Anyone can make paper from ingredients that are probably already available – rags, sawdust, rope fibers, tissue paper, old newspapers, grasses, stalks, corn husks, reeds, flowers, leaves – the possibilities are endless and the results are amazing.
Easy Steps to Make Your Own Paper
Nothing can match the beauty of the color and texture of handmade paper. Your results will be a delight to use as stationary, for scrapbooking, for gifts or any other use you can imagine.
Recipe For Simple Paper
This paper will not be the prettiest you could make, but it is fast and easy and I recommend it for your first try.
TIP: When making paper you can use a kitchen table covered in newspaper, however it is handy to locate an area with a concrete floor such as a porch or a garage where you can slop water.
You Will Need:
- pan, baking dish or tub 8″x10″ or larger, at least two inches deep
- piece of aluminum or copper screen with a fine mesh, screen should be at least 6″x8″ (will be the finished size of the paper) but can be any size that will fit into the tub
- large bowl
- egg beater
- 30 sheets of facial tissue (inexpensive brands work best) or you can substitute newspaper
- two ounces of liquid starch (in the laundry aisle)
- dozen 8″x10″ blotters (thick white paper or cardstock will work)
To make the pulp fill the bowl half full with warm water, tear the tissues into small pieces and add them to the bowl. Beat the mixture with an egg beater until the tissues have dissolved then mix in the starch which strengthens the paper and makes it easier to write on. Pour the pulp into the pan, add enough water to fill the container almost to the top and stir well. This mixture will make four to six sheets of paper depending on size.
To make the paper slide the screen below the surface of the water and lift it straight up while holding it carefully by the edges. You can gently shake the screen to distribute the bed of pulp more evenly, then once the surface water has drained cover the pulp with a blotter. Next, carefully turn it over so the screen is on top and blotter is on the bottom. Place it on a table and gently replace the screen with a second blotter. Carefully roll over the blotter with a rolling pin to extract the remaining water. Finally, replace the wet blotters with dry ones and press with a warm iron until the paper inside is dry.
TIP: The size and weight of the paper you want will determine what size screen you need. Some papermakers prefer an 8″x12″ sheet, others prefer larger 16″x20″ or smaller 5″x7″ sheets. For heavy vegetable pulps you will need a 1/8 inch hardware mesh, for thinner pulps you will use a finer mesh.
Preparing Different Types of Pulp
Once you’ve experimented with the previous tissue paper pulp method, you’ll be ready to experiment with different types of pulp.
Pulp From Rags – Use clean cotton or linen rags, no synthetic fibers since they will not break down properly. Sort your rags into piles by color and make separate quantities of pulp from each.
Use scissors to cut the rags into tiny squares, then cut each square into fluff by starting at one corner and making very fine diagonal cuts. You can also try pulling apart the threads if the fabric is loosely woven, then cut the threads into smaller pieces. When you have at least a cupful of snippets you can place it in a pot, cover with several inches of water, bring to a boil then simmer for at least an hour. Pour the fibers and water into a bowl and beat vigorously with an egg beater until you get bored
Carefully drain off the water and place the fibers on a worktable or in a container that will allow you to beat the fiber with a mallet or hammer or grind them with a mortar and pestle. Next store the fibers with water in a covered container. Label it with the date, color and type of pulp, and wait at least a week before using the mixture.
Pulp From Vegetable Fibers – You’ll need at least a sack of mature plants such as reeds, cabbage, cattails, corn husks, potato plants, flax, grasses, stalks and tulip, iris or walnut leaves to make a useful quantity of vegetable pulp. If you can be patient then soak the plants for several weeks until they begin to rot as this will make it much easier to separate the fibers you need from the flesh. Put your plants in a plastic garbage pail filled with water or simply place them in a heap on the ground, keep them wet and wait until they’re ready.
If you’re in a hurry you can skip this step and start with cutting and cooking. Cut the stems and the most fibrous leaves into small pieces, place them in a large pot, fill with water and add a small quantity of caustic soda. Bring the mixture to a boil then let simmer for several hours until the ingredients are all soft. Pour the mixture into a strainer or colander and wash vigorously until the pulpy flesh is separated from the fibers. Store the fibers in a container with water for several days then drain and beat with an egg beater. After the fibers can no longer be reduced, wash them again, store in water and label the container.
To make the paper fill your dipping tub with water, add two cups of pulp solution and stir with a stick or large wooden spoon. You will want to consider the following elements:
Size – This is a substance that strenthens the paper and reduces its absorbency, which makes it easier to use with ink. Vegetable pulp contains a natural size, but it should be added to other types of pulp. For a soft pliable paper, add a quarter cup of starch to the solution, plus another tablespoon with every second sheet. Alternatively you could use half an envelope of powdered clear gelatin, then small portions with additional sheets. You could also try powdered glue size which is available at art supply stores, just follow the instructions on the label.
Dyes – Although the normal color of handmade paper is very attractive, you may want to add some commercial or natural dyes derived from plants to your pulp to color your paper. Stir vigorously so the color is well distributed, or gently swirl the dye only a few times to produce a streaked or swirl effect on your paper.
Petals – A beautiful, natural effect can be created by adding a variety of small flower petals, bits of leaves, blades of grass or even parts of butterflies or other insects to the paper. The decorations are strategically placed on a fresh dip of pulp then a thin second layer of pulp is placed over the decorated first layer.
Sawdust – Add a handful of sawdust to the pulp in order to coarsen the texture of the paper.
To make the sheets dip the screen into the dipping container to a depth of about three inches, move it toward you horizontally then lift it straight up and out of the solution. Shake the screen gently in each direction to evenly distribute the pulp then hold it over the container until the excess water runs off. Add another cupful of pulp after each sheet and more size as necessary and dry the sheets as previously described.