Handwritten letters on beautiful stationery are one of my favorite things. And stationery stores are one of my favorite places to get lost for a few hours. The array of colors, textures, and designs of paper can be intoxicatingly beautiful.
The need to contribute a handmade gift to a Kwanzaa celebration many years ago, introduced me to the art of making paper. Not only is making your own stationery a great way to recycle all sorts of paper, but you end up with a functional piece of art that you yourself can use or you can bundle as a personal gift for a friend. My first batch of homemade paper came out slightly thick (a bit closer to cardboard than I intended.) But practice makes perfect. This is a great activity to do with kids, either indoors on a snow day or as a low-key way to spend a few hours outdoors on a sunny day. There is some prep necessary, though. So, read the directions below carefully, and give yourself a day or two to get ready for this craft.
1. Plenty of old paper (Used copy paper makes the best pulp. Shiny paper can be used as a decorative accent.)
2. Two 5×7 inch picture frames (Frames need to have flat edges. If you don’t want to use picture frames, you could use wood instead.)
3. A plastic or fiberglass screen
5. A blender
6. A staple gun (or tacks)
7. A sponge
8. Decorative items (dried flowers or herbs, spices, thread, dryer lint, potpourri, etc.)
9. Stacks of newspaper, for drying sheets of paper
10. Disposable dish towels
1. Create mold and deckle.
Remove glass from picture frames. To make mold, stretch the screen tightly over one of the frames, and staple it to the back of the frame. (You can also make your own mold and deckle from wood.) The second frame will be used as the deckle, the tool that sets the size of the paper.
2. Prepping the paper
The night before making paper, sort it by type and color. Rip paper into square inch pieces, and soak in basins of water.
MAKING THE PULP
- Put a handful of the soaked white paper into the blender, adding warm water until blender is about three-quarters full. Blend until the mixture has an oatmeal-like consistency. If the motor is straining, thin out mixture by removing some paper or adding water. Repeat this process four times.
- Pour pulp into a deep, large dishpan, and swirl it around with your hands. The mixture should be about 90 percent liquid; if needed, add more warm water.
- To keep ink from bleeding, dissolve a packet of gelatin in hot water, and then stir it into the pulp mixture.
- If using colored paper as confetti-like accents, briefly blend the soaked colored paper (about 10 seconds), then add desired amount to basic pulp. Alternatively, add other decorative items to the pulp.
MAKING ORIGINAL SHEETS OF PAPER
- Prior to dipping the mold and deckle, always stir the pulp. Hold the mold with the screen facing up. Place the deckle upside down on top of the mold so that the smooth sides of the frames are facing each other.
- Firmly grasp the mold and deckle and lower them vertically into the dishpan (so that the “bottom” of the paper is going in first.)
- Immediately bring the mold and deckle to a horizontal position under the pulp, then lift them straight up, allowing the pulp to cover the screen.
- Avoid making cardboard by allowing only a thin sheet of pulp to collect on screen. Allow the excess water to drain off for a couple of minutes by resting the mold and deckle on a corner of the dishpan.
Paper will need a space for overnight drying. Place a disposable dish cloth on top of several sheets of newspaper.
Lift off the deckle. Turn the mold over onto the dish cloth so that the pulp side is down. Using a sponge, gently pat the back side of the screen to soak up the water, sponging well around the edges; do not wipe. Continue soaking up the water until the paper begins to separate from the screen. Starting at one corner, gently remove the mold.
Allow sheets to dry undisturbed overnight. Starting at one corner, gently peel dried sheets off the kitchen cloth. If a sheet remains damp on the reverse side, turn it over and allow it to finish drying.
Once all sheets are dry, place them in a stack and set heavy books on top of the pile for a couple of days in order to flatten them. Alternatively, iron slightly damp paper between two dish cloths at a medium temperature.