You can make paper as an exercise in recycling, as a form of art or even as a gift. Paper can be made from many materials using a variety of processes.
NOTE: This badge program does not go into making paper with plants, only using them as inclusions.
Paper wasn’t always made by factories producing sheets. It used to be made by hand in a variety of ways. Crafters have brought back the fun of making paper and added their own twists as you’ll explore with this badge program. Explore different papermaking sites.
Process and Tools
You need three things to make paper. Water, fibers and a sieve. Water is found in anyone’s tap. Fibers are found in the “paper materials” section below. A sieve is a papermaking screen. A deckle is the top part of the hand mold. Some papermakers dip pulp into their molds (shorter-side deckle), some pour (higher-side deckle). Learn about the papermaking process — handmade and by machine.
A large tub or vat can be used to either mix pulp or to drain off water from a pour. A kitchen blender is a great way to break down the pulp. A piece of screen allows the fibers to stay together while you’re pressing out water. A sponge helps with the initial water removal. Kitchen cloths or couching felts allow you to press water out of the newly forming paper. A press allows you to flatten the paper while it’s drying. Watch a video or two to see these supplies and how they are used.
4. Process — pour.
For the pour process, tear a letter-sized sheet of paper into small pieces and blend with two cups of water. Blend in spurts or pulses. You should see fibers in the water. You can add items to the pulp in the blender or in the deckle. Use your fingers to make sure the pulp is evenly distributed. Hold the deckle over the vat until the water stops dripping. Try blending your own pulp and making a pour sheet.
5. Process — dip.
For the dip process, follow the same steps as above but use 4 cups of water. Pour the pulp into the vat and continue the same steps until you have 3-5 inches of material in the vat. You can get 2-3 dips before adding more pulp. The first dip will yield a thicker sheet of paper and each sheet afterwards will get thinner. Try blending your own pulp and making a dip sheet.
6. Process — press.
The paper is fragile until the water is pressed out and the fibers set. A screen should be on each side of the sheet to keep the fiber intact. Use the kitchen cloth / couching felts to help absorb the water as you press. These can be dried and used again later. After you’ve gotten most of the water out, you can allow it to air dry, sit in the sunshine or use a hot clothes iron to steam the moisture out. Finish the sheet you started in the steps above.
Start with items around your home. Make your own deckle or frame for straining your wet pulp with popsicle sticks, a premade wooden frame, etc. along with a piece of screen / mesh material. Experiment with different frames and sizes you can make.
Put a piece of screen / mesh over one end of a coffee can with both ends removed. Place a cookie cutter or other shaped item on the screen over one end of the coffee can. Pour your pulp into the cutter until it is as thick as you want it. Experiment with shaped paper.
NEVER — NEVER — NEVER pour pulp or papermaking water down the drain. You can put it into a milk jug for the next papermaking session (dip method) or dispose outdoors (pour). I have read where people dump it in their toilet, but it’s a risk.
If you use recycled materials, sizing is often already in the paper. If not, you may need to add it so that ink, stamped items and other liquids don’t bleed through the fibers. Learn about sizing.
You can recycle envelopes, waste paper, junk mail, gift wrap and other items. Newspaper is not a good choice for making paper. Look through paper you have around your home. What can you recycle into a new sheet of paper?
Colored paper is fun to make. If you add too many colors, it will turn muddy brown. Keep an eye on your pulp if you’re using colored items. This is especially true if you’re working with kids.
13. Premade pulp.
You can purchase premade pulp that just needs water added and it’s ready to go. Look into the cost and availability of premade pulp.
14. Inclusions — plants.
Adding plants should be done in the deckle as the blender will chop them up and you won’t see them. By adding them to the deckle, you can hand-blend them in or place them where you want them and they’ll be part of the final sheet. You may need to soak your plants before adding. Some I’ve played with include:
- Dandelion heads
- Flower petals
- Skeleton leaves
- Seeds (plantable paper)
- Pressed flowers (Added in the final stage of pressing water out to keep them intact.)
15. Inclusions — other.
I have added other items to my paper. You might want to try one of these or include your own items.
- Paper napkins
- Newspaper cartoons
- Dryer lint
- Avery 2.5” round label printable, 12-up
- Badge checklist
Sites to Explore
Get the infographic here > larajla blog post
Get the PDFs of the badge program / supplements here > Full badge PDFs