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Thursday, 24 October 2013

How to maker paper from plants part 1

After my mixed media post in which I used handmade paper I've been requested for instructions on how to make it. You can, of course, make paper from recycled paper or buy pulp all ready to use but it is soooo satisfying to make it from raw products that you have gathered yourself.
Theoretically, paper can be made with any plant - fresh or dried but some make better paper than others. All types of grasses even dried in the form of hay make good paper but why not try something else and experiment? Have a look around your garden if you have one. If you are a city dweller check out roadside weeds and fallen leaves in the park. I chose to use the tough, outside leaves from broccoli plants because I have a lot of them in my vegetable patch. They were a nice reddish green colour and I thought they might make an interesting coloured paper. Do remember that the colour of your plant material will affect the colour of your paper so if you want writing paper use pale plant material.
Before you start there are a few things you need. Probably the most important . is your deckle and frame.
The deckle is a wooden frame covered in mesh and the frame has to be of the same size but without the mesh. This are the tools you will use to scoop up the pulp and shape it in to paper. You could use 2 picture frames of the same size and staple old net curtain to one.
You will also need a large stainless steel or enamel cooking vessel. I used a bucket. Also a large plastic vat. It has to be a bit bigger than your deckle. I used the sort of plastic tray which you can buy as a cat litter tray.You will need to some sheets of fabric also a little bigger than the deckle. Reusable kitchen cloths are OK and 2 pieces of board. If you are using edible plants you could use chopping boards. You will also need a solution to cook your plants in which will break down the cellulose. The best liquid is wood ash lye. For some people this may not be practical to make in which case you can add washing soda to your cooking water.A blender is useful too. If you are making the wood ash lye here is the recipe.
1 bucket of wood ash from a 100% wood fire
enough water to cover the ash
Make sure the room is well ventilated as this stuff smells!

boil the wood ash in water for 1/2 an hour and leave to soak over night. In the morning strain through some netting. KEEP THE LIQUID and discard the wood ash. You will end up with a disgusting browny pink liquid like this.

Next you need to pick your plant material. You can see my broccoli leaves here. At least a bucket full will be needed. Now you have to cook the plants in the wood ash lye. Use the stainless steel or enamel pot and bring to the boil. Cover and cook until very soft. Grass cuttings take at least an hour. My leaves took 1 1/2 hours. Make sure that they are covered with the liquid. If you don't have enough you can add a little water. Again make sure you have enough ventilation.
When you have very soft vegetation
you can strain. This time discard the cooking liquid and keep the plant matter. There will probably still be lumps of plant in the pulpy mass so whizz it through a blender until it looks like the picture above. If you do not have a blender you can put it in a large container and beat with a heavy stick - maybe a rolling pin.

Your pulp is ready to use! Next time I will post the actual paper making process. 


  1. Oh this is great stuff. I was hoping to make paper from ginkgo tree leaves sometime. I can't wait to see how your paper comes out.

    1. Hi Liz
      I'm pleased you found this interesting. Ginko sounds very exotic we do not get them in the UK. I hope to write the second half of this blog today or tomorrow so you won't have long to wait.