How to make your own paper

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This is a basic guide which sets out the equipment you will need and the process for making your own paper.

So you want to make your own paper and you have no idea where to start!

Equipment

First things first, you need some basic materials to get started:

  • scrappie bits of paper (if you are a scrapbooker you should have plenty of bits, it will just depend if you want to part with them!)  Another option is to save things like envelopes, newsletters etc.  They need to be ripped up into 1/2cm pieces. You can try mixing paper or keep certain types of paper separate, imagine tissue paper, old uni notes, old photocopies etc
  • deckle - a fancy name for a tool that you can make yourself.  An old picture frame is the easiest thing to use, then stretch over a piece of flywire or even a piece of fabric that will allow water to easily soak through.  I actually used an old silk screen.  Attach it to the wooden frame tightly using staples or nails.  Note: The maximum size of your paper will be the size of the picture frame.
  • plastic tub that needs to be larger than your deckle (eg wooden frame).
  • blotting stuff, something like tea towels or old newspapers are easy to lay your hands on.
  • kitchen stuff, a blender, rolling pin and possibly an iron!
  • old clothing or apron for you to wear because it can get messy.

What to do next

  1. Prepare the paper mush!  Remove any staples, plastic, sticky tape etc from the paper.  Tear it up into small pieces and soak it preferably overnight in warm water in the plastic tub.
  2. Pulverising the paper mush! Put handfuls of the soaked paper into the blender (perhaps pick up an old blender on eBay for this!) and blend it until its sloppy and you can't see actual pieces of paper - just sloppy mush.
  3. Put the sloppy paper mush into the tub and add some more warm water and mix it thoroughly.
  4. Take your deckle (eg wooden frame) and put it into the tub and allow the paper mush to settle on the screen while moving it gently under the water to get an even layer of the paper on the screen.
  5. Lift the frame out of the tub straight up and allow the water to run off it.  Try pushing the pulp with your hands to help get out more of the water.
  6. Lay out either tea towels or newspaper on a table and turn the screen so the paper mush side is down on the tea towel or newspaper.  Lift the screen carefully to leave behind the paper on the tea towel or newspaper.
  7. Cover your new sheet of paper with another tea towel or newspaper and use the rolling pin to help squeeze out more water.
  8. Repeat the process to make more sheets of paper. When the paper is almost dry, consider ironing it gently on low heat to help dry it out completely and to make it flatter.  Once the paper is fully dry, peel it away gently from the tea towel or newspaper.

Any left over pulp can be used next time - just don't tip it down the sink!

Paper designs and styles

Experiment and let your imagination run wild for colours and scents, try adding different items in step 2 above:

  • leaves & flowers, either leave in for added texture or steep them in hot water to extract colour.  Imagine lovely green pages from leaves, soft yellows, reds, pinks etc from rose petals.
  • fibres, such as threads, cotton, gold/silver
  • spices such as cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg
  • colourings, natural & man-made eg food dyes, saffron (beware of these on your clothes & tea towels!)
  • try punching out shapes in tissue paper and sprinkling them over each page.  I've created a lovely white paper with tiny red hearts.

Good luck with your new paper making hobby!

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