Homemade Paper Tutorial | Rebecca Baer® Artful Living: Homemade Paper Tutorial

27 November 2010

Homemade Paper Tutorial


Have you ever considered making your own paper from scraps?  It is a relatively simple process and allows you to create custom colors or textures and use inclusions for added interest. The resulting paper can be used to create cards or stationery that you can group with purchased envelopes to create gift sets tied together with a pretty ribbon.  You can purchase envelopes at office supply stores.  Be sure and select the envelope size before cutting the paper into the final size sheets.

Materials

Paper making kits are sometimes available from major crafts retailers as are many of the individual supplies such as screen frames, moulds and fibers for making pulp.  For the purpose of this project, I opted to take the truly homemade route to create one-of-a-kind papers.  Naturally, using a purchased screen will not affect the uniqueness of your paper; this was a purely economical decision.

Paper and cardstock scraps
Blender (reserved for non-food uses)
Screen/frame  May be purchased or homemade. For a homemade screen you will need an inexpensive wood frame, nylon window screen and a staple gun.
Large basin This must be large enough to submerse your screen.
Straight-edged tool such as a plastic ruler
Towels or newspaper
Sponge
White felt or flannel (2 pc. at least 12” x 18” for small sheets or 24” x 36” for larger ones)
Inclusions (optional) This can be a variety of items such as, glitter, leafing scraps, fibers, dried flowers, etc. Naturally, I would not use every option for every sheet of paper just one or two items per sheet.

Surface Preparation
None

Helpful hints:
  • Always use a cutting mat to protect your work surface when cutting paper with a craft knife.
  • To prevent shifting, always secure the paper to the cutting mat with removable (low tack) tape. 
  • A paper cutter is even more convenient for cutting the paper to size.
Paper Making Procedure
Preparing the scraps
Color-sorted paper scraps
1.   Begin by separating your scraps into color families.  The end result will be a paper that is a mixture of the colors that you choose to combine when making your pulp. 
2.   Next, tear the paper into small pieces, no larger than one inch.  To do this more quickly and with less manual labor, use a paper cutter to cut larger scraps into strips that are about an inch wide.  Then pass the strips through a paper shredder (sideways) so that they are cut into short pieces.  If you have a cross-cut shredder then no pre-cutting is necessary.
3.   To facilitate blending, soak the scraps in hot water.  To do this, place the scraps in a heat-proof dish and cover with boiling water.  Allow the paper to soak as you assemble the screen and set up the work area.
Making the screen
Making the screen using a purchased frame.
4.   Remove the backing and glass from the frame and use a staple gun to attach the screen to the flat (back) side.  To do this, begin with a staple at the center of each side, holding the screen taut while you staple. 
5.   Alternate sides, working out from the center keeping the screen taut.
6.   When making paper, use the screen with the stapled side up.
Setting up your workspace
7.   Cover your workspace with plastic drop cloths or vinyl tablecloths to protect it from water.
8.   Fill the basin with water (you will be dipping your hands in the water so make it a comfortable temperature.
9.   Arrange a pile of newspaper or towels on the work surface to absorb water from the pulp.  Top the absorbent base with one piece of white felt or flannel.
Basic Paper
10. The water in which paper scraps are soaking should be lukewarm to room temperature and the paper softened. Begin making pulp of the soaked paper.  To do this, place a handful of scraps in a blender.  Add water so that the blender is at least half full. 
11. Replace the lid and cover the top of the blender with a towel.  Pulse the blender until the paper and water combine to create a slurry.  If the mixture does not whir freely, add more water to the blender.
12. Choose from your color-sorted scraps to create a wide range of hues; the same color-mixing principles that you use for your paints, applies to mixing the paper scraps (red + yellow = orange, etc.).  The color of the wet pulp will be slightly darker than the finished dry paper.
13. Process three batches of pulp and dump each into the water-filled basin.
14. Slip the screen (flat side up) into the basin at the side and position it beneath the pulp.  Allow the pulp to settle over the screen and slowly lift the screen straight up and out of the water. The thickness of the pulp will determine the weight of the paper, i.e., thick pulp = sturdy/thin pulp = delicate.
15. Use a straight edged tool to pull the pulp in from the edges of the frame so that it is contained within the screen area.
16. Use a sponge to absorb as much water as possible from the bottom through the screen.
17. Flip the pulp onto the felt and towel stack.  Top with the second piece of felt.
18. Use a rolling pin to squeeze excess water from the paper pulp. 
19. Then peel the finished sheet from the felt and lay flat to dry.
20. If making multiple sheets of paper have several layers of felt available.  Rather than peeling each finished sheet from the felt (step 19) you can layer these in a stack and then press as a unit (stack the layers between boards and stand on top.  This will remove a bit more remaining water.  Hang the finished sheets, still attached to the felt, to dry.  Carefully peel the dry sheets from the felt.
21. To smooth wavy sheets, press the dry paper under heavy books for a few weeks.


Creating a large sheet using a small screen basin
Large sheet of paper - partially dried.
  • For some uses you may find that you want a larger sheet than created by the small screen. To create a large sheet, begin with a large sheet of felt (24” x 36”) over a stack of towels.
  • Proceed through step fourteen--eliminate step fifteen as you want thin edges for overlap.
  • Use a sponge to absorb as much water as possible from the bottom through the screen. Then flip the pulp onto the upper left corner of the felt and towel. Repeat this process for the next sheet, placing the second sheet beside the first, taking care to overlap the edges.  Continue to add sheets side-by-side and top-to-bottom overlapping the edges of each additional sheet.
  • When you have covered sufficient area for the large sheet of paper, top the sheet with a second layer of felt and Use a rolling pin to join the sheets and squeeze excess water from the paper pulp. 
  • Hang the finished sheet, or lay flat, still attached to the felt, to dry.  Carefully peel the dry sheet from the felt.

Leftover pulp
  •    Leftover pulp can be reserved for later papermaking sessions.  Use a screen colander to drain the excess water from the pulp.  Squeeze remaining water out of the pulp, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the freezer.
  •     Do not pour any excess pulp water down the drain as it will clog your pipes.  Instead, dump the water outside--in the compost is ideal.

Working with Inclusions
   Dried or Pressed Flowers
  • To create all-over random flecks, add the plant material to the blender when making pulp.
  • For whole or partial flowers add the petals to the pulp and vibrate the basin to embed the flowers in the pulp before lifting the screen through the pulp.

Glitter
  • For optimum visibility, add glitter to the pulp in the basin.  If added to the blender it will be distributed throughout the paper with bits and pieces visible.

The Finished Stationery
  • The paper should be scored to insure a clean, straight fold if you wish to make notecards or greeting cards.  
  • Depending on how smooth your finished papers are you may want to attach vellum for a smoother writing surface.  This is especially helpful when your paper has textural inclusions like dried flowers. Vellum can also be embossed, layered and decorated on the front or back to add other decorative elements to the stationery. 
  • Vellum can be attached using brads, ribbon and/or sandwiched between layers with Double-stick Craft tape.  I use the tape to stabilize the layers and prevent shifting when using brads or ribbon.
Enhanced with dragonfly from the
RB "Thoughts of Thee" stamp set.

The reverse side of the vellum is
stamped with the dragonfly from the
RB "Thoughts of Thee" stamp set.

The vellum is pressure-embossed using the
RB "Classic Curves Petite" stencil and
Enhanced with dragonfly from the
RB "Thoughts of Thee" stamp set.
Links
Thoughts of Thee stamp set  (contact us)
Acrylic grid (necessary for unmounted stamps--also useful as the straight-edged tool required for straightening the edges of the pulp)
Rubber Stamps

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