How To Make Handmade Paper


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 How To posts written by Fairegarden, look for How To on the sidebar page listing or click here.

Frances

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21 Responses to How To Make Handmade Paper

  1. Oh Frances – this post has made me want to rush down to the studio which has been sadly neglected.

    What a wonderful paper-making tutorial you have produced here!

    K

    Hi Karen, thanks for visiting. Paper making is very zen, don’t you think? Your creations are so fabulous, you inspire me to get more creative, thanks! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  2. Alistair says:

    Hello Frances, even a cynical old sod like
    myself is charmed with your paper making.I hope you don’t mind if I leave it for the wife to do though.

    Hi Alistair, thanks for being charmed. Your wife will be having all the fun with this craft, it seems. Perhaps you will want to join in when you see how much fun she is having. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  3. I tried making paper once. I even visited a commercial hand-made paper factory (a one woman business) to learn how to do it. The method was a little different from this one and involved flicking the tray with the pulp in. (I think there was also an issue about doing it once or twice . . . and in different directions . . oh, I don’t know. Big trays she had.) If done one way – you got high quality paper. If done the other – blotting paper. I went home with grand hopes. No blender so spent ages squishing and squashing in a bucket . . . and guess what I ended up with?

    Esther

    Hi Esther, thanks for adding to the conversation here. How interesting about your paper making experience. I am trying to imagine what flicking could be. Big trays seem much more difficult as well. They would not fit in my sink, but larger pieces would be quite dramatic. I would say a blender is a must have. And I am guessing you ended up with a mess. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  4. Randy Emmitt says:

    Frances,

    This looks like fun, your are very creative! I read once about a group of third world women starting a successful business making paper from waste. They had nothing and now they are supporting themselves and their families.

    Hi Randy, thanks for adding that, what a good thing that is. The raw material for paper is just old paper of any kind, or even cardboard. It is so highly recyclable, labor is all that is needed, and water besides the deckle.
    Frances

  5. This is really cool! I think I would like to try this with the kids. H.

    Thanks Helen. This is the perfect craft for kids. Easy, cheap and fun and a good way to recycle. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  6. gail says:

    Frances, Wonderful post and does it ever bring back memories of my bff. She’s a paper maker and when she started out almost anything went into the blender to be part of her creations. She’s graduated to bigger machines, but, the process is fundamentally the same! Tons of fun and perfect for kids and adults. xxoogail

    Thanks Gail. I would love to make some larger pieces, and meet your bff! Paper making is incredibly fun and easy to do, anything can go into it. Perfect for winter days indoors. πŸ™‚
    xxxooo
    Frances

  7. Janet says:

    Your paper examples at the top of the post with the dried flowers are just incredible. I applaud you for making each and every wedding invitation by hand…what a feat. Wonderful craft, maybe one day I will give it a try.
    great ticket too!

    Hi Janet, thanks. I still have stacks of dried pressed flowers that need using up for something. Maybe a giant picture using them all? The wedding invitations were fun but time consuming. After the first one hundred, it wasn’t as fun. HA πŸ™‚
    Frances

  8. Frances, that looks like excellent fun. Maybe I’ll make some with my youngest. She’d like that.~~Dee

    Hi Dee, thanks. Do give it a try, all you need is a deckle. The 5 x 7 size is easy and will fit in a store bought frame too. Have fun! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  9. Frances, I just love this post:-) I’ve seen this process before, but, never quite as interesting–nor clear–in the presentation. So thank you. I think I’m inspired to try it!

    Hi Jan, thanks so much. I try to make it understandable without showing every single step. It is not hard to do, and quite satisfying to make your own paper. Makes you look at paper in a whole new light. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  10. One says:

    Hi Frances, Coincidentally, my daughter is making paper now. Your creative ideas are very interesting. I’m sure she’ll be excited to read your post.

    Hi One, thanks. I am so happy to hear about your daughter making paper. It is a fun project and many things can be made with the product. I would love to hear what she does with hers. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  11. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Yes, I can see that you have been cooped up a lot this winter. It is bringing out the artist in you. I like your papers. I don’t know if I have the patience to do this kind of work. I wish I could come to your place and play. πŸ˜‰ I might be more apt to do this with someone leading the way. I can think of all sorts of projects where you could use this paper.

    Hi Lisa, I would love for you to be here with me! This takes hardly any patience, you can get a finished piece of paper in just a few minutes. Do tell what sorts of projects you are thinking of? I am out of ideas at the moment! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  12. commonweeder says:

    You give such excellent instructions. I’m snowed/iced in at my son’s apartment. If only we had the supplies we’d have a great project for this dreary day. We’ll have to settle for scintillating conversation – and visiting more blogs than usual.

    Hi Pat, thanks so much, you are sweet to say so. I try. Stay warm in that apartment, good conversation is always good. And the internet. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  13. Your creativity never ceases to amaze me. That’s such a neat thing. Love the finished product.

    Thanks MMD, high praise from one as creative as you are. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  14. Aunt Lynn says:

    Beautiful. I love the bowls and box. I hope you keep experimenting with the paper making. Maybe a fairy door to hang on the wall.

    Hi Lynn! Thanks for visiting, and speaking up! I had put away the deckle after Semi’s wedding, it really was too much to make so many pieces. It felt good to make a few sheets this time and I am inpired to do more. Maybe look for a larger deckle as well. There are fairy ideas swirling around too. πŸ™‚
    Love,
    Frances

  15. gagarden says:

    Your papers are beautiful. Do you make them for your paintings ever? This is what I would love to do. Make my own watercolor papers. Getting a note on one is so special. I receive handmade notes from my cousin in PA.

    My cousin makes beautiful papers to sell. Candles too. She had taught me both processes, but you really have to have patience and a quiet, calming personality I think to do these type of activities. I am a here, there and everywhere kind of person and my cousin said I was NOT THE TYPE to learn properly. She is a bit holier than thou, so I kinda showed her by taking up stained glass. I do get a lot of cuts, but I make some nice stuff when I take my time.

    Thanks, and thanks too for adding to the conversation. I have made candles, and a bunch of other crafts. You could do it, for sure, not that difficult and not personality driven! If you can make stained glass, something I have NOT done but would love to, I am sure you could do anything you wished to do. Anyone can make paper, it is not hard at all. Children can make it. I have used the paper for Christmas cards, the original reason I began doing it. I am not a painter, but that is another thing I would love to take up, someday. I definitely do not have a quiet calm personality, BTW. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  16. Hi Frances, It was fun to see your post. We used to do this every year in my classroom! Sometimes we took the slurry, drained it and filled cookie cutters as special valentine pins and/or decorations… Thanks!! πŸ™‚

    Hi Shady, thanks. How cool that you had a class doing this. The cookie cutter idea is great, sort of a paper mache thing. I tried that one time with not so good results. Having a form would be very helpful. Thanks for the tip! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  17. Well, you are a woman of many, many talents, Frances! I wouldn’t have the patience or the skill to do something like this, but I do love the results. Like a garden in a piece of paper.

    Hi Jodi, thanks so much. I am sure you could do this, it takes neither patience nor skill, but you do need a deckle. I have seen pieces of paper with seeds in them, used as a greeting card that could then be planted. I always wondered if that would work, never tried to actually plant them myself. Hmmmm…. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  18. Balisha says:

    Beautiful tutorial. I did this back in the day too. I also made Santas with paper mache…using my blender. I thought of this when I got my santas out this year. What a project…making the invitations, but so special for keepsakes. Thanks, Balisha

    Hi Balisha, thanks for joining in here. Santas made form paper mache sound great, I bet you had fun with them. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  19. Rose says:

    I’m not a crafty person, but I think I would enjoy making paper, and your instructions are so clear and easy to follow, which is much appreciated. What a neat way to preserve mementoes and remnants from the garden!

    Hi Rose, thanks. I am sure you could do this, it is quite easy and requires no special skill, just a deckle and blender. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  20. Lisa Blair says:

    I’ve made my own paper a few times, and I loved the process. The process I followed was very similar to yours. I made my own deckle from an old photo frame. I blogged about some of the notecards I made. See them here: http://showerfreshgarden.blogspot.com/2010/11/pay-it-forward-paid-back.html

    You have a great eye for placing the pressed flowers and incorporating the pine straw, herbs, and other botanicals.

    Hi Lisa, thanks for dropping by and offering that link to your own paper creations. I believe we are on the same page here. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  21. I have a love affair with paper going way back but I have never made it. This post has done it for me. I have so many little bits of paper I can’t stand to throw away, this process is PERFECT for me! I can hardly wait to get a deckle and do this thing.

    Thank you for this inspiring post!

    Oh Hands, that is great! Thank you for reading and being inspired. I too hate to waste anything, it could be a problem even, so using those little bits of paper, the tissue that is given with certain purchases, packing materials, all are fair game for the paper making is perfect. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do. πŸ™‚
    Frances

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