Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Making Paper Out of Plant Stalks

Today we made paper in Farmstead Arts. We used burdock, buttercup, bishop's weed, and milkweed stalks as the fibers for the paper. We also used some old office paper shreddings to recycle as new paper. The process is pretty simple. To prepare the pulp you defoliate the stalks of the plant you're using, chop the stalks into 1" pieces, boil them for 10 minutes or so to loosen the fibers, and then put them in a blender with some water to pulverise the material down to a goupy pulp.

Here is some of the burdock being prepared

After you get your stalks or office paper down to a pulp you pour it into a tray full of water. Next you will need two picture frames that are the same size, some screen, and a staple gun. Tightly staple the screen over the back of one of the frames (this will be your "deckle") and leave the other one how it is (this will be your mould). Place the open frame on top of the screened one so they marry up and leave a raised square edge around the screen. Dip the deckle in the tray and draw it out while keeping it flat so that the screen is evenly covered in pulp. Remove the mould frame, shake the excess water off the deckle and flip the deckle over onto a piece of felt. If your sheet of paper does not come off easy you can blow on the back of the screen a bit to loosen it up. Next put another piece of felt on top of the paper. Put the paper felt sandwich between two short planks and stand on top of it while shifting your weight to compress the paper and squeeze out excess water. Remove the top layer of felt and let the paper air dry in the sun. That's it! Paper!

Here is the process using office paper shreddings

Here is some of the burdock paper. The uneven edge is called a "deckle edge," an indicator that the paper was handmade.

You can also add texture and designs by laying down objects before the compressing stage. This piece had a few leaves that left behind impressions.

This one is a mix of burdock and paper shreddings.

Here's Matt with some of the paper we made


  1. What is the powder that we added to the stalks as they were being boiled? I forgot to add it to my rhubarb and the resulting pulp was difficult to handle.

    My eyes are opened to paper-making possibilities! Even if we were to only make paper out of the old office paper, it's a great way to recycle. The plant materials make some really cool colors.

  2. This was a lot of fun, I had always been interested in making paper, and it's so easy! I never considered all of the possibilities in what I could use, but this is definitely something I want to experiment more with

  3. This process was both fun and easy! Defiantly something I intend to experiment with in the future. Who knew? I really liked the amazing variety of products you can use and designs you can come up with. I pressed some dried flowers into my burdock paper and had a really pleasing design as a result. The only issue I ran into was that some of the plants seem to dry and shrink a little and ripple. I placed mine under a heavy book and hope it will straighten out.

  4. I'd never thought that there would be such numerous uses for weeds, especially poisonous ones like bishops weed and buttercup. I found it really cool to pound on the buttercup stalks until they were more pulpy. It definitely helped give them a better consistency, although I didn't quite make enough for a complete sheet of paper..... I'm not the best at thinking ahead... I don't think I'll do too much more paper making, since I personally prefer to use birch bark, which feels a little stronger to me, but it's a really cool process, and I'd be interested in learning more about the traditional method of doing it with hemp/flax.