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Lamp revamp: a thrift-to-new how-to

 Jenni Steinberg Pagano’s fifth grade teacher once declared that she’d be “forever known for her ability to make something out of nothing.” The manager of the 1st Rate 2nd Hand Thrift Store for the past year, Pagano has been making good on that early promise, bringing her UCLA design degree and years of interior and jewelry design experience to the table to create new treasures out of thrift store finds. “Visit the store and talk to me about your ideas and see the fabulous items just waiting for you to discover,” she says, adding, “If you need to clear out some old stuff, the store does free pickups of large donations” (call 327-5252 to schedule).

 As of January 2012, the thrift store, which opened in November 2007, has given $100,000 back to the Jewish community, with funds distributed to participating Jewish organizations based on volunteer hours.

On the first Friday of every month, Pagano has a monthly how-to segment on Channel 9’s “Morning Blend.” Here she provides a sneak peak of her October TV project.

Lighting is often one of the best deals in the store. High quality lights are generally very expensive new, and styles tend to remain popular for a long time. 1st Rate 2nd Hand Thrift Store often has high-quality vintage lamps for a fraction of their original cost.

Keep an open mind when looking at lamps. At a glance, they can look dingy and dusty but there is a lot of potential to create something unique. A chalkboard lamp — you can actually write on it with chalk, and erase — is great for a kid’s room or family area.

How to make a chalkboard lamp

A worn vintage lamp from the 1st Rate 2nd Hand Thrift Store ...

...becomes a funky-chic chalkboard lamp

• Look for a pretty shape. Ginger jar shape is classic! For a chalkboard lamp, you’ll need one with a smooth texture.

• Decide if you will rewire the lamp or if you are going for a quick and dirty update.

• Rewire if the cord or socket is cracked.

• Look online for rewiring instructions or ask your local hardware store for help.

• If rewiring, go ahead and dismantle the lamp by unscrewing the components.

• It is always a good idea to take notes or pictures as you go, to help in the reassembly process.

• If keeping wiring intact, use masking tape and newspaper to protect the socket and cord from paint.

• Using a fine sanding sponge, rub down the lamp to give a little texture to the surface so the paint adheres.

• Wipe or wash off the sanding dust.

• Spread out some newspapers to protect your work area from overspray.

• Elevate the lamp base off your work surface by inserting a small bottle in the bottom, if needed, to help reach all nooks and crannies.

• Most lamps don’t get a lot of physical wear, except on the switch, so you can get away with a delicate finish that simply looks good from afar. Chalkboard lamps will get much more wear, so be sure to use a primer to help the paint adhere well.

• Spray the primer in short bursts, in a light coat. It’s better to use multiple thin coats than to let the paint run or crinkle from applying it too thickly.

• If you do get a run, let paint dry and then sand the area to remove the buildup.

• Next up, paint! Black or green chalkboard paint is available in spray cans at craft and home improvement stores. For this example, I used black. Again, use short strokes and thin coats, letting dry in between as per the can’s instructions.

• In this example, I painted the harp and holder, because I knew they would be visible through the wire shade. They will not be super durable, but that’s OK. It will look cool for quite a while, and I can always re-spray if it needs it.

• Carefully remove the masking tape and touch up the area if needed.

• Let the paint cure according to the instructions on the can, usually 24 hours.

• Rewire and reassemble.

• Chalkboard paint needs a base layer of chalk, which is then erased, to provide a good surface for future drawings. Make some chalk dust by scraping a piece of chalk with a knife, then using a rag, smooth some chalk into the surface, then wipe off. It won’t be solid black anymore, but will look … like a chalkboard!

• Get creative with the light bulb. Consider vintage filament bulbs or a space age LED. Lots of new alternatives are in stores now.

• Glue a finial to the bottom of a small cup or glass so you can keep your chalk balanced atop your lampshade.

 How to cover a lampshade frame

Vintage lampshade frames come in an unbelievable assortment of complicated shapes. Certainly, they can simply be recovered with fabric, but they can also look industrial-cool or funky-creative without fabric. Consider just painting the wire, or embellishing with baubles or photographs. Use on a table lamp or turn into a hanging fixture with a lamp kit. In this example, I’ve covered a vintage frame with strips of silk fabric from an old shirt for a bit of color.

• Find a shade and rip off the old fabric.

• If painting, remove all the old glue. This can be time consuming. Try soaking the frame in a tub of water for a few days and using a plastic scraper to get the bits off. If it’s not a water-soluble glue, Goo Gone might work to help loosen it.

• If you’re wrapping the shade in fabric, a little bit of remaining glue will not be evident, so don’t be obsessive unless it makes you happy.

• If the frame is rusty, you will need to prime it with a rust-inhibiting spray paint, so the rust won’t bleed through.

• If the top of the frame will be visible, you may want to spray paint the “spider” (the spokes at the top of the frame).

• Find fabric you want to use. Don’t worry about the pattern, as this will not be evident in the final product. Just think about color. Old men’s silk shirts often have nice color combos. Striped cotton shirting or a floral pattern would also be interesting.

• Tear strips of fabric about 1″ wide. I like the slightly frayed edge you get from tearing. You could also use ribbon if you prefer a more finished look. The amount of fabric you need will vary depending on the size of the frame. For this lamp shade, I used the fabric from two long sleeves of a men’s shirt.

• To tear strips, first cut off the seams from the piece of fabric. Tearing occurs along the warp and weft … the vertical and horizontal threads that create the fabric. With scissors, start a cut about an inch long, then pull each side of the cut to tear. Not all fabrics tear easily. If yours doesn’t, you will have to cut the strips.

• Starting at the top of each vertical of the frame, dab a drop of glue, make a U of fabric around the top ring, with raw tail and length of fabric pointing down, securing with a clothespin while the glue dries. Wind the fabric around the vertical and over the short end of fabric at about a 45-degree angle, overlapping to reveal about 1/4″-1/2″ of each strip. Add another drop of glue at the bottom of the vertical, and wrap the fabric around the bottom ring. Secure with a clothespin.

• Glue can be white glue, tacky glue, fabric glue … anything that dries clear. Hot glue might not stick well to the metal. Super glue will dry too fast.

• Continue working until all verticals are covered.

• Next, work on the top and bottom rings. Start where the ring and vertical meet. Dab a drop of glue, and make a U of fabric around the top of a vertical, with the raw tail and length of fabric pointing along the ring, securing with a clothespin while the glue dries. Wind the fabric around the ring and over the short end of fabric at about a 45-degree angle, overlapping to reveal about 1/4″-1/2″ of each strip. If you run out of fabric, simply tie a knot and add a little glue, then add another piece of fabric. Secure with a clothespin while the glue dries.

• Repeat for the other ring.

• Remove the clothespins.

• Trim off any unusually long frayed edges.

• Attach to a lamp or wire as a hanging pendant lamp.

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