How to Create a Lamp Shade

Things You'll Need

  • 10 to 15 wire coat hangers
  • For beaded finish:
  • Strong fishing line or thin wire
  • Assortment of beads
  • For fabric finish:
  • About 1 yard of fabric
  • Staple gun, hot glue gun, or needle and thread

So you have a perfectly decent lamp but a no-go lampshade. Maybe it broke, maybe it's outdated, maybe it just isn't your style. You don't have to start from scratch. Simply remove the old lampshade and create your own. Start by building the frame from wire, then cover it, either by decorating with beads or covering with fabric. Here's how.

Create the Frame

Find wire for a frame for your lampshade. A wire that is sturdy enough to hold its shape but pliable enough to be bent with pliers is best. You can use wire hangers for your lampshade frame; simply untwist and straighten them out first.

Measure the diameter of the bottom of the lampshade. If you have an old lampshade, you can use it to determine the diameter that your new lampshade should be. If you don't have an old lampshade, cut out several pieces of paper in circles and hold them over the lamp to determine which one seems the best size for the bottom of the lampshade.

Determine the diameter of the top of the lampshade. You can either create a lampshade that is equal diameters at both top and bottom, or you can create a tapered lampshade that is smaller at the top and larger at the bottom. Use your circular pieces of paper to play around with and decide what size is best for the top diameter of the lampshade.

Create two circles for the top and bottom of the lampshade frame. Use your old lampshade or your circular pieces of paper as a pattern for how big to make the wire circles. You can use just one piece of wire for each end: twist the wire around into a circle of the right size, use pliers to twist the ends together, and then use a wire cutter to clip off the excess wire. If you prefer, you can simply wind the excess wire around on itself to create a vine-like appearance.

Determine how far apart you want the top and bottom of the lampshade to be. Hold up your two circles and measure the ideal distance between. You want the lampshade to be at least a few inches above and a few inches below the lightbulb, so that it gives a diffused light rather than a glaring view of the lightbulb.

Cut about 10 pieces of wire into the right length you determined above: add 4 inches to the total height you want for your lampshade. You will use the extra 4 inches to attach the vertical pieces of wire to the circles you just created.

Use pliers to attach each vertical piece of wire to the top circle of your lampshade frame. Use only 2 inches of wire from the vertical piece, winding it around the wire circle two or three times and then pressing the end in firmly with the pliers. Space the vertical wires out evenly around the top circle.

Use pliers to attach the other end of the vertical pieces to the wire circle that is the bottom of your lampshade frame. Use the same method as you did in step 7, above.

Decorate the Frame with Beads

Use strong fishing line to create strings of beads long enough to reach from the top to the bottom of your lampshade.

Leave some excess line at each end and tie knots to keep the beads in the center of the string.

Tie the line onto the top and bottom circles of the lampshade.

Repeat until you have almost covered the frame with strings of beads. You can use the same color beads, a regular pattern, or vary the pattern as you wish. The beads will seem to glow when the lamp is turned on.

Cover the Frame with Fabric

Measure the distance between each piece of vertical wire on your lampshade frame.

Cut strips of fabric into the the width you just measured and the length from the top to the bottom of your lampshade, plus two extra inches for the length.

Hem or edge each strip of fabric with ribbon or trim on the longer sides.

Attach the fabric strips to the top of the lampshade by rolling one extra inch over the wire circle and affixing with a staple gun, hot glue gun, or needle and thread. You should have one fabric strip in between each vertical wire piece.

Attach the fabric strips to the bottom of the lampshade as outlined in step 4, above.


  • You can use wide strips of ribbon rather than fabric to cover your lampshade. Simply cut to the appropriate length and attach to wire circles.