DIY: How To Make Homemade Paper

Making paper is one of the cheapest, greenest, messiest, and funnest DIY projects out there. It's an extra cool way to recycle, and the final product can be used for everything from greeting cards to event invitations to wedding reception place cards. And, well, anything else you would normally do with paper.

I started making homemade paper when Matt and I first began talking about getting married. Before he even proposed, I anticipated our upcoming wedding, and with my limited budget and love for handmade things, I thought I should get the jump on the big stuff that was sure to come soon. Like wedding invitations. So, I researched how to make homemade paper, ran to the store for a couple of supplies I didn't already have, and got to craftin'. And before I knew it, I'd built up a decent paper stockpile that would, as foreseen, be used for wedding projects. (But not invitations, oddly enough.)

It's a pretty cheap and easy process, but you will need a few items to get started:

1. Lots of ripped up paper scraps 
(Old newspapers and junk mail are perfect for this!)

2. Blender

3. 2 photo frames 
(Frames only- glass and backs removed. Frames should be no smaller than the size you want your paper to be.)

4. 2 pieces of window screen
(1 piece cut and attached, overlapping, to 1 photo frame, the other screen and frame left alone. It's probably best to use a wooden photo frame that will withstand nails or tacks holding the screen to it. I just cheaped out and used a plastic frame and duct tape, which didn't work well, but it got the job done.)

5. A large container for catching water
(A large plastic tote works well.)

6. Sponge

7. Hairdryer (optional)

8. Heavy books/cinder blocks/etc.

9. Felt squares larger than your sheets of paper will be

I'll explain the screens and felt and stuff as I go. For now, let's discuss the paper scraps. 

I was preparing to make wedding invitations (or so I thought), so I knew I would need a lot of paper. But to be truly "green" with this project and keep from wasting paper to make paper, I took two cardboard boxes and placed one at work and one at home to collect my junk mail and other miscellaneous discarded papers. Since I didn't have a shredder at either location, I just ripped up papers as I discarded them. Then, when the boxes got pretty full, I knew it was time for a paper-making session. 

The first step of the process is liquefying the paper scraps. To do this, fill your blender about halfway with scraps and cover with lukewarm water. Allow the paper to soak for a few minutes before you turn on the blender. 

After a few minutes have passed, put the lid on the blender and turn it on high speed. Let it pulse until the scraps have softened, combined, and turned into a sludgy mess that looks something like this:

The green specks are actually pieces of grass that I picked from my backyard and threw in at the last minute before pulsing the sludge for a few more seconds. I've also thrown in leaves and flower petals. These plant elements add a nice variety of color and texture and really give the paper a natural, organic look. 

Now you'll need the window screens, photo frames, and a large empty container. Place the container down first. I used a plastic tote that was about the same width as my 11" x 14" picture frame, which worked nicely because I could rest the frame directly across the tote. 

One photo frame should have the window screen material stretched across its opening and attached securely. Like I said, wooden frames and nails would be best, but I used a plastic frame and duct tape.

This piece is called the deckle. This is going to be the base of your paper making station. Rest the deckle across the container and pour out some paper sludge onto the screen. Some of the water from the blender sludge should begin seeping through the screen immediately. This is why the container is beneath it. 

Place the other empty photo frame on top of the deckle to use to shape your paper. This second frame is called the mold

This is where it gets messy. Use your hands to flatten out the sludge, filling up the space of the frame to your desired size. This just depends on what size and shape paper you want. I pressed mine down to fill up the entire 11" x 14" mold. 

Next, place the separate piece of window screen material across the flattened sludge and press a sponge against the screen, pushing the water out of the sludge. 

That's it. From this point on, you're just trying to smush the water out of your sheet of paper. Once you get the majority of the water out with a sponge, you can remove the mold and carefully peel the unattached screen from the deckle. Your sheet of paper-in-progress should come with it. 

Now just leave it to dry. A hairdryer speeds up the process, but it's not necessary.

If you're making a large batch, lay out several felt squares and transfer each piece of paper from the screen to a piece of felt.  

You can then stack the pieces of wet paper between the felt squares and place them under something heavy, like books or cinder blocks. Then leave your paper there to press dry for a day or two. It's best if it can press for a week or longer, but just check it occasionally to see how it's progressing.

Then you'll have gorgeous, sturdy homemade paper with lots of texture!

Though I didn't use my paper for wedding invitations (our guest list ballooned from 100 to 250...I was working overtime and going back to school, so I just didn't have the time to make that many invites by hand), I did use several sheets for wedding decor. There aren't any pictures, but I used them to label food and drinks at the reception.  I also used a bit of raffia, a hole punch, and a Sharpie to make these signs for the reserved for family pews at the ceremony:

I've also made some really cute gift tags and bookmarks out of my paper as well, but I always forget to take pictures before I give them away. 

Have you ever made homemade paper? Do you know any tips or tricks that could make the process easier or more fun? Leave your suggestions in the comments!


Jessica said...

Your paper turned out really nicely! I like all the added texture. Very cool. And it looked really pretty the ways you utilized it in the wedding!

Anna Marie said...

Okay, this is really neat. I didn't know you'd made all that paper from the wedding yourself!!

Lacey said...

So cool! I remember making paper once at a summer camp. It's so impressive that you made so much for your wedding! You inspire me to do a 100% DIY wedding one day, lol! (except maybe the dress... that sounds like a disaster waiting to happen).