Light up your living room with a homemade lampshade
- Credit: Kerstin Rodgers
Being confined to our homes over the last couple of years, staring at the same walls when working from home, has sparked a boom in interiors.
Neglected repairs, scruffy walls, those awful curtains you meant to change ever since you moved in but never got round to, suddenly became urgent. I have redecorated, revamped all my floors, stencilled my steps, finally put up that towel rail, changed my horrible 70s taps and installed new shelves. Everyone had the same idea which is why tradesfolk have never been busier. (I look on the Next Door app to find mine which has been a mixed blessing).
Lulu Lyttle may be criticised for the expensive redecoration job she did on number 10 Downing Street (although the photos you generally see are of her own house) but she's bang on trend in terms of style.
The shabby chic look, industrial, brutalist modern or pared-down Scandi interiors have made way for brighter jewel-like colours, exotic patterns on soft furnishings, a kind of vintage ethnic look. Lyttle deserves credit for investing in and championing British crafts such as rattan-weaving which had fallen into disuse.
Lighting is something worth spending time and money on. I've seen patterned and pleated lampshades on sites like Pooky but most of the shades sold commercially are glued together. I spent a weekend learning how to make one at the Minerva workshop in Kentish Town. It takes two days just to make one small lampshade - hand-sewing, learning the 'lampshade stitch'; two small stitches followed by a long sideways stitch. They aren't cheap and now I know why.
Our teacher, Lottie Cole, set up this small workshop last autumn. Along with lampshade making, they run courses in renovating furniture with Annie Sloan paints, life drawing and natural dye making. But the lampshade class is the most popular as Lottie says: "Lampshades are the thing you can easily change in a room, like the earrings on an outfit."
Six of us gathered around a large worktable in a large daylight-filled studio space near Camden School for Girls. You can join the class whatever level of sewer you are. Some of us hadn't so much as sewn on a button before, while one lady was a professional upholsterer. Needless to say, she finished her lampshade first.
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We were asked to bring one and a half metres of light-weight lawn cotton (Liberty style fabric originally named after the French town of Laon). I brought a block-printed floral Indian cotton from The Cloth Shop in Portobello Road. You are also asked to bring half a metre of lightweight plain cotton for the lining.
While pleated lampshades require some dexterity, you are taken through the process step by step. Bind the frame, cut the fabric to size, hand-pleat, pin and hand sew the sections of fabric around the frame, make and attach the lining, then decide on the trimming - bobbles, braid, ribbon, fringing or bias trim.
The great aspect about sewing is you form a kind of circle, perfect for chatting and getting to know the others at the table. We were five women and one man. One couple had travelled from Northern Ireland to learn this skill. I was proud of my finished lampshade, and was given a kit to attempt another on my own. You learn the properties of fabric and for my next lampshade I will be considering the stretchiness, weight and transparency, as well as the size and repeat of the pattern.
While it's worth searching for second-hand lamp stands, be wary of buying a vintage frame as the metal can stain your fabric with rust. It's easier and cleaner to buy a new one from someone like dannells.com
A two day course for pleated lampshades costs £360 including all materials except your fabric. There are different courses: pleated, gathered, scalloped and the traditional 'balloon' lampshade where the fabric is stretched over the frame. Lottie provides coffee, tea, croissants, fruit and chocolate biscuits and you bring a packed lunch. Bookings at minervaworkshop.co.uk email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07971 853 412.