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.

No comments:

Post a Comment

oo yes... do let me know what you think. i'll endeavour to write back to each and every one :-)