Photo by Stephanie Staton
Use this beginner’s recipe for making homemade paper using materials readily available on the farm, such as recycled paper and your own unique, farm-grown crops.
Create a Mold
Find an old, empty, wooden picture frame or embroidery frame at home or at a flea market; the inside of the frame should be the size and shape of the paper you want to make. Cut a piece of window or door screen, stretch it over the frame as tight as possible and staple it to the frame. This is your paper mold.
- Collect a large bag full of mostly white, recycled envelopes from invitations, bills and junk mail.
- Collect fresh herbs, greens or flowers, such as marigolds. (The resulting paper might already be somewhat colored, depending on any ink already on the recycled paper; keep that in mind when experimenting with plant material for color.)
- Gather previously pressed dried flowers or leaves.
- Fill a blender or food processor about half full of the recycled paper ripped into bits.
- Fill it with warm water and blend until the mixture looks very smooth and contains no paper flakes.
- After processing the main paper mixture in the blender, add your farm-grown ingredients a few bits at a time or, in the case of marigolds, one flower head at a time, until you like the appearance.
- Fill half-full of water a tub big enough to completely immerse the mold.
- Add about three blenders full of the pulp, depending on how large your mold is and how thick you want the paper to be.
- If you’ll eventually write with ink on the paper, stir in 2teaspoons of liquid starch to keep ink from running.
- Stir the pulp, place the mold into the tub, screen-side-up, and move it around until an even amount of pulp settles onto the screen.
- Lift the mold out of the water, wait for it to stop dripping, and ease it onto a piece of white felt or flannel fabric so the new paper is on the fabric and the mold can eventually be lifted off.
- At this point, sponge away as much liquid as possible.
- Slowly and gently lift off the mold, allowing the wet paper to stay on the fabric. If the paper sticks to the mold, sponge off more water.
- Remove any bubbles and continue to press out more water by placing the fabric with paper in a dry bathtub and pressing with a smooth, hard surface such as a cookie sheet.
- Hang with clothespins to dry or lay on a drying rack.
- When dry, peel your new paper from the fabric.
Optional: When the paper is formed, but still wet, lay a pressed flower or leaf onto it and press to embed it into the paper.
Crops for Paper Additives
- Spinach makes paper green.
- Lavender adds a subtle scent and texture. Add lavender essential oil to make the fragrance last longer in the paper.
- Bachelor’s buttons add colorful flecks.
- Marigolds retain their color to make a yellow-flecked paper.
- Rose petal colors might bleed slightly and spread into interesting designs.
- Fennel leaves give a feathery look to the paper.
- Mint leaves, dried and crumbled, add interesting flecks and a nice aroma.
If you find success at creating homemade paper, craft it into value-added paper products you can sell on your farm.