How To: Make Over a Lamp

We've been less than thrilled with our bedside lamp for a while now. It works perfectly fine, but we're way over the blah, not-quite-pink, not-quite-beige color of the base, and the outdated, rickrack-trimmed lampshade has seen much better days. Instead of buying something new, we decided to revamp this bedside necessity with a bit of spray paint, fabric, and embroidery floss we already had on hand. With just a couple hours of work, our nighttime reading companion has an all-new look, and we're none the poorer. Read on to find out how...

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You Will Need:

  • Old lamp (Any kind that has a plastic-lined shade.)
  • Fabric (1/2 a yard or less should do it, depending on  the size of your lampshade)
  • Embroidery floss and needle
  • Spray primer
  • Spray paint (We used Krylon Indoor/Outdoor Satin Finish in "Catalina Mist")
  • Painter's tape
  • Spray adhesive (We used Aleene's Tacky Spray)
  • Strong clear glue, such as E-6000 or Fabri-Tac
  • Scissors and/or rotary cutter
  • X-Acto Knife
  • Clothespins
  • Toothpicks

For the base:
1. Separate the lamp from its shade. Use painter's tape to mask any areas of the lamp base you don't want to paint, such as the electrical cord and the part the light bulb screws into. In a well-ventilated area, apply a coat of spray primer and allow to dry.

2. Apply a thin, even coat of spray paint and allow to dry. Repeat if needed.

3. Once paint is dry, remove painter's  tape.

For the shade:
1. Carefully remove the fabric from the shade using an X-Acto knife of the tip of a pair of small scissors to pry it loose from the frame. You may need to insert the tip of your knife between the plastic liner and wire frame to slice into the fabric. Take your time while removing the fabric and try not to cut into the plastic liner as you're doing so.
Tip: Use a pair of tweezers to pry fabric out of tight areas. Discard the old fabric when you're done.

2. Separate the plastic liner from the wire frame and pry apart at the seam so it lays flat. You'll use this as your template for the new fabric cover.

3. Lay the plastic liner flat on top of a piece of fabric. You can use a solid color or a patterned fabric, whatever you prefer. Cut the short (straight) edges of the lampshade at the same point as the original liner, but cut the long, curved sides about 1/4" larger than the liner. You can trace these lines with a pencil and then cut, or just eyeball it with a rotary cutter depending on how confident you feel with your eyeballing abilities.

4. Cut a length of embroidery floss and separate it into a 3-strand piece. (Using a three-strand piece instead of the full 6 strands will give you less bulk when you put the lamp shade back together.) Thread your needle and use a running stitch to create textured details all over the fabric you cut out in Step 3. If you used a patterned fabric, you could use the floss to outline details within the pattern such as flowers or other shapes. We stitched random lines here and there on our fabric using three different floss colors on natural linen: ecru, chartreuse, and silver. If you knot the end of your thread on the back of your fabric, keep the knots as small as possible.

5. Take the plastic shade liner and place it flat on a piece of scrap cardboard and cover it with spray adhesive and allow to dry.
Tip: If the liner wants to curve up, use a piece of rolled-up tape underneath each end to make it lay flat.

6. Carefully remove the plastic shade liner and place it adhesive-side up on another piece of scrap cardboard. Place the embroidered fabric wrong-side down against the sticky adhesive and smooth down any air bubbles.

7. Join the two short ends of the lamp shade using clear glue (we used Fabri-Tac) and allow to dry.


8. Using a toothpick or the glue's applicator tip, cover the top edge of the wire frame with a thin layer of glue. Lower the lamp shade over the frame and pinch the 1/4" overhang of fabric in place over the wire to hide the metal. Depending on how fast your glue dries and whether or not you have a friend helping you, you may want to use clothespins to help hold the fabric in place while the glue dries. Repeat along bottom edge of shade and allow to dry.

9. Replace shade on base of lamp and enjoy!

And be sure to check out Jenny's DIY project last week: How To: Make Your Own Magnetic Matchbooks

Jenny Ryan is the recent author of Sew Darn Cute: 30 Sweet & Simple Projects to Sew & Embellish and also and is also co-owner of the Home Ec. Department at Reform School.