The invention of paper, as we know it today, can be tracked to Leiyang China. Early around 100 A.D. paper is said to have been made using fermented and beaten mulberry bark fibers that were suspended in water and removed with a screen made from bamboo fibers tied with horse hair.
Whether this is the true time frame or not, we do know that mulberry paper has made a comeback being a very popular crafting and scrapbooking medium in this century. The fibers in the paper give crafting projects a wonderful texture and dimension. Mulberry paper makes a great background or border to highlight other paper especially when it is moistened and torn. Tearing instead of using scissors can provide an interesting ragged edge when embellishing your pages.
Crafting and scrapbook stores sell handmade papers and you will find them to be rather costly. Handmade papers, including mulberry paper, are just that...handmade! Which of course means you can manufacture them yourself as well!
Plan on your paper making process to take about two hours. Not bad for a crafting project that can give you fifteen unique handmade sheets that you can use for greeting cards, picture frame matting and of course my favorite - scrapbooking!
Everything you need to make paper is easy to find and rather inexpensive. Best of all, its a great conservation effort since you are using 100% recycled paper scraps.
MAKING THE PULP
You will need about 40 - 55 sheets of white used photocopy paper and about 14 sheets of colored photocopy paper or you can also use uncoated used wrapping paper for the pulp base. A small amount of colored magazine paper should be used sparingly. A good ratio to begin with is four times as much white paper as colored paper. Rip the copy paper into small pieces, roughly an inch square. Try not to use newsprint. Soak the pieces overnight in a bucket of water separating the colored pieces from the white paper.
Add about 1 cup of pre-soaked white paper into a kitchen blender and fill almost to the top with very warm water. Blend on medium high or until the mixture has a oatmeal type consistency. If your blender is having difficulty you may need to add more water or reduce the amount of pre-soaked paper to 3/4 cup. Keep blending the pulp until you have used up all the soaked paper.
Put the paper pulp into a large saucepan and mix it around with your hands. Slowly add your soaked colored paper for a few seconds. You will need to be careful not to overblend. The colored paper should look like confetti. The mixture will be very liquefied. If you plan to use your paper as stationery, dissolve a packet of gelatin in hot water, and stir the gelatin into the pulp mixture. The gelatin, which is known as "size", will make the paper less porous.
Now lightly blend your soaked colored paper for about ten seconds. Don't overblend - you want the colored paper to appear in your paper as confetti-like accents. Alternatively, you may add other materials or food coloring directly to the pulp, or you can add textures on top of the pulp after forming a sheet. For example, you might want to add some wildflower seeds on top of the paper. Cards made with seeds can later be planted by the recipients to create flower gardens.
MAKING A FRAME MOLD
Using two old picture frames you can make a mold that will contain the pulp and mold the paper to the desired size. Any size frame will work but a 5"x7" or 8"x10" is the easiest to work with. Start by removing the glass and backing from both frames. Purchase a fiberglass or plastic screen from your local hardware store and stretch it tightly over the one of the frames. The screen can be attached to the back of the frame with a staple gun. The second frame will be used as the "deckle" which makes the sheet of paper the desired size.
MOLDING THE PULP
Hold the mold screen size up and dip the mold into the pulp right after stirring it. Next, place the 2nd frame or "deckle" upside down on top of the 1st frame mold. The pulp should be covering the screen. A thin layer of pulp seems to turn out better than a thick paper.
Next, let the excess water drip off for about two minutes. Now is the time to add fun embellishments to your handmade paper. You can add food coloring, potpourri, dried flowers, dried herbs and spices, seeds, thread or even lint from the dryer. If you plan on matting pictures or scrapbooking though keep your artistic materials acid free. Finished paper can also be pressed with a fairly heavy lace and left on until the paper dries. You can have fun using monograms for special occasions as well.
Gently pat off any excess water from the back side of screen and around all the edges. Keep soaking up the water until you see the paper separating from the screen. At that time you can try removing the mold starting at one corner.
Your paper is almost finished now it only needs to dry for about 24 hours on both sides. When your paper is dry you can press it in-between a heavy book to press them flat or apply a warm iron to the sheets of paper sandwiching the paper between two hand towels.
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