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Making paper

I have always been a collector of beautiful handmade paper. After the initial investment (~$50) for supplies, it’s a fairly easy process to make your own paper. I recommend buying a blender just for making paper that way you are not worried about contaminating your food if you don’t clean it completely. You also need to get some window screen. You can use the metal kind but I like the fiberglass window screen since it’s easier to manipulate. And finally, you need plastic needlework hoops since it’s easy to take them apart.

I used to make paper with my elementary school students for Earth Day and they were amazed about how we could recycle paper to make more paper. First, throw scrap paper into a bucket instead of throwing it away. You can use regular white paper, magazine pages, newspaper, tissue paper, and construction paper. You have to use the magazine pages, newspaper, and cardboard sparingly because it darkens the paper a lot. I like to have those in there but most of the paper should be white scrap paper. Let the paper soak a few hours or overnight to soften.

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Before I put it in the blender, I usually roll some new toilet paper in the bucket to whiten up the color.

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Add a couple of cups of water to the mush and blend it up. If you want color, throw in a piece of colored construction paper.

IMG_9537You have to play with time and mixing speeds to see the difference in consistency. If you do not blend it enough, it will be thick and lumpy. If you blend it too much, it will be too thin and lose a lot of the “homemade” look. Next, pour it in a giant tub with more water. Some people add liquid starch to the pulp to help the texture and it supposedly makes the paper easier to write on but I usually don’t have it on hand so I skip this step. Cut a piece of the window screen and place it in the needlework hoop. Try to fit it tightly. The pulp floats to the top so you just scoop the pulp through the hoop. You can tear pieces of newspaper, throw in some dried flowers, add coloring, or even some glitter to liven things up.
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Rest the frame on some newspaper.

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When it is not dripping wet, I just put it on an old rug to dry. You can also put it on paper towels or regular, flat towels.

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Once dried, you can carefully peel it off the screen. If the flower is not embedded in the paper (like this example), I usually use some glue to make sure the flower does not come off.

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I usually trim it to make a square for use in scrapbooks or cards so you do lose some of the paper but I’ve tried using square or rectangular picture frames and I’ve found the needlepoint hoops are the easiest to use with kids.
IMG_9593Once you do it a few times, you can try different materials. When I was visiting Thailand some years back, we took a paper making tour. They used the bark from mulberry trees to make gorgeous paper. Though the operation was on a bigger scale, the basics were pretty much the same.

 

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