Everyone has a scrap paper stash for grocery lists and keeping the kids coloring and reverent during Sunday services. Here’s how to take your scrap paper and turn it into homemade paper for crafts and card making. This upcycled craft project is so simple that kids and adults alike will enjoy it – we give you specific instructions for making homemade paper with a group. You do need some simple equipment, but it’s nothing you DIY peeps can’t handle. So, grab your students, your kids and your friends and get going on your homemade paper!
Why Have Homemade Paper on Hand?
Is this even a question? You can use homemade paper for:
- gift tags
- handmade cards
- wrapping paper
- specialty homemade gifts
- place cards for holiday meals
- post cards
- holiday ornaments
- scrap booking
- any other paper craft
Homemade paper is one of the best things to have tucked away in your craft cabinet because it’s so versatile. Learning to make your own homemade paper means you can control what goes into it and how it turns out. You can design your homemade paper for each project!
I geek out over upcycled projects and making your own homemade paper in a great green activity for both kids and adults. It’s a very visual way to show how we can take one item that is no longer needs and turn it into another object that is needed. Paper is everywhere and you’ll soon learn to sort your scraps by color and type of paper just so you can make new batches of homemade paper.
Paper making is as addictive as candle making! Speaking of candle making (Candlemas, February 2nd, is coming up!), if you like to learn to make your own candle molds from upcycled materials, click here.
Upcycled crafts from simple materials you might like:
- Upcycled Crafts from the Garden – this has a huge list of natural materials that can be turned into gifts and trinkets for any holiday.
- We often make the sweater sachet ornaments shown as a tutorial about half-way down this post – click here. For Valentine’s Day we do hearts and for Christmas we do Christmas trees. You can stuff them with any aromatic herb and they can be made from old sweaters and even socks.
- These canning jar lanterns can be adapted for any holiday and make lovely gifts if you like to celebrate holidays by making neighbor gifts. You can make votive (tea light) candles to put inside or you can purchase battery operated ones (which is what we use when the children are handling them).
- Cookie cutters can be used as stencils for just about any kind of paper craft – here are a few ideas. We have a holiday tree made of grapevines that lives in our house year-round and which we decorate for every holiday. The kids usually make the ornaments but over time they degrade and we need to make new ones. I don’t mind repeating the crafts and neither do my kids. In fact, I look forward to the day when I’m doing this with my grand-kids.
- Speaking of ornaments, here’s how to make a small and simple grapevine wreath – click here. Use that to make a quilt scrap wreath that can be tailored to any holiday with the right colors from your fabric stash. For a tutorial on a quilt scrap wreath, just visit our guest post on Melissa K Norris’s site – click here.
- As always, I highly recommend Rooted Childhood’s monthly subscription. Each packet is like a little gift of stories, poems, craft tutorials, recipes and reflections that will inspire you to be hands-on this month. This high quality publication is not only gorgeous but also celebrates the family without apology but with joy!
Make Homemade Paper
Homemade paper making is a messy, creative, useful upcycled craft. It’s simple enough to do yourself, but equally fun to at parties or with groups of friends. I make a lot of my paper with my kids, who are really my best friends, so I can testify that paper making is more fun with a group!
Paper making is also a good project:
- for teachers to share with their students, whether government school groups or home school groups
- as an enjoyable activity for a birthday party
- a super fun craft for a girlfriend get-together
For the purposes of this post, I’m going to assume you have a group of at least three to four people to help the process along. If you’re making paper by yourself, no worries, the steps are the same. You simply get to go at your own pace and take your time – enjoy!
Make Homemade Paper with a Group
For homemade paper making you will need:
- Bits of paper in different colors
- Aprons for everyone
- A large Tupperware or small tote box (if you want to do multiple color baths, have a few extra containers on hand; 11 x 13 is a basically good size)
- A Blender
- Paper making screen with cover screen, or a paper making frame – see more details below*
- A Deckle of some kind – you can buy them at craft stores or make your own (here’s a good post on how from Paper Slurry)
- Felt blotting sheets or kitchen towels*
- More kitchen towels for covering work spaces as wet paper frames rest and bleed on them; trust me, no matter how many towels you have, it won’t be enough
- Add-ins like bits of moss or leaves, pressed flowers, postage stamps or other small clipart, flower seeds; any clipart can be tailored specifically to the holiday for which you’re making this paper but keep each decorative piece small for ease of use
FYI, we’ll be detailing how to make holiday paper and scrap in another post soon.
Paper Making Kits Information*
You can make all the parts of the paper making frame, deckle, covers and blotting sheets. You could also learn to fly to the moon, given enough time. I bought two paper making kits that came with everything I needed years ago and never looked back.
One, which you’ll see in the photos, was purchased from Hearthsong about twenty years ago and it’s still working perfectly. (Sadly, it doesn’t look like they sell it anymore.) This frame makes a piece of paper that’s about 4″ x 5 1/2″. It’s the one I used most often because the paper making screen is attached to a wooden frame. Also, the deckle fits snugly over the top of the frame, locking into place. This makes it really easy to use.
(You’ll see this frame featured in the video because it’s the easiest for my fiver year old to use and she was my partner the day we shot those photos.)
I also bought a paper making kit that looks a lot like this one below that’s carried by Amazon:
It’s a good kit and comes with everything you’d need to start making paper. I find that it’s most suited to older students, teens and adults. The paper making frame and the screen aren’t attached to each other and it takes some finagling to keep them together as you make your paper. (This will all make more sense as you read the steps of paper making, I promise.) I like this kit and use it, especially when I want full sized sheets of paper. However, my children rarely use it because it’s too hard for little hands.
My suggestion is to buy a kit, if your budget allows, and see what you think after some experimentation. I’m a big fan of learning by messing up a few times until I get it right.
The Process of Making Homemade Paper
Paper making can be broken down into five basic steps. Have a person or two in charge of each step by setting up five different stations in a work room, kitchen or garage. You’ll need a water source close by.
Watch the video once before you read the detailed instructions. Then, watch it after you’ve read them to cement them in your mind.
Step 1 – The Pulp Prep Station
Before the group arrives, prepare at least one batch of paper pulp so that you will have some ready for use at the other stations described below. The pulp is what will become your finished sheets of homemade paper.
- Rip a stack of papers (old love letters, discarded homework, the kids’ scribbles on old construction paper) into medium sized pieces. Place them in your blender body and cover them with water.
- Add any color you’re planning to use. You can make up several batches of different colors for swirled or decorative paper. Keep the colors separated in containers and rinse the blender thoroughly in between colors.
- Allow the pulp to soak for ten minutes or more.
- Blend the pulp until the pieces are fine and the mixture is a pulpy mess of liquid and paper bits.
- The fact is, this part isn’t very scientific. Rip up as much paper as will conveniently fit into your blender body; if you discover you need more, rip up some more. Do NOT overfill your blender.
- In my experience, crafting colored paper is way more fun than just making white-ish paper. Using old white paper will always result in a gray-ish paper.
- If you’d like a rainbow of colors, place each color in separate see-through container so that kids can see their options and come up with designs for their finished paper. One of my kids made a dark, dark purple paper with glitter embedded in it because she wanted to make wrapping paper. Children are very creative!
- How much paper pulp do you prepare? Rip up roughly twenty sheets of paper. Start by working with 4-5 cups of mashy paper pulp for every two or three people to make a sheet of paper. (This is just a guideline – there are SO many variables with homemade paper!)
- Let your kids be creative and don’t worry too much about mixing colors – their paper will look wonderful regardless of what color it is.
Color Additives for Homemade Paper
There are a number of different add-ins you can use to give color to your paper. The easiest and cheapest is probably just to use bits of colored construction paper added to your white scrap paper. You can also try food dyes and even colored drink mixes. Experiment to get the shade you want but remember that the colors will lighten as they dry.
Other color additives for homemade paper can be as simple as powdered or liquid acrylic paint. If you have natural dyes on hand for soap making, you can use colors made from oxides and micas which are considered nature identical (which basically means they’re very similar to those occurring in nature). Here’s a great post from Bramble Berry about natural colors – click here.
I can’t vouch for how any chlorine or fluoride will react with any dye you choose if you’re using municipal water, FYI. Part of the fun of natural crafts is their beautiful unpredictability, though. I like the varied, new results each time I experiment.
Be sure to watch for stains on clothes when dealing with real dyes and wear your aprons!
Step 2 – The Deckle and Dip Station
This is the station where we put the paper pulp into a frame that will eventually make it paper
- Securely place the deckle onto the main paper making frame.
- Dip the frame and deckle, held snugly together, down into the pulp at an angle, until it’s lying flat in the pulpy water.
- Start shifting the frame back and forth about five times to get the pulp to circulate around evenly.
- With a quick, confident, straight-up movement, the student should lift the frame out of the pulp vat slowly and evenly.
- Remove excess pulp on the rim of the frame with your fingers and return it to the pulp vat.
- This is the second hardest job but, if time permits, make sure everyone gets a chance to insert the frame into the pulp vat. If you’re making homemade paper with very small children, have your adult helpers do this step.
- As water drains out, make sure the paper maker holds the frame over the vat to avoid a mess.
- This might be a good time to mention that wearing aprons is a great idea for kid and grown up alike.
FYI, the first pieces of paper you make will be the thickest; each subsequent piece will steal more pulp from the water until there isn’t enough left to continue. Thick paper is particularly suited to ornaments, bookmarks and scrap. If you’d like to fold or write on the paper, be sure to regulate it’s thickness.
To Regulate Thickness:
To make your first sheets of paper a bit thinner, simply spoon out a bit of pulp from your frame while it’s still in the vat. The pulp will still be loose with vat water. Lift the frame straight up and eyeball it – does it look like a good thickness? Too thick? Put it back in the vat and spoon our (or just swoosh out with your hands) more pulp. It’s part science/part art form – you’ll get the hang of it with practice.
Step 3 – The Soak and Squirt Station
This station is for getting the extra water out of the paper so it can dry quicker. It’s imperative that the person in charge of this station doesn’t rub or agitate the pulpy fibers while they’re in the deckle.
- Carry the wet paper in its frame over to a work station covered in towels.
- Place a piece of nylon fabric or felt (wool is best) over your paper pulp inside the deckle to protect the fibers. You can also use a piece of blotting paper, but that can be expensive. Either item can be re-used once it’s dry.
- With a sponge, sop up excess water and ring it out in a sink or contain it to put back in your pulp bucket.
- Don’t rub the wet paper, blot. Apply gentle pressure to press the water from the pulp in the frame beneath the fabric.
- Continue to do this until there isn’t much water being soaked up by the sponge.
- If a child is doing this step, have them place the frame on a table at their height with the fabric lying over the top of the wet paper. Using a sponge, the child will slightly press into the paper, beginning in each corner and moving down. Help guide their hand, if you need to. Don’t let them press too hard or it will mar the paper and possibly damage the frame.
- As the child sponges off the water, make sure he’s squirting it back into your fiber vat or into a nearby sink – on his neighbor is not an appropriate place.
Step 4 – The Towel Down and Rest Station
This is a boring step, I’m not going to lie. However, it’s super important to get the paper as dry as you can.
- Move to another station with fresh towels.
- Turn the frame over quickly so that the fabric is on the bottom and the wet paper is on the top.
- Place a hand towel over the back of the frame and start evenly pressing the weight of your hand into the paper. This will further remove water, which will make your paper dry in one day instead of two.
- Removing water from the paper takes awhile so we break it up into stations to keep it from getting too monotonous.
- Remind the kids to not press directly onto the paper because it’s still wet and delicate.
- All that pressing can be tiring work, so have them rest a minute while they wait in line to have their paper removed from the frame.
Step 5 – The Pull Apart Station
This is the hardest part of this paper making venture because it requires the most finesse. After it’s been through all the other steps, the new piece of paper needs to come off of the frame. If you want a child to do this, pick your most responsible and careful kiddo.
- Take the paper in its frame to the last station.
- Slowly, pulling up, being as gentle as you can be, start to peel the paper from the frame in even motions.
- If you rip it a bit, you can usually squish it together again with a little finagling once it’s lying down, so don’t freak out.
- Once it’s off the frame, place the piece of paper on a flat surface with good air circulation to dry.
- I like to hurry my paper drying along with my dehydrator set on its lowest setting (95F/35C). Do NOT use an oven for this because it doesn’t go low enough.
- Once the paper is dry (which can take a day or two without the dehydrator), you can press out some of the wrinkles with a hot iron. To do this, place your homemade sheet of paper between two pieces of copy paper or the folds of a tablecloth. Flatten with an iron on low to medium heat.
If you’ve added botanicals like leaves, the heat might change their color, so be aware of that. You certainly don’t need to flatten it since homemade paper has a groovy texture and uniqueness about it. If you’ve added seeds to your paper for planting, skip this step altogether.
Tips for Homemade Paper Success
- To help keep things running smoothly, demonstrate the process of paper making BEFORE you let the kids try it themselves. Demonstrate each step so they have a picture in their heads of what it should look like.
- Aprons help keep things tidy, if not dry. Paper making is a wet process.
- Have every towel in your house on close stand by – you may need them. Two of the five paper making steps involve removing water from your paper.
- Drying outside is a great way to do it, weather permitting. Make sure you place the wet sheet of paper on a clean surface and weight it down with something so that the wind doesn’t blow it away. If the paper is dried with folds or large creases, they’re basically permanent.
- Paper making is a lot of steps and they require patience. Once each child has finished a piece of paper and set it to dry, let them play for a few minutes while you start cleaning up. After a few minutes, call the children back and assign them clean up tasks. It’s easy to just put them back at their last stations and have them clean up the area for which they were responsible.
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