Making Paper from Plants

Renewable and easy to find fibers like cattail leaves, iris leaves† and agricultural waste like corn husks are perfect for making paper and provide good results for beginners.

 

There are several steps to papermaking, the first of which is harvesting. The same plant can yield fibers that vary in color and consistency depending on when and where they are harvested.

 

Next is cooking. Fibers need to be cooked in an alkali solution for three to twenty hours, depending on the variety.

 

Iíve got a nice 30 gallon cooking pot that makes life easy, so I can cook nice big batches at a time. Even so, itís amazing to see how little finished pulp can come from a big pile of fibers.

 

After cooking, the fibers must be thoroughly rinsed - a process that takes much more time and water than you would think.

 

After rinsing, the fibers are beaten into a pulp. Because most leaf and grass fibers area easy to beat by hand, or even with a kitchen blender, they are good choices for papermakers without access to a Hollander beater.

After beating, the fibers are floated in a vat of water and scooped up onto a papermaking mould in a thin layer.

 

From there, they are transferred to a cloth or wool sheet and stacked in a ďpostĒ.

 

The post is then pressed to squeeze out water and promote bonding between the fibers.

 

For the most simple drying method, the cloth with the still-damp paper still attached can be hung on a clothes line. There are any number of other drying techniques that yield different surface textures.

 

For more information about papermaking, visit your local library or go online and browse to your heartís content. If youíre new to the craft, youíll be amazed to see the myriad of ways it is being used as a contemporary art medium.