Choosing the Right Fabric for Your Lampshade

March 04, 2014

Choosing the Right Fabric for Your Lampshade



So you're ready to make your own lampshade. You've measured your lamp base to determine your ideal lampshade size, and you've picked out your custom DIY Lampshade Making Supplies accordingly. Now, what about the fabric? The general rule is to choose natural fiber based fabrics - cotton, silk, linen, etc. But you might want a bit more direction than that. As someone who's made dozens of lampshades and experimented with different types of fabrics and fibers, I can tell you that some fabrics are much easier to work with than others. So here I've ranked the types of fabric from easiest to most difficult to use for DIY lampshades.


  1. Light weight cotton. Easy to apply to the styrene and easy to tuck under the rings. Perfect for beginners.

  2. Medium weight cotton. Can be more difficult to tuck under the rings. Will also create an opaquer shade.

  3. Linen. The more lightweight it is, the easier it will be. Be careful of wrinkles!

  4. Silk. The hard part is applying to the styrene without wrinkling it. After that, it's easy enough to work with.

  5. Burlap. Oh, the pain! You'll need many clips and even more patience for this.



Types of fabric not to use: 

  • Anything synthetic. Okay, cotton with a bit of stretch does work, and a linen/poly blend would probably turn out well. The general rule is to keep it as natural as possible. Why? The adhesive backing on the styrene sheet just doesn't stick to synthetic fibers.

Other things to consider:

  • Opacity/ translucency. How much light do you need to need to come through your shade? Fabrics with a lighter weight and/or color will allow your lamp to throw more light. A darker hue or heavy fabric will only allow light to come through the top & bottom of the shade.

  • Quantity. To determine the quantity of fabric you need to cover a drum lampshade, get out your calculator! Multiply the diameter of the shade by pi (3.14). Add 2" to that. This will be the minimum length of fabric you require. For the height, take the height of your lampshade and add 2".

  • Print or solid. Consider the style of your lamp base and your existing home decor. Accent lamps with solid bases look great with a bold print. If your room already has a lot going on and you just need something to tie it together, consider a solid fabric for the shade.