Handmade paper can be made from many differnt materials or a combination of several materials, including bits of old scrap paper you have lying around the house or even scrap fibers such as cotton. Even dryer lint can be added to paper slurry for a colorful touch.
Many types of plant fibers can be turned into usable paper too, though some raw plant materials need special preparations which can be a lengthy process. But if you just want to toss a few flower petals, leaves or seeds in with scrap paper fibers it’s very easy.
Here’s what you’ll need to make your homemade paper:
- Lots of scrap paper
- Anything you’d like to add to the paper- fibers, string, flower petals, small leaves, herbs, glitter, confetti, etc
- A couple of wooden frames that should be a little larger than the size you wish the finished piece of paper to be
- A window screen a little larger than the largest frame; it has to go over the frame and attach to it
- Staples and hand stapler or staple gun (if you are making your own screen frames, if you have premade frames you won’t need the stapler)
- An old blender, preferably not one you’ll want to use again for food processing
- A large rubber or plastic tub, big enough to immerse the frames in
- Pieces of felt or wool larger than your frames, at least two per sheet of paper, or old towels (this id for absorbing water and to help dry out the papers)
- Rolling pin
- Cornstarch to mix into the slurry and make the paper easier to write on
- Flat, edgeless cookie sheets
- Optional items, including large cookie-cutter shapes, an apron, and extra towels and rags
You may have many of these supplies around the house. If you don’t you can find papermaking supplies at craft and hobby stores.
The frames and screen are called a mold and deckle, and the tubs are vats.
To make your paper you need to:
1. Collect a lot of scrap paper, fibers and any extras you would like to add to the paper. Not all paper is a good choice for making your own recycled product. Newspaper will turn everything gray, and magazines are too glossy and will make everything gunky. The best paper choices are junk mail, office, computer, and copy paper.
2. Once you have all your papers, rip them up into small squares or shred into small pieces.
3. Once the paper is all ripped up or shredded, soak it in a tub of warm water for at least two hours- even better soak overnight.
4. (Optional- not needed if you already have frames or a mold and deckle)
To make your mold, cut your window screen an inch or two larger than the frame, then stretch it over the frame and staple it to the back side. If you want your paper to have straight edges you’ll want to use a second frame with no screen; this is called the deckle. The deckle sits on the mold and defines the shape of the paper.
5. After the paper has finished soaking, mix it up in your blender at a ratio of one cup of paper to 2–3 cups of water. Start with 2 cups; if the mixture is too thick and lumpy add another cup. You want to have a thick slurry, smoothie or thick milkshake consistency. If you want to be able to write on the handmade paper, add a tablespoon of cornstarch. The cornstarch will make the paper less likely to absorb ink.
6. Blend your mixture on a medium high blender setting until it has the consistency of thin oatmeal.
7. You can experiment with colors by adding food coloring. Pour it in and mix very briefly. At this point you can also add your flowers, herbs or other materials. Or if you don’t want your materials all blended up you can wait until you pour the paper mix into the mold then add your materials by hand. Do not blend seeds in the blender. If you want to make plantable paper, wait until your pulp is ready in the molds.
8. Once your paper is blended into a nice slurry of pulp, fill your tub with about two inches of water for every blender-full of pulp.
9. Pour the paper pulp into a mold, then lower the mold into the tub of water at an angle and shake to distribute the pulp evenly over the screen. If you are using a deckle, place it over the mold now, gently shake it back and forth, and pull both the mold and deckle up out of the water tub gently. Let the water drain. Allow all of the excess water to flow back into the tub of water.
10. If you don’t want to dip the pulp into the water you can now add your materials such as seeds, flowers, and herbs. By not dipping the pulp into the water your paper can be thicker but not as even.
11. Use a sponge, cloth, or towels to dry the excess water off the back of the screen. You want as much excess water removed as possible so your paper can dry.
12. Now it’s time to lay a piece of felt, wool, or thick towel on top of the paper pulp on the screen and turn the whole thing over — mold and all — onto a hard surface such as a flat edgeless cookie sheet. If the paper doesn’t come off easily, dry the back of the screen some more, tap it, or carefully peel the paper off.
13. If you have not already done so, you can now add flowers, herbs, or seeds to the paper mixture. If you choose, make imprints in the paper by pressing plants, leaves, or even textured objects such as lace into the paper. Leave the objects there until the paper has dried.
14. Cover the paper with another piece of felt and roll over it with a rolling pin to bind the fibers together and to help imprint any designs. This will also help your paper dry faster, flatter, and more even.
15. You can keep adding new sheets of paper to your pile as you make them; just separate each one with a piece of felt so they don’t stick together.
16. Sandwich all the paper sheets together and keep them lying flat by piling books or boards on top of them. If you really get into the homemade paper process, you could make a simple paper press from boards and C clamps. Kitchen cutting boards are also very effective for pressing the paper to keep it flat.
17. Leave the sheets alone until they are dry. Drying time can vary, but start by leaving the sheets overnight. Store the sheets so they remain flat until you are ready to use them.
Making handmade paper is a fun though somewhat time consuming process but after you get used to it all it becomes less complicated. The first time is the hardest.