Making Paper – Easy Crafting Ideas
Making paper by recycling old paper is a little messy but quite easy to do. Paper making is a great way to recycle waste, especially if you use a lot of paper for arts and crafts. If you’d like to get into paper crafts, making paper is a great way to start!
Before you begin making paper…
- Never wash your screens, blender or containers in the sink unless you want paper mache pipes. Strain unused pulp through a cloth and dispose of the water outside.
- Making paper uses a lot of water, and a little pulp will go a long way. If you have water restrictions, take this into consideration.
- Many people make paper out of old milk cartons. This requires the cartons to be boiled to remove the laminate film. I question the health and safety of doing this. I recommend leaving the recycling of milk cartons to the professionals.
What you’ll need for paper making:
- Unwanted paper. This can be anything that is not waxed or laminated. High quality artist rag paper or old newspapers can all be recycled. Rag paper will last longer and have better archival properties but newspapers are cheaper and easier to find. I have seen paper made out of tissues, milk cartons, tree fibres, silk. all kinds of things.
- Clean water. Clean, filtered water makes better paper. If you don’t have a tap water filter, let the water stand for a day to two in a covered bucket to let any deposits settle and then pour the clean water off the top.
- A blender. It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy. I used a $9 plastic one. Be careful using a blender near water.
- Large containers. For soaking the paper and straining the pulp. Again they don’t have to be expensive. I use a square plastic one and a bucket. I find a square one easier to work with when straining the paper.
- A paper making screen. You can buy these from bigger art and craft suppliers. Start with a small one. Or you can make one out of old picture frames or painters’ stretcher bars. You will need to cover one frame with fly wire (the stiffer the better) and the other sits on top to hold and shape the pulp.
Making paper… how to do it!
Soak the paper. Tear the paper into small pieces and soak it in a container with clean water. Let it go soft. This may take a few minutes or many hours. If you cover the container you can leave it overnight to let the paper get really soft.
Make pulp in the blender. Put small amounts of paper and plenty of water into the blender, a bit at a time. Blend it until it is very smooth, this will give you strong pulp. I use a cup to transfer the paper and water. Be careful using the blender near water. Put the pulp in a bucket or other container until you have finished pulping all the soaked paper. Then transfer all the pulp to the largest container you have.
Tip: Add a few drops of food colouring to change the colour of your paper!
Get your paper making screen ready. Make sure the fly wire is taut and that there are no holes or gaps. Brush off any old pulp from previous papermaking. Make sure there is no warpage and that the top and bottom fit closely.
Strain the pulp onto the screen. This is where papermaking gets really messy and wet! Move the screen around in the container to agitate the pulp get an even spread of pulp on the screen then lift it carefully letting the water drain back into the container. This is easier to do with a small screen.
Tip: Add flower petals or the old skeletons of leaves!
Lift the top frame off the screen. Do this carefully to avoid shifting or tearing the pulp. Don’t worry if you do at first, just tip it back into the container and try again. If it is a little uneven you can shape it by hand.
Turn out the pulp onto a flat surface. Like folding an omlette or flipping a pancake, this can take a little practice before you get good at it. Flip the screen pulp-side down onto a flat, waterproof, non-absorbent surface. Press gently and lift the screen off carefully; the wet pulp should stay put. The surface you turn the pulp out onto will affect the final texture of the paper so you can experiment. You can use wood, lino, plastic, polystyrene, metal, rough or smooth surfaces.
Wait for it to dry. The paper must be completely dry before you lift it off the drying surface or it might tear. It should peel off easily. If it gets a little stuck gently lift the underneath side with a knife or pencil and it should come loose. Drying may take a long time depending on the time of year; be patient!
Make something! I use thick, coarse textured paper for oil painting and smoother, lighter weight paper for drawing and printmaking. The amount of water in the pulp will determine how thick the paper is so only use a small amount of old paper if you want to make lightweight handmade paper without using loads of water.
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Apricot Tree. Oil on handmade paper, 23cm x 15cm, 2008
Tagged in: art how-tos