Papermaking: 12 steps to freedom from e-books

We made paper at the library last week. It was fun, easy, and cheap to do!

Squeezing out the water from the paper pulp! Mmm!

So if you want to make paper yourself at the library, or at home, here’s what you need:

  • a blender that is either SUPER easy to clean so that paper chunks don’t stick in it or an old blender that you don’t mind if paper chunks get stuck in it
  • scrap paper with not a lot of text on it (I used program flyers that were mistakes with little text)
  • some wide plastic tubs
  • picture frame
  • staple gun
  • wire mesh like for window repair
  • sponges
  • felt or construction paper (white, tan, yellow or other paler colors for the paper; red usually bleeds)
  • a friend!
  • OPTIONAL: colored tissue paper, food coloring, glitter, dried flowers

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Rip up your paper into about quarter and put it in the tub with some warm water. Wait about 30 minutes.

    This is the soaking, ripped up paper. Looks gross, right?

  2. Take just the frame part of your wooden picture frame and cut a piece of mesh that fits all the way behind it. Staple one side of the mesh down. Then as your friend pulls the other side of the mesh tight, staple that down, too. Staple all four edges till you have a mesh screened frame. Set aside.
  3. Tear paper into smaller shred with your hands and then lop the paper into the blender filling up about 1/3 with mushy paper.
  4. Fill up blender with some more warm water and blend into a slurry. (This is the point where you can add ripped up tissue paper which will either dye the water/paper mix or keep it distinct and give you nice flecks of color in the end. Or add food coloring or glitter here, too.)
  5. Pour the slurry into one of the tubs. You can add more water at this point if it’s too thick or add more paper pulp if it’s too thin. Not enough paper pulp will make it hard because it will be so thin. Leave the thin stuff to professionals, it will make you happier.

    Pulp slurry with red tissue paper and ALL THE GLITTER! (The boys had left at this point and the glitter usage got out of hand.)

  6. Slide your frame in at an angle so it’s at the bottom of the tub with lots of paper and pulp floating above it.
  7. Pull up and let the water drain out. The pulp can be heavy so you may need to support your screen depending on how strong it is. This is the point where you gently lay dried flowers onto your pulp and they’d stick.
  8. Take your sponge and while supporting the bottom of the screen, gently squish out the water from the pulp. The pic at the top of the page shows this stage. Keep doing it until you feel like you’ve gotten most of the water out. You haven’t, but you will think you have.
  9. Scrap the paper pulp away from the edges of the frame and flip the frame over onto the piece of felt or construction paper. Slap the frame while it’s on the table to get the paper to fall out.
  10. Squish your paper in between more felt/construction paper. You will be surprised at how much water keeps coming out!

    These pieces are still really full of water and need to be squished under a book!

  11. Stick your paper in between more pieces of felt, construction paper, or paper towels and then put it under a heavy book for a day or so. The water will continue to leak out until it’s dry and flat
  12. TA DA! Paper! Do neat stuff with it!

The teens at the program had a great time and made lots of paper. I probably spent a grand total of $10 on this project not counting the cost of a blender (for $20) – which now I have for drinks!

The brain behind this operation was one of our lovely pages at the library. She’s so creative and crafty and was really great with the teens. Many, many thanks to her and to her family who helped her make the frames. Thanks!

That’s it. Making paper in 12 fairly simple steps! If you feel like you need 5 more steps, here’s a website I consulted with 17 steps.

On a side note, someone at a housewarming/craft party today asked me if it was a challenge to make library programs for teen related to books or reading. Nope! I don’t really care. Obviously, I want them to read but the library is more than a place of knowledge, reading, information, and empowerment, it’s also a sort of community center. We do have book related programs like book groups and the like, but also I have programs about zombies and papermaking and the Olympics. Usually, I will make set up a display in the program with books about the topic but I don’t beat the kids over the head with them. A lot of the teens who come to the programs are already readers. So I don’t worry too much about it. Maybe that makes me a bad librarian, but I think I’m doing pretty good.

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