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How to Make Handmade Paper

Recycle Old Paper to Make Beautiful Handmade Paper

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Sam holds up handmade paper she made from recycled old paper.

Sam holds up handmade paper she made from recycled old paper, decorated with flower petals and leaves.

Anne Helmenstine These are shapes made from handmade paper which was crafted by recycling old paper.

These are shapes made from handmade paper which was crafted by recycling old paper.

Anne Helmenstine Flower petals were sprinkled into this recycled paper to add color and interesting texture.

Flower petals were sprinkled into this recycled paper to add color and interesting texture.

Anne Helmenstine
Make beautiful paper from recycled scraps of just about any paper project you can find. Learn how to add decorative items to your paper and prepare it for writing or stamping. This is a fun craft that teaches about recycling while making a useful handmade product.

Types of Paper You Can Recycle

You can use pretty much any type of paper product for this project, but steer clear of waxed cardboard. You can use:
  • construction paper
  • printer paper
  • magazines
  • toilet paper
  • paper towels
  • paper bags
  • newspapers (will produce a grayish paper)
  • cardstock
  • non-waxed cardboard
  • napkins

Decorations

There are many materials you can add in with the paper for a decorative effect. You may wish to add flower or vegetable seeds to the paper, which can be planted.
  • flower petals
  • seeds
  • fine leaves or grass
  • foil
  • string or yarn
  • dryer lint
  • foodcoloring (you can dye your paper if you like)
  • liquid starch (add this if you want to make your paper less-absorbant so that you can write on it with ink)

Build a Frame

While you can pulp your paper and make a rough product just by pouring it out and allowing it to dry, you can form your paper into a rectangular sheet if you use a frame. I made my frame by duct-taping an old piece of screen onto a small rectangular picture frame. Alternatively, I could have stapled the screening onto the frame to make the mold. Another option is to bend a wire coat hanger into a shape and slip an old pantyhose around it to act as a screeen.

Make Your Own Paper

You are going to pulp the old paper together with water, spread it out, and allow it to dry. It's that simple!
  1. Tear the paper (feel free to mix different types) into small bits and put it into a blender.

     

  2. Fill the blender about 2/3 full with warm water.

     

  3. Pulse the blender until the pulp is smooth. If you are going to write on the paper, blend in 2 teaspoons of liquid starch.

     

  4. Set your mold in a shallow basin or pan. I used a cookie sheet. You could use a sink. Pour the blended mixture into the mold. Sprinkle in your mix-ins (thread, flower petals, etc.). Shake the mold from side to side, keeping it in the liquid, to level out your paper pulp mixture.

     

  5. You have few different options here. You could remove the mold from the liquid, let the paper dry in the mold, and then peel it off. I flipped my paper out onto my countertop and used a sponge to wick away excess water. You could press a cookie sheet onto the paper to squeeze out the excess water.
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