It was back to Morley College on Tuesday, and time to learn about papermaking.
Over the Christmas holidays I’ve had a large bucket in my kitchen filled with shredded envelopes and water. To make strong paper you need long fibres, and every time paper is recycled the fibres get shorter. So it’s not a good idea to use paper that’s been recycled before if you want to make your own.
The longer the paper is soaked, the better, especially if it’s thicker, like brown paper. Apparently it can start to smell after a while, so you can add a couple of drops of bleach if this happens. However, mine didn’t smell at all, even after soaking for a week, though I did have a lid on my bucket.
To take the paper into college, I took a handful, squeezed it into a ball to get rid of the excess water, and put it in a plastic bag. Then it was off to Morley with a bag of soggy balls!
At college, we soaked the balls in hot water to loosen them, and then put a small handful in an ordinary liquidiser with a lot of water and blended for 15-20 seconds. We filled a deep tray – a (clean!) cat litter tray is ideal – with water and added some pulp. Then we agitated the mixture, dipped in a screen and lifted it up vertically so that a layer of pulp settled on the top.
We put this face down on a damp J-cloth on top of a damp blanket, and gently pressed with a sponge to mop up the excess water. After this we peeled off the screen carefully from one corner, and – voilà – a sheet of paper!
We then folded over the top half of the J-cloth so that the paper was completely enclosed, and put another J-cloth on top to make the next sheet. At the end, we squeezed out all the excess water using a Victorian screw press.
Because the paper is very fragile when wet, we had to take the J-cloths home and peg them out to dry before unpeeling them to reveal the finished paper. So we have to wait until next week to see how everyone’s samples turned out – very exciting!
But here is a sneak preview of some of my samples, with various inclusions such as yarn, paper, eggshells, muslin, and raffia.
The paper pulps were all different colours, depending on the mix of coloured paper and envelopes people had used. Mine was pale lilac; one of the other student’s looked like beetroot soup!
The finished paper looks very different when it is dry. When wet, it is much more translucent, so if you want to items that you have embedded to show when it is dry, it’s best to scrape off some of the pulp while it’s wet.
I think it will be really interesting stitching into some of these samples to add further texture, though I’m not sure how robust they are. More to come on this, I suspect!