Sunday, November 23, 2014

Rewiring old lamps & making new fabric shades...Yes you can!!

Rewiring old table and floor lamps - Yes you can!

Blow off the dust, replace the old wire, decorate a new shade and "ta da" you have a new lovely!

Refurbishing old lamps caught my fancy several years ago.  The second hand stores were full of a forgotten era of 1930's and 40's lamps (some floor lamps & some table lamps) where I saw a lot of beauty.  Parts were missing, cords were old and rotting and the shades were long gone.  A co-worker told me how easy it was to rewire lamps and that was all I needed to take an old lamp I had acquired from a friend moving to Oregon, and give it new life.  I bought an electrical wiring book at a yard sale and learned the simple truths of rewiring cast-off old lamps, giving a second life to beautiful vintage pieces, long forgotten. Today you can go right to the internet and youtube, so I've copied a link here for you to see how to rewire lamps and learn.  I've now given reworked and beautified old lamps to family and friends and sold some in my booth at the Dewey Street Market in Sapulpa, OK.

I have a new project on a couple of really old darling, probably 1930s or 40's dresser lamps.  Mike's Mom passed in 2013 and was a collector of beautiful dish and glassware and we've spent hours going through these beautiful pieces.  These two really sweet dresser lamps came out of a dusty old box in the family's attic and I immediately saw the vintage quality and beauty. Small, decorative lamps were a mainstay in a ladies' dressing room in times past.  They were, of course really dirty, but there were no scratchs or chips so, I cut out the old cords, removed all of the old electrical parts and fittings and put the glass lamps to soak....and OH! did they sparkle.

The next job was to rewire these lamps and using a dark electrical cord was definitely not an option on these two sweet dainty lamps.  I found a clear see-through cord with silver wire and rewired the lamp.  I chose silver wire as the bulb bases were silver.  I asked Mike's sister Debbie if she remembered these lamps and she said definitely as they were on her Mom's dresser for several years and remembered that the shades were fabric and not glass.  Lowes carried these drum-type small shades and I picked them up for about $6 each.  You can pay a small fortune for shades if you buy them at a lamp specialty shop.  Even for this size, you'd pay around $30 each.
I lived with the lamps and shades for a while and decided where I wanted to make their permanent home, at least for now and that was on the old hutch that also came out of Mike's Mom home as we prepared to put the house on the market.  I've chalk painted that hutch a China red and this will be another post in the near future.  Once I'd decided where the lamps would go, dictated how I was going to decorate and cover the shades.  I'm not very fond of plain shades and generally cover them with fabric and trim to fit a special place.

Side Note......I bought the above chair at the Tulsa Flea Market a few years back as I saw some something about it that I liked.  It had good bones and some character although the seat was black naugahyde and the wood frame was just a varnished wood. Really pretty ugly at first viewing, but I liked the cane back.  So I talked the owner into selling it as it was his seat at the flea market.  Picked it up for about $17, $10 less than the seller wanted to sell it to me.  I had a gallon of red paint I picked up at Home Depot for $5 as it had been miss mixed.  I love finding these paint bargains and snatch them up if the color is odd and a little different as there will always be a project, if not now then later.  Once I'd decided on the red paint for the chair to match my red China cupboard, I ran to my favorite fabric store as I had already eyed this Asian-type fabric.  Sorry to take you around the barn, so to speak, about the chair....but the left over scraps of fabric were the perfect answer for the vintage dresser lamp's shades and will go in our dining room along with the chair.

Small Drum-type Shade, Fabric and Trim (chocolate)
Chocolate Trim picked up at an Estate Sale for $1.50 for 6 yards. YES!!!!

I will be using fabric glue for the shade to adhere the fabric and the brown chocolate trim which is called gimp.  I have covered many shades with fabric and glue and have these handy tiny hair clips, miniature, to hold the fabric and gimp in place while the glue dries.  I will need to make a small pleat in the fabric as I glue it around the drum shade as it has just a slight flare to the shape.  This process keeps the fabric aligned.  Now you know why many shades have the fabric pleated. Note the little hair clamp I've used here at the top to hold the glued fabric in place while I work my way around the entire lamp and while folding in the pleats.

Holding, clamping, pleating and gluing the fabric

Gluing on the trim also using the tiny hair clamps

And there you go
(This red hutch is topic of another post on chalk painting)

Another Vintage Floor Lamp Rewired w/Newly Covered Shade
Now that these little lamp shades are finished, I wanted to share how you can also cover a shade with fabric if the shade is great flared/fluted. Using brown paper as a pattern, I trace over the fabric already on the shade and make enough gores to cover the lamp.  It is best if the pieces of wedge-shaped fabric just meets each other wedge.  This is so that when you glue your decorative trim (gimp, ribbon, etc) over the seams where the wedges meet, there will be no bulk.  Again, use the little tiny hair clips to hold the fabric in place on the inside of the shade, top and bottom.

Newly Covered Shade With Trim Hiding Glued Seams

This particular old floor lamp has a green marble decoration in the middle of the shaft, thus I used a soft green color for the lamp shade.

Vintage Floor Lamp Rewired w/Newly Covered Shade

Now its your turn to try your hand. You can find all sorts of lamp parts, cords, harps, sockets, wire strippers at any hardware store.  I guarantee that you'll feel great knowing you can do this!!

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