The Papemelroti Guide to Handmade Paper Making



Our kit includes:



See our Paper Making Kits


The History of Handmade Paper

It all started way back in 105 A.D. when a Chinese eunuch, T'sai Lun, discovered a way to make paper out of old rags.  The Chinese closely guarded their new secret and it wasn't until 500 years later that papermaking reached Korea and Japan.

It then spread westward to Europe.  In the United States, a German colonist set up the first American paper mill near Philadelphia in 1690.

Until 150 years ago there was o paper other than that made by hand.

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The Papermaking Process

To make paper, there are three steps that T'sai Lun, huge papermaking machines and modern handpaper-makers alike follow.  They are: preparing the material from which you will make paper, forming the sheet and drying the sheet.

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What You Need

  • deckle* - a frame without a screen (included in our kit)

  • mould* - frame with screen (included in our kit)

  • laundry starch or "gawgaw"

  • used paper - should not be glossy or coated.  Examples of paper that can be used: computer paper, intermediate pad, typewriting paper, onion skin, coupon bond, envelopes, receipts, office memos, etc.  Do not use newspapers as your handmade paper will discolor.  Use colored paper to add color.

  • bucket of water

  • blender - Use of the blender is optional.  If you do not have a blender, soak torn paper in water for at least one day to soften paper, then pound soaked paper till it disintegrates.

  • newspapers

  • sponge or chamois

  • tub or basin - Bigger than mould and deckle (with space enough for your hands at the sides).

  • mug or 'tabo' to transfer water

*kits are available with Handmade Paper Making Instructions and Craft Ideas at all Papemelroti Branches

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Basic Instructions

  1. Tear paper into pieces about 1/2" square.  You can also use a paper shredder if you have one.

  2. Put torn paper up to 1/3 full in blender.  Add water until 2/3 full.  Blend 2-3 seconds.  Repeat until you get the desired consistency.  (Paper should become separately frayed fibers.  If you want an interesting texture, add dried leaves or thin stalks and blend again.)

  3. Pour mixture into tub.  (Technical name for this is pulp slurry) Repeat procedure with blender until it is about 4 inches deep or more.  (To make thin paper, more water is needed.  For paper with thickness of bond paper, 3 grams of pulp for every liter of water is advisable.  Experiment!)

  4. Add gawgaw to mixture to serve as a binder. (To make gawgaw, use 1 tbsp. of uncooked starch for a tub of water.  If you use cooked starch, amount is usually 10% based on the dried weight of the pulp.)  You can add pressed leaves or flowers, corn hair, thread, etc. to mixture.  Just make sure these are paper thin or else they will not attach to the paper pulp.

  5. Hold the mould and deckle firmly together with deckle uppermost and screen in between.   Dip into tub and scoop up pulp.

  6. Lift frames up and let water drain back into tub.  Shake gently to distribute fibers evenly.  Continue draining by tipping from one corner.

  7. Carefully separate deckle, and lay mould upside down (with the wet pulp on the underside) on a folded sheet of newspaper.

  8. Soak up excess water with sponge or piece of chamois pressed against screen surface.   If you are making plenty of sheets, you may pile the sheets with the folded newspaper between them until the time you can lay them out to dry.

  9. Slowly separate mould from the sheet.  If paper still sticks to mould, this means you need to remove more water with the sponge.

  10. Let paper sheets dry for 1/2 to 1 day.  When they dry, you can easily separate them from the newspaper.  (To squeeze out water and flatten sheets, you can place the pile of wet paper and newspapers between a couple of boards and top it with a heavy object for a while.

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Fun Projects to Do

a) To put color in your work, you may either start with recycled colored stock or pour liquid fabric dye into the blender.  You can also use vegetable dyes, Rit dye or procion dye.

b) Another way of livening up your paper is by embedding things in your new sheet of paper while it is still wet and on the mould.  It can be quite tricky balancing that leaf across the paper but a good arrangement is worth it.  You can also put these little add-ons directly to the vat or basin.

c) Paper will adhere to paper when it is damp, so you can attach two sheets together.   Apply pressure at the point of contact.  If you want to embed an object which is thick enough to make a bump, you might laminate a second, thinner sheet on top of the object to hold it in place.  You can laminate two different colors of paper to get a two-toned effect.

d) You can form embossed images by using cookie cutters and different objects (like the dove image at right).  Painting them or adding glitter or gold outlines will also give them a unique look.  Use as the focal point of your artwork or to accent a picture frame, box or scrapbook cover.  Here it is used to spruce up a kraft paper bag.

e) Now, you can take all of the above methods and combine them in any way you like.   You could blend up several different colored pulps and embed them to make an image or design.  You could make pulps of different textures for a texture collage.   Maybe some of your paper experiments have one particular portion that you like.   Tear it out and embed it in a new sheet of a contrasting color.  Make a polka dot sheet.  You can bind your papers together and make a book or put several sheets together to use for stationery . Some may be ready to mat and hang up for display.   Others may be for wrapping gifts or making greeting cards.

You will probably find more and more ways of decorating your handmade paper as you recycle more and more of your used paper.  Have fun doing it!


View craft tutorials

See our other paper sheets available

Try your hand at Clay Sculpture here


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