A major problem I find with seasonal decorations is that… well… they’re seasonal. I’d rather keep things looking festive year-round, with some neutral options that I can switch up for mood rather than for an upcoming holiday. A fireplace mantle is one of those locations that, for whatever reason, lends itself to holiday-specific decoration—so of course that’s where I decided to start.
When I began to consider materials, my mind immediately went to concrete. You want neutral? There it is. And because I like a challenge, I decided I was going to figure out how to make a simple garland out of concrete shapes that was lightweight enough to hang across a fireplace, railing, or doorway. The answer was much more obvious than I’d anticipated, and the materials were all super inexpensive and easily sourced.
– Fast-Setting Quikrete (I used chicken wire as a sieve to remove the extra gravel)
– 2″ diameter styrofoam balls
– 5/32″ braided poly rope
– cardstock and printer
– craft glue
– packing tape
– craft knife
– several 3″ lengths of 1/4″ diameter poly tubing
– drop cloth (or any basic cover for workspace)
– mixing bin and plastic spoon
– hanging hardware (depends on your wall material)
– glue gun and hot glue (optional)
I also highly recommend safety glasses, rubber gloves, and a dust mask while working with the Quikrete, since the dust can get everywhere and is kinda gross.
Print out the above templates at 100% and assemble according to instruction. One of the sides will be left open, so you have a place to fill the mold. For this garland, I made 3 of Shape A, and 4 of Shape B.
Once assembled, seal the templates with packing tape for some added structure and to prevent any leaking. Take extra care to reinforce the edges and corners, and tape over the two cut-out holes.
Carefully cut a small X through the holes, and insert the tube into one and out the other. It should be tight enough to stay in place, but use packing tape to hold if need be.
Get ready to mix up the concrete. Cover your workspace and put on the dust mask, gloves, and goggles. In your mixing container, slowly mix in the water until you reach a workable consistency.
You want the concrete to look like thick oatmeal, and to hold its shape when squeezed. Less water is better since it means stronger shapes, but you want it to be just smooth enough that you can shake it down into the corners without a problem.
Spoon the concrete into the the bottom part of your mold and tap against your work surface to release any bubbles. Then, for Shape A, place a full styrofoam ball in the mold, and fill the rest of the way with concrete. For Shape B, use a halved styrofoam ball.
Very delicately tap out any further air bubbles, and make sure your sides aren’t bulging and your edges are defined. Let rest for about 40 minutes.
Once the concrete has set, delicately cut off the packing tape and peel away the paper. Trim away any excess with a craft knife.
At this point, it’s best to let the concrete sit for a few more hours to cure, but after another hour or so, you can move on to the next step.
Cut down the length of the tubing, and carve out so that the tubing is flush with the side of the shape.
Determine the length of cord you’d like for your garland, and string the baubles onto the cord, with the rough side to the back. If you’re having trouble getting the cord through, you can use a short length of floral wire as a needle.
I knotted my concrete baubles into position, but if you’d like a more streamlined look, a little hot glue will hold them in place.
Hang the garland across the mantle, around a doorway, or up the stairs, and leave it there guilt-free, year-round.
The shapes could also be hung individually around the house – in a window or above a doorway. OR! maybe you could make a pile of them and hang them at different heights with a few light bulbs in the center as a chandelier. If you’d like something with a little more form, you can use stiff wire or tubing instead of rope. Painting the baubles with metallic paint would make a glamourous, contemporary touch, too.