by Jacqueline Gikow
Papermaking at home is relatively easy, although it does require some equipment and can be messy. By creating your own paper you can recycle old paper, recycle other organic waste and incorporate bits and pieces of thread, leaves, petals, fabrics, and so on.
Cotton linters can be bought in sheet form and used for papermaking. Although this is not true recycling in itself, the linters can give added strength to any paper made from recycled paper or other organic material. This is particularly true when recycling newspaper, which can be very fragile. The cotton linters can be used in quantities as little as 20 percent to add strength or up to 50 percent, which will affect the overall finish.
You will need a basic cellulous mix. If you use old newspaper, tear it into about 3/4th (2cm) square pieces and soak for about an hour. For cotton linters, soak overnight and then tear into small pieces as above. Either or both of these materials can be mixed into a pulp with lots of water in the blender. Make sure the blender doesn’t overheat by mixing the materials in short bursts. For fine paper the pulp should be mixed until lump-free when finished.
Add the pulp to the vat with lots more water to make a thin creamy solution.
In one continuous motion, dip the mold and deckle vertically into the vat, then into a horizontal position. Raise it carefully, taking the pulp evenly across the surface and let the water drain out over the fat.
Shake the mold and deckle gently back and forth, and side to side. This will help the fibers mesh together and settle and. Remove the deckle from the mold. Place one edge of the sheet of paper on the felt cloth with a gentle knock. This is called "couching". Sponge off the excess water.
You can press the paper by layering the sheets between felts - place several pieces of paper, one on top of the other, interleaved with felt. The layers should be placed between two flat boards. Either stand on the boards or put a heavy weight on top and you will expel more of the water.
If the paper is well pressed, you can hang it up to dry at this point. You can also eliminate the pressing step if you wish, and let the paper air-dry. However, this takes a long time and you will run the danger of causing mold to form.