How to Make Paper from Cotton Balls

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You can make paper at home to teach children about the ancient art of papermaking, or to create supplies for use in crafts. It can be accomplished with simple household materials and tools, although papermaking kits and equipment also are available.

Things You'll Need

  • Cotton balls
  • Paper scraps
  • Decorative add-ins (confetti, glitter, dried flowers)
  • Window screening
  • Wood frame
  • Heavy-duty stapler
  • Large basin or tub
  • Blender or food processor
  • Paper towels or white fabric squares
  • Sponge
  • Drying rack
  • Cookie sheets
  • Newspapers
  • Liquid starch
  • Prepare the area. Making paper can be messy. Spread newspapers on the floor beneath a card table or your work area, and wear old clothes.

  • Make a paper mold. This is essentially metal window screening stretched over a wooden frame, such as a photo frame, and stapled tight to the edges. Make it as tight as you can. You also can use tacks to hold the screen down. The mold should be the size and shape you want your paper sheets to be.

  • Get the paper ready. Shred the cotton balls by hand, pulling them into wisps. For best results, use real cotton balls, not synthetic ones. Add other soft, white paper scraps, such as undyed paper towels or napkins, tissue paper or unprinted white computer paper. Cut or shred the scraps into very small pieces.

  • Make paper pulp. Fill a blender about halfway with the shreds and the rest of the way with warm water. Do this as often as you need for the amount you want to make, but make at least enough to fill a large tub halfway. Start the blender on a slow speed, then increase speed gradually until the mixture is smooth with no obvious paper chunks. Once it looks smooth, run the blender for another 30 seconds.

  • Fill the basin or tub halfway with the pulp. The thicker it is, the thicker your paper will be; if you want to thin it, add more warm water. Add 2 tsp. of liquid starch to the pulp if the paper will be used for writing. This helps keep ink from spreading on the paper.

  • Use the mold. Submerge it into the pulp mixture until it is covered and flat. Shake the mold gently until the pulp sitting on top of it is even, then lift the mold from the tub. Hold it while the water drains from the pulp. You may want to alter the thickness at this point by adding or removing some pulp from the tub.

  • Press the water from the paper. Have a paper towel or square of white fabric ready, and place it against the paper while still on the mold. Gently place the mold and towel flat. Press water out of the paper using a sponge, wringing it back into the tub.

  • Remove the paper. Hold onto the paper towel or fabric square and gently lift the mold away by one edge, with a peeling motion. The pulp should stick to the towel in a sheet. If it doesn't, you may need to press out more water or pull the mold away slower.

  • Stack the wet sheets of paper on a cookie sheet, with towels or fabric in between them. Place another towel or square on top of the stack and use another cookie sheet to press out additional water.

  • Peel the sheets apart gently, keeping them with their fabric square or paper towel. Place them to dry on a clothesline, drying rack, newspapers or a flat surface. They should dry within a day and be ready to use.

Tips & Warnings

  • This project can also be done with shredded newspaper, producing gray paper, or use egg cartons, cards, magazines, paper bags, office paper, colored tissue paper or construction paper. Heavier papers or cardboard should be pre-soaked so they shred easier.
  • Once you know the method, try adding decorative elements to the pulp after blending or before blending. Use dried flowers, grasses or seeds, food coloring, glitter, yarn, confetti or shreds of tin foil.

References

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