Two houses ago, before the move to Texas, before the blog named Fairegarden, there was a landscaping/garden business called Faire Garden. In the off season, when no gardening could be done, there were crafts of various sorts made and sold to help keep it a going concern.
There were baskets made from garden cuttings, there were wreaths made from garden goodies, there were various cloth bags for baths, moth repelling, headaches filled with herbs from the garden and there were items made from homemade paper that were festooned with dried flowers and leaves from the garden.
The paper itself always contained some bits of garden ephemera, moss or rose petals, dried herbs and threads from scraps of fabric. There had been no paper making since 2003, when my daughter Semi and I made her wedding invitations by hand. After nearly 200 pieces of paper were made, one at a time, among many other crafts for the happy occasion, the allure of making our own paper had lost its luster. There is a post with more of Semi’s wedding photos in it. Click to view it here-Lamb’s Ear Love.
It seems that enough time has passed for a renewed interest in paper making to rise to the surface. A goal of cleaning out the craft closet in the spare bedroom, it’s about time!, helped bubble the desire to use up the left over paper making materials. This is a simple process once the necessary paper making deckle has been procured. The one used here was puchased from a mail order catalog called The Nature Company many years ago. It was sold as a children’s craft and is ideal for young people to do with some adult help.
Begin by assembling these items: the deckle, (can be found online or at large craft stores,) a blender, (I use an old cheap one that is not used for food preparation,) a rolling pin, blotting paper, (can be found at office supply, get white or light colors because brown and green bleed onto the wet paper,) A sink with a plastic tub, plenty of workspace on a countertop or table, a sponge, a dishtowel, drying rack.
To make paper, you need paper, any kind, torn into small pieces. I like to use recycled tissue wrapping paper, blank newsprint packing paper ( I have lots of this from so many moves), dried petals and leaves, roses are great. Sticks and stems do not work well, sift your plant material to eliminate them.
Make the pulp by filling the blender with the torn paper bits and anything else you are adding such as the moss, petals, threads. Any paper will work, colored tissue is good for making colored paper. You can experiment with what works best to your own taste. Fill the blender three quarters full with water. Turn on the lower settings to stir, then to higher settings to get everything mixed up. Measure out the amount you want to use for each sheet so they will be of a consistent thickness. I wanted very thick paper for this project, so used one and one-third cup of pulp for each sheet.
Assemble the deckle with the larger frame piece on top of the smaller piece with the screen sandwiched in between. Most deckles will come with instructions on how to use it. Fill the tub with water to about one inch above the screen when the deckle is held down. You will want to keep the water at this level and may have to pour some water out after you have made a few sheets since you are adding water with the pulp each time.
Pour in the pulp while holding the deckle down in the water. Swirl the pulp evenly, lifting up to see if it is evenly distributed. If not, put it back into the water, slowly, it will sort of pop, and swirl again until you are satisfied with it. The thicker the paper you are making, the easier it is to get it even in thickness. Lift the deckle all the way out of the water, tilting it to let as much water drain out as possible before you begin the screening and blotting process. Don’t rush this step, the more water you let drip now, is less sponging in the next step.
Set the deckle on the counter and remove the top half, the frame, carefully. You will have a layer of wet pulp on top of the bottom deckle screen. It will be fairly thick. Place the loose screen piece over the pulp, lining up with the deckle evenly. Use your hands to push the screen without sliding it around, getting as much water out as possible this way. Sometimes I will put a section of the deckle over the edge of the sink to do this. But you will be sponging water off the countertop often either way. Use a wet but squeezed out sponge to press more water from the screened piece. Keep squeezing the sponge out until you have gotten as much water as you can from the pulp.
Place a folded dishtowel on the counter next to the deckle. Turn the pulp sandwich of screen, pulp, deckle upside down on the dishtowel. Use the squeezed out sponge to remove more water. The deckle should now lift up off the paper and screen. If it sticks, gently peel the paper off the deckle so that it falls onto the screen on the towel. Place two sheets of blotter paper, I cut mine to slightly larger than the deckle size, on the counter. Pick up the screen and flip it over onto the blotter. Use the rolling pin over the screen to seperate the paper from the screen. This is called couching (kooching). Remove the screen. If it sticks, gently peel it off onto the blotter. Place another two sheets of blotter paper over the pulp. Use a rolling pin to roll over the blotter sandwich, flip it over and roll again.
Remove the top blotters and flip the product onto a drying rack to dry thoroughly. Congratulations! You have just made a piece of paper. Now you can make a few more, using up all of the pulp in the blender, mixing each time before pouring it into the measuring cup.
The paper made today was made not for writing upon, but to make decorative boxes. It was glued with craft glue around juice cartons while still wet. For the projects shown at the beginning of this post, bowls and boxes, some were made by tearing the product into pieces, wetting those pieces and gluing with craft glue or cellulose based wallpaper paste onto plastic bowls. To make good paper for writing upon, it is best not to have the large bits in the pulp. But you can still get creative with the types and colors of papers torn up and used for the pulp.
Sewing thread was wrapped around today’s craft to hold the paper in place as it dries. I kind of like the way the thread looks and might leave it on. It was also decided to leave the juice cartons in place for added strength. Dried flower arrangements, feathers, or attractive twigs would look good in the paper boxes. We cut the tops off with an exacto knife just below the top edge of the paper.
We hope you are inspired to find a deckle and get started on your own path to paper making. Paper is wonderful for art projects, there is no limit as to what can be made. Get creative and use your imagination. It is a great way to recycle, too.
The home made paper makes a nice matting for pressed flowers or other keepsakes. This close up shows the detail of petals and herbs in the pulp. The keepsake is a ticket purchased but not used as a memento of a trip to San Francisco for our twentieth wedding anniversary. An earthquake changed our plans of driving down the California coast to our old house in Orange County. We were leaving California before the date of this concert, but just having the ticket brings back pleasant memories.
For other posts written by Fairegarden, look for How To on the sidebar page listing or click here.