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How to Make Lampshade Fan Pleats

Updated February 21, 2017

Making a custom lampshade isn't as difficult as some may believe. Pleated lampshades remain a favourite of homeowners because of their elegant style. Lampshade fan pleats can be made from paper or fabric. If using fabric, you will need to use a product that stiffens fabric such as starch. If using paper, then it must be a stiff, heavy paper that will fold and hold a crease. This project also requires a broad, flat work area.

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  1. Measure the wire lampshade frame. An older lampshade can be used for this project. The old lampshade can be left on the wire frame if it has a smooth surface. If not, remove the shade from the frame. Measure from the top of the frame to the bottom and add 2 inches. Also measure around the smaller circle at the top and the larger circle at the bottom, then multiply each of these numbers by 3 and add 3 inches.

  2. Cut the fabric or paper using the measurements obtained in Step 1. Because there will be pleats, you are working with measurements that are roughly 3 times the actual distance around the top and bottom of the wire frame. Mark the bottom measurement onto the fabric or paper, then fold it in half to find the middle. Do not crease. Mark the top measurements using that middle mark as your centre. Using a straight edge, draw a line from the outside ends of the bottom to the outside marks at the top. You should have a long piece that is much smaller at the top than at the bottom, provided your lampshade is empire-shaped.

  3. Prepare the fabric. If you are using fabric instead of paper to make your lampshade pleats, then it will require stiffening. Soak the fabric in a strong solution of starch and water, then allow it to dry completely. Be sure that it dries in a flat, straight position with no wrinkles. It may be necessary to iron the fabric once it has dried.

  4. Make the pleats. Pleat sizes can range from 1/2 inch to 1 inch. On a flat surface, fold the paper or fabric to make the first pleat. Using the first pleat as a guide, fold the fabric or paper again to make the second pleat. Continue in this fashion until you have pleated around the entire piece. Every three or four pleats, use a warm iron to gently press the pleats down. This will give them a nicer edge.

  5. Attach the pleated fabric or paper to the wire frame using a hot glue gun or fast-grabbing fabric glue. Leave 1 inch at the top and 1 inch at the bottom. Work carefully to make sure that the pleated fabric or paper lies flat and doesn't bulge or bunch up in places. If you have a bit left over at the end, simply trim that away with scissors. Fold the top edge down and glue or hot glue this to the inside, making a seam. Repeat this process on the bottom edge. Allow to dry for several hours before attaching it to the lamp.

  6. Tip

    It's better to cut your fabric too long than too short. If you have some left over at the end, then it's an easy fix. Add trim to the top and bottom of the lampshade to give it a more professional look and hide any mishaps.


    Always make marks on the fabric or paper on the wrong side so that it doesn't show up on the finished product. You can also use chalk or disappearing ink.

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Things You'll Need

  • Heavy paper or fabric for lampshade
  • Wire lampshade frame
  • Starch
  • Scissors
  • Iron
  • Ruler
  • Chalk
  • Hot glue gun or fast-grabbing glue

About the Author

Carolyn Sorrell

Carolyn Sorrell began writing in 1985. She has written novels and short stories, and her articles have appeared in "Letters to Our Mothers" and "Southern Living." In 2009, she ghost-wrote a book about the Obama campaign for a client in Washington. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English.

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