How to Build a Lamp

How to Cover a Lamp Shade

The shirred cover slips on over the lamp shade; elastic cord at top and bottom controls the fullness and holds the cover in place.

Renovate a shabby or dull lamp shade -- or create a customized new one -- with this shirred lamp shade slipcover. You can get just the look you want when you select any lightweight fabric you like.


  • tape measure
  • sharp scissors
  • straight pins
  • sewing machine
  • steam iron and ironing board
  • safety pin or bodkin


  • plain lamp shade (no ruffles or pleats)
  • lightweight fabric
  • thread
  • medium-weight round elastic cord

Time: 1/2 to 1 hourTo cover the lamp shade you have in mind, choose lightweight fabric that will fall easily into soft folds. In general, buy 1 yard of 44- or 45-inch fabric; if the shade is more than 15 inches high, add another 2 inches of fabric for each additional inch of height. Also buy 3 yards of medium-weight round elastic. If the lamp shade has fringe or other trim, remove it carefully, without damaging the shade.To begin, measure the height of the shade and add 3 inches. Cut two strips of material to that measurement across the width of the fabric. For example, if the shade is 12 inches high, cut two 15-inch strips across the width of the fabric. Place the strips of fabric with the right sides together at the selvage, pin the selvage ends together, and sew the pinned ends together on a sewing machine; leave a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Remove the pins and open the seamed pieces to form one long strip of fabric.Measure around the bottom of the lamp shade and multiply this circumference by 1 1/2 to find the length needed for this strip of fabric. If the shade measures 50 inches around the bottom, for example, you'll need a strip about 75 inches long to cover it. This is a minimum fullness; if your fabric is quite soft or thin, you may want to use more. Measure and trim the long strip to the required length, cutting from both ends of the fabric to keep the seam evenly centered.When the strip is trimmed to the proper size, fold it in half at the seam, with the right sides together, and stitch the two loose ends together with a 1/2-inch seam. Turn under 1/2 inch of fabric along each long, raw edge of the piece and press it down; turn each folded edge under again 1/2 inch and press. Pin the hems in place and stitch them all the way around, leaving a 1-inch opening in each long hem. Backstitch at the beginning and the end of each hem.Cut a piece of round elastic to the same length as the bottom circumference of the shade. Tie one end of it to a bodkin or a large safety pin and insert it into one of the hems through the 1-inch opening in the hem. Pull the elastic by the bodkin or pin all the way around inside the hem and out again, gathering the fabric onto the elastic as you go. Tie the two ends of the elastic in a square knot and let it slip inside the hem. Then cut another piece of elastic the circumference of the top of the shade; insert it into the other hem of the fabric and tie the ends together the same way.

To use your new lamp shade cover, remove the lamp shade from the lamp. Slip the cover over the lamp shade and adjust the gathered fabric evenly all the way around. If the cover isn't snug enough, retie the elastic to make it tighter.

For more information on lighting and electricity, see:

  • How to Do Home Electrical Repairs: Whether the lights are out, the appliances won't come on, or a switch won't work, use this site to learn how to make simple home electrical repairs.
  • How Light Bulbs Work: Sure, it lights up when you connect it to a lamp or light fixture, but what goes on inside a light bulb? Find out here!
  • How Electricity Works: Learn how this mysterious force creates power for everything from toasters to Times Square.