This weekend, I finally set aside some time to practice some papermaking. I was able to take this really amazing class in college where we had access to a full paper mill on campus, and even though I obviously don't have that kind of equipment at home, I've been dying to do something hands-on. I knew that I'd still be able to get some decent results as long as I had the basics on hand and I finally got to try out my set-up once I picked up the last few things I needed!

I snatched up a really nice shredder for an absolute steal at a garage sale. I really needed a shredder before I could get serious about making paper, because ripping up dozens of sheets by hand is a lot more exhausting than you might think. For this first batch of paper, I used exclusively junk mail with nothing else mixed in, so I shredded a bunch of it and stored it in a big bag.

I took about half of the bag and let it soak in warm water. I scrunched all of the paper into a glass bowl with just enough water to cover it, then kept adding more paper until it was as full as possible. I added just a little bit more water and left it overnight. There isn't any big change in appearance between the dry and wet paper, except for the fact that the water becomes dark gray as the ink seeps out of the paper.

The next step the following morning was to blend the scraps into pulp. It's very easy, and I just used the regular blender from our kitchen. Just pulse it a little bit at a time and stir every once in a while, and add water if it's too thick or the blender is having a hard time mixing it. Once you have all the pulp you pour it into a big vat of water and stir everything around with your hand so that all of the pulp floats to the surface.

This probably isn't a very good picture, but this was the vat of water with all of the gray pulp floating on top. I threw in some dried flower petals that came with my mould and deckle (the frame you use to scoop out sheets of paper) when I bought it, but I didn't really like using them, so I doubt I'll make paper with them again. If I had nice white cotton pulp I would probably like the floral additions, but with crappy paper like this they just looked ugly and unnecessary.

You need a mould and deckle to pull sheets of paper. You can make your own, but I just ended up buying one. A mould and deckle is basically like a screen with a wooden frame on top of it. You dip it into the pulp mixture, and when you pull it out, all the water drips out while the paper pulp stays on top of the screen in the shape of a sheet. Then, you take off the frame so you can flip the sheet upside down onto a felt and let it dry.

At first, I was drying on felts like you're supposed to, and everything was going pretty well. However, my piece of felt is pretty small, so I only got a few sheets on there before I ran out of room.
After I ran out of room, I grabbed a big laminated board I had in the garage and used that as a base instead. The paper that dried on the board was really weird, and had lots of air pockets in it for some reason. The side that laid against the board itself dried completely smooth, while the air-dried side still had a little bit of texture to it.

I ended up getting about 25 sheets of paper out of my first batch. There were a lot of different textures because of the air bubbles and other factors. Some sheets I dried with no intervention, and other ones I pressed between books. Like I said before, I didn't like how the flower petals looked in the final product. Because I only used junk mail to begin with, the final result was very flimsy, but I didn't mind too much because this was more about the process rather than the final product.
I used one of the sheets for a little letterpress/doodle.
I'll figure out something to do with the other sheets soon, hopefully, and I plan on making more soon!

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