Thursday, 19 May 2016

The Lampshade Book Diaries #2: Starting in the middle

I once heard a grand film director claim that it's always a good idea to start the first day of filming with the most ambitious and crucial scene of all. Thereby you set the pace for the rest of the scenes to follow.

So I've plunged right in and started writing My Book at what will probably become page 63. This chapter is dedicated to explaining the intricacies and joys of making pleated lampshades. These grand dames are full of tricky pitfalls. This chapter must be both a project and a wider explanation of the general technique. And of course it must be very beautiful.

With such a grand task, I flung myself into making the shade. It was a joy and a relief to make a start. I made notes along the way when I thought up a handy tip or wrinkle. Here's sneak preview…

The choosing... 


I found the frame in the 'shop' at Denman (for anyone who's been there it's the cupboard behind the dining room stuffed with hand-me-downs of a thready nature). A small vintage straight-sided oval is a rare thing of beauty and just what I needed. The fabric is the most gorgeous palest of pale pink linens from the lovely Ada and Ina.

The making…


A pleated shade starts with lots of measuring... on the shade frame itself and even on the fabric. (You can see I kept the original binding on the shade as it was so very nicely done).

Nooo! Ran out of fabric just before the end and had to do a tidy join

Many hundreds of pins are essential. Folk often ask me if I use special pins. Lampshade makers from yesteryear would have metal headed pins just like dressmaking pins called 'lills'. I find these very hard on the fingertips, so I use bead-headed pins. It's most important that pins are very sharp and sturdy, not too long and flimsy. (Having tried and tested many I'd say Asda and Waitrose pins are tops.)

Pleated lampshades really must be stitched in order to keep those pleats nice and firm. I chose to line my linen shade in antique white muslin, which has an open weave but still diffuses the light well, has lovely 'give' on the bias and looks just fabulous with the soft pink linen. You can see 'lampshade stitch' in progress. Here's how...

To start the stitch, come out at A, in at B and out again at C. Then bring your needle back to B and stitch to C again. This extra locking stitch holds the stitching firm as you work and prevents slipping. (Don't worry, a proper artist will re-draw my wonky efforts)

The writing... and a bit of 'needs must'

Once the shade was safely wrapped and tucked away awaiting perfect trimmings, I wrote the words for this huge chapter, which took twice as long... a very long day indeed.

So that my lovely readers don't get lost wading through instructions, there must be at least four other identical shades in various stages of undress which will illustrate the chapter. But by their very nature, vintage shade frames are one-offs and additional straight sided ovals are not to be found. I had, of course, predicted this conundrum but convinced myself that it would be a doddle for a handy blacksmith to attach vertical struts to some of Dannell's most splendid oval ringsets. I posted some off and unfortunately the his quoted cost was similar to a long weekend in a luxurious place.

So I rummaged deep into eBay and found some ready-made straight-sided drums which, while not oval, will certainly do to explain the point perfectly.

No-one said it would be easy.

Number of words written so far: 5, 033

And one final thing... remember that gigantic box of lampshade frames sent to me by Dannell's (so big I could re-sell it on Rightmove?). Well, Mr H took great offense to my suggestion of allowing it to fill a corner of his newly tidied garage, so I have taken out all the shade frames and dangled them (neatly labelled) from the Shed ceiling. To all intents and purposes, they've disappeared. Magic!

This diary is about the writing of a book about lampshade making for Search Press. It will be published in summer 2017. The title is as yet undecided, so it is being fondly referred to as My Book.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

The Lampshade Book Diaries #1: Yes! Let's do it!


This post is the start of recording a year-long project (more or less) which is likely to be my biggest obsession of 2016. My Book.

My Book (as yet otherwise untitled) is completely and utterly dedicated to my love of lampshade making. It is written for the sole use of other lovelies who also enjoy rustling up bright affectations. It will be full of useful tips and wrinkles, very beautiful lampshade project ideas and will, I hope, share the joy that can be had with bits of wire and thread.

When working on the proposal for My Book there was precious little resource for folks who wanted to restore their own shades. Indeedy, my own stash of well thumbed ancient copies were written decades ago by lovelies called Phyllis and Olive. Back then craft books were designed to inform in an economic and largely monochrome way. I had decided to write A Sequel to these dry tomes, to bring the happy wonders of lampshade making to a new audience.

I sent out two or three copies of my proposal to my favourite publishers and it was the lovely folks at Search Press who saw the light and rang me that very day and said 'Yes! Yes indeed, let's do it!!'.

Such are the mysteries of the book publishing world that nearly a year has flown by. Five weeks ago (already!!) I went to meet my lovely publisher and editor, who were kind and enthusiastic and let me chatter about colours and shapes while they nodded and made notes.

And now my Shed is tidy (ish), my working life is reasonably re-organised to fit in this special task and there's nothing left to do but actually make a start. It is suddenly quite daunting. Indeed I have decided think about it only in chapter-sized chunks. I shall start in the places where I feel most at home and then, when I have got into the swing of it, venture into the daunting territories of not-quite-yet-resolved creative ideas. The fact that I won't be writing from the beginning and working my way through to the end isn't at all strange.

Each blog post will keep you up to date on my progress, making tips, creative planning, choosing fabrics and all the stuff and fluff that will go into writing a book about making things.

Meanwhile, I thought you might like to see what my world has started to look like...

my sewing room ceiling

my daughter's play shed... i HAVE promised i'll tidy up

the sewing room book shelves creaking under the weight of other fabulous craft books
the creative hub... the Shed

favourite treasures
i found these in a French car boot...

vintage lovelies that were lurking in the attic til quite recently (I'm not even taking you in there)
...and my lovely assistant Nellie who is a great secret keeper and snoozer

I'll try and keep you posted every week with progress. xx

PS I'm sitting in my Shed in a state of great excitement and anticipation as the lovely people at Dannells are sending a pile of their fabulous lampshades to me in a lorry TODAY!!!!! Yay! Needless to say I am hugely grateful for their generosity and happiness to be part of this great project. I shall, of course, tell you more about it next time ( where on earth I found storage space) xxxxxxx