A Doily Lampshade


Here’s a project that was on my mental to-do list for a very long time. It first crept in and settled down before I left England, inspired by a penchant for doilies that was plaguing Pinterest at the time, and the idea started putting down roots when I read this post on House of Humble, which led me to this post and tutorial.

IMG_6053What I love about this is the delicacy of it. The idea of a lace ball filled with light is rather too fairy and romantic for me to ignore. I searched for ages for a perfectly spherical balloon, but it turns out that they’re not as common as I had hoped, especially since I always try first to find supplies in local shops before turning to the internet. Then when I moved abroad, it became even more difficult to describe in my limited German. (What’s German for “no, not like those ones, I’m looking for a perfectly spherical one.”?)

So for a while the project was confined to the “to be done sometime” pile at the back of my mind, until I came across this post on Maize Hutton’s blog.


This appealed to me even more because I hadn’t, to be honest, been quite happy with the idea of slathering something with glue of questionable toxicity and then sticking it right next to a lightbulb. It seemed to spell trouble. But this was much better. It doesn’t have quite the same look to it, but it’s not less pretty, it’s just differently pretty (at least in my book.) After all, I thought, there are loads of scabby old lampshades out there, it’ll be easy to find one to re-upholster (which is entirely the wrong word to use for a lampshade, but it seems to fit the bill.)

How wrong I was. The first problem was that once you start to look at lampshades, you realise that, it seems, a good 95% are rigid fibreglass constructions without the metal supports connecting top and bottom rings that is essential to this lampshade. The second problem was that over here, they have quite a different attitude to light fittings that we do in England. When you move out of a flat or house, you take the entire light fitting with you. Now I can understand that, if you’ve paid good money for a swanky chrome multiple-spotlight monstrosity (or, for that matter, something altogether more tasteful,) but I’m generally used to finding a single bulb hanging from a wire in a room that I move into, which is easily customisable with a pretty lampshade, and without the need for an expensive light fitting. Well, there was wire in my living room when I moved in. Two in fact. A little brown one and a little blue one. With the little copper strands poking out the end. (Maybe I overreact, but I remember once hearing someone’s level of stinginess compared to being like taking out all the lightbulbs when you sell a house. It’s rather stuck with me. I’ll leave it alone now.)

I digress. Anyway, the upshot of this is that it’s very difficult to buy just a lampshade here. There is a brocki that we go to relatively frequently that specialises in lighting where we could get the wire, bulb fitting and ceiling cap (not exactly technical terms!) but it proved to be quite a job to find the right lampshade.
A couple of weeks ago, however, we visited a brocki that was closing down, and on the first floor (or 2 or 3 or possibly 2 1/2, it was difficult to keep track with all the half floors) we found a cluster of lampshades (or what’s the collective noun for a lot of lampshades?)


I suppose the laws of probability stated that we were bound to find something. After all, in a room that contains (almost) every conceivable type of lampshade, it would be hard to imagine not finding one. It was very old and disgustingly dusty, hidden in plain view in the middle, quite boring looking to the uninitiated, probably unnoticed for 20 or 30 years, but joy of joys, it had a proper metal structure!

I didn’t think to take a picture before I took all the material off, but it’s probably for the best. I wouldn’t want my mother people to know what level of disgustingness I allow into my house. This will have to suffice:



The top and bottom of the wire frame was wrapped with a sort of linen or gauze tape that the trim was sewn to. It was originally white but had rusty-coloured patches, presumably from the metal underneath. Initially I thought of taking it all off, but in the end I didn’t; the doilies cover most of it and it made sewing them to the frame much easier, especially as I wanted a less drapey look than in Maize Hutton’s lampshade (above,) it helped to keep them taut.


When the metal was free of its horrible prison, I started to sew on the doilies that I had been collecting.

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That was by far the slowest part. And the most painful. I used white thread with a very thin needle to avoid breaking the delicate gauze tape, with the result that if I judged my needle-push wrong and hit the metal, the “wrong” end would go just as happily into my finger. And sometimes even without waiting for me to hit the metal frame.

In the end, though, this is what I have. There are still a few holes left, which I will try and fill when I come across something the right size, but I don’t want to use something big and have too much overlapping. I’m happy to wait for the right one to turn up (after all, that’s what I did for the frame!)

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I do have some doilies left over… so I’m sure I’ll be back with some other doily-related projects in the future!


3 thoughts on “A Doily Lampshade

  1. Wow, it’s such a nice project ! Well done you !
    I really like how you’ve taken the first picture from behind the drapes :)
    (when we moved in here, there were also only the little copper wires sticking out from the ceiling… So annoying…)

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