Gifts That Grow: Making Plantable Botanical Paper Part Four

JImage By Phase.change - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Photo of "red pigmented flax fiber on a paper mould..."ill Henderson ~ Show Me Oz

If you have been following this four-part series, you’ve already got a good idea of the types of materials that you want to use to make your own plantable botanical paper. If you missed any of those posts just zip on over to Gifts That Grow: Making Plantable Botanical Paper Part One and work your way back here. For those who have been following along, get your supplies together and get ready to make paper!

The following instructions are written with the beginning papermaker in mind. At first glance, it might look intimidatingly long but it’s as easy as pulping the paper scraps, pouring the pulp into a deckle on the mold and drying the finished paper.

  1. Tear or shred scrap paper into small chunks or pieces and put into a small bucket or large cooking pot. Cover the paper with just enough water to wet everything down and let soak for an hour or so. This helps soften the paper.
  2. Place a handful or two of softened paper in the blender with enough additional water to allow the paper to move freely. Blend until no paper chunks are left and the mixture is smooth. Add as much paper or water as needed to fill the blender.
  3. If adding textural elements such as string, mica, herbs, leaves, spices or whole flowers to your finished paper, remove the blender from the stand and gently stir them in.
  4. Position the deckle(s) on the mold. Place the mold down into a bucket or tub so that it is secure. If needed, bricks or other objects can be set in the bottom of the container to support the mold. Fill the container with just enough water to immerse the deckles in water half-way up their sides.
  5. Pour the paper slurry very slowly and evenly into the deckles. Because the deckles are immersed in water, the slurry will appear to “float”. The amount of slurry needed for each deckle depends on thick the paper will be. The idea is to have as thin a layer as possible without leaving any gaps or holes.

  6. Use your finger or a craft stick to spread the slurry around as needed to make it even and smooth. If needed, you can use tweezers to pick out large clumps of paper or other unwanted elements. By keeping the deckles submerged in water, the slurry will stay liquid, making it easier to work. If it doesn’t, add a bit more water to the tub.

  7. Once the slurry is smooth and even, sprinkle your chosen seeds across the surface in a random pattern. How much seed you spread depends entirely on what type and size of seed you are using and of course, your personal preference. If needed, the seeds can be lightly pressed into the slurry.

  8. Slowly and evenly lift the mold out of the water. You can balance the mold over the water tub, a kitchen sink or some other bit of elevated support to allow it to drain for a few minutes. If a counter or bench is all you have, place the mold on top of one or two thick cotton towels that have been spread out evenly across the counter.

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  9. Allow the slurry to drain for a couple of minutes before removing the deckles, but don’t wait too long or the paper will stick to the sides. Begin the couching process by covering the wet paper with wool felt. Using a clean cellulose sponge, apply even and gentle pressure to the paper to remove as much excess water as possible, squeezing out the sponge as needed. Keep in mind that pressing down too hard will make the paper fibers spread out. This will result in the loss of the clean edge formed by the deckle and possibly create thin spots, tears or holes in the finished paper.
  10. Once you see that most of the water is sponged away, lift up one edge of the wool felt and see if the paper is sticking to it. If it is, continue lifting the felt from the mold. The paper should stick to the felt and come cleanly away from the mold. If the paper does not stick to the felt, lay it back down and sponge off a bit more water before trying again.
  11. Once the paper sticks to the felt, transfer it – paper side down – onto the drying surface. This can be a clean, dry piece of wool felt, several sheets of newspaper, heavy brown paper or fabric interfacing that has been spread out on a cookie sheet or another screen.
  12. Before trying to remove the felt from the paper, sponge it a few more times to force more water out of the paper. This last sponging also smooths out any screen marks on the back of the paper. If needed, a very gentle application of a rolling pin can help smooth the paper as well.
  13. Once the drying surface absorbs more water than the seeded paper, the latter will stick to it and the wool felt can be peeled away cleanly. If your paper still wants to stick to the felt, sponge it a few more times.
  14. Peel the felt from the paper. At this point, the ‘front’ of your paper is facing up, affording the perfect opportunity to remove air bubbles or to lightly emboss your paper with a rubber stamp, if desired.
  15. Once the paper is free, simply allow it to air dry. Do not place your paper in the sun or try to dry it with a blow dryer as it will dry unevenly and curl.
  16. When the paper is dry, gently peel it away from the drying material. It will probably be a little wavy and may curl at the edges a bit. To flatten your paper, simply cover one or more sheets with a piece of cardboard topped with heavy books. Press paper overnight for best results.

Sheet of handmade paper drying on felt. (Photos by Phase.change [CC BY-SA 4.0 finished paper has been removed from the deckle and is now drying on a piece of felt.

As you have seen, there are many methods and tools for making paper at home and even more ways to use it. By making simple – and simply beautiful – seeded botanical paper you can give a special one of a kind gift that is sure to grow!

Follow the links below to read the first three installments of this four-part series.

Gifts That Grow: Making Plantable Botanical Paper Part One

Gifts That Grow: Making Plantable Botanical Paper Part Two

Gifts That Grow: Making Plantable Botanical Paper Part Three

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Jill Henderson is an artist, author, and the editor of Show Me Oz  Her books, The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs, The Garden Seed Saving Guide and A Journey of Seasons and Illuminati Agenda 21 can be found in the Show Me Oz Bookstore.  Jill is a featured columnist for Acres USA and a contributing author to Llewellyn’s Herbal Almanac and her work has appeared in The Permaculture Activist and The Essential Herbal among other publications and videos.

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4 responses to “Gifts That Grow: Making Plantable Botanical Paper Part Four

  1. Your article Jill reminds of good old days in elementary school when I as a kid used to have crafts lesson, creating paper crafts, beads jewelry, knit pattern; I learned to sew buttons, and stop the stockings; I enjoyed all these things; nowadays they don’t exist in schools anymore. I even used paper to create small things. I find these crafts are fun and useful at the same time. I am so glad to read about this.

    • I always loved art class and am always a bit jealous when I hear about cool, free, craft days for kids! I want to go and say, ‘Hey, I’m a big kid, can I play, too?’ We should have adult fun days like that!

  2. I’m imagining you making the most lovely papers Jill … wish I were there to play. xxx

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