How I make my felted lampshades – Part 1 Equipment and Supplies

I thought I’d have a go at explaining a little about how I make my lampshades.  This is part one and covers the equipment and supplies that I use.

1 – A lampshade kit.

I buy mine from Dannells, a British company that manufacture their lampshade supplies and kits in Essex, UK.  They are a family business and they make excellent quality products and are a pleasure to deal with.  They’ve performed all the relevant testing of their equipment.  Their lampshade kits include:

  • 1 x Lampshade ring, epoxy coated
  • 1 x Lampshade ring, epoxy coated with fitting
  • 1 x Self-adhesive lampshade panel
  • 1 x Roll of self-adhesive tape
  • 1 x Rolled Edge tool for finishing

2 – Wet felting basic equipment which includes:

  • Towels
  • Sushi mat style blind, for smaller projects an actual sushi mat is ideal, but for large projects like lampshades then a thin bamboo blind is very effective.
  • Bubble wrap – I’m starting to use less bubble wrap, as I bought a large gravel tray (which would normally be used for extra large grow bags to sit in), this has some ridges and holds the water and is working quite well.
  • Water jug and sprinkler – you can use a plastic milk bottle with holes punched in the lid, but I do have a proper bulb sprinkler tool.
  • Net curtain material – not essential, but I prefer to use it as it gives the felted fabric a smoother more even appearance.
  • Olive oil soap – to date I’ve been using some olive oil soap that I bought in Turkey, when that runs out I will be using some bought in the UK.  You can use other types of soap, but the olive oil soap is kind on your hands and works really well.
  • I use a tool to help the felting process along, I have a small wooden fulling tool and I have a felting rolling pin.  I tend to use both.  You can do without these, and just use the rolling motion in the bubblewrap and blind to felt the fabric, but you can somethings get unreliable results just rolling.  So I prefer to start the felting process by hand using these tools.  Similar tools are available from Wingham Wool Work or World of Wool.  You may see them referred to as fulling tool or felting tool.
  • A supply of hot and cold water!
  • Sharp scissors
  • Large table or worktop
  • Tape measure

3 – Pre-Felt

As a base to decorate you need some pre-felt.  I cut it to a size larger than the panel (to allow for shrinkage).  I have used both the Merino and the Shetland pre-felt from World of Wool.  The Shetland pre-felt has some small bits of vegetable matter in but it is thinner, thus allowing more light to shine through and is a little more cost effective, plus it comes from British Wool, whereas the Merino is imported.  The larger pieces of vegetable fibre are easy to remove and the small bits are not noticeable once decorated.

4 – Decorative fibres

This is where you can have some fun!  In my landscape shades I had been using a Corriedale Cross wool from some sheep owned by a lady who dyes and blends the fibre by hand.  More recently I have been dyeing and blending my own fibres from Roxy the sheep, she is a Shetland/Blue Faced Leicester Cross.  I’ve also used some other wool fibre that I have in my stash, including some North Ronaldsay wool from those famous seaweed eating sheep!  There’s a sheep farm about a quarter of a mile from me, he has Scottish Blackfaced sheep, some crossed with Blue Faced Leicester, so I’d like to try to buy one from him next year, just to make it even more locally made!

I use a drum carder and hand carders to blend the colours prior to applying.

I also add to the wool some other fibres, on some I’ve added wool locks/curls, silk, sari silk waste, throwsters silk waste, wool nepps, angelina (sparkle), flax/linen.  I don’t tend to use any man-made fibres, Angelina is the only exception and that is just to add some sparkle where appropriate.

Wool is naturally flame resistant, but I would always recommend using low energy bulbs for the environment and to save you pennies.

5 – Elbow grease!

Once you’ve cut your pre-felt, and decorated it, now comes the hard work.  Rubbing, rolling, rubbing, rolling, rubbing, rolling, rinsing in hot, rinsing in cold, rinsing in hot, rolling, rubbing etc…..  Even the tucking in of the edges of the fabric around the rings requires a good amount of strength and can be quite painful on the hands.  More on that on a later post, where I’ll explain the process.

6 – Needle Felting Equipment

If you want to add additional details, like the sheep in the fields, I use needle felting needles and a foam block to add these details.  My seascapes and decorative lampshades haven’t required this, but the landscapes do have this added detail.

Perhaps when I’m explaining the process I’ll find I’ve missed something, if so I’ll point that out.


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