We all know the recycling is the current big thing – the hot button issue that everyone is aware of. Even if all you do is separate your cans and cardboard into a blue bin instead of throwing it into the black bin with the rest of the rubbish, you understand what’s going to happen to it. Your paper, cardboard and plastic will be taken away to a recycling plant before being destroyed and turned into new materials. This saves on the monetary and environmental cost of producing new materials. But if you really want to reduce your carbon footprint and go green, you could try making your own paper at home! It’s actually really easy, and we’ll talk you through every step.
Preparing Your Materials
You Will Need:
- An old picture frame, around the size you want your piece of paper
- A deep casserole dish, wide enough to fit your picture frame into
- A firm Mesh material – think the kind used to keep bugs out
- Recyclable paper – newspaper is a good place to start
- Liquid starch (around 2 teaspoons)
To prepare for making your own paper, you will first need to create a mesh screen to be your ‘mould’. To do this you need to staple or nail your firm, thin mesh screen material onto the back of your picture frame all around the edges. Make sure this is done solidly so not pieces can fall away from the frame. Any fine sieve of screen material should be fine for this. Once this is done you’re ready to start making paper!
Create A Slurry
The base of all recycled paper is a mixture called a slurry, which is basically mashed up paper materials mixed with water. You want to avoid shiny or waxed paper as it won’t mix well, and bear in mind that the colour of the paper you use and the amount of ink on it will affect the end colour of your paper.
Before you do anything, you will need to clean up your paper. Remove any plastic, staples and other contaminants from your paper – especially if you’re using junk mail! You want nothing but paper going into this mix. To create your slurry, rip your recyclable paper into small pieces. It doesn’t have to be neat at all so don’t spend too much time of this, but do make sure that your pieces are nice and small. Then place the pieces in a bowl and cover them with water. Leave this to soak for around 30-45 minutes. If you want whiter paper, add half a cup of white vinegar at this stage. Once your paper has been soaking for a while, you need to turn it into a pulp. You can do this by either putting it in a blender (a nice, easy option) or using a pestle and mortar to mash it up. Even the end of a rolling pin and a bowl will do in a pinch, just be ready for an upper body workout!
Frame And Shape
Now take your casserole dish and fill it with water until it is about half full. Your basin should be a little wider and longer than your frame, but around the same shape to make things easier. Add your pulp mix to the dish and stir it around. You want a fairly dense distribution of pulp, not a bowl full of sludge, so it’s always better to start with less water and add more rather than the other way around. The amount of water added here will determine how thick your paper is – so for thicker paper or cardboard use less water and for thinner paper use more. While you are mixing your pulp into a slurry be sure to remove any big clumps of paper. You want a fairly smooth mix so no lumps or unmixed pieces.
If you want to write on your paper or turn it into stationary, this is the time to add your 2 teaspoons of liquid starch. You don’t have to do this, but it will help prevent ink from soaking into the paper fibres. If you don’t add it, the paper will be highly absorbent and ink will likely bleed really easily. Once that’s all mixed immerse your frame into the pulp, screen side down (so the front of the frame is facing you) and lightly move it around into the pulp on top of the screen is lying uniformly flat. Now lift the screen until it is above the water and set it down over a container to dry.
Dry It Off
Once the water has stopped dripping, place a piece of fabric like a flannel over the top of the paper and gently press down to squeeze out the excess water. You can also soak the water out from the other side using a sponge. Once the paper is a bit drier you can remove it from the screen. Press out any bubbles or loose edges you find at this point. If you want perfectly flat paper, place a piece of fabric on it and thin piece of wood on top of that and leave it there while it dries. If you want the more rustic look, leave it to air dry or help it along with a hairdryer.
Give It Your Own Style
Once you’ve got the technique down you can really start having fun with your paper. While it is at the pulp stage you can add colouring, glitter or other materials to give it any colour or texture you want. You can even make your own paper from grass and leaves – simply gather them up, soak them in caustic soda for 30 minutes to ‘digest’ and then follow the instructions as if it was paper pulp. We’d love to see your paper creations, so if you have any questions or would like to show us what you’ve made, get in touch today.