Monday, October 20, 2008

Paper making tutorial

It's here - the paper making tutorial you've all been waiting for! This is such a fun activity - not only is it ideal to do with small helpers, but it's recycling at it's creative best, and cheap as chips to boot. What's not to love, eh? So pop on some old clothes (one does get a little wet), and let's get cracking.

A paper recyling kit (I bought mine from a National Geographic store years ago, but you can find them online here)
Saved paper
A blender
A tub that is larger in dimension than the deckle in your kit
A space to lie the paper down to dry. The kits usually come with drying boards, but they won't work if you want to make larger pieces. I usually use the concrete out the front of my house, as it's nice and smooth, but I always give it a good sweep first, as getting dirt on your new paper is rather annoying.

Step 1: Gather your paper to be recycled. I save every bit of coloured paper that comes my way. The more heavily pigmented the paper, the more colourful your hand made paper will be. Tissue paper, in particular, creates some vividly coloured paper, due to the heavy pigmentation.

Step 2: Sort the scrap paper into piles based on colour. It's best to do this, and then you will end up with lovely coloured paper, rather than some drab tone.

Step 3: Decide which pile you will attack first (we chose the blue pile), then rip up the paper into small pieces, about the size of a postage stamp.

Step 4: Cover the paper with water, and leave to soak overnight. If you are using glossy paper, such as old wrapping paper, or magazine paper, you may want to leave it to soak for 48 hours.

Step 5: Assemble your equipment in the place you are going to spread the paper out to dry (I usually do this bit outside). You will need a tub, a sponge, and your paper making kit, comprising of a draining mold, a piece of fine mesh, and the deckle (the wooden frame).

Step 6: Now it's time to make the paper pulp. Place a small handful of soaked paper into your blender, then fill the blender with water, being careful not to go over the maximum liquid indicator mark. Whizz until the paper looks small, and you can't see any big chunky pieces flying around.
Word from the wise - don't add any more paper than a small handful. Trust me, you don't want to fry your blender like somebody I know did *cough cough*.

Step 7: Pour the mixture into your tub, and repeat blending the soaked paper until you have a depth of 10cm. If the mixture is really thick, sieve some of the pulp out, or add some water. It should be the consistency of soup.
Note: I usually add some white paper to my mixtures, to make it go further. However, this will dilute the colour somewhat, so you end up with pastel shades rather than vivid ones. Also, you can add things to the pulp mixture at this stage to jazz it up a bit. Glitter, confetti, lengths of string or wool, flower petals, tea leaves - the world is your oyster. Go crazy!

Step 8: Assemble your kit. Place the mesh on top of the draining mold, then the deckle snugly on top of that.

Step nine: Holding your kit, dip it in the pulp mixture, holding tightly with both hands. Bring it up out of the tub, and, resting it on the side of the tub, let as much water drain out of it as possible.

Step 10: Remove the deckle. You will have a rectangle sheet of wet pulp on the mesh. Carefully pick up the mesh, and place it pulp side down on the ground, in the position you want it to dry in (i.e. full sun, away from curious pets).

Step 11: Carefully sponge off the mesh, getting all excess water out of the pulp (which isn't actually pulp any more - it's a very wet and rather soggy piece of paper!).

Step 12: Once you have removed as much water as possible, carefully pick up the end of the mesh, and peel it off the paper. If the paper begins to rip and stick to the mesh, place it back down and re-sponge it, using a dribble of water to removed the paper from the mesh.

Step 13: Voila! A brand new recycled piece of paper. Well done!

Step 14: To make larger pieces of paper, repeat steps 8 to 13, being careful to place the second piece of paper slightly over the edge of the first, so the overlapping sides will adhere together.

Step 15: Continue until the piece is big enough for your liking. The one in the picture above is 5 pieces across and 3 down - 15 in all.

Step 16:
Leave the paper out in the sun until it is absolutely bone dry, then very carefully pull it off the concrete. Ta da - you've done it!

Now that you've mastered the technique, it's time to experiment. Here's some ideas to get you going:
- Try drying your paper on different surfaces, which will result in paper with amazing textures.
- Add different colours of pulp together to make 'swirl' effect paper.
- Scent your paper with essential oils.
- Sprinkle your paper with plant seeds, and then give as gifts. The recipients can plant them in the garden, and marvel when the plants grow up.
- Iron the paper once dried, for a super smooth surface on which to write.
- Experiment with plant dyes to really colourful paper.
- Get the little ones involved, and turn the paper into funky masks/cards for Grandma/Christmas decorations etc

I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial. If you have any questions, drop my an email or leave a comment.


  1. A great tutorial. Very clear - that can be the hard part about teaching people, I find. As a Girl Guide leader I get lots of practice at working how to deliver programs one step at a time. Things we take for granted as adults, kids need extra information. I forgot to tell kids to boil a billy of water to cook pasta, and they just added pasta to an empty billy. Silly billy. I dry my paper on the line. I have denim and other cloth that I push it out onto.

  2. Anonymous5:34 pm

    Just beautiful. Thanks for the 'making bigger pieces' idea too (we once attempted this using an old screen door, but your way is much easier!) We have the exact same paper making kit, heh, must dig mine out again...

  3. I made paper years ago, and used to dry mine on the trampoline...which we no longer have in the back yard...does the dye from the paper put any colour onto the concrete...our verandah is yet to be sealed?

  4. Stitching at Stone Cottage,

    Not on our concrete (we live in an old terrace house, so I'm guessing the concrete is pretty old and not sealed), however I'm not sure what would happen if you added extra pigmentation to the pulp. Maybe do a test patch in a shady corner!

  5. Anonymous12:08 am

    great tute Jorth, thanks! very clear.
    how do you find peeling the paper off - does it dry without sticking to the concrete?
    excellent! inspired! love it!

  6. Anonymous12:09 am

    PS your chipmunk cheeks are all gone! how is your mouth feeling?

  7. Jenny, once the paper is dry it comes off very easily. Too easily, in fact - on sunny but windy days I've had to actually chase pieces of paper down the street!

    As for my mouth, it's still swollen and tender inside, and I STILL have no feeling in half my chin, grrr!

  8. Anonymous11:06 am

    Awesome tute! I've sent the link to kits to hubby as a gift suggestion for Christmas. lol
    I have so much scrap wrapping paper that I would love to rebirth into more useful paper.


  9. Anonymous8:28 pm

    Thanks for posting the tutorial! I was planning on making my own wrapping paper for Xmas with butcher's paper and stamps, but I might go that one step further, and try this instead.

  10. What a great tutorial! I've never thought of drying the paper on the concrete - great idea!

    When I was younger, I made paper in mum's laundry tub but failed to put the washing machine hose back (why I took it out, I don't know!). Poor mum did the washing and flooded the carpet at that end of the house. Needless to say, new carpet later, papermaking always makes me think of the laundry flood!

  11. Anonymous5:31 am

    Really beautiful, and thank you so much for sharing the technique!

  12. Anonymous1:47 pm

    Wonderful tute but i have just one extra tip to add:
    When leaving your paper out to dry make sure that your four legged friend is not allowed any where near said soggy paper as believe it or not pooches think that soggy paper makes for good snacking. This happened to my sister years ago and i remember her being very upset at all her hard work being eaten up!

  13. Faaaabulous! I remember making paper when i lived in the UK and was pregnant with Mia (something to pass the time). It worked but the paper was really thick, i had made my own screens and didn't have a seperate mesh screen like yours. Maybe i need to pick up a kit and give it another go with the kids. Where did you get your kit?

  14. I used to make this with the kids when I was teaching, thanks for reminding me about it! And I love the shoes! :-)

  15. Anonymous7:27 pm

    Try using chux between the papers to dry them. Lots of fun :-)


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