Tips & Tricks for Concrete Draping

Making art & design with Concrete is amazing! But it doesn’t stop there; I discovered even more possibilities with Concrete draping! This fascinating and creative technique allows you to transform ordinary fabric into stunning sculptural pieces. Whether you’re looking to make planters, garden art, decorative bowls, or even faux rocks my tested tips and tricks will help you achieve the best results.

feature Tips & Tricks for Concrete Draping images

What is Concrete Draping?

This method of creating concrete forms is similar to paper maché but uses cement that absorbs into the fibres of fabric when dipped and then cures to make a ‘concrete’. The ability to manipulate the fabric allows for amazing design possibilities and also results in very sturdy concrete but often more lightweight shapes. The only limit to how creative you can be with this art form is your imagination.

portland cement

What Supplies Do you need?

Generally, the basic ingredient for concrete draping is Portland cement as it is integral part of cement mixes. You will also need some type of fibre; usually fabric that will absorb it is the other ingredient. In my testing I found that cement mixes that included sand often left the sand since it did not absorb.

tests for Concrete Draping

1. Choose the Right Fabric

Opt for Natural Fibers: Natural fibre fabrics like cotton, linen, or burlap work best, but polyester also works because they absorb the concrete mixture well. I have tested a few fabrics in this post. Old cotton towels, fuzzy polar fleece, a blanket or sheets are ideal as they have a good thickness to hold the concrete. Consider how much texture the fabric has since it may be evident in the final piece.

burlap bags for draping

Experiment with Thickness: Thicker fabrics will create sturdier structures since more cement will embed in it but may be harder to shape. Lighter fabrics will be more flexible but might need additional layers for strength. If it does not absorb enough of the cement there is also the option to add more mix once it cures. ‘Not just bags – cement fabric pots!

2. Prepare Your Workspace

Protective Gear: Always wear gloves of course and a mask to protect from cement dust and potential skin irritation. Work in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling any harmful particles.

Cover Surfaces: Use plastic sheeting or drop cloths to protect your work area from spills and splatters.

portland cement quikrete

3. Mix the Concrete (Portland Cement) Correctly

Proper Consistency of Portland Cement & Water: Aim for a consistency similar to thick pancake batter. If the mixture is too thin, it won’t adhere well to the fabric. If it’s too thick, it will be difficult to drape. An exact recipe is difficult as various fabrics absorb differently. Mix enough slurry to completely submerge the fabric.

Additives for Strength: Consider adding sand or perlite to the mix to enhance texture and durability. Reinforcing Fibres can also be added to increase strength but may be obvious since they maybe protrude slightly. Adding some acrylic/polymer fortifier is and option as well. Colour can also be adjusted with the addition of acrylic paint, but keep the proportion minimal as it will have some effective on the chemistry of the cement.

dipping Tips & Tricks for Concrete Draping

4. Saturate the Fabric

Thorough Soaking: I usually start the mix with water and then add the Portland cement until it reaches the consistency (like cement gravy or meat gravy) to absorb but not be too runny. Nt every fabric behaves the same so some experimentation may be needed. Adding a bit more water or cement can easily remedy.

Dip and ensure the fabric is completely saturated with the concrete slurry mixture by manipulating well in the mix. Squeeze out any excess mixture to avoid drips but ensure it’s well-coated. Work the mixture into the fabric thoroughly to avoid any dry spots, which can weaken the final structure.

faux bois chair concrete

5. Creative Draping Techniques

Use forms: Draping the fabric over various molds such as buckets, balloons, or wire frames to create different shapes such as cement pots allows much creativity. More elaborate shapes can be pre-constructed and wrapped with the fabric. Small cloths can be combined as is done with paper maché. I do caution not to use wood (or things that are porous) inside the form as it will swell if wet and force the cement to crack. Above My Faux Bois chair was formed prior to the draping.

draped concrete planter

Shape Quickly: Work swiftly as the concrete mixture will start to set. Arrange the folds and drapes as desired while the fabric is still flexible. A thick fabric was used for this Draped Concrete planter; amazing way to use an old towel or leftover drapery material for a whole new look.

faux rock made with concrete draping

Support Structures: For larger pieces, use additional support structures to hold the fabric in place while it cures. Faux Lightweight Rocks were made with styrofoam packing pieces.

cure concrete wet

6. Curing Process

Patience is Key: Curing is not like the drying of paint; it needs to have the reaction that includes moisture. Allow the concrete to cure fully, which can take 24 hours to several days depending on the size and thickness of the piece. Rushing this process can result in weaker structures.

Keep It Moist: In dry environments, cover the piece with plastic (plastic garbage bag)to retain moisture and ensure proper curing. I often spray the piece with water to maintain enough moisture.

Concrete Draping pumpkins

7. Finishing Touches

Smoothing Edges: Once cured, you can sand rough edges or surfaces to achieve a smoother finish. Tip; use a disk of concrete or a rock like sanding disk. Brushing will also bring out the fine texture of interesting fabric. The textured gauze allowed light to pass through in these Concrete Pumpkins I made.

Sealing: I tend to not use sealers as they often darken the colour and will often eventually fail. I have had good results over-wintering my pieces outside (in Canada) with no cracking, as seen with this Concrete Witch & Draped Cat. Do be aware that if water collects in any of the cavities it may crack. It is your personal preference is to seal your concrete pieces with a concrete sealer to protect them from the elements.

burlaps closeup Tips & Tricks for Concrete Draping

8. Adding Color and Texture

Concrete Dyes: Add pigments or concrete dyes to the mixture for coloured pieces. You can also paint the cured concrete for additional colour but since it has a tendency to eventually wear away I use paint minimally. I believe concrete has a certain charm so I rather let it age naturally.

scarecrow Concrete Draping

Dry brushing or slight staining does add some dimension to the lovely textures as with my Concrete Scarecrow.

knit concrete draping

Textural Elements: Embed small stones, shells, or other materials onto the fabric before it sets to create interesting textures. My favourite addition is from nature; leave, as each is unique.

jeans concrete draping

Conclusion

Concrete draping is a versatile and rewarding technique that offers endless possibilities for creating unique, durable sculptures and decor. I hope I’ve excited you with these tips and tricks, you too can master the art of concrete draping and bring your creative visions to life. Happy crafting! Share your creations!

draped concrete 'shroom

Here’s a sneak-peek at another project using these tips & trick for Concrete Draping – coming soon!

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6 Comments

  1. Your posts have been very helpful! I’m preparing to make a mushroom sculpture myself using this concrete-mâché technique!

    I had the idea to use a wooden post to support some fencing I have, then drape fabric dipped in concrete over that to build the stem of my mushroom. (The concrete will not be touching the wood.) I searched to see “can I use concrete like paper mâché” and eventually found your blog. It’s been very reassuring.

    Today I got the base ready and I’ve cut fabric strips. Thank you!