Herbal Papermaking Part 2

I know it’s been a long time but I thought I’d finish up on my herbal papermaking series. For those of you who thought you might learn how to make your own paper out of herbs I apologize. Now you can finally go out and get the few items you need to finish the process. In this post, I will tackle the methods for preparing the plant pulp, decorating the paper and adding scents to the finished product as well as discussing how to use recycled paper pulps and finishing off with a recipe for making paper for the first time.

The next post I will publish on this art will be recipes for making your own herbal inks so you can not only make herbal papers, scent and decorate them yourself but you can make herbal inks to use on the paper. This makes a lovely end product and it’s a really fun, productive project for crafters. Pretty soon you will be saving a few trees in the process as you learn to make paper pulp, recycle paper pulp and make your own paper products out of foraged herbs. Nothing could be cheaper.. or more green!

Preparing the Plant Pulp

First of all, you will need several new items in order to turn Paper into pliable Pulp. You should gather up all of the Equipment listed in Herbal Papermaking Part 1.  And then you are going to gather fresh Herbs. Once you have decided the scent, color or texture of the Paper you wish to make, you may then gather or purchase your fresh Herbs or Flowers. You should gather at least 3 gallons of fresh material. My suggestion is that you start with something readily available in Health Food Stores, that does not have any special color or scent but will provide enough cellulose material for you to learn how this is done. My choice for the first experiment would be Flax, Straw or Broom.

In addition to the Plant materials, you will need Caustic Soda. This is available in most Home Improvement Stores, Hardware Stores and in some Craft Stores. Remember to follow the guidelines and warnings on the Caustic Soda. It is a dangerous chemical and should be handled carefully.

As you prepare to make the Pulp, you should gather a quart of Water. And once you have the Plant Materials, the Caustic Soda and the Water, then follow these instructions:

1. Cut or tear 3 gallons of Herbs or Flowers into 1″-2″ square pieces. Crush the thicker pieces with a Pestle and Mortar or a Mallet to speed the breakdown process. Now put on the Rubber Gloves.
2. Put the entire Quart of Water into a Stainless Steel Pan and slowly stir in the Caustic Soda. Use a Wooden Spoon for this and NEVER use metal or plastic. Avoid breathing the fumes. Follow the directions on the Caustic Soda bottle. If you are splashed with any of this mix, wash it off immediately with cold water. Once the Soda has been blended into the Water, begin to add the Herbs. Cover with extra water if necessary to cover all of the Plant material. Mix the Plants into the Water until they are all covered. Set on low heat on a Stove and allow to simmer for 1-2 hours or until the Plant Fibers appear to be soft.
3. Wearing the Rubber Gloves, rinse the Plant Material under running water to remove all residue of Caustic Soda. Then place the materials into a Metal Sieve and flush again. Then let the materials drip dry in the Sieve.
4. Now gather all of the Plant Material and put it in the Net Bag. Rinse again with cold water, squeezing the material repeatedly for several minutes.
5. Blend 2 1/2 tbs of the Fiber Material with 3 cups of Water for 20 seconds. This should be in a Blender. The more finely they are blended, the more fine the Paper will be. You will learn to discern what is needed with practice.
6. This Pulp can be used as is or mixed with Recycled Pulp.
7. The Paper, before finishing, will have to be treated or “sized” to receive Ink. Mix 1/5 tsp of Cold Water Laundry Starch with a little water and stir it into the Pulp.

Using Recycled Paper Pulp

If you wish to save money and be good to the Environment, as well, then you can use Recycled Paper for Pulp. This Recycled Paper is often best used in a mix with Pulp made from fresh or new Paper. Partly because Recycling reduces the fibrousness of Paper, it might be flimsy used on its’ own.

For best results, try using absorbent Papers such as Newspaper, Wallpapers, Blotting Papers or Computer Printouts. Do not use previously shredded Paper unless it’s been shredded into large pieces. Most Paper Shredders shred the Paper into too small strips. For best results, take whole sheets of used Paper and tear it into pieces with your hands.

Once you have small/medium sized Shreds of Paper, then soak what you have overnight in a bucket of warm water. You do not have to heat the water, just use the warm water from the tap.

When the Pulp is soft, blend it in a Blender with 3 cups of Water for 15 seconds. Try not to blend the Pulp much longer than advised. Take the resultant Fibrous Material and add 1/5 tsp Cold Water Laundry Starch to a small amount of water and then mix the liquid into the Pulp.

A Simple Recipe for Making Paper

To begin making Paper, you should have, at this time, the Equipment listed in the article above “Equipment Needed for Making Paper”. Also you should have the Pulp from the previous Recipe. This can be Recycled Paper, Plant Pulp or Mixed Paper and Plants.

Optional additions, depending upon what kind of Paper you are making, can be Flowers, Petals, Stalks or Essential Oils. Essential Oils make great additives for scented Papers. Nice Oils to start with are Lavender, Lilac or Rose. You will not be adding the Oils directly to the Pulp, however. Follow the instructions on “Scenting The Paper” below. As well, you will not add the Flowers, Petals or Stalks to the mix either. You may be using these for Decorations or for Scenting the Paper and should follow the instructions below.

To make Basic Paper:

1. Lay out a thick layer of Newspaper on a table, on the floor or a large counter.
2. Fill the Plastic Basin or Container with Pulp to just below the rim.
3. Take both Frames and place them face to face. The empty one should sit over the Netted one. Dip the two frames together into the Basin. Tilt the frames all the way up to Horizontal, keeping them Horizontal as you lift them out of the bin. Pulp will cover the inset of the Frames.
4. Lay the Pulpy Frames out on the Newspaper. It will drain onto the Paper. Remove the empty top Frame and leave the Pulp laying on the Netted Frame. Getting this right takes practice. You might have the Frames wrong a few times before you get it right. Keep trying. Once you have the Netted Frame laying on the Newspaper, covered in Pulp, then you can scatter on the Pulp some Petals or Leaves for decoration (they will dry into the surface of the Paper). Leave the whole thing to dry overnight.
5. When the Pulp has completely dried and it looks like a sheet of Paper, slide a Palette Knife, or other large thin Knife, under the sheet of Paper to loosen it from the Frame. Clean the Frame after finishing, to reuse later.

If you do not like the look of the Dried Petals, Leaves or Stems into the surface of your Paper, you can discontinue doing it this way and add Decorations later as described in the following article, “Decorating the Paper”.

Methods of Adding Scents to the Paper

There are many simple methods of adding Scent to Paper and none of them require Chemicals or other processes. In much the same way that you can Scent Fabrics, you can also Scent Paper.

Be careful in choosing the items you use to Scent the Paper, being sure that the mixture of Scents will be desirable. Do you have a certain favorite Herb? Or a special Love for a certain Flower? Always start with these and then experiment later on. Of course, you can always make choices dependent upon other choices, such as choosing Rose because you have chosen to make Pink Paper. Or Lavender because you have made Purple Paper. If you have chosen Roses as an additive in the Pulp, the paper will likely be Light Pink. Such Paper becomes very special when also Scented with Rose Petals.

Here are several methods of Scenting your freshly made Paper:

1. Scent Paper by storing it with aromatic Herbs in an enclosed space. You can lay out the Herbs themselves, such as Lavender in bloom or you can mix Herbs into an envelope and then lay it in a drawer or closet with the Paper. It is best if it’s all closed in together such as in a small box.
2. Wallpaper is the most absorbent of all Papers so if you are wishing to make a strongly aromatic Paper, begin by making Pulp from Wallpaper. This is one Pulp which would take well to Essential Oils added into the process at the Frame stage. The only real test will be how much is too much and after making a few overly scented Papers out of Wallpaper, you will learn to lighten the dose correctly. Once it has been Scented, use it to line drawers.
3. Make up thin Muslin bags of Potpourri and lace them with Essential Oils. Slip them between layers of freshly made Paper, roll it all up and cover with plastic wrap. Tie it up so that it will stay rolled up or use cling wrap to make it stay. Leave it in a dark closet or drawer for several weeks.

Although you could add Essential Oils to the water used in the Pulp making process, I do not recommend it. First of all, the amount of Water is highly diluting and it is hard to determine how much oil would be needed to create an odor. Caustic Soda will destroy the Oil if it’s added too early.

You can, of course, add the Oil to the Pulp as you lay it out on the Frame. Sprinkling is a good idea. However, only begin to do this after you’ve learned how to make the Paper and then take your shot at adding the oils. Only after much practice and a lot of “not so scented” Paper has resulted from the process, will you learn exactly how much is enough and how much is too much.

Decorating The Paper

As described earlier, you can decorate Pulp during the Framing but you will only create impressions and cannot add texture or color.

Scattering Leaves, Flowers, Blooms or Stems on the Pulp leaves an impression in the Paper that looks like stamping and can be very impressive. But you cannot, at that point, add Flowers, Blooms or Stems directly to the Paper. It will not dry to the same texture, is unlikely to “stick” and looks goofy. It ruins the smooth surface of the Paper you are creating.

So how do you add Flowers, Stems or Blooms to the Paper? It is a desirable additive and deserves to be addressed. But there is only one way of doing it with any success and that is after the entire process is done.

First of all, choose the Flower or Herb you wish to use on a particular type of Paper. Roses on Pink, for instance. Or Daisies on Yellow. Herbs you can use include Rosemary on Green Paper or Violets on a Purple Paper, etc….

Choose from these:

Forget-Me-Nots in Blues and Whites
Daisies for Yellow or White
Borage for Purple, Lavender or Lilac Shades
Primrose for Bright, Rich Yellows
Sweet Violet for Violets or Purples
Alpine Ladies Mantle or Dewcup for Light Yellow-Green
Chervil for frilly Dark Greens & tiny White Blooms
Scented Geranium for Pinks (and the fantastic smell!)
Salad Burnet for tiny Red Flowers
Myrtle for Bright Yellows
Rosemary for Green Foilage and White Flowers
Lemon Thyme for Pink or White
Dead Nettle for White, Pink or Peach Flowers
Wild Wallflower for Soft Yellow
Bugle for Dark Purple
Periwinkles or Vincas for Blues, Whites or Reds
Marigold for Large Yellow Flowers
Clove Pink for Pink, Red, Peach or Salmon Flowers
Sweet Rocket for Light Pink, Dark Pink and Mauve Flowers
Honeysuckle for Orange, Red and Yellow
Delphinium for Dark Purple
Lupine for small Dark Red Blooms
Musk Mallow for White

And the simple process is this:

1. Lay the Flowers out carefully on Blotting Paper or Newsprint.
2. Press between the Sheets of a Heavy Book
(or put in a regular book and stack with a heavy box)
3. When the Flowers are thoroughly dried, remove them carefully
4. Place them on the Paper in whatever pattern you would like
5. Use a small amount of Latex-based Glue to fix them to the Paper
You can do this with Greeting Cards, Stationary or Picture Frames
The results are really nice as long you don’t use too large Flowers!

Have some fun in the process and try making paper several times, because as you do it, you just get better at it. This is messy, hands on work but it’s creative, inexpensive and fun… get the kids to help! The first few batches may be funky or crumply or brittle but remember that herbal papers are never going to be the same texture and consistency as milled paper. But they are green, safe, inexpensive, personalized and unique and in that regard they are much better. In time, you will get better at making the paper and you will become accustomed to the texture and quality of the papers you make. And once you have some paper you’d like to use to send letters, make notes or even use in scrapbooking, then move on to my next post and take it to the next level by making your own herbal inks. And once you do this, you will have the ultimate personal writing products… scented the way you like in the colors and textures that you appreciate. There is nothing finer than that.

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    Many herbal remedies provide simple, safe, natural health benefits difficult to get in the diet. Herbal Medicine

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