Making Handmade Paper
The process of creating handmade paper is not as difficult as it sounds. Making paper by hand has been done in many different cultures for many centuries.
Whether you are wanting to up your personal stationary game or wanting to add another skill to your self-sufficiency tool belt, learning the art of paper making will be worth the effort.
Recycling at Home
In our blog post Solving the Shredded Paper Problem we go in depth about how and why shredded paper is not generally accepted in curbside recycling pick-up. Utilizing your outdated household documents to make handmade paper is a great way to protect your private information and create something useful and unique.
What Paper to Use
There are various types of materials that can go into handmade paper. The different combinations of which are virtually limitless. Each component that you add to your slurry will impact your final product.
Basic office paper is always an easy choice. Nonglossy papers such as junk mail, catalogs, magazines, shopping lists, cardstock, cardboard, envelopes, receipts, flyers, toilet paper rolls, and paper egg cartons can all go in too. Don’t forget to remove any pieces of tape or globs of rubbery adhesive and leave out any bits of plastic such as windows on envelopes.
Be sure to also keep an eye on paper color and separate the pieces accordingly. This will make a difference in the color of your handmade paper. Newspaper, for example will make your paper come out gray in color.
What You Will Need
You will need a blender. This doesn’t need to be anything fancy or state of the art. In fact, it may not be a bad idea to hit your local thrift shop for a secondhand one to use exclusively for papermaking. Once you use a blender to make paper, it will no longer be considered food safe, so be sure not to use your good one for this.
Mould and Deckle. These can be found online in a variety of sizes and prices. They are fairly easy to put together with a couple of picture frames and some mesh if you prefer to take the DIY route.
Large vat or container that is larger than your mould and deckle. This is where your prepared slurry will go. You will need to be able to fully submerge the mould and deckle into the slurry (pulp) mixture.
Absorbent cloth or sponge, rolling pin, and towels. This project is going to get wet. Having a towel to place the created pieces of paper, and a sponge or absorbent cloth to reduce the excess liquid can help shorten the drying process.
The sky is the limit for your creativity with this part. Just like with dying fabric, there are so many natural materials that can be added to your slurry to make it unique.
If you would like to add some color to your paper, try adding some natural dyes to your slurry.
Including flower petals in your mix will give you a one-of-a-kind, beautiful touch to each individual piece of paper.
Give your handmade paper a useful afterlife by adding seed packets to the pulp. These can be planted and grow herbs, flowers or whatever you want. When adding seeds, remember the smaller the seed is, the smoother the piece of paper will be.
Finely grating lemon, lime, or orange peels can add a little sprinkle of color almost like a natural glitter.
Get creative with what you add. Don’t forget to take notes about which combinations worked and which ones could be improved. These notes can be very helpful in your future paper making adventures.
PAPER MAKING PROCESS
Step 1: Shred
The first thing you will need to do, is shred the paper you will be recycling. If you have access to a paper shredder, this will make the process faster, but it isn’t necessary. You can also tear the paper into small scraps by hand.
Step 2: Soak
Place the shredded paper scraps in a bowl. Add just enough water to the bowl so that all the paper is submerged. Allow the scraps to soak in the water overnight or for at least 8 hours.
Step 3: Blend
Fill your papermaking designated blender 1/3 full of water. Next, add the pre-soaked paper and water mix to the blender 1 cup at a time. You want to have more water than paper to keep the blender from getting overloaded. Too much water can make your paper fall apart easily and take longer to dry. Blend the mixture for about 30 seconds. The pulp should be consistently smooth with no clumps.
Step 4: Large Container
Pour the slurry into the large container that your mould and deckle will fit into. This is the point you add any herbs, flowers, or seeds that you have decided to include.
Dip the mould and deckle into the solution. Swish the frame around in the solution. The more pulp you have on your mould and deckle when you lift it out, the thicker your piece of paper will be. When you have the desired amount of slurry on your frame, gently tilt it back and forth at a 45° angle towards all four edges and corners allowing the slurry to evenly coat the entire surface. Gently agitate the frame up and down to get as much excess water to drip back into the slurry solution.
Step 5: Absorb the Excess
Place an absorbent towel on a sturdy, level surface. Carefully turn the mould and deckle upside down onto the towel. Firmly press the entire surface to remove excess water with the cloth or sponge. Lift the mould and deckle, releasing the formed paper onto the towel. The rolling pin or flat board can be used to squeeze out even more water and flatten out the sheet of paper simultaneously.
Note: The more water that you can remove at this point, the shorter the drying time will need to be.
Step 6: Drying
Delicately lift the damp sheet of paper from the towel and move it to a flat, sturdy surface where it can be left undisturbed for 1-3 days for drying. Drying time can fluctuate depending on factors such as humidity and thickness of the paper.
Step 7: Flattening (Optional)
After your paper has completely dried, remove it from the drying surface by peeling it off. Your new paper may have a slightly crumpled look, or it might not lay flat. If this happens, and if you would like to flatten it out, simply place the sheet of paper under a stack of large heavy books for another 1-3 days.
How did your handmade paper turn out? Did you add anything to the slurry? What are your plans for using your handmade paper? What will you try next? Let us know! Leave a comment below. We love to hear from you.