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Handmade Paper Tutorial - Recycled!

My husband Mark and I had a very handmade wedding, and I wanted to give everyone their first taste of that with something that often sets the first impression of the tone of a wedding - the invitation.

We decided to make our own handmade paper invitations, and we took photos along the way so you can learn to make them too!


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Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

Materials:

Recycled paper, shredded or torn into small pieces
Flower petals, onion skins, garlic skins, dried thin leaves, etc
Acid-free powdered paper additive
Blender, not used for food
Mold and deckle
Felt sheets
Sponges
Towels (lots!)
Large bin for water and pulp
Iron and Ironing board
Cheesecloth

I like to make my paper pulp ahead of time and run through cheesecloth, straining out all the water. I then freeze the pulp balls for later use. In this case I colored my pulp balls ahead of time with used construction paper, but I often freeze plain white recycled computer paper balls and plain kraft paper balls from grocery store bags and the like, and add colored paper to the batches as I use them.


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Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

Begin by mixing the water and paper pulp mixture. Be aware that from this point on, the blender you use for this project is no longer food safe. I personally purchased a fifteen-dollar blender to dedicate to craft use, but you could check craigslist.org or your local thrift store for cheap to free ones.

Use pre-blended frozen paper pucks like the ones I showed you before or blend your paper right on the spot. Add 2 pitchers full of pulp and water to the bucket, then add 1 pitcher full of plain water to loosen the mixture. The water should be opaque but not lumpy. Stir in your acid-free additive as according to directions, and last, add your plant matter for decoration as desired.

Assemble your mold and deckle by placing your screen on the deckle, then placing your mold. I use a kit by Arnold Grummer that has a fine screen that I put below the regular window-style screen, a grated base for the deckle, and here I am using a mold that makes 2 half sheets of paper, perfect for standard A2 size invitations. I also have a mold that makes A2 envelopes, though I did not use it for this project.


Stir the pulp/water mixture, and slide your assembled mold and deckle setup into the water side down, trying to get underneath the pulp smoothly.


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Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

Pull directly up in a smooth and even fashion, trapping pulp on the screen in the mold. Lightly shake the water down through the screen into the water bin, and carefully remove the mold from the top of the stack without disturbing the paper pulp.


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Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

Stack 2 felt sheets to be used as couching (pronounced "koo-ching") sheets. Couching sheets absorb the extra water in a sheet of fresh paper, allowing the pulp to be more dense while processing.

Carefully turn the fresh paper, still attached to the screen and deckle stack, upside down onto the couching sheets. Remove the deckle.


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Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

Using your sponge, press firmly on the back of the screen to remove water. I make one initial pass over the fine screen to keep as much pulp in its place as possible, as the fresh paper can tend to stick to the sponge.

Remove the fine screen if you are using it, and make a second and possibly third pass with your sponge, pressing firmly to remove as much water as possible.


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Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

Once all your papers have been pulled, top your stack with 2 felt sheets, and turn the stack upside down, putting the first papers you pulled on the top.

Lay down a layer of cheese cloth on the ironing board, and carefully transfer your damp sheets of paper to the cloth. Fold the cheesecloth up to cover the paper, and begin ironing with heat set to medium-low.

Move the iron rapidly over the entire sheet, being careful not to press too hard or stay in one place too long. Occasionally flip the cheesecloth-paper sandwich and iron the other side, but spend the most time ironing the side with the least of your plant accents on the surface to limit discoloration.


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Originally uploaded by theartofmegan

Stack the finished dry sheets and press between 2 heavy flat objects to set. I usually use 2 textbooks, but if you are doing a large amount of paper 2 boards clamped around the stack tends to work better. Usually overnight is long enough to press them flat and allow any remaining moisture to dry.

Here's another set of handmade paper cards I designed, this time also using the A2 envelope mold. These turn out to be great sets, and make perfect gifts.

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