Papermaking: An art any parent can master

Making paper is creative and easy

For Valentine’s Day, try something different. Don’t just make the valentine, make the paper. Papermaking can be as easy or as complicated as you want it to be. Start out simple and then let your ideas take over. As the kids grow, so will the creativity.

Rip up paper into pieces, put the pieces in a blender with some water and blend it up. (Typing or computer paper works best, not newspaper.)

You will know if you don’t have enough water because the blender will have a hard time working. If you have too much water, the paper will not blend but just float at the top. Now you have paper pulp, which looks like a weird oatmeal.

The pulp gets poured onto a mold, a wooden frame with a window screen attached to the top of it. (You can buy a mold kit at any craft store or make your own. A homemade mold could be an old picture frame with a screen stapled to the front, or if you put the screen in an embroidery hoop you will end up with a piece of paper in the shape of a circle.)

Pour the pulp onto the screen in a tub with water—not too deep. But really, any tub that is several inches larger than your mold will work. Submerge your mold in water just over the top of the screen.

Pour the paper pulp over the screen. The more you pour, the thicker the paper. Wiggle the mold back and forth to get an even distribution of paper pulp.

Slowly lift the mold up and out of the water. Check to make sure the entire screen is covered, there are no holes and the pulp looks even.

Place a second loose screen on top of the paper. Lightly press down on the second screen with a sponge to blot out excess water. Lift off the loose screen. Place a piece of felt or dish towel on the table. Turn over the mold with the paper still on it onto the dish towel and then, lift the mold off. (Lightly tap on the inside of the mold to loosen the paper. Don’t pull on the paper, it is still too fragile.)

Put a dish towel on top of your new paper for a sandwich of dish towel, paper, dish towel. Press lightly to blot. Repeat this with several more dry dish towels until your dish towel does not soak through.

Take away the dish towels and use newspaper to make a new sandwich. Keep your paper flat while it dries, place the newspaper sandwich under a heavy book. To speed up the drying process put only the wet paper into the microwave, for a minute or two on a low power setting such as defrost. Remove it and let it finish drying under a book.

After you master the basics, experiment. Add flowers or leaves at different stages of the process: fresh flowers at the blender stage, dried flowers after you remove the mold from water. Or make impressions in the paper while it is still wet with an object. Make a design of circles with a cup or cover the paper with dots from a LEGO piece. One of my kids boiled fruits, tea and coffee, and added that colored water into the blender for a science project to find which foods make the best natural dyes. You don’t have to be experienced to master this art. Papermaking is goof proof. If you aren’t happy with what you see, put it back in the water and try again.

Sandi Pedersen

Supplies: Paper Mold Screen Dish towels Sponge Blender Tub Water

Extras: Flowers and leaves Kitchen spices Glitter Thread Construction paper for color Food coloring Your imagination


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