HANDMADE PAPER

Here are some direction on how to:
“Make Your Own Paper”

As a scrapbooker, you have a clear appreciation for the need and use of paper. However, a little understanding of what paper is and is not should be helpful in clarifying the homemade paper making process, as well as using it in and for your scrapbook pages and albums.

Paper became very prominent during the advent of the movable type printing press. Prior to that time, writing was done on parchment (vellum), on the stretched and processed skins of calves, goats and lambs (parchment), (papyrus) which is made from the inner part of the papyrus stem, and (rice paper) which is made from spirally sliced pith of a tree native to Taiwan. Paper, as we know it today, is made from cellulose fiber.

So just what is this “cellulose” paper we use today? Cellulose is the primary structural component of plants–the common material of plant cells. Cellulose is found in all plants, and is the most abundant form of living biomass. The purity and amount of cellulose varies by plant. Cotton fiber has the purest form–which is why cotton fiber is used in high quality paper, but wood is the most often used, because it is more plentiful.

For our purpose in making homemade paper, we will rely on previously processed cloth or paper. Recycled paper and/or cotton work just fine–recycled paper being the easier to obtain and use. Essentially, what you are going to make is a mat of recycled fiber.

Enough information on the background of paper. Now we’re on to the making of paper for ourselves.

Reading the entire set of instructions before beginning is highly recommended.
Clarity will come as you understand the whole process.

Materials and Preparation

Materials:

Scrap paper (acid free) – most good quality bond paper for photo copying or printing from a computer is acid free.

Deckle – the upper frame that holds the wet pulp on the mold–an old picture frame (matching pair) or embroidery hoop works fine. (See making a deckle mold for more extensive and long term use.)

Fine mesh screening – like screen door screening or a nylon stocking. This type screening may only be good for a few sheets of paper, but can be replaced as needed. A better long term solution is to use a 30/30 polypropylene mesh which can we whetted and dried using a hairdryer to regain its tautness.

Pan/Basin/Tub (to be used as a vat) – large enough to allow your frame mold to be totally immersed.

Blender – to make the pulp mixture.

Several squares of felt or flannel fabric . . . clean dish towels are a good substitute.

Tacks or staples – to tack the screening to the frame. If you are using an embroidery hoop – the two hoops pressed together should hold the screening sufficiently for your project.

Paper – torn into small pieces (the smaller the better). If you use paper with ink or dye you will end up with some sort of colored paper–depending on what colors are in or on the paper you use.

Optional items:

  • Liquid starch for sizing.
  • Texture and affect items:
  • Colored thread strands
  • Dried flower petals
  • Colored paper
  • Glitter

Preparation:

You need to prepare your mold and deckle. If you are using picture frames–they should be the same size and style–simple and flat. Embroidery hoops should be large enough to provide you with a sheet of paper, that when made, will be large enough for you to use as you desire. You can also make your own deckle mold. (Click here to see an illustration and directions on how to make a deckle mold frame.)

Now you are ready to make your first batch of paper night, but a least for an hour or two.pulp. First, you need to tear your paper into thin strips or shreds. The strips or shreded pieces of paper should be thoroughly soaked in water–even over

In a blender, fill it half way with warm water and the next quarter’s space with your soaked paper. Make sure your blender lid is on tight and pulverize your pulp on a low speed–changing to a medium speed. You want your pulp emulsion to have a soupy slurry consistency. . . the fact that it’s very runny doesn’t matter at this point in the process.

This is also the time, or point in the process when you can add any embellishing ingredients–such as: colored paper (gives a pale tint), dried flower petals and leaves, glitter, and short pieces of thread–for texture and color. Blend these items into your mixture. Most handmade paper is anything but pure white. The most interesting thing about this paper is the varied colors and texture you can get. There are several additional ways to add color to your paper. There is food coloring, water based inks as well as powdered and liquid paints that you’ll need to experiment with a little to get the shade or tint you are most comfortable with.

(Remember, the longer you blend these additives the finer they will appear in and on your paper. You may want to experiment a little bit here to find the size and consistency you feel is approriate for your project.)

Pour your blended pulp into the vat/pan. Repeat this process until you have sufficient prepared pulp in your vat/pan to cover your mold and deckle when immersed. Remember the consistency should be soupy. . . a couple of blenders full should do in most cases–depending on your vat/pan size. Also, add a little warm water to your emulsion and stir if some of it isn’t soupy enough.

Informational note: If the paper is going to used for writing on (journaling), you may want to add some liquid starch (2-4 teaspoons should do the trick depending on the size of your vat/pan) to your pulp mix for sizing. The starch tends to help prevent inks from sinking into the paper. If you don’t plan to write on the paper–skip this addition.

Let’s Make The Paper:

Place the deckle squarely over the mold with the screen mesh forming a sandwich. Hold the two molds firmly together on opposite sides. Tilt the molds so the deckle is facing you, and over the far side of your pan/vat of pulp. Using a smooth even movement, lower the deckle and mold down vertically into the pulp slurry you have made. From the far side of the pan/vat pull the deckle and mold sandwich toward you–rotating the mold set horizontally as you pull them towards you. The deckle should be facing upward at this point. Lift your mold sandwich straight upward, in this horizontal position, out of the solution in a slow deliberate motion. Hold the mold set a few inches above the pulp solution to allow as much excess water to drain off as possible. A light back and forth movement will help the pulp fibers on your mold settle more evenly. Rest the mold set on the edge of your vat/pan and let it rest for a few minutes moreĀ  . . . additional drainage will occur during this resting period. If you have made the Formica insert for your mold, now is the time to use it.

If you have made the insert for your mold, place the smooth side on top of the freshly made paper. Gently press the newly made paper mat to further remove water, but not so firm as to press your pulp back into the vat/pan. After you’re finished pressing your new paper mat, remove the press insert. You are now ready for the couching process. (Note: Having a towel under your vat/pan will help catch this last drip of water.)

At this point you should remove the deckle. Lift the deckle straight upward–doing your best not to disturb your new paper mat. Be careful, too, not to allow water droplets to fall on your newly made paper.

Couching means to set a rest
. In the handmade paper process this is the removal of the paper from the mold and putting the paper onto a drying medium. This is where the felt or flannel fabric come into play. You can use paper toweling too, or clean dish towels. Felt is a little stiffer an easier to work with in this process.

There are two methods to use in removing the new paper from your mold onto the couching material. The first is to flip the screen over onto the couching medium you have chosen to use. This method requires some dexterity and practice. You want your paper sheet to come off as flat as possible with no bubbles or folds. (Moving this wet mat, or smoothing out bubbles and folds is difficult because your mat is still tender.)

The other method is to place a piece of felt on top of the new paper mat on the mould and turning it over. Again, using a smooth even movement. This method tends to keep the paper from bubbling or folding.

In either case, once the mould has been turned over, gently lift the mould leaving behind the paper. This can be a challenge if the paper pulp has been pressed too firmly through the screen “locking it in place on the screen.” In any case you will have to work with it a bit, but remember your wet paper is still very tender and not firmly set until it dries.

With the mould removed, and the paper couched (resting) on a flat surface–absorbent material beneath it–place another felt piece on top of your new paper mat and pess it. A rolling pin works well and gives uniform pressure to the paper. (Note: You can build several layers of paper, following the instructions above, and placing a felt sheet between each layer before pressing or rolling begins. If you prefer not using a rolling pin, place a hard flat sheet–like your insert press–on top of the couched papers, and add some weighted items on top of the whole group. A stack of heavy books will work just fine.)

The paper is now ready for drying (curing). If you are in a hurry, which isn’t necessarily recommended, you can use a hair dryer to finish the drying process. A more preferrable method is to set the sheets aside–individually–to dry over night. (Another helpful suggestion: When the paper is slightly damp you can iron it to give it a smoother more polished look and feel.)

Last, but not least, when you have made your new paper you may want to consider embossing it. New hand made paper is so acceptable to this enhancing process. You can add more elegance to your paper and its deckle edge by embossing it. There are several methods discussed in detail at:

Now you more daring scrapbookers are ready to put your own homemade paper to work in your scrapbook as pages, or cut out designs–or what ever you choose to use this wonderful new piece of paper for.

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Ron on January 1st, 2009 | File Under Ideas | No Comments -