PAPER MAKING: Re-cycling in your own home.

Photos to be added soon.

Producing your own exclusive, original, hand-made paper is easy and creative. It is also inexpensive and economical to do. The majority of the equipment and materials can be found in most homes or garden sheds, or it can be made, or easily found second-hand.


Two wooden frames, made from strips of wood measuring about 1.5cm. x 3cm. The internal dimensions of the frames being the size of paper you wish to make. A5 is good to start with. Nail the frames at the corners - making sure they are ‘square’ - and if you want to use glue as well it needs to be waterproof. Cut a rectangle of dressmaker’s net, or plain curtain net, a little bigger than the frames. Turn the edges under twice and staple to one of the frames, stretching it tight. Leave the other frame plain.

Water bath big enough to move the frames about in, but not too deep. A wide, shallow washing-up bowl might serve, or use a (clean)! cat litter tray, as I do.

2 Flat boards a little larger than the outside dimensions of the frames, for pressing the paper.

Clean cloths. Smooth cotton for preference. Tear up an old sheet or curtain into rectangles about twice the size of your new paper. e.g. A4 size cloths will be about right for A5 size paper.

Towels or similar, to blot excess water from paper.

Pegs and string to hang your paper to dry.

Bucket for soaking scrap paper.

Bowl and rotary whisk, or similar, to reduce scrap paper to pulp.

Cooked flour and water paste (optional). Makes the paper stronger and stiffer.

Scrap paper. Typing paper, notepaper, envelopes, computer printout, photocopier paper and similar are best. Keep very heavily printed stuff until you want to make speckledy grey paper. Use different coloured papers for variety. Experiment. Newspapers are unsuitable as they have short, weak fibres and can only make very weak paper when re-cycled: save them to use for papier mache.

Extras to add to paper for variety.

Colourings. Beetroot or berries, tea or coffee, turmeric, henna etc..

‘Bits’ of coloured paper, confetti, threads etc..

Flower petals, whole pressed flowers, leaves, grasses, seeds etc..

Perfumes. Add a few drops of essential oils for perfumed paper.


Pulp preparation.

Tear your scrap paper into strips - the finer the better - and put them in a bucket of water to soak overnight. Put a handful of the wet strips and some water into a bowl and break them up a bit by hand. Then use the rotary whisk to reduce the paper to pulp, adding more water if necessary. Repeat with the remaining soaked strips.

Very fine pulp can be used to produce smooth, fine paper whilst lumpier pulp will produce more textured paper. The ‘size’ in the original scrap paper is usually sufficient for making soft, thick papers, but for thinner, stronger paper you can add a little cooked flour and water paste to the pulp at this stage. Experiment with quantities.

Setting up.

Spread a waterproof sheet or plenty of newspapers around your work area to catch drips of water. Or work outside if it is a still day. Place the waterbath on a level surface, three-quarters fill it with water and add a handful or two of paper pulp. Place one of the boards beside it and cover it with one of the cloths. Keep the rest of the cloths to hand.


Making the paper

Take the frame with the net and turn it net side up, then place the second frame on top. Grip both frames firmly in both hands and plunge them into the waterbath so as to scoop up as much of the paper pulp as you can. There should be enough to cover the net thinly and evenly and right into the corners. Add more pulp to the waterbath if necessary and plung again until you have a fairly even layer on the net.

Keeping the net under water and the frame almost submerged, vibrate the frames to distribute the pulp evenly and to help mat the fibres together. Holding the frames horizontal, lift them out of the water, then tilt them to drain the excess water back into the waterbath. Carefully lift off the top frame, leaving the paper pulp on the netted frame below.

Gently and carefully turn the frame over and place it, paper side down, on the cloth on the board. Blot the back of the net with a towel, then s-l-o-w-l-y lift the frame from one side. If the paper pulp sticks to the net lay it down and blot again then try lifting from another side.

There is your very first sheet of handmade paper. O.K. it may be a bit ragged around the edges and there may be a few holes in it, but it can still be useful for collages and ‘mosaic’ making. With a little practice you will soon get the hang of it and develop your own technique.

Cover your new sheet of paper with another cloth, add more pulp to the waterbath, put the frames together again (bottom frame, net side up) and repeat the process until you get bored or you run out of pulp.

To avoid boredom and increase creativity add various extras to the pulp such as listed above. Experiment for your own desired results. More or less carefully arranged flowers and/or petals turn the paper into an instant greetings card, just fold in half and write in it.

Drying the paper.

When you feel your pile of paper is complete, lay another cloth over the top and then put the second flat board on that. Take the whole ‘sandwich’ outside, put it on the ground and gently step onto it -both feet- to press out the exess water, which should drain away. Take off the boards and wrap the ‘filling’ in a dry towel, then place between the boards and press again. Unwrap the towel and gently peel off the top layer of cloth, leaving a sheet of your new paper exposed on the top of the pile. Take the second layer of cloth -with the paper on it- and carefully peel it off the pile, leaving the next piece of paper exposed. Now hang the cloth -with it’s piece of paper- on a line to dry. [ Do not let it get rained on, or you could end up with a row of little heaps of papier mache on the ground under the washing line] Repeat with the rest of the pile of cloths and papers.

Finishing touches

When everything is crispy-dry, take the cloths from the line and gently pull and stretch the cloth until the paper comes free of it. It will be somewhat curled and cockled from drying, so pile the papers into a stack and leave them between the two boards overnight with a weight on top to flatten them.

For smoother, stiffer paper you can press each piece between two cloths with a fairly hot iron before they are completely dry. Ensure the paper is thoroughly dry before storing.

To make envelopes to fit an A4 sheet folded once, you will need to make a pair of square frames measuring 19cm. internal. Paper this size will fold into the perfect size envelope for those greetings cards or notelets. You can stick 4 small pieces of triangular beading inside the top frame at 9cm. from the two opposite corners, to make notches in the edges of the paper so the envelope folds flat.

The paper for envelopes needs to be fairly tough so add some cooked flour and water paste to the pulp for strength and iron it when nearly dry for stiffness.

To make A4 paper.

The method, of course, is the same, but everything needs to be bigger.

Net will sag too much over this area, so you need to find something stronger. The stiff, green, horticultural netting that they have in garden centres works well, and as you only need a small piece of it, it is not expensive. The biggest problem with A4 paper is finding a large enough waterbath. The one in the bathroom works fine but may not make you popular with the rest of the household. [Oh! and PLEASE take care not to bung up the pipes with paper pulp].


Some ideas of things to make with your paper.

Notepaper, envelopes, greetings cards, giftwrap (for very small gifts ?), notelets, notebooks, bookmarks, jam and wine labels, collage, ‘mosaic’, mobiles, origami,paperdolls and dresses, table decoration, paper ‘flower’ arrangements - and your own imagination will undoubtedly suggest many more ideas.

Happy papermaking, and keep experimenting .

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