How to Make Paper

Paper Crafts

I’ll start with a bit of a history lesson here on how to make paper. Then, I’ll share with you how to make paper, with an illustrated tutorial. You’ll love having handmade paper around for a wide range of scrapbooking projects, to make your own greeting cards, scrapbooking layouts, embellishments for your bookmarks and DIY gift tags, and of course, your very own art journal pages. And .. as a bonus, handmade papers make fabulous gift wraps as well!

I’m beginning with a history lesson here so that you are instantly opening your mind as to what kind of things you can ADD to your own handmade paper: leaves and ALL KINDS OF natural materials. It will make great textures. You’ll see. And doing so is not difficult at all!

The History of Handmade Paper

Paper was invented in ancient Egypt. It was a particular kind of paper, currently called papyrus, that was made from the papyrus plant.

At that time, paper was made in scrolls. The Egyptians made their scrolls by slicing the inner part of the papyrus stem. Then they flattened & pounded it into a hard, thin sheet.

Our current word “paper” stems from the word “papyrus”, however, the type of paper that we currently use is a completely different paper. Our paper was invented by Ts’ai Lun, an official at the Chinese Imperial Court at the Han Dynasty in China, at about 1900 years ago (A.D. 105).

Ts’ia Lun combined hemp, mulberry bark and rags with water. He mashed the paper into a pulp, and pressed out the liquid. Then, he hung the paper to dry outside in the sun. This is the original version of the paper that we know it today. The invention of paper has been one of the most influential developments of human communication.

These days, being crafty is popular. In this vain, paper making as a craft has also been popular for some time now. Making paper is a fun, green craft to recycle old paper into new, and personally, I love it.

While paper making can be quite sophisticated (as everyone here in artisan Italy knows….!!). The top paper makers only choose to use top materials, cotton being one of them. However, for the everyday kid craft and for people with an eye on recycling, I’m featuring an easy paper making recipe instead that recycles instead of using new paper.

How to Make Your own Eco-friendly Paper Making

As you become more proficient and experienced with paper making, I’m sure you’ll also be more adventurous. It’s about daring to experiment, use different fibers, build upon fun ideas you observe in craft shops and artisan markets. It gets particularly good when you start adding ‘other materials’ to the already-blended pulp, such as whole flowers heads, scraps of yarn, tin foil, or seeds. This will result in different textures and color-combinations. Creative experimentation leads to surprises, some good and some bad. Learn from both kinds of outcomes as you move up on the ladder of craft experience.

Easy Paper-Making Recipe

Types of Paper
Types of paper to consider including in your paper pulp:
* Computer Paper (unprinted)
* Newspaper (If you want a grayish colored paper)
* Magazines
* Egg Cartons
* Old Cards (For heavier paper)
* Toilet Paper
* Paper Bags
* Non Waxed Boxes (Pre-soak in warm water)
* Office Paper
* Tissue Paper (For finer paper)
* Typing Paper
* Napkins
* Construction Paper
All torn into 1″ by 1″ pieces.

Optional extras to add to your Paper:
* Pieces of colored paper
* Pieces of colored thread
* Dried flowers, herbs or other organic material

Materials Needed to Make Your Own Paper

* Sponge
* Wire mesh screen (aka Window Screening) to make your mold
* Wood Frame (old picture frame can be used too) (deckle)
* Staples or Tacks (For tacking screen on frame)
* Plastic Basin/Tub (Larger than your frame so it can immerse in it)
* Blender/Food Processor (For making paper pulp)
* Optional: Strainer
* White Felt or Flannel Fabric
* Dish towels (felt, blotting paper, couch paper, or newsprint are good substitutes)
* Liquid starch (optional)
* Apron, smock, or old clothing
* Towels for cleaning up water
* Other optional items: disposable aluminum brownie pan, rolling pin & an iron

Instructions on How to Make Paper

1. Select the pieces of paper to be recycled. You can even mix different types to create your own unique paper.

2. Rip the paper into small bits, and place into the blender. (about half full). Fill the blender with warm water. Run the blender slowly at first then increase the speed until the pulp looks smooth and well blended for half a minute or so. Check that no flakes of paper remain. If there are, blend longer.

3. The next step is to make a mold. The mold, in this case, is made simply by stretching fiberglass screen (plain old door and window screen) over a wooden frame and stapling it. It should be as tight as possible.

4. Fill the basin about half way with water. Add 3 blender loads of pulp. (the more pulp you add the thicker the finished paper will be) Stir the mixture.

5. Now is the time to add the liquid starch for sizing.(This is not necessary but if the paper is going to be used for writing on, you should add some, the starch helps to prevent inks from soaking into the paper fibers.) Stir 2 teaspoons of liquid starch into the pulp.

Place the mold into the pulp and then level it out while it is submerged. Gently wiggle it side-to-side until the pulp on top of the screen looks even.

6. Slowly lift the mold up until it is above the level of the water. Wait until most of the water has drained from the new paper sheet. If the paper is very thick, remove some pulp from the tub. If it is too thin, add more pulp and stir the mixture again.

7. When the mold stops dripping, gently place one edge on the side of a fabric square (felt or flannel square). Gently ease the mold down flat, with the paper directly on the fabric. Use a sponge to press out as much water as possible. Wring the excess water from the sponge back into the large plastic tub.

8. Now comes the tricky part. Hold the fabric square flat and slowly lift the edge of the mold. The wet sheet of paper should remain on the fabric. If it sticks to the mold, you may have pulled to fast or not pressed out enough water. It takes a little practice. You can gently press out any bubbles and loose edges at this point.

9. Repeat the steps above, and stack the fabric squares on a cookie sheet. Save one fabric square to place on the top of the stack to cover the last piece of paper. Use another cookie sheet to press the remaining water out of the stack. (do this outside or in the bathtub, it can make a mess)

10. After you press the stack, gently separate the sheets. They can be dried by hanging on a clothesline or laying them out on sheets of newspaper. When they have dried peel them off the fabric and voila! you have paper!

Paper Making Procedure

Paper making is a wet affair, to protect your space, your skin and cloths with apron, rags, and a plastic sheet.

A. Remove any plastic, tape or coating from the scrap paper, and tear the paper into small (1″) pieces. Soak the paper in warm water in the large tub for at least 30 minutes or, if you can, overnight.

B. Make a deckle frame with an alu pan, a wooden frame, a coat hanger-based shape, or an embroidery hoop.
Aluminum Pan: Cut a square hole in the bottom of the disposable aluminum brownie pan about 1″ smaller than the pan’s outer dimension. Cut a piece of wire screen large enough to cover the hole when placed in the bottom of the pan.

Wooden Frame: Buy or build a frame which you will prepare for paper making. If making a wooden frame, tightly staple or tack a wire screen to the frame. A plastic or wooden picture frame can make an excellent paper-making frame.

Wire Clothes Hanger
Bend the wire hanger to make any shape of your choice. Cover your hanger with a nylon stocking and staple it in place.

Embroidery Hoop
Place a screen or nylon stocking between two hoops to make another inexpensive frame.

C. Fill the blender halfway with warm water, then add a handful of the soaked paper. Making sure the lid is on tight, blend at medium speed until you no longer see pieces of paper (the pulp has a soupy consistency called a slurry). You can blend in a piece of construction paper for color; or stir in short pieces of thread, dried flowers or herbs for texture.

D. Pour the blended mixture into the large tub and then fill the tub with warm water, mixing thoroughly until the ingredients are evenly dispersed.

E. Slide your frame into the tub, allowing some pulp to settle onto the screen and, still holding the frame underwater, gently move it back and forth to get an even layer of fibers on the screen.

F. Lift the frame out of the mixture, keeping it flat. Allow it to drip over the tub until most of the water has drained through. You should have a uniform layer of the pulp mixture on the screen. Press the pulp gently with your hand to squeeze out excess moisture. Soak up excess water from the bottom of the screen with a sponge.

G. Couching: Place clean dishtowels, felt, couch paper or newspaper on a flat surface and flip the screen paper-side-down on the cloth. Lift the screen gently, leaving behind the paper.

H. Cover the paper with another cloth or piece of felt, and squeeze out moisture using a rolling pin. Place the sheets out of the way to dry. You may want to let the paper dry overnight.

When the paper is mostly dry, you may want to use an iron at a medium dry setting. When the paper is dry, pull the cloth gently from both ends, stretching it to loosen the paper from the cloth. Gently peel off the paper.

I. When you’re finished making paper, collect the leftover pulp in a strainer and throw it out, or freeze it in a plastic bag for future use. Don’t pour the pulp down the drain (or unless you have a crush on your plumber.)

J. Enjoy your paper. Use it for greeting cards, writing pads, as a base for artwork, for origami or other paper craft.

Paper Making Glossary

Couching: Transferring the sheet of paper from the frame to the absorbent material.
Deckle: A frame that holds the pulp in place and determines the size of the paper.
Fibrous: Made of fibers; a fiber is one of the thin, (generally microscopic) strands which comprise plant tissue.
Pulp: Fibrous material prepared from wood or recovered waste paper for use in manufacturing paper.
Recycle: Reuse of a material.
Slurry: A liquid mixture made up of fibers and fillers used in paper-making.


Find more projects tagged …