Whether you are redoing an old lampshade or making a whole new one out of arts and crafts supplies, silk is a popular fabric choice for lampshades. It looks and wears well, lets light through but diffuses it for a softer effect, and is simple to work with when undertaking a do-it-yourself lampshade project.
Re-covering an Old Shade
If you use the wire frame from an old or damaged lampshade, you'll know that it is the right size and shape for the lamp base. It also saves you some money versus buying a new frame. You will have to cut the old material away from the frame. Underneath, there is a wrapping of separate material wound around the wire frame. You can leave the wrapping there if it is in good shape; otherwise rewind it with a neutral-coloured lining material cut into strips, or binding tape.
For panelled or otherwise unusually shaped lamps, you especially may want to try re-covering the lampshade rather than making an entirely new one. If the old shade is not damaged, you will be able to save a lot of work by leaving it there, and re-covering it with new silk fabric. Use a spray adhesive to attach the silk, after cutting it out in the same pattern as the existing shade---but do so slowly, so as not to wrinkle the silk or leave bubbles or creases. To get the right dimensions, trace the old lampshade onto paper and use it as a guide.
Sewing a New Shade
You might be starting with a new wire lampshade frame, in which case your first step must be to wrap the wire frame with plain lining material or binding tape, to give your silk shade fabric something to attach to without creasing or wearing on the thin wire over time. If you are trying to pleat or shirr the silk shade, cut your fabric so that the bottom circumference is larger than the top circumference; as much as three times longer for very fine silk, and about twice as long for heavy silks. Leave a margin for error of a few inches; although silk is expensive, it is also slippery and you don't want to be struggling to complete the bottom. Pin the material evenly around the frame, shirring or pleating as you go. Then sew the silk right onto the frame, doing the bottom circle first, then the top. You can choose whether or not you want the shade lined inside with a lining material.
Painting a New Shade
There is another option as well; instead of sewing a shade, you may want to paint a flat silk shade with your own design. To do so, stretch the silk out on a wood embroidery frame; trace the pattern of the lampshade onto paper; draw or paint your design onto it; and trace the design onto the silk. You can use special silk fabric paints to create your scene or pattern on the lampshade. When it is dry, cut out the silk in the lampshade pattern, wrap it onto the shade frame, and glue the top and bottom edges inside the shade. Trim or ribbon around the circles at the top and bottom of the wire frame also aids the finished neatness of a hand-painted silk lampshade project.
Self-adhesive lampshades, available at arts and crafts stores, are perhaps the easiest way of creating your own lampshade look. All you do is peel off the lampshade pattern from the shade, cut your silk fabric to the outline of the pattern---with a 1 inch wide margin for error, of course---and press the material to the adhesive part of the lampshade. Fold over the edges of the material and glue down the hems to the inside of the lampshade. To give a neat, finished look, glue ribbons, braided trim or tassels, or fringe along the top and bottom to complement the colour of your silk. You can then add small decorative items like sequins, dried flowers, shells and beads, all using hot glue or superglue.