Monday, 16 March 2015

Chapter 4 Add on

I meant to add this – stash of hand made papers!




Chapter 4 Papermaking

Paper making

I've been saving paper for sometime in anticipation of this chapter so I'm not short of materials!

I've attempted paper making in the past and so have a wooden frame with mesh nailed to it and was pleased to find that this could be used again.

I have to make a series of samples to demonstrate

  • basic paper making techniques

  • ways of introducing textures [embedding] and shapes to the paper

  • the processes of laminating [addition of materials which are not part of the original pulp by sandwiching them between two layers of paper],

  • fringing [addition of string / yarn between two layers of paper and peeling back and ripping the top layer]

  • embossing [the placing of a relief shape onto the top surface of a sheet of paper]

  • the use of two different coloured pulps.

In addition to the guidance laid down in the module I've consulted a book entitled The Encyclopedia of Origami and Papercraft Techniques by Paul Jackson published by Quarto Publishing 1991.


In addition to the frame mentioned above [also known as a mould I decided to make [or asked my husband] a deckle which is identical to the mould but without the mesh.

The mesh on the mould is a fine metal mesh

I bought a blender [cost £24.99]

Papers ripped into 2 inch pieces and soaked overnight

A vat or container big enough to accommodate the mould and deckle

Plastic sheeting / towels to protect the work surface

J cloths as support material for newly made sheets of paper

Pieces of felt to support / absorb water from newly made sheets of paper

2 boards

Process of basic paper making

Making the pulp

I started by using plain white paper [old paper for recycling] and ripped this into small pieces and left them to soak overnight.

I prepared my work surface with plastic sheeting / towels

I filled the blender to ¾ full and added a handful of papers and blended for 2 short bursts [8-10 seconds].

I poured these into my vat, repeating this process until my vat was ½ full and then added warm water until vat was ¾ full

I stirred the water and pulp in the vat as the latter inclines to settle

Taking the mould and deckle [this is used with the mould mesh side up and deckle placed on the top] I submerged it into the pulp vertically bringing it up horizontally thus scooping up the pulp. I let the water drain through the mould and deckle back into the vat and moved it gently side to side to distribute the pulp evenly over the mesh.

I rested the mould and deckle on the edge of the vat and carefully removed the deckle.



This is the action of transferring the wet layer of pulp on the mould to the supporting J cloth.

A piece of felt is placed under the J cloth and beneath this a board. There should be no creases

The couching process is helped by wetting the J cloth and the felt.

To couch the papers I placed the longest edge of the mould against the J cloth and lowered until flat, the edge of the mould is then lifted to release the new sheet of paper flat against the J cloth. Amazing to see it there perfectly formed!


I decided to carry on making more sheets so I lay another J cloth followed by a piece of felt and repeated the process.

When I had enough sheets I lay a second board on top of the pile and took it into the garden [things are just about to get very wet] for the pressing process.


This is to ensure that as much water as possible is squeezed out and so with a second board on top of the pile of sheets I stood on it using my feet and weight to squeeze out excess water.

Board drying

I then brought it all inside to a clear surface for drying.

I gently removed the felt and top layer of J cloth and used the lower J cloth to lift the sheet of paper onto the drying surface repeating the process until all were laid out.

I'm amazed at how well the fibres were fused together – a real sheet of paper – a really satisfying process.

The drying process took up to 2 days depending on the thickness of the paper, I helped the drying process with a hair dryer.


First batch of papers

These were made up of recycled white note paper, I left the first one plain and then started to experiment with adding texture. I had a go at embedding by applying different bits of paper and threads to the wet paper after pressing but these were disappointing and when dry did not remain adhered to the paper. I realised that I'd have to try applying these before the pressing.

My very first sheet of paper:

white plain

I had more success with Embossing using a selection of letter printing blocks and repeated the word MESSAGE repeatedly in a block whilst the paper was still wet and after it had been taken out of the press. I applied a lot of pressure and I'm delighted with the results.

white embossed1

Embossed with beads on right side and reverse:

white with beads embossedwhite with beads embossed reverse

Water marking is achieved by stitching a shape to the mesh of the mould which acts as a resistance to the pulp when it is brought out of the vat. Another sheet without the stencil is laid on top and the finer layer of pulp created by the stencil should give a watermark. Tricky to begin with but finer papers were more successful.


I then added some strong black tea to the vat to give a sepia type affect. I was further pleased with the embossing effects I achieved with these using some Indian wooden printing blocks and some hand made [spongy card] floral blocks – I applied a lot of pressure manually to achieve a good impression on the paper. I used some string and spiral paper clips during module 3 and they came into their own again here as an embossing tool! All of these gave interesting effects on both sides of the paper when dry.

tea embossed1tea embossed2

tea embossed3

I also tried embedding some Amaretti biscuit wrappers which have a beautiful bronze and metallic finish these did adhere quite well.

tea amaretti papers

Second batch of papers

This time I tore up a pile of used envelopes all with a variety of linings in blue or grey, I prepared and soaked them as before and as soon as I blended them and added them to the vat the water turned a lovely soft blue.

This time when embedding different types of paper I did so before they were pressed to give a better chance of them adhering to the freshly made sheet. This worked and the papers remained secure. I also tried the same technique using used postage stamps.

blue tissue 2blue 4 stamps

I tried out a few more embossing experiments and made a letter M stamp by cutting a cheap eraser into shape as well as the end of a cork and buttons for the letter O and I discovered that a buckle with it's cross bar made a fabulous H shape. I cut some more letter shapes from an aluminium drinks can and cardboard but these were again unsuccessful.

blue embossed 1

The straw like packaging when applied prior to pressing stuck down more effectively but not reliably and in places became very springy! The patterns on the reverse, however were very effective.

blue with straw sideblue straw reverse

Third batch of papers

This batch was made up of old brown envelopes and brown wrapping papers with bright pink floral and polka dot designs on the latter. I prepared these as before and this time tried out the laminating technique by sandwiching some rug making mesh and a robust piece of lace between two sheets of freshly made paper in the hope that they would create some patterning.. When dry the rug mesh had left a good impression but there were only vague suggestions of the lace, it would probably be better if the sheets of paper were thinner. I'll try again with a later batch.

wrapping paper1

With a later batch of white paper I tried adding pressed cow parsley and a tiny posy of forget-me-nots tied with some blue stranded cotton between 2 thin layers of paper. The reverse was  interesting too.  A lovely delicate effect. Some pigments from the plants seeped through but it nice to think that this could be advantageous at a later stage perhaps

white with cow paerley laminatedwhite with cow parsley lam reverse

I also hoped to achieve better results this time with embedding using aluminium letter shapes - cut from a lager can - and put them in place prior to pressing along with letters cut from thick cardboard . Sadly the aluminium letters didn't give a clear enough impression but I was pleased with the cardboard letter shapes [two S shapes and an A] which embedded and  also look good on the back [you can just make them out here] although these are in the reverse but no less effective for that.

wrapping paper3 side 2wrapping paper3 side1

I added some stamps to this batch too which have adhered well although this might be due to residues of adhesive!!

I experimented with the fringing technique by laying lengths of yarn between 2 sheets of freshly made paper. The yarn was pulled back to tear and 'fringe' the paper when not quite dry. This produced 3 effects: the fringing at the edge, the roughened channel produced when the thread was pulled along the top layer of paper and the 'rib' created by the line of yarn running between the layers of paper. Very effective.

wrapping paper2 fringing

I had some old small denomination bank notes left over from a distant holiday in Bulgaria which have beautiful facial images and intricate pattering so I tore them up and placed them on the paper along with some more ripped Amarreti papers, pink tissue strips. Both the latter looked great especially the iridescent qualities of the Amaretti papers – gorgeous. The bank notes, however, started to come away but these would be beautiful couched into place.

wrapping paper 4

Fourth batch of papers

These are torn strips of white papers with the addition of some shop gift bags with striking red images plus another with black and white images. As soon as I soak them the red ink started to leak thus colouring the water. This was proving interesting – how would this affect the final colour? The answer is not really but the finished paper is dotted with gorgeous random red and black patches of varying colour depth, I also added some red supermarket mesh to the vat which has added a lovely textural variation.

To these sheets I embedded some cardboard letters prior to pressing which have successfully embedded into the paper, to another I've added some letters cut from red netting.

red with card letters

And the reverse:

red with card letters reversered with net letters

I'm thrilled with these experiments with laminating and between the layers of this next sample I've added a piece of lace, some crocheted motifs. I also tried embossing with my floral icing cutters which have made a clear impression.

red embossed1

I had a go at creating positive and negative letter shapes. This proved tricky, I used a piece of PVC [ sorry about the beach hut background] and cut out a letter M shape from a piece cut to the size of the mould but couldn't control the distribution of the pulp as I lifted the mould from the vat. I stitched the PVC to the mesh and with a little shaping with my fingers on couching managed to achieve the shape I wanted. In turn I used the positive M shape and stitched this in place to achieve the negative shape. Very satisfying!

red pos shape1005 (2)red neg space1

Fifth and sixth batch of papers

These are a mix of colourful newspaper and non glossy magazine pages. Immediately I noticed a grey hue to the vat to the original batch but on couching I'm pleased to see multicoloured specks throughout. Paul Jackson advises in his book that newspaper will give a brittle paper due to the high acidity of the paper.

I then went on to try making two different colour pulps with turquoise and orange cold water dyes. I added this to the couched sheets in the M shape, circular shapes [I used the inside of masking tape holders as a mould] and then a chequerboard pattern using my fingers and the edge of a knife to spread the pulp.

newspaper mixed with pulp letternewspaper with circle pulp

newspaper with pulp squares

I’ve since bought a cake icing syringe which will be useful in future batches to spread the pulp in  more defined way.

Warnings regarding the brittleness of the paper proved accurate and I as added the dyed pulp the fibres fused less well resulting in some tears and holes. I quite like these irregularities which add a roughness. I tried to make sheets with the dyed pulp alone but this proved very brittle without the support of the base sheet.

Pulp and stamps and 2 colours overlapping. Both of these were formed without a background sheet of paper and proved very brittle.

pulp and stampspulp overlapping

Seventh batch of papers

I started to consider adding plant fibres and looking at Paul Jackson's entry about this I learnt that I need to go for plants with long leaves to give the desired effect such as grasses, daffodil and iris leaves, pineapple and corn husks etc. I'd also searched on line for information about preparation of the fibres there is a comprehensive table giving suitable plants and 'cooking times'! I straight away dismissed the pineapple as this requires 4 hours of boiling but having cut back some dead ornamental grasses in the garden and seeing that they need 2 hours boiling I decided to go for these. I added some soda crystals and took the precaution of opening windows to ventilate the room. I was amazed at the depth of colour of the water – a stunning deep brown. I strained the fibres and kept the liquid, rinsing thoroughly, fibres should have a neutral PH. I then needed to use a rolling pin to bruise and separate the fibres [a blender is not recommended for this as the fibres are not well preserved..

I then added the fibres to the VAT along with torn paper which had been soaked in the preserved liquid..

To my sheets I tried laminating some course loose weave linen with some fray and a piece of lace along with some petals and threads trapped between layers of net with fusible web, I love this sample especially the temple like effect of the lace on the upper right and the frayed linen protruding.; then a length of metallic braid and a sample of crocheted cloth and some lengths of yarn all of which I partially frayed. I love this sample especially the temple like effect of the lace on the upper right and the frayed linen protruding. I’m also pleased with the stained parchment like edges produced by the stain of the plant fibres.

plant fibres grasses with linen fabric, lace laminated and embedded plus rose petals caught between fusible web

Then a length of metallic braid  which has been fringed back to reveal lovely patterning on the under layer, a sample of crocheted grid and some lengths of yarn all of which I partially frayed. Some stray sequins from the braid have settled in the pulp too.

plant fibres grasses with laminated yarn, braid, and crocheted grid plus odd sequins

Eighth batch

The same process as before but this time using onion skins which I boiled with some soda crystals for 30 minutes, this produced a beautiful deep ochre coloured water. I soaked my paper in this and made sheets of paper as before.

To these sheets I laminated, dried rose petals and pressed leaves,. I'm really delighted with the impression left by the laminated leaves.

Beads and raffia:

onion skins with beads and raffia laminated

Dried daffodil petals, metallic gold braid, beads and a braid which has been partially fringed to reveal beautiful patterning on the under layer and top layers.   Very pleased with this:

onion skins with daffodil petals, beads, braid laminated and embedded

Letters cut from the petals trapped in net and layers of fusible web:

onion skins with laminated letters

Dried rose petals and pressed leaves,. I'm really delighted with the impression left by the laminated leaves:

onion skins with leaves and rose petals laminated

And finally some rose petals which have been partially broken down in the blender and added to the vat with the end of a white paper batch, there wasn’t much paper left in the vat so this has come out like tissue paper and has a lovely texture to touch.

rose petal pulp


I wanted to have the option of writing and drawing on some of my sheets and following Paul Jackson's suggestion I used a Gelatin solution and dipped some sheets in this.

One of my fibre samples started to break up immediately! I persevered with the plain sheets and as long as I removed them straight away they stayed in one piece, I laid them on the kitchen cloth to dry.

I decided to search on line and found this website which suggested painting on the Gelatin solution or adding a PVA solution to the pulp.

I tried both of the above and they are both successful!

Towards the end of this chapter I realised that I was lacking any real focus and hadn’t really properly considered a theme in terms of colours, shapes etc.  I chatted it through with another Distant Stitch friend which was very helpful. My husband and I have recently been on holiday to New York. We’d loved the holiday especially the colours of the Fall and it was at this point that I thought about the map of New york in that it offers a perfect grid.  This is likely to be my way forward for perhaps a travel journal or album. I especially loved the American Oak leaves and their colour / texture. I was particularly pleased with the impression left by the laminated leaves in the eighth batch and so feel inspired by the idea of grids / maps / buildings / leaves etc………..