For a long time now I’ve been meaning to have a go at making paper. My lovely Dad bought me a deckle and mould a couple of years ago and i finally got the chance to put them into practice over the weekend. If you don’t happen to have a deckle and mould (and I suspect not many people will!) then you can make your own quite cheaply using picture frames.
Handmade paper is a great way of recycling used paper – non-glossy, without too much black ink on it is what you’re after. Unfortunately recycled paper isn’t suitable as the fibres are too short and won’t gel together particularly well to form new paper.
Once you’ve collected the paper you’re going to use you need to tear it into thin strips or simply shred it if you’ve got access to a shredder.
It then needs to soak in a bowl of cold water overnight so the fibres soak up as much water as possible.
You’re now ready to start the messy process of making the paper itself, so it’s a good idea to get everything organised.
You’ll need a pile of newspapers on the table, covered with an old towel. This is going to be where you’ll place your sheets of handmade paper as they come out of the mould (you’ll need plenty of tea towels too – one to lay over each piece of paper to soak up the water).
Next to the towel covered pile of newspapers you need a large container into which you pour cold water to a depth of about 2 inches (it’s better to have too little water than too much as you can always add water later).
Now it’s time to prepare your shredded paper that’s been soaking. Squeeze a few handfuls out, pop them in the food processor, cover with water and blitz until they form a paste.
Transfer this paste to the shallow water bath on your table and give it a stir. Repeat the above stages until you’ve turned all your shredded paper into paste and stirred it all in the water bath.
At this stage you can add glitter, scraps of yarn, or dried flowers to the mixture and stir them in carefully.
You’re now ready to make paper! Holding the mould so that the net section is nearest to you pop the deckle on top of the mould. The deckle will give you a nice neat edge to your paper. Holding both the deckle and mould together, slide them into the water bath at an angle of about 45 degrees and gently scoop up some of the water pulp. Gently withdraw the deckle and mould making sure the pulp is evenly distributed on the netting. If you give it a little shake as you pull it out of the bath this will help. Make sure all the water has drained through the netting (if you tilt the deckle and mould the water should drain out of the corner). It’s really important that your water bath is big enough. Mine was only just large enough and it was quite a struggle to get the pulp onto the deckle, but it was the largest container I could find. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for something larger that I can use for my next batch!
Lift off the deckle and place a clean tea towel on top of the layer of pulp which will become your paper. Carefully flip it over onto the pile of newspapers on your table. If you rub your fingers over the netting then the paper should start to come away from the mould and stick to the tea towel instead. You can then pop another clean tea towel on top and get on with making your second sheet. Continue in this way until you’ve used up all of the pulp, layering up your sheets of paper with tea towels between them as you go.
To get as much water out of your paper as possible, pop a chopping board and a heavy pan on top of the pile of papers to weigh them down and leave for a good half hour.
Once the half hour’s up, you can remove the pan etc and take off the top cloth. You’ll find that the handmade paper sticks to the tea towels. What you do next is to hang the tea towels, with the paper attached to them, and leave them to dry overnight or longer (mine took two nights).
You should then be able to carefully peel away your handmade paper and give the sheets a gentle iron if the edges have curled up.
I’m definitely going to experiment with adding different bits to the pulp and I might try putting tea bags in the water bath to see if it will give my paper a sepia colour!