Laurie Notaro's DIY Lamp Shade (A Semi-Disastrous How-To) | Jackalope Ranch | Phoenix | Phoenix New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Phoenix, Arizona

Laurie Notaro's DIY Lamp Shade (A Semi-Disastrous How-To)

Laurie Notaro is an author, crafter, and expert at finding a good cocktail. She grew up in Phoenix, but is currently based in Eugene, Oregon. Each week, she'll be joining us to share a crafting adventure, draw a flowchart, or remember a few of her favorite things about Phoenix. Today,...
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Laurie Notaro is an author, crafter, and expert at finding a good cocktail. She grew up in Phoenix, but is currently based in Eugene, Oregon. Each week, she'll be joining us to share a crafting adventure, draw a flowchart, or remember a few of her favorite things about Phoenix. Today, she her adventures in lamp shading, for lack of a better description ...

Tucson, 1997: When I was an editor at magazine, I spent most of my lunch hours combing through Value Village on Fourth Avenue. It was the king of thrift stores, and it was rare that I didn't walk out of there with something amazing in my hand.

Enter the green lamp. A sprightly, fun, jadeite green ceramic lamp with an adorable finial and a rotting cord. I don't remember if the lamp came with a shade, but for the $3 I bought it for, I'm sure I barely cared if it didn't. It sat in my apartment for a year, my garage in Phoenix for six and in my basement in Eugene for eight. I loved the lamp, but not apparently enough to clothe it.

Finally, several weeks ago, I bought some linen on sale that would be perfect for the fun lamp, and couldn't wait to get started on making a shade.

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Have I ever made a shade before? No. But how hard could it be? (Note: this was before the Hostess factory closed and the world was a brighter place where things still seemed possible.)

I looked up some tutorials online, got the gist of it and marched myself to another thrift store to buy a shade that I could reuse. I found one for $3.99, took it home and stripped the facing of it off. I nicked my finger with the same pair of insanely sharp scissors that once fell off a shelf and stabbed me in the foot, but am not worried about lockjaw because of the tetanus shot I had to get after the foot stabbing.


Step one: Time to make a pattern! I decided to travel down the "no sew" path so I could post it on here and make it an easy project for those who don't sew.

All you'd need are some pins, scissors, and a glue gun. You could build a country with that if you did it right! A lampshade should be easy! I traced the opening of the lamp frame onto my pattern paper, and after measuring from the top to the bottom, decided on how long I wanted the shade to be. Measured it all around. So big I needed a second piece of paper to accommodate it all -- it was that big.

Step two: Cut! Cut the inside of the circle, cut the outside. Awesome. AWESOME! Cut cut cut! Done cutting. Drape it over the lampshade frame to get your first look at how it looked.'s not exactly what I expected. It looks like a little ghost. But I'm not even close to being done yet, I'm still in the lamp fetus stage. It could still be a fish!

Step three: I iron a fold on the top circle and hem. I put it back on the frame. My husband walks through the dining room, stops, and says, "Oh. That will be a nice skirt, but I think you'll need to make the center hole bigger."

I smell the hint of a disaster.

DAY THREE: I avoid looking at the lamp shade until afternoon.

After taking clothes out of the dryer that have been hibernating for roughly two weeks, I am amazed at how compacting 20 pounds of clothes into a tiny congested ball makes everything so much smaller and instead of ironing the ball, I'm just going to wash it again. JEEN-YUS! I grab my white lamp skirt, the iron and a can of starch.

Step one: I iron wrinkles, fold and waves into the skirt, keeping it stiff with the can of starch.

This is an awesome idea! God DAMNIT I AM SMART! How do I not have my own show? HOW?

Step two: I throw it back over the frame and it's a little wonky, but we can fit it. I fold and pleat then pin the center hole around the top of the frame. It looks like a Balenciaga wedding gown with gentle curves, flips and accordion-like pleats.

This is so fantastic that I bet Elle Home Décor will steal it from me just like some comedy writers like to steal my jokes (I am not being paranoid. I've convinced a friend that this is true, so when two people believe the same thing, that strikes paranoia out!).

Step three: I tie lengths of black elastic cord over and around the frame to keep my Balenciago gown in place. I tie more around the top. It looks structural, angular, insanely innovative. This is a new age for lamp shades, I can feel it. I am onto something. I might just start making lamp shades and ditch the writing thing all together. Lamp shades are fun! Lamp shades are creative! Lamp shades are my calling.

I'm done.

I have made a no-sew lampshade and I am a magician in home design. I take a picture of it and mail it to my editor, eager to get her response that as soon as we run this story, I'm going to get orders from lampshades from as far away as possibly Ohio.

You're onto something, she's going to say. Did you ever suspect you had such an amazing, unparalleled talent? You're like the Alexander McQueen of light bulb dressing, Laurie! How have you been hiding this?

I KNOW! I would squeal to myself at my desk while reading her email, and stomp my feel in frenzied jubilation.

DAY FOUR: Her email arrives.

"I think it'd look perfect," she says, "with one of those leg lamp stands."

I drag myself back into the dining room, where I wish my little green lamp was in the shape of a leg, and realize she is right. It is a gigantic creampuff that looks like it should have the word "fragile" stamped all over it.

I have a moment of silence for the death of my decorator self, until I remember that I just bought four yards of burlap on clearance that I know I could make into an excellent lamp shade.

Stay tuned for new adventures with Laurie Notaro, and catch up on a few classics in any of her books including The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club: True Tales from a Magnificent and Clumsy Life,It Looked Different on the Model, I Love Everybody (and Other Atrocious Lies), There's a Slight Chance I Might Be Going to Hell, and An Idiot Girl's Christmas at Changing Hands, on Amazon, or through her website.

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