Mother Earth Living

Try This: Lampshade Made From Plastic Bags

See plastic bags in a whole new light.
By Susan Wasinger
September/October 2009
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This modern lampshade reuses plastic shopping bags
Photo By Susan Wasinger

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Plastic shopping bags are disastrous for the environment. This project takes a few of those wayward bags out of the landfill and puts them to work. This beautiful, earthy pendant lampshade is made of used shopping bags—the flimsy kind you get from the grocery store.

• 10 to 15 plastic grocery shopping bags (4 beige, the rest white)
• 8 bamboo skewers, each at least a foot long
• 2 feet lightweight twine or fine copper or brass wire
• Lamp socket with cord
• Compact fluorescent bulb

• Scissors
• Towel to cover work surface
• Parchment paper
• Iron
• Metal ruler or straightedge
• Craft blade or box cutter

1. Cut off bottom seam and handles of bags. Cut off printed area to create large expanses of unprinted plastic. Cover work surface with a towel, then a sheet of parchment. Heat iron to medium.

2. Lay two or more sheets of white bag so they overlap by a couple inches, creating a one-layer base that’s 14 by 36 inches. Stack pieces until base is three layers deep. Cover with parchment and iron from center outward so plastic fuses—30 to 60 seconds. Let cool. Add a fourth layer and iron so finished “fabric” is four layers thick. Flip and iron other side. If fabric is not fully laminated, iron again.

3. Place beige bag pieces over white plastic fabric. The beige plastic should overlap randomly in places. Iron and fuse as before. Don’t worry if beige plastic skips a spot, folds or creases on itself—this will add character. Add more scraps as desired. Hold “fabric” up to the light to see how it will look illuminated.

4. Using a straightedge and a craft knife, trim plastic fabric to about 9 by 30 inches.

5. Fold down top and bottom “hems” about 1⁄2 inch along the long edges. Then iron (using parchment paper) to fuse hems. 

6. Roll towel and cover with parchment to create a cylindrical ironing surface. Overlap ends of laminated rectangle by 1⁄2 inch or so to make a seam, then iron to fuse.

7. Fold lampshade in half and crease. Using a skewer, poke a hole through top hem about 3⁄4 inch in from the fold. Repeat on opposite end and again on bottom hem, creating four holes near each corner. Then fold shade in half along the opposite axis. Make holes in the four corners as before.

8. You should now have a square lampshade with two holes in each of the four corners on the top and bottom. Thread eight bamboo skewers through these corner holes on the diagonal as shown.

9. Feed lamp socket plug and cord through the center of skewer grid.

10. At each corner, squeeze skewers together and fold corner creases outward, forcing lampshade into a crisp, rectangular shape. Cut a 6- to 12-inch piece of twine or thin wire and tie. Adjust so lampshade hangs straight and square.

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