Here are two stationery fax…pun intended: (1) The print industry wouldn’t be what it is today without paper (2) There’s a high likelihood that we’ve all have made paper from scratch at some point in our childhood school days. With these in mind, we’re paying homage to the humble beginnings of paper-making by revisiting the childhood activity and learning how to make paper at home — adult- and quarantine-friendly style (extra brownie points for also being recyclable and sustainable).
While making paper from scratch is no easy task, it isn’t impossible. At the same time, homemade paper also has a few unique benefits. In addition to the actual paper-making process, we’ll be considering the history of paper and also how small businesses can use this to give them a personalized edge they might’ve been missing.
Paper History The invention of paper has been traced back to ancient China with the process of making paper having been attributed to an official in the imperial court. Apparently, mulberry bark, other fibers, fishnets, and old rags were mixed together with water, laid it out flat where the sun would hit, and left out to dry. The results were one of the greatest inventions mankind has ever known: paper.
Today, there are literally hundreds of types of paper to choose from, and all the paper styles seem to have something that differentiates them from the next. So, what better way to flaunt that your small business really does stand out from the rest than through personalized company business cards, letters, and other advertising materials and promotional items with your business logo, slogan, and handwritten charm that have been created from homemade paper.
Tools, Materials, & Process Of course, we know that you’re going to need to write on the paper, but prior to preparing your work station, ask yourself the following questions from a business perspective: (a) What do you want this project to do (b) How is the piece going to be distributed (c) How durable does this piece need to be? After you’ve figured these out, it’s time to prepare your paper — in which the DIY Network has made extra easy by presenting a detailed step-by-step paper-making process.
scissors ● blender ● spoon ● sponge ● large bowls ● shallow tray
picture frame ● window screening ● natural coloring (ex: tea) ● warm water
natural scent (essential oils) ● dish towels ● scrap paper ● leaves
The key tool, or piece of equipment, you will need to successfully make paper is the sheet mold. Make a simple mold with a 4″ by 6″ or 5″ by 7″ picture frame and a piece of plastic needlepoint canvas cut to fit inside the frame. If you want to give the surface of your finished paper a finer texture, cut a similar-sized piece of plastic or wire window screening and lay it on top of the plastic canvas in the frame.
TIP: Remember that paper-making can get a bit messy, so set up your workspace outside if you can or on a table with a waterproof surface. Place a shallow dish or tray (such as a baking dish, foil pan or cookie sheet with sides) directly in front of you that’s large enough to hold the sheet mold. Spread a dry dish towel next to the dish or tray.
Step 1: Shred / Soak Scrap Paper Many kinds of scrap paper work well for making the basic paper pulp, including office paper, newspaper, junk mail, greeting cards, envelopes, wrapping paper, and unused napkins or paper towels. For the whitest result, use white paper with no ink on it. Remove any staples or bits of plastic. Run the paper through a document shredder or, for a more rustic look, cut or tear the paper into thin strips or small pieces then place the pieces in a large bowl of warm water (two handfuls of paper scraps make one sheet of finished paper). Use separate bowls for soaking different paper colors. Let them soak for at least 15 minutes (for soft paper, such as newsprint or construction paper) to an hour or more (for hard paper, such as greeting cards) to soften the paper. This is an opportune time to ask yourself how durable this piece needs to be. If this paper needs to last for a while in the hands of your client, you may want to chose a thicker paper that will withstand pocket shoving and briefcase shuffling.
Step 2: Blend / Customize Pulp To prepare a basic pulp, place one or two handfuls of soaked paper and about 2 cups of water in a blender. Put on the lid and blend the ingredients for 15 to 30 seconds, until the pulp has a texture something like runny oatmeal (image 1). If the mixture is thick and pasty, add more water and blend for another 10 to 15 seconds. Keep in mind that basic pulp is usually grayish, beige, or pinkish depending on the paper you start with and what kind of ink is on it. If you’re interested in adding some color to your homemade paper, toss in some shredded construction paper, a few drops of food coloring, or a handful of berries to the soaked paper and water before blending. You could also use tea, coffee, or a colorful fruit juice as the soaking liquid instead of using water. To add texture to the paper, you’re welcome to blend plant parts into the basic pulp for a unique fibrous texture. Leaves with long fibers, such as those of yuccas, hostas, or ornamental grasses, work well. Onion skins, fruit peels, and fresh or dried corn husks also produce interesting results. Cut the pieces into 1/2- to 1-inch-long sections, then use 1 or 2 handfuls of chopped plant parts or soaked paper for each when blending the pulp.
TIP: Give your paper a nice scent by adding a few drops of perfume, cologne, or an essential oil made from herbs before blending the soaked paper and water or sprinkle a little fragrant spice (such as cinnamon or curry powder) into the pulp.
Step 5: Pour Pulp Pour about half of the blended pulp over the screening in your sheet mold then use the back of a spoon to spread the pulp evenly. Take it all the way to the edges of the frame if you want your paper to have straight sides, or leave the edges ragged if you like the rustic look. Add more pulp as needed to fill in any thin spots. When the screen is covered, lift the mold and tilt it a bit to let more of the water drain off.
Step 6: Remove Screening / Let Paper Dry Set one side of the sheet mold on the dish towel, then flip the mold over completely (image 1). Lift the frame of the mold, leaving the screening in place, and set it aside. Starting from the middle and working out to the edges, press firmly on the screening with a sponge to flatten the paper and draw out more of the water (image 2), then remove the screening. With one hand at each end, pick up the dish towel holding the damp piece of finished paper, and set it in an airy spot. After a few hours, gently peel the sheet of paper from the towel, then set it on a drying rack or hang it on a clothesline to finish drying. If the paper curls or warps as it dries, place some heavy books on it to flatten it.
TIP: Make sure to rinse excess pulp off of the mold frame and screening between creating each sheet. It’s a good idea to set a bowl or pan in your sink to catch the rinse water, because paper pulp can easily clog the drain. When you’re finished, dump the rinse water and any remaining pulp outside on your compost pile or in your garden.
Paper Advancement As time has marched on and technology has continued to grow exponentially, paper has been given quite the reputation (and not necessarily a good one, at that). We’ve all heard the benefits of going paperless, saving trees, and the like. These sayings, while very popular, are not necessarily rooted in truth.
For example, paper production supports forest sustainability! Paper as we know it comes from trees, with the overwhelming majority (about 95 percent) of the raw material used to make paper coming from trees. To accomplish tree-paper, the raw wood of the tree must first be turned into wood “pulp.” This pulp is basically a watery “soup” of cellulose wood fibers, lignin (the natural glue that holds wood fibers together), water, and the chemicals used during the pulping process.
When it comes to paper use and sustainability, you might find the following facts to be refreshing and useful, too:
- The fibers of paper can be recycled multiple times before they are too small to be used again, resulting in paper being one of the most recycled products in the world.
- It has been easy to make a correlation that using paper means you are wasting trees, but that is just not the case. Trees are not a finite resource and are continuing to be replenished in the forests.
If you want your business to really stand out in the face of competitors, we encourage you to be ambitious. Hone in your artistic skills and be especially assiduous in connecting on a personal level with your audience by including thank-you notes, item details, and the like on your handmade paper.
For any business, the kind of paper you use for a specific project or campaign could affect your execution — do you want to use paper that’s elegantly tea-stained for a more exotic appeal or add a light spray of rose water as a signifying mark? And the stakes to be “something different” than other businesses out there are even higher if you’re a small business owner. As such, we believe that thinking outside the box (and dedicating time to make yourself stand out) is crucial.
You could also check out the videos listed below for a visual process:
- How to Make Handmade Paper
- DIY Tea-Dyed Paper
- Making Paper From Plants
- Making Paper From Old Egg Cartons
- How to Make Faux Handmade Paper
Documedia is committed to providing you with paper products that are FSC and SFI compliant as well as committed to spreading the word about paper’s sustainability in today’s market.