There are three main methods used to make handmade sheets of paper. These methods are the Western, Japanese and Nepalese methods. In any technique, the paper maker can experiment with natural plant ingredients for a variety of colors, textures and thicknesses. Adding flower petals creates beautiful, one-of-a-kind designs that can be used for scrapbooks, wedding invitations, greeting cards or handmade books.
Things You'll Need
- Rectangular plastic tub 6 inches deep
- Paper mold and deckle
- Scoop and mesh lined strainer
- Felt sheeting
- Handpicked or purchased fiber
- Soda ash or washing soda alkali
- Glass jar
- Large pot
- Clean water
- Flower petals
Pick plants you wish to use for paper-making if you are not purchasing pulp from a paper-making supplier. Many plants can be used for this purpose including hemp, mulberry, sedge, rush and even seaweed. The bast or inner bark of trees and plants is often used, as well as leaf and grass fibers. According to Helen Hiebert in her book "Paper-making with Plants" all plants must be cooked and beaten to obtain the fibrous texture of paper and many require further processing such as retting, steaming or stripping. Consult a paper-making manual for ideas and how to extract fibers from particular plants.
Cut the fibers you have collected into ½ inch strips and soak in plain water for several hours or overnight.
Prepare a large pot of water about 1 gallon of water for ½ lb of fiber on the stove and measure out your alkali. The alkali should make up 20 percent of the fiber's weight when it was dry. For ½ lb of dry fiber, 50 grams or 1.75 ounces of soda ash should be used.
Add the soda ash and saturated fiber into the pot of hot water. Boil briefly then simmer on low. Check every half hour to see if the fiber is done. The strands should pull apart easily in your hands when done.
Remove from pot and rinse the fiber in a strainer. Be sure to remove all traces of soda ash.
Beat the fibers by placing them in a blender. Add some water and a handful of pulp and blend for about 10 seconds. Do this until all the pulp is blended, dumping the freshly beaten pulp right into the vat or paper-making tray you will be using.
Preparing Flowers and Making Paper
Remove petals from stems and blanch them in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes.
Strain the petals and add them to the vat of pulp you prepared.
Stir all the petals and pulp in the vat so there is consistency. The pulp will tend to settle on the bottom.
Wet the mold and deckle. Hold the mold with the screen facing up and place the deckle on top and holding them together, dip them in the vat of flowery pulp. Shift it side to side as you catch pulp in the screen so that it will lay flat as you pull it up out of the pulp.
Gently shake the screen as if you are panning for gold once you bring it out of the vat. This causes the pulp to settle evenly, and strains water from it creating a flat piece of paper. Once the fibers start to settle set it down.
Remove the deckle and tilt the screen to make sure that the settling pulp doesn't slide. If it does it needs more water strained from it.
Dampen a piece of felt and place the mold face down on it, pressing from behind the screen so that when you lift the mold the sheet transfers to the felt.
Lay another piece of felt on top of this one to repeat the process and create a drying rack for the handmade papers. The time it takes the sheets to dry depends on how thick you have made your pulp and sheets of paper.
Tips & Warnings
- For thinner paper use more water and less pulp and for thicker paper use more pulp and less water.
- Photo Credit Naomi Judd
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