Fibers cultivated from the stems of hemp plants are among the strongest plant fibers from which we can make paper and other textiles. Because hemp is easy to grow, it is also an eco-friendly alternative to traditional paper. The process of making paper from hemp is very similar to traditional paper-making methods that start by breaking down the fibers into a pulp slurry and molding them with a deckle. Making hemp paper isn't a difficult project but does require a set of gentle hands, as the paper is fairly delicate until it has been pressed and dried.
Things You'll Need
- Degummed hemp fiber sliver
- Stock pot
- Soda ash
- Vat or large plastic storage container
- Small container
- Wood boards
- Blotter paper
- Deckle mold
- Wool fabric
- Cotton interfacing
Beating the Hemp Fiber
Fill a stock pot up with enough water to cover the hemp fiber. Soak the hemp fiber overnight to prepare it for paper making.
Add soda ash to the pot of water and hemp fibers as instructed by the directions on the soda ash container to ensure the proper soda ash to water ratio. Stir the solution with a spoon until all soda ash is blended into the water.
Place the stock pot on a stove and simmer four hours. Allow to cool down.
Remove hemp fiber from soda ash and place in a strainer over a sink to rinse with clean water.
Break down the fibers by pulling the hemp apart into chunks smaller than the palm of your hand. Put the chunks into the beater and beat it into a pulp for two hours.
Remove the pulp from the beater and place it in a bucket.
Drying the Pulp
Fill a vat halfway up with clean water. Scoop the pulp into the vat using a small container to create a watered down pulp slurry.
Place a wood board that's larger than your deckle next to the vat. Wet a sheet of blotter paper and felt. Lay the blotter paper down on top of the wood board then layer felt on top of the blotter paper.
Hold the deckle and deckle mold together with your hands. Submerge both into the vat of slurry and, still holding the deckle and mold together, carefully lift out of the slurry keeping the deckle laying flat as though it were laying on a table.
Hold the deckle flat over the vat until most of the water has drained out. Gently move the deckle and mold from side to side to help drainage, making sure the pulp remains evenly coat across the top of the deckle.
Remove the mold from the deckle. Flip the mold, pulp side down, on top of the felt. Use your body weight to press around the edges of the deckle to remove any excess water.
Press down on one side of the deckle frame and briskly lift the opposite side of the frame to separate the deckle from the wet hemp paper.
Pressing and Drying Hemp Paper
Lay cotton interfacing on top of the wet paper. Add a sheet of wool fabric on top of the cotton interfacing followed by a wood board.
Move the entire stack to a press and press for 10 minutes.
Lay out another wood board and stack a piece of cardboard, a sheet of blotter paper and sheet of felt on top in that order. Carefully remove a sheet of the wet hemp paper from the press and lay it on top of the felt. Place a second sheet of felt on top of the hemp paper, followed by another sheet of blotter paper, cardboard and a wood board.
Lay two bricks on top to weigh the stack down. Allow to dry for two days.
Remove the bricks from the stack and disassemble the stack layer by layer to reveal your finished paper.