Adventures in Paper Making


Hello, one of my goals for last year was to try my hand at papermaking. So I took a class in it! It was a basic class and I mostly experimented with adding natural dyes to the paper, only used the Hollander once, used the blender many times and learned that I do not like cotton paper at all.


I’m just going to go into a look into what I got to dabble in the papermaking world. So starting off for materials and what the bulk of my paper was made of was abaca. Abaca is extracted from a leaf of the bananas cousin named abaca! More specifically it is extracted from the leaf sheath, which I can best describe as the core or trunk of the leaf. You can read more about it here.


The first few classes were experimenting with adding things into the pulp, so things like flowers and coloured papers,etc. I mostly added dried flowers that I already did dye tests with and I had concluded the results were less than desirable. But their structures were interesting so I added them to my pulp and they worked much better there since they are rather pretty flowers to look at. This made me happy because then the flowers didn’t go to waste and I wasn’t holding onto them for years and years to come. I also dabbled in adding thread ends and textile type products to the pulp. These were maybe some of my favourite paper samples.


I really enjoyed adding bits to my pulp and I wish I had used more of this type of paper in my projects but I completely forgot about these once I tried a plain pulp with logwood extract powder added to it. This made a beautiful taupe paper. It was very beautiful. I was very enamored with this. I also discovered that if you add just the smallest sprinkle or pinch (I’m talking about the smallest little bit here) of logwood extract you can get a beautiful pale soft blue colour. Its fantastic.


After the experimentations of playing with colour and flowers we were instructed to play with the paper as a substrate. This simply means to engage with the surface of the paper in some way, like drawing or colouring. I tried this but inks didn’t really do well on the paper, it was after we made the paper to write on that we were told about adding sizing so you may draw on the paper you made… A bit of a backwards way of teaching if you ask me but that was common in this class.


Anywhos I did the writing and drawing, etc. on the paper and did not feel compelled to do more, so I switched gears and began a new sort of substrate. I started embroidering a Russian Folk art pattern sketch onto a sheet of my taupe logwood paper. I used muted creams, whites, and greys for my embroidery thread. I love it. Embroidering paper was very instantly the thing I wanted to do. I just continued on with that, after I finished my sample and it soon because a part of the two main projects of the class.


Just to make note of what it is like to embroider on paper: do not pull to hard for fear of ripping your paper, it is best to use strong Hollander paper and not flimsy blender paper. And make sure you are not sticking your needle back into the knot on the backside of the paper, this is sure to make a gaping hole in the paper. And lastly a thin needle is best and as you use it it will dull considerably as you stitch.


Moving along, I want to share the final two projects that I made. One was a Book of Hours project whilst the other was a self directed free for all!


The first was a box book. I embroidered the paper on the outside in a rearranged version of My folk art sketch. I wanted the box to look beautiful as its interiors are plain and simple on the inside. Thus the embroidery, and don’t miss the extensive use of logwood paper all throughout this project.


The interior of the box is full of pamphlets or booklets, whichever you may prefer to call them. I was inspired by the booklets that governments used to issue in wartimes and such to advise its citizens on what is best to do or what they could think about doing. My pamphlets were filled with knitting abbreviations, which natural fibres are ethically made, how to sew a french seam (I always forget the measurements), and which flowers give which colours in terms of natural dyes. So it is a book (or books) of all the technical tips and tricks and how-to’s I have found or learned. I chose the booklets because I can add to them overtime as I make new discoveries.


After that there is the self chosen project. It could be anything, just so long as handmade paper was at the heart of the project. I decided on making something useful to myself opposed to just a piece of art to look at. I made a seed storage box, with tips for sowing and growing and special envelopes ideal for pouring out seeds.


Do you find it rather difficult to figure out an ideal way to store seeds for you garden? Well I did and that problem is happily solved now. The envelopes are simple origami, but made sturdier and held together with some glue, but they make the perfect funnel for pouring the seeds and there is a slit that works as a closure.


Enough about the envelopes and whatnot, the highlight for this project for me was the fonts. Let me explain, I discovered that my abaca paper is wonderful to print on with the printer. I know it sounds basic but I think it really sold the seed box. I downloaded some free Edwardian/early 1900’s fonts and got to work naming any plant I could think of. This acted as the wallpaper of the interior of the box. Basically I wanted that 1900’s advertising/ product kits look my box. I hope that transfers to you.


That brings us to the end of my paper making adventures for now, until next time!



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