How to make fiberglass lamp shades

Written by f.r.r. mallory
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How to make fiberglass lamp shades
Fibreglass shades with laced lanyard on a retro lamp base (Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Fibreglass lamp shades were particularly popular in the 1950s. The sides of the lamps were often bright colours with mid-century modern designs such as kidney-shaped lines. The edges of the lamps were laced to the frame with lanyard in complementary colours creating a faux mica look that was both a little bit rustic and a little bit space age. Replicate this look in the colour you want for your own '50s-style lamps.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Lamp frame
  • Fibreglass sheet
  • Acrylic paint (optional)
  • Matt finishing spray (optional)
  • Hole punch
  • Lanyard
  • Scissors

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  1. 1

    Select the lamp frame you want to cover. Typically, 1950s lampshades are drum shaped, square or rectangular. Some are double-level shades with a smaller and larger shade paired together.

  2. 2

    Place sheet fibreglass on the work table. Sheet fibreglass for lamp shades is sold by the yard in a wide range of colours.

  3. 3

    Add kidney, boomerang and other '50s era designs using acrylic paint and a thin paint brush to add drama to your '50s retro shade. Some shades also had splatter effects and often such patterns were two tone. Allow the paint to dry and spray the fibreglass sheet with a matt finishing spray.

  4. 4

    Place your frame on the fibreglass and cut out the panels you need. For example, if you are using a rectangular frame you will cut out four side panels in two sizes.

  5. 5

    Punch holes 1 inch apart along all edges of the fibreglass using a hole punch.

  6. 6

    Place a fibreglass panel along the side of the frame. Starting in a top corner tie lanyard into a knot. Lace the lanyard around the frame and through a punched hole keeping the lanyard snug across the top of the frame. Position the next panel onto the frame when you reach the corner. Lace down the side of the first and second panels lacing through both panels and around the frame. Lace across the bottom. Position the third panel adjacent to the first panel and lace up the second side of the first panel. Continue the same lacing around all sides of each panel.

Tips and warnings

  • Join two frames together to make a double frame by cutting the cross frames and soldering the frames together.
  • Spray paint the frame before attaching the fibreglass.
  • Some vintage 1950s frames can be found at garage sales and flea markets.

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