Introduction to Herbal Papermaking

I would like to address another antique and fascinating art, the process of making paper. Today all of our paper is made from growing and stripping trees and processing wood in smelly paper plants. This is really ugly to our environment! Beyond just the growing and destroying of so many trees, which uses up resources and robs the earth, there is also the toxic fumes and chemical smoke that spews from these stinky processing plants. If you have ever traveled through the north east of the USA, you know when you are coming up on a paper plant! And this is with the windows rolled up.

You might enjoy taking on the process of making homemade paper to not only give a tiny burp of relief to the earth but also to have something that is personal and created especially by you. You will be amazed at the variety of papers you can create, the colors you can use and the gazillion ways you can decorate the paper to suit you. Make beautiful paper that can be used for stationary, scrap booking, personal diaries, artwork, fliers, brochures, wall art or other lovely items. And you can do this with herbs! Get out and start growing some herbs if you don’t have any already or go through the ones you have and choose the types you would love to use. This is a hobby that quickly becomes an obsession so don’t start it if you don’t want to fall in love! For those of you who are willing, here is the first installment in a few posts to come on how to get deep into this fascinating hobby.

First of all, you need to learn how to make plant pulp. The pulp is necessary as the fiber you will use to make the actual paper.

Equipment Needed to Make Plant Pulp

The size and types of Equipment you will need to make the Pulp for Herbal Papers does depend on how much Paper you are preparing to make. In time, after practice, you will get a sense of how much Paper you need and therefor what types of Equipment you will need as well to accommodate a certain amount of pulp. As with every other art and craft, this one takes practice.

Start out with the following items:


3 Gallon Bucket
Mortar and Pestle -or- Mallet
12 Quart Stainless Steel -or- Galvanized Pan
Rubber Gloves (always!)
Wooden Spoon
Metal Seive or Colander
Strong Nylon or Net Bag

You can make a Nylon or Net bag yourself. Use old stockings or other netting to make a bag and tie it off with a rubber band when in use.

Always make Pulp near a water source like a hose or a sink with an extended faucet or sprayer hose. If you are sensitive to fumes or other gases, wear a dust mask when working and be sure to aerate the area thoroughly. Working outside near a hose is good if possible, otherwise, keep the windows open!

If you splash yourself with the mix at any time, be sure to wash it off quickly and thoroughly with cold water. Caustic chemicals are used in some parts of the process and can damage eyes and skin.

Choosing The Herbs and Plants You Will Use

Take care in choosing the Herbs or Plants you will use to be sure that they suit your purposes. You may not want all Papers to be scented and you might want others to the tough and hard to tear. All Plants have the Cellulose Fibers necessary to make Papers but the color, scent and texture of the Herb or Plant will dictate it’s use.

The Chinese invented Paper Making around 105 AD and they used Tree Bark worked over with Flax. The Papers they made were rough but delicate if you can imagine something textured but thin and flimsy. Today Paper is still made in the same fashion but with better Equipment and wider choice of plant materials.

Good solid Papers are most often made from:

Pampas Grass
Cereal Grass

Please remember when gathering these Plants that you want the stems and leaves and not the fruits, seeds or blooms. Seeds, in particular, make the mixture too wet.

For more Scented or Colorful Papers that still have Fibrous content, choose from among these:

Chamomile (Yellow)
Dandelion (Yellow)
Dill (Green)
Fennel (Green)
Iris (Blue)
Mullein (Brown)
Sunflower (Yellow-Brown)

Although you may use any Herb or Flower for it’s color, it is a good idea to mix more delicate Plants with those listed above in order to get a tougher consistency and a less flimsy paper product. For example, to achieve Purple, you could use Roses with Irises, being careful with the mix to achieve the right depth of Purple or Violet. More Iris, darker Purple. More Rose, you get Violet.

Equipment Needed to Make Pulp Into Paper

To make the Pulp into Paper, certain Equipment will be needed to complete this process. I am giving you the Equipment Lists and Plant Lists before I launch into instructions so that you can be fully prepared when you begin.

First of all, you should obtain a large Plastic Basin. This can be a large container of any kind but an ideal choice would be a medium storage container with a lid like the kind they sell at Big Lots and Walmart. These are tough and well constructed, easily lidded and stored and can be stacked as well.

Another item you will need is two large Wooden Frames. Don’t let this frighten you if you are unfamiliar with frames. They sell ready made frames in Printing Supply Stores, Crafts Stores and at home supply stores like Home Depot and local Hardware stores. If they don’t have one in stock, they can order it. Or they can suggest someone locally who either has one or can make one to order.

The Frames should both be 8 1/2″ x 11″ or 8 1/4″ x 14″ depending upon the size of papers you wish to make. The joints of the Frame should be waterproofed. Window frames cannot be used because most do not have joints. A Printers Frame, also called a Silk Screen Printing Frame is ideal. You can buy these ready made at most Printing Supply Stores, Art Supply Houses or at Crafts Stores.

Fill one of the Frames with a netting material. Do not use the kind of Screens they use in Silk Screening. Buy a thick or firm type of flexible netting (like mosquito netting or nylon netting). Cut it to size and tuck it into the slots along the sides of the Frame. Leave the second Frame empty.

The only other Equipment you will need will be Newspaper. Gather used ones with printing from around the house and neighborhood or go to an Art Supply House and buy clean, unused Newspaper. Either way is fine. In lieu of Newspaper, you can also use Wallpaper, Blotting Paper, Computer Paper, old letters and whatnot. It doesn’t matter the color of the Paper because that will be destroyed in the process. Any color will be intentionally added later on, using the Herbs and Flowers you have chosen.

Gather all of this Equipment before you begin the process. Make sure you have enough of everything and that all of it is working, clean and in good condition.

Stay tuned for part 2 where I will discuss how to prepare the pulp, used recycled paper pulp and the first simple recipe for making paper.

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