil line, jab it from the front first, then poke the needle through from the inside. Tie off the ends when you're done and if you run out of thread before you finish, simply tie together on the inside and continue. If you detour a little from the template, like I have here (I discovered skinny hearts were hard to do in embroidery in such a small space so made it a teardrop instead), gently rub off the pencil marks at the end.

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