Hard shades can look different and unique
Soft shades are tailored to fit the frame and need expert sewing
Many lampshade makers produce a range of styles of shade, from traditional hand sewn to the contemporary hard or laminate shades. So often we see references to them, but what is the difference?
Soft lampshades are traditionally hand sewn shades, using fabric that is stretched across the frame, which is then sewn onto the top and base rings. It is stitched into the fabric and underneath that, through the lampshade tape that has been tightly bound around the frame. The fabric is stretched on the bias and attached using sharp pins, and only sewn when the desired tension is found. Traditional sewn shades also sometimes have a 'balloon' lining, which is a - usually - cream stretchy fabric - that is also sewn onto the frame and proudly hides the working or metal struts and arms of the lampshade frame. Added onto these are the chosen trims - anything from glass beads to a simple gimp or braid to both hide the sewn stitches or to add a final flourish.
Also in the soft shade category is the gathered or pleated lampshade. These too are handsewn onto the taped frame, and are lovely using an empire shape frame. There is much work to produce a soft shade, but the results are wonderful - a beautifully tailored interiors item that brings a touch of class to any room.
Hard shades are so called because the material used to make them is a fire-resistant laminate (or plastic) or a stiff card. These lampshades come in different shapes and sizes - from square, rectangular to oval but the most popular shape we see are drums. Drum shades are made using little fabric applied to the laminate panel - which is then adhered to the rings, hand rolled with extra fabric tucked under to give a perfect finish. The making of these takes little time but can look exciting with different colour laminates inside the shade including gold, copper or bright neon colours. In addition, double sided laminate is available meaning the shade can have fabric both on the outside and the inside.
There are differences too between the pricing of the shades, the hand sewn soft shades can take some hours to make, especially if lined, whereas the hard shades can take as little as an hour. Soft shade making is a true interiors skill, with hand sewing and fabric manipulation requiring expert handling. The drum or hard shades are quicker, more a craft with no sewing involved but although are not so complex to make, they can still be made to look fantastic!
At the end of the day, what matters is what 'look' people are after - and finding the right shade, whether soft or hard, to add interest - and light of course to the room.