Unlike some hobbies, making paper by hand doesn’t require a mountain of expensive equipment or hard-to-find supplies.
As a matter of fact, you likely have most of what you need sitting around your house already.
What supplies do I need to make paper? To make paper, fiber such as scrap paper, a blender, a mold and deckle, a shallow container, absorbent materials, screens or cloths, and couch sheets or blotting papers will be needed. An iron for drying and decorative embellishments are optional.
Making paper at home is largely about experimenting with different methods and materials.
It’s a terrific opportunity for your creativity to run wild, but there are a few basic supplies that you’ll need regardless of the technique you plan on using.
Basic Supplies for Making Paper
Paper making is one of the least expensive hobbies but the satisfaction you feel when gazing at the end result is priceless. Let’s take a look at what you’ll need to get started.
Scrap Paper or Cotton Linters
All paper begins with some form of fiber. Most home crafters use paper they have available at home such as junk mail or copier paper.
You could also use:
- Old bills and receipts.
- Construction paper.
- Gift wrap and greeting cards.
- Unwaxed cardboard.
- Paper grocery bags.
Cotton linters are another option for making paper pulp. Cotton linters are the short fibers that remain on the cotton seed after ginning.
They are held in high esteem for their ability to produce a durable, high-quality sheet of paper that holds up well to frequent handling.
You can use them exclusively when mixing up your slurry, or add only a tablespoon or two in addition to the scrap paper.
Either way, you’ll notice that the linters add a nice quality to the paper and make it stronger.
When you’re ready to give linters a try, I recommend Arnold Grummer’s Bright White Cotton Linters. You’re not likely to find better quality elsewhere.
Also, be sure to read this article for more information on using cotton linters in paper making.
While pulp for commercially made paper is prepared in large machines that use either a chemical or mechanical process to turn raw fibers into usable pulp, you can mimic the process at home with an ordinary kitchen blender – and no chemicals.
Once you use the blender to make pulp, you won’t want to use it for regular kitchen duty again.
So, either use an old one you have stashed away, or hunt around at a few yard sales next weekend to find one at a bargain price.
The blender will be used to blend whatever fiber you’re using (usually small bits of scrap paper) with water to make what’s called a slurry.
So, scrap paper + water + blender = pulp in a slurry.
Arnold Grummer, an expert in the craft, recommends adding the following ratio to the blender: one standard piece of copier paper to 4 cups of water.
Some advise just tossing in a handful of torn paper and adding water until the blender is 2/3 full, and this will work too.
Mold and Deckle
A paper-making mold is really just a wooden frame with a screen on top.
The deckle is the same size and shape but doesn’t have a screen. It’s used to contain the slurry on the mold while the pulp settles on the screen and water drains.
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The container, or tub, will be used to hold the slurry while you insert the frame to dip out your paper, so the container only needs to be large enough for your mold and deckle to fit comfortably.
A plastic dishpan is ideal, but other containers can work too, as long as they’re larger than your dipping frame and deep enough to hold several inches of slurry and any additional water to thin the concoction if necessary.
Absorbent Material and Screens
Once you’ve dipped a sheet of paper from the slurry and allowed most of the water to drain back into the tub, the next step is to couch (pronounced kooch), or transfer, the paper onto an absorbent material so that you can press out more water.
A piece of felt is the most common material used for this purpose, as it’s extremely absorbent, but an old towel can work well too.
As for the screens, standard window screening is perfect, but if you don’t have any, you could use cotton cloth instead.
Once the paper is resting on the felt, or towel, place another felt or a cover screen on top before you begin pressing.
This will prevent you from damaging the paper during the pressing process.
One trick is to place a cover screen or cotton cloth on top of the new paper, while it is still resting on the mold, before you couch it onto your absorbent material.
Then place another cover screen on top of the paper to protect it while you press.
This will help to prevent the paper from sticking to the felt or towel when you later try to move it to the blotting paper, and your paper will be protected on both sides.
Another tip is to place a tray underneath the felt and paper before you start to press out water. It’s not necessary, but it will keep the expressed water nicely contained.
The sponge will be used to remove water from the paper, so the higher quality, the better.
You’ll press (rather firmly, dabbing won’t be effective) the sponge onto your cover felt or screen to soak up water, then ring it out before moving to another section of the paper.
The larger, more absorbent your sponge is, the less work will be required.
Couch Sheets or Blotting Paper
Couch sheets are very similar to standard blotting paper, except that they’re specifically designed for paper making.
Their function is to further absorb water after the initial pressing with the sponge.
I use Arnold Grummer’s Couch Sheets, but plain blotting paper will work equally well.
With just the basics, you can produce lovely handmade paper; however, there are two optional recommendations you might want to consider.
This is my favorite part of making handmade paper – adding beautiful, decorative touches to embellish it!
In fact, I cover this topic extensively in my article, “How Do You Add Color to Handmade Paper?”
Decorative elements can be added to the blender, or in many cases, directly to the wet paper right after it has been dipped.
Ideas include but are certainly not limited to:
- Glitter or powdered mica.
- Paint, dye, or food coloring (add these to the slurry before dipping out the paper).
- Flower petals or small flowers.
- Snippets of colored paper, thread, felt, tissue paper, etc.
- Gold, silver, or copper flakes. (KINNO Gilding Flakes are fantastic.)
- Dried herbs or fresh grass.
After thoroughly pressing out excess water, you can just leave your damp paper to dry on a flat surface, such as a wooden board or a plastic craft sheet, but drying times will be quite variable.
I go into more detail about drying times and methods in this article, but know that there is a faster way to get the job done.
An iron will completely dry the paper in just a few minutes. No fancy setup or machines needed, just an ordinary iron.
Simply place the damp paper in between two pieces of cloth or paper towels, and set the iron to a fairly hot setting.
Don’t use the steam function, as that would defeat the purpose here. Just glide the iron slowly over the paper, never letting it stay in one spot for long to avoid scorching the paper.
After a minute or so, you’ll notice that parts of the paper have lightened in color. This is a sign that it’s nearly dry.
Once you’ve reached that point, you can remove the top cloth and iron directly on the paper until it’s completely dry.