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Bright ideas for lampshades

An inexpensive plain lampshade can be transformed in so many ways. Decorating a lampshade, whether with dyeing, sewing or painting techniques, enables you to match a room's decor perfectly and to create a one-of-a-kind piece with a personal touch.


There is a wide variety of decorative trims available in fabric and craft stores that can be used to decorate a lampshade. You can choose from ribbons, lace, beaded trims, sequins and tassels in a colour, width and style to match your decor, and make a plain lampshade as elaborate or as simple as you choose.

Because lampshades do not suffer much wear and tear and only need to be dusted occasionally, you can use regular white craft glue that becomes clear when dry or fabric glue rather than sewing the trim to the lampshade if you prefer. Instead of a simple trim around the top or bottom edge of the lampshade, you could attach the trim to the lampshade in a spiral from top to bottom, make vertical or horizontal stripes, or create a lattice or woven effect with the trim for a different look.

If you want to add individual embellishments, sew or glue beads, buttons, trinkets, sequins or tassels to the lampshade. To space embellishments evenly around the top or bottom of the lampshade, trace around its edge on a piece of paper and using a ruler and protractor, divide the circle into even segments. Place the lampshade back over the circle on the paper and mark the position for the embellishments on the lampshade with a pencil or chalk.

Dip Dye

A plain linen, cotton or silk lampshade can be dyed by dipping it in a shallow bath of cold-water dye. Following the instructions on the dye packaging, fill a dye bath up to the level you want the dye to reach when you dip the lampshade in. You can dip the top of the lampshade, the bottom or side, and hold the lampshade still for a few seconds. Take the lampshade out and leave it to dry on a paper towel and it will be left with a coloured stripe.

You can dip the lampshade repeatedly for a more intense colour, or dip it in other colours of dye. For additional colours, fill dye baths up to increasingly shallow levels to create stripes of different widths. Wait for one colour to dry completely before dipping the lampshade in a different colour dye to create neat lines, or dip it in the new colour while still damp to create a bleed-effect between the colours.


One of the quickest and easiest ways to decorate a lampshade is with paint. If the lampshade is made of fabric, use appropriate fabric paint; otherwise you can use acrylic paint. If you are artistic you can paint freehand directly onto the lampshade. To trace an image, draw or trace it onto paper and go over the outlines with a thick black pen, then tape this to the inside of the lampshade so that the lines are visible through the lampshade.

Rubber stamps and stencils can be used too. Make sure that the paint is thick enough to dry without dripping. To purposely make painted lines bleed into each other, fabric lampshades can be dampened by spraying them with water, and you can also water down the paint a little. Different colours will bleed together at the edges if you paint with a new colour before the previous colour has completely dried.


Plain lampshades can be decorated with embroidery techniques. You can glue and/or sew fabric shapes to the lampshade and turn edges under or leave them raw or frayed depending on the look you want to achieve. Stitching should be kept very neat on both sides as when the lamp is on the light may reveal the stitches.

Decorating a lampshade with appliqué techniques is a good way to use scraps of fabric left over from other home furnishings and also means you will be able to match it up to your pencil pleat curtains! Decorative embroidery stitches can be used alone to transform a plain lampshade. You could stitch one bold motif or cover the lampshade with an all-over design.


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