(Last Updated on October 27, 2023)
Looking for a fun and different project to try with your kids? Look no further!
When I was a kid and we needed a change of pace from our everyday arts and crafts, we brought out our paper-making supplies and always had a blast!
Three cheers for my parents who gathered the supplies for us back then! In fact, a lot of what you see here today is a part of that original, DIY, paper-making kit! Think of the generational paper-making legacy you could leave for your family if you get started on this project today!
Step 1: Gather Paper-Making Materials
It takes money to make money. And it takes paper to make paper. So the first step is to start collecting the following types of materials to get started on your homemade paper project!
Recycled Paper Scraps
Any kind and color of paper works for this project as long as you tear, cut, or shred it into small pieces. Collect recycled office paper, envelopes, construction paper… you name it.
Other Paper-Like Scraps
Gift wrap, colored tissue paper, crepe paper, bits of cardboard egg cartons, old greeting cards – any fibrous, paper-like materials will do.
Fancy Bits & Pieces
You can even use things that aren’t paper at all. Glitter, flat sequins, small pieces of yarn, bits of plastic grocery bags, even dryer lint! Most anything flat-ish and cut into tiny pieces should work.
Step 2: Gather Other Supplies
There are only a few other things you’ll need:
Frame with Screen
Brace yourself. This is probably the most complicated part of the whole project. But you can do it! (Easy for me to say since my dad made ours… but still… you can do this!)
Make or find a wooden frame. A used picture frame (without the glass) would work well. Or, nail some scrap wood together to form a rectangle.
Now staple some old window screen material (if you don’t have any on hand, you can buy a roll at most hardware stores) onto the frame as tightly as possible. Make sure it’s very taut so it doesn’t sag. You’re aiming for something like this:
The dimensions don’t really matter. Just know that your paper size will be limited by the size of the framed screen you make.
There. The hardest part is done. Yay you!
(If this part of the post just overwhelmed you, no worries! You can buy paper-making screened frames and kits online or at craft stores. You can decide whether you want DIY or buy for this project).
Large Wash Tub
You’ll need some kind of tub or wash basin large enough for your frame to fit in completely, and at least a few inches deeper than your frame thickness. Ideally, it would be only a little bit larger than your frame like the one shown here:
Bonus Tip: I wouldn’t recommend using your actual bathtub since leftover paper bits could clog your drain. It’s easier to use a portable container outside.
Felt or Flannel Sheets
You’ll also need several pieces of felt or flannel for this project. If you don’t have any on hand, you can buy a yard or two at a fabric store and cut it into rectangles to a size slightly larger than the size of your frame. The more pieces you have, the more paper you’ll be able to make at one time.
Ideally, stick with only felt or flannel. I’ve tried cotton rags and terry-cloth towels and neither work well for this job (though you might want to have a few rags on hand for soaking up excess water in Step 5).
Blender or Food Processor
A blender or a food processor will get the job done, but which one to use will depend on the type of recycled paper and bits you’re using. If you have both, you can experiment to find out which works best for you. Otherwise, just use whichever you have on hand.
Any medium or large bowl will do. Although, your family’s heirloom glass mixing bowl might not be a good choice for your kids to use for this outdoor project. I’ll leave that up to you.
Drying Racks (optional)
Having some kind of wire racks will speed up the drying process but they aren’t absolutely necessary.
Food Coloring (optional)
If you want to give your paper a color boost, you can add food coloring to your mix. But see the Bonus Tip in Step 3 for a little more about coloring your paper.
Step 3: Pick Your Mix & Soak It
Now comes the fun part.
Let your kids pick out whatever mix of recycled paper and fancy pieces they’d like.
The only rule is to make it at least about 80-90% paper products (in other words, no more than 10-20% fancy bits like glitter or sequins). If you have too much non-fibrous material, it won’t hold together well.
Once they’ve filled a medium-sized bowl with recycled materials, have them soak their mix thoroughly by filling their bowl with water.
There aren’t any exact measurements here – you’ll want a very, soupy mix like this:
Bonus Tip: If you’re looking to make vibrant colored paper, you’ll most likely need to use both food coloring AND colored recycled paper. Including a little bit of colored tissue paper or crepe paper won’t be enough to color a whole batch of white-ish paper mix. And food coloring by itself will mostly just dye the water (which you’ll be draining out of the paper).
Step 4: Blend Your Paper Mix
Once you have your paper soup ready, it’s time to blend it up. So, instead of paper “broth-based-soup” we’re now turning it into a thicker “paper chowder.”
Keep in mind, any homemade paper will be lumpy compared to regular, store-bought paper. But the smoother you want your paper, the longer you should blend it.
Step 5: Dump It, Sift It, Blot It, Flip It
No, it’s not the sequel to the Bop It game. It’s the next step in the paper-making process!
This is most easily explained in pictures, so I’ll keep my words few:
First, set up your basin on the ground or a table (ideally outside) and have your paper mix ready.
Place your screen in the basin with the screen side down. Next, pour your mix onto the screen.
Using a sifting motion, try to slosh the mix around until it spreads evenly over the screen. (If it’s too thick and isn’t spreading out well, try adding more water, stirring your paper mix and re-dipping the screen).
Once you’ve gotten good, even coverage, lift the screen straight up and let it drip over the basin. Then, using your hand, a rag, or a felt piece (whatever works best for your paper mix), push down gently and evenly to blot as much water out as possible.
Cover your wet paper-to-be with a piece of your flannel/felt and push down gently to make sure it’s made contact evenly.
Holding the felt so it doesn’t fall off, flip the screen-paper-felt sandwich over quickly.
The wet paper should fall off the screen pretty easily just from gravity, but if not, gently tap the screen. If all goes well, you should end up with something like this:
We typically get at least two or three sheets of paper out of a medium-sized bowl full of paper mix. Once one sheet is done, dip your screen in and repeat the Step 5 process for the next sheet.
And, if something goes wrong, don’t panic! All is not lost. You can scrape the wet paper bits back into the tub, add a little more water if needed, and try again!
Step 6: Dry Your Homemade Paper
Now all that’s left to do is wait. If you do have baking racks or other wire drying racks, this step will go faster. But even on the ground, your paper will eventually dry, though it might take a few days.
Try not to touch them while they’re still wet or they may lift up off the felt and it’s hard getting it to stay back down.
Once it’s dry, you can use your paper for all kinds of other craft projects.
We’ve used ours to make greeting cards, cute note paper, and scrapbook accents. And, after my wedding, my sister and I took scraps of extra invitations, decorations, tinsel, and wrapping paper from my wedding gifts and recycled them into beautiful homemade wedding-themed paper. You could do the same to commemorate any special event!
All in all, it’s been a great craft our entire family has really enjoyed over the years. And now that we have the supplies ready, we can pull out our paper-making bin anytime!
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