Saturday, June 14, 2014


 Papermaking can be fast, easy, and (best of all) cheap! You can do it in your own kitchen or studio with very little equipment, most of which you already own.
Dried flowers have been incorporated into the paper sheet!

There are many good papermaking books you could read, & they usually mention immersing a mold and deckle in slurry (watery pulp).

how-to, tutorial
Large, clean sponges and embroidery hoop.
Instead, I use a round embroidery hoop
stretched with organdy!
The hoops come in various sizes 
& in ovals, too. Or you can
make your own screen with, um,
actual window screening. Either stretch the
screen in an embroidery hoop or dispense
with the latter and simply secure the screen
edges with duct tape.

To make the pulp, I've used molded cardboard egg cartons, junk mail, recycled office paper, clean paper towels, used gift wrap, and an old phone book. Other papers that work well include grocery bags, construction paper scraps, paper napkins, newsprint, and tissue paper.

· Recycled papers
· Large pan (like a dishpan)
· A blender
· Embroidery hoop stretched w/organdy or organza, or window screening w/ taped  edges
· Sponges, cloth rags, and towels
· Colander or strainer
· Metal spatula

Two thin layers with plants & holes.
Optional materials:  
· Glass or Plexiglas panes
· Colorants
· Turkey baster
· Cookie cutters
· Plant materials
· Cooking powders, herbs and seasonings
· Ribbons, string, doilies, glitter, cheesecloth, confetti, etc.

Tear papers into small pieces and soak them in water overnight to soften. Make a large batch of about four cups. For a whiter, softer paper, use toilet tissue, facial tissue, or paper towels, none of which require overnight soaking. (Of course, with such acidic papers you won't create a high quality, archival product.)

Note: I have created plant-based pulp in the past, and mixed in a little paper pulp with it for better bonding. I cooked plant materials with firewood ash and rinsed well before blending the pulp. Study up elsewhere on methodology and precautions to take if you plan to make pulp from plant matter.
how-to, tutorial
As sheets dry, you can form wavy edges if desired.
Don't burn out the blender!
Fill the blender about ¾ full of plain water and add ½ cup of pre-soaked, softened paper bits. Begin with short bursts of the blender on a coarse setting. Be careful that you don't overwork the motor. Gradually progress to higher speeds. Blend until the pulp has a soupy consistency. Sometimes you might even wish to deliberately stop blending while you can still see bits of papers, so they will show in the finished product.

Pull a sheet:    
While there are several other methods of pulling a sheet, here's the simple one I use: Fill a large, deep pan halfway with water and then partially submerge the hoop-screen in it. Next, pour thin pulp directly from the blender into the hoop. Wiggle the hoop a bit to swirl the pulp and distribute it evenly, and then lift the hoop from the water.

tutorial, mixed-media
It's fun to incorporate gauze, decorative fishnet, or cheesecloth into paper pulp. With the pink paper shown here, I just picked up wet pulp with my fingers and packed it onto orange fishnet here and there, pressing it firmly into—even under—the netting haphazardly.

tutorial, how-to, art+paper
Halloween gauze + paper pulp in a hoop.

(lifting sheets of handmade
paper onto the surface on which they will be dried) is traditionally done with felts, but a pad of newspaper, a blanket, or a towel works, too. While I do rest the hoop on a dry towel while sponging excess water from the pulp, I do not make a pressed stack in the usual manner.
1. Place the pulpy hoop on a towel. Press the pulp flat with a damp synthetic sponge. One sponging is not enough. Wring out the sponge well and repeat, perhaps with a different, dry towel now underneath. Absorb as much water as possible as you press around the inside of the hoop. This forces the pulp to flatten and bond somewhat to the screen.
2. Instead of using pressing boards to keep my sheets flat, I apply a very easy technique: Invert the hoop (with the flattened pulp still stuck to it) over onto a pane of glass or even directly onto a non-porous countertop!
3. To release the sheet from its "mold" and to form a tight bond with the hard glass or Formica surface, rub all over the back of the organdy "screen" (the underside is now facing up) with a dry sponge or cloth. Pay special attention to the edges to liberate the sheet from the hoop.
4. Then remove the hoop and press the damp sheet very firmly to the glass or the countertop. Thin sheets stick very well and dry flat. In fact, later you may need a metal spatula to free them (carefully) when they are thoroughly dry. If warping does occur, it will appear at the edges first. Place a heavy weight on top to flatten, or cover the sheet with a pressing cloth and iron it flat at a medium heat setting.

handmade, papermaking, weaving
Besides handmade paper, this weaving includes fibers,
fabric, bamboo skewers, art paper, and gold leaf.

Adding color:
Coloring agents can be added either to pulp in the blender or to pulled sheets. Fabric dye is best (in my opinion) but ink, tempera paint, watercolor, food coloring, even liquid acrylic paint can be used for pigment. In addition, some tissues and construction papers bleed their color into the pulp. (Several of the coloring agents mentioned here are not colorfast or lightfast.)
You can combine small batches of different-colored pulps into a single artwork, too. Cookie-cutter shapes are easy to make, and they can be pieced together, mosaic-style, while the pulp is wet.  Or do a web search on "pulp painting" and you'll learn how to create a free-form paper piece with a teaspoon, eyedropper, or turkey baster. Here's a link to another way (NOT free-form), using stencils:

Other additives:
For color, scent, or added interest, the following materials can be thrown into the blender with the pulp, or pressed into a "finished" sheet that needs something extra: curry, turmeric, or chili powder; dried dill, basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, or thyme; ground cinnamon or paprika; and saffron. Try tea leaves, instant tea or coffee, or coffee grounds, too.
You can also add confetti, glitter, or small pieces of snipped threads. Throw in a little dryer lint if you wish! TIP: Use lint from a load of denims for blue specks.

Texture techniques:
Emboss (or deboss, depending upon which side of the handmade paper you use) by forcefully couching a wet sheet directly onto a thick stencil, plastic template, cord, hefty crocheted doily, or textured rubber matting. Leave the textured articles in place, with a weight on top, until the paper has dried.
Another idea is to embed dried leaves, flower petals, ribbons, and more between thin layers of wet pulp. Or deliberately wrinkle the couched, wet sheet and allow it to dry that way. Fold, pleat, mold, and sculpt the paper!
TIP: When you are finished, strain the slurry and store leftover pulp covered in the fridge. Never, ever, EVER  pour it down the drain!
Use your dry handmade paper for journal pages, book covers, collage materials, and many other creations. It's wonderfully absorbent, so dye it, paint it, and draw on it. Cut it, pierce it, sew or weave with it.



  1. Thanks so much, Paula, for sharing this info! Your instructions are wonderfully clear, and I already have everything on your materials list. So I'm all excited about giving paper making a go!

  2. as always, Paula your tutorials are crystal clear and easy to follow and understand.
    you are a so knowledgeable in so many of these 'tricks of the trade" things, and so generous in sharing with us. i especially like the fact that you give us tips on using 'stuff' we already have instead of having to go out and buy more "stuff". Yey!
    looks easy and fun . i am on it!

  3. Love this tute. I wish I could drop everything in my life right now and make paper. You have some great ideas for additions; I never thought of adding herbs and spices. Have compulsively saved the spices from a yard sale spice rack given to me complete with old spices. I knew there'd be a use for them someday. The embroidery hoop idea is a clever tip. I have the equipment and have even been saving egg cartons since I read you can make paper from them (man, do they pile up quickly, or, uh, time passes quickly and I didn't get around to making the paper....). One day.... Would love to see more projects you've created with handmade paper.

  4. Wow, Paula! These are the most well-written instructions I've seen on one of my favorite subjects. And your suggestions for what to include in the paper itself are unique and very beautiful; your paper creations are stand-alone works of art. Thank you so much.

  5. My thanks to Cheryl, Anon, Gigi, Rebeca, and all are my peeps! I just met with a former student of mine from way back, and now my heart is even more full! Thanks for your lovely words.


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