Paper Making

Fernwood Studio recently held a paper making workshop. A gallery/slide show of images showing the easy steps are shown here. Paper making is a very easy craft and most satisfying as it is  goof-proof and it gives  instant results. The equipment is pretty basic: tub, blender, cotton linter, mold/deckle, wool blankets, sponge. The mold is simply hardware cloth (screen) stretched over a wood frame. Embroidery hoops, picture frames, stretcher bars can be used to make a mold. I stapled the screen on the frame and covered it with duct tape. The deckle is a wooden frame (same size as mold) which holds the pulp onto the screen. CLICK ON THE FIRST IMAGE BELOW TO ENLARGE AND VIEW A SLIDESHOW OF THE PROCESS.

I start with a sheet of cotton linter which I get from artists’ supply stores.  It looks like thick water color paper. Several sheets of paper can be made from a single sheet of cotton linter.  A small piece is torn off (about 2″ square), soaked a bit in water, then torn into small bits and added to a blender filled with water. Trust me, a little paper goes a long way and you don’t want to overfill blender with paper as it will tax the motor. I recommend getting a used blender and don’t use your good one.  In about 30 seconds, the paper is blended and then is  poured through a sieve into a container.


The pulp gets set aside as more paper pulp is made. Re-use the water as many times as possible, then  add more as needed. When there is about  1-2 cups of pulp, put it into a large tub of water filled 3/4 full. Bus tubs work real well or any other deep tub will work too. Wave your outstretched hand in the water to make a slurry (pulp-infused water). Take the mold and deckle and slide into the tub and slowly lift up, catching the paper fibers. Remove deckle and turn mold on its side to drain off water. When stream slows to a trickle, turn upside down on wool blanket or wool felt to start the “couching.” Couching is the process of removing enough water from paper and catching the paper fibers onto the wool cloth.


Using a sponge, repeatedly press to remove excess water. You will have to do it several times all over. When enough water is removed, the mold can be lifted up from one side and slowly continue down the length of the paper. Sometimes you may have to finger-flick the paper loose or gently nudge a corner loose with wet sponge. The paper will release from screen and there it is. Let it air dry on flat surface. If you are not pleased with the results (want to change thickness, add more “stuff,”etc.) you can start all over again simply by touching screen into water in tub and paper will blend immediately back into the water.


If you need to stop the paper making process  and want to continue another time, here’s what to do. Sieve out the pulp from the water and place left-over pulp  in a plastic bag and either refrigerate or freeze (for longer storage). Do NOT pour pulp water in any of your plumbing as it will clog the pipes.  Emptying the tub of water is easier to do outside. Carefully take the paper pulp tub outside and pour through a sieve into a big bucket. If you aren’t going to save pulp, throw it away and pour water into garden. Sometimes I will pat the leftover pulp into a mold (shell, heart-shaped dish, etc.), gently push out water and drain. When dry (it will take a few days) I pop it out and have a nice paper shape to use in future projects.


For interest, dried material (grasses, leaves, flowers) can be added to the slurry. Snips of mylar garland (you know the kind that appears at Christmas), feathers/threads/yarns, etc. can also be added. The paper sheets  can be used for book covers, note cards, book markers, gift wrap, collage backgrouns, you name it. Have fun trying your hand at this easy and satisfying craft. Happy paper making!



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