How to Use Fabric As a Base for Paper Mache

Paper mache is often used to create masks.
Paper mache is often used to create masks. (Image: masque en papier maché image by jean claude braun from Fotolia.com)

Paper mache is an artistic medium used for building up surfaces to create dimension. It is commonly used for school projects when creating maps to represent geographical differences, for masks or for statues. Newspaper is a popular choice in creating a base, however it can be messy in applying. When the newspaper mixes with the glue it can cause the ink from the paper to run. Using fabric eliminates this mess and provides the same effect, if not better than traditional newspaper.

Things You'll Need

  • Gauze fabric
  • Spray adhesive
  • Sealer

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Choose a fabric with some texture. Fabrics that are thin, cotton and have some dimension, like gauze, are good options. Several craft stores carry what is called "rigid wrap," which is a gauze fabric, perfect for this type of project. If you have some scraps of fabric you would like to use, be sure it is a thin material and has somewhat of a rough surface. Silky fabrics will not work well for this type of project as the glue does not have something to adhere to.

Choose a glue that is a bit stronger than your average paper mache paste. The average mixture of glue used in paper mache projects is about a 1 to 1 ratio, meaning 1/2 glue to 1/2 water. Keeping in mind that fabric is a bit heavier than newspaper, something like a 3/4 glue to 1/4 water blend will provide better adherence. Experiment to find a mixture that works well for you before proceeding with the rest of your project.

Allow adequate time between layering. When applying the first layer allow three to five minutes between applying each piece of fabric to ensure a solid foundation. If there is not enough time allowed, the fabric will get weighed down and can have a tendency to slide off of the creation.

Finish up by sealing your creation. Sealing is a good way to prevent the fabric from fraying and guarantee the pieces will not roll up or detach from one another.

Tips & Warnings

  • Using a spray adhesive instead of a glue mixture will shorten drying time and guarantee adherence.
  • It is a good idea to build up your fabric layers half of the way, allow adequate time (about six hours) to dry and finish layering to ensure a solid creation.
  • Leave about 1/2 inch lip of fabric on the bottom of your creation in the event the fabric begins to fray. This way, you can wrap it over the edge creating a clean finish.
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