People have been making paper from plants for centuries. The Egyptians are famous for their paper made from the papyrus reed. Paper has also been made from flax, day lilies and even okra, that ubiquitous southern vegetable. Okra paper is rather rough, so you should not expect it to be something to write on. However, it makes lovely wrapping paper and can be used in all kinds of crafts.
Things You'll Need
- Okra stems
- Plain wooden frame, slightly larger than the paper you want to make
- Window screen, large enough to fit over the frame
- Staple gun
- 14 gallon plastic bin
- Large stainless steel cooking pot
- Soda ash
- Wooden spoon
- Large sponge
- Piece of felt or wool fabric the same size as your frame
- Old newspapers
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Create the Pulp
Cut the okra stems into 2- to 3-inch pieces and soak in water for 2 to 3 hours.
Fill a large stainless steel cooking pot with water and add the stems. Add 1 tbsp. of soda ash for each quart of water in the pot and stir to combine using a wooden spoon.
Simmer the stems for up to 3 hours (until they are thoroughly tender). Drain and let cool, rinsing well.
Put a handful of the stems into your blender and fill with water. The stems are tough to blend, so be careful not to put too many stems in at once, as you can burn out the blender’s motor. Pulse for 12 to 15 seconds at a time, until the stems are thoroughly blended with the water. Repeat with the rest of the stems.
As you blend each batch, add it to your plastic bin.
Build the Paper Mold
Cut the window screen to size; it should reach over the edges of the wooden frame.
Using a staple gun, staple the screen to the wooden frame.
Rotate the frame as you staple, making sure the screen is as tight as possible.
Make the Paper
Add enough water to the plastic bin to fill it. The okra pulp will float to the top and form a coating on the water.
Shake out any clumps in the pulp by submerging your hands just below the water line and gently swishing them, stirring the top few inches of water.
Hold the frame vertically and lower it into the water. Once it is below the water line, slowly tilt it horizontally toward you and begin to lift it toward the surface of the water.
Slowly lift the frame out of the water, gently shaking it back and forth, picking up the okra pulp. Let the frame drain over the bin for 15 to 20 seconds, then set aside.
Remove the Paper from the Mold
Lay the piece of felt or fabric on a flat surface and place one edge of your frame mold on the side of the fabric. Gently ease the mold down, making sure the paper is in direct contact with the fabric.
Use a sponge to press out the excess water, wringing it out into the plastic bin between pressings.
Once most of the excess water is removed, hold down one corner of the fabric and slowly peel off the mold. The paper should remain on the fabric. If it sticks to the mold, you have either pulled too fast or didn’t remove enough water. Simply place the mold back down and repeat the process with the sponge to remove more water.
As you pull the mold from the okra paper, leave the sheet to dry for several minutes. Once it is dry enough to pick up, transfer it to a stack of clean, dry newspaper to finish drying.