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Yarn Lampshade

The right lampshade can transform an ordinary lamp into an extraordinary decorative element, and you can make beautiful, unusual ribbed lampshades by wrapping yarn around a simple metal frame.




You can get your frame by removing the fabric from an old lampshade or buying a bare frame from a lampshade-crafting catalog. The frames are inexpensive and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. When choosing your frame, keep in mind that the yarn will not conform to curved spokes; the top and bottom rims will be joined by flat planes of yarn.

Pick a yarn color that complements your lamp base. Smooth yarns like cotton or silk work best -- avoid very fuzzy yarns. You can also experiment with different materials such as heavyweight embroidery floss, upholsterer's thread, or butcher's twine.

Keep in mind that the finer the yarn, the more you will need, and the longer it will take to complete your shade. Be sure to purchase enough yarn for the entire project -- you don't want to run out halfway through, as color can vary slightly between batches of the same yarn. For a small shade, you will need approximately fifty yards of yarn; for a medium shade, about one hundred yards; and for a very large shade, about four hundred yards, or four skeins.

Use a low-wattage bulb (approximately 40 watts) in your finished lamp, because it is less likely to burn or discolor the material.


  • Metal lampshade frame
  • Seam binding or grosgrain tape
  • Yarn or string
  • Small sewing scissors
  • Clear-drying glue
  • Small piece of cardboard, notched
  • Scotchgard (optional)
  • Interfacing (such as Pellon) or styrene (optional)
  • Cardboard or oak tag (optional)
  • Pencil or marker (optional
  • Double-sided tape


  1. Step 1

    To make sure the metal spokes of the frame will not show through, wrap seam binding or grosgrain tape around each spoke; secure at the top and bottom of each spoke using a clear-drying glue. Make sure to select a seam binding or tape color that closely matches the color yarn you are using.

  2. Step 2

    Before you begin wrapping the frame with yarn, make sure the ball of yarn you selected fits through the spokes and rims of the frame. If not, roll it into a smaller, more manageable ball. Tie the yarn to the bottom rim of the frame with a square knot. (Make sure to leave enough string to tie another knot when you complete the shade.) Bring the yarn up over the top rim, then down through the inside of the frame to the bottom rim. Loop the yarn one-and-a-half times around the bottom rim, creating a space between the bottom of the ribs to compensate for the fact that the circumference of the bottom rim is larger than the top, then bring the yarn back over top rim. Continue wrapping the yarn around the frame until it is completely covered.

  3. Step 3

    When you near one of the spokes of the shade, you will need to transfer some yarn to a small cardboard paddle that will easily slip through the space between string and frame. Unspool enough yarn to cover the spoke, and transfer the yarn to a notched cardboard card. The notches will prevent the string from slipping off. To make sure a spoke of the frame is hidden, do a few full top-to-bottom lengths in a row, omitting the loop around the lower part of the frame. When you finish covering the spoke, tightly tie the yarn from the paddle to the larger ball of yarn, on the inside of the frame, using a square knot. Trim these knots closely. If you are using slippery string or yarn, secure the knot with a dab of clear-drying glue.

  4. Step 4

    When you have completely covered your frame, knot the end of your yarn on the inside of the shade. Cut the ends closely, and secure the knot with a dab of glue. It's a good idea to spray the completed shade with a few coats of Scotchgard to protect the shade from stains and discoloration. Make sure to test your yarn for colorfastness prior to Scotchgarding.

  5. Step 5

    If you want to line a paneled shade (not one with circular top and bottom rims), make a template of the frame panels before you start wrapping the yarn around the frame. (If you're using the frame of an old paper shade, you can carefully remove the paper so it comes off in one piece and use that as your template.)

  6. Step 6

    If your frame has panels of different sizes, you will need a separate template for each one. Place the frame on a piece of cardboard and trace the inside of the frame panel using a pencil. Cut out your template. After you have completed wrapping the shade with yarn, place your template in the correct position inside the shade.

  7. Step 7

    Make sure it fits the panels perfectly, without overlapping or leaving gaps; make adjustments if necessary. Using the template as a guide, cut the panels for your lining out of interfacing or styrene. Cut a notch into the two panels that fit over the bulb clip wires. Attach each panel to the top and bottom rims using a clear glue. Note: You can line round shades as well, using an arc template. Arc templates are difficult to draw on your own, and need to be very precise; however, if you order a frame from a catalog, you will probably be able to purchase a corresponding arc template.

  8. Step 8

    Select a paneled shade frame. Wrap the top and bottom rims with double-sided tape, then wrap them with yarn; cover the joints by crisscrossing the yarn around them several times. Tie one end of the thread to a spoke. Now wrap your yarn horizontally around the entire shade, looping it once around each spoke as you go. Make sure that the yarn is taut, and that the rows are close together. When you've completely covered the shade, tie a square knot at the closest spoke and cut the ends of the yarn closely. To fill any gaps between the ribs of yarn and the top or bottom rims, thread a large needle with yarn, and add another horizontal rib in between, catching the thread in the loops around the spokes. Because the horizontal ribbing doesn't require a double loop around the frame, it uses half as much yarn as the vertical process -- but it is also less opaque, so you may wish to line the shade.

  9. Step 9

    To fill any gaps between the ribs of yarn and the top or bottom rims, thread a large needle with yarn, and add another horizontal rib in between, catching the thread in the loops around the spokes. Because the horizontal ribbing doesn't require a double loop around the frame, it uses half as much yarn as the vertical process -- but it is also less opaque, so you may wish to line the shade.



Reviews (4)

  • docadams 27 Mar, 2011

    I saw a project very similar to this by Martha on her TV show a couple of years ago, except she used wide grosgrain ribbon. It was a very nice looking result and I have wanted to do it with a large shade we have on an old floor lamp we've had for years. The current shade is curved with an old, stretchy synthetic fabric that is torn in several places. The end result with ribbon would make the shade look flat rather than curved, but I think nice. Still looking for the video of that project.

  • mahze 5 Mar, 2010

    I have an old shade on a standing lamp that was made with yarn many years ago. The shade doesn't touch the bulb. Also old silk shades are not made of fire resistant fabric. If the shade fits the light properly, it is not a hazard.

  • Antler 7 Jan, 2009

    Is there a fireproof fabric spray? The article does caution that no greater than a 40 watt bulb should be used. I would use a florescent bulb just to be on the safe side, but all my shades are problem.

  • Ginnie6 1 Jan, 2009

    I am surprised that this idea is on here. I would not want the responsibility of giving an idea that could result in a fire hazard! To me this sounds very risky