How to Recycle Paper and Make Your Own Handmade Paper

handmade paper

The Spruce / Kate Pullen

Overview
  • Working Time: 60 mins
  • Total Time: 24 hrs
  • Yield: 1 piece
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

Beautiful handmade papers can be purchased from arts and craft stores. These lovely papers make great additions to a wide variety of card making, scrapbooking, gift wrapping, and other paper craft projects. While traditional papermaking methods require special equipment, such as a press, there are alternatives. If you are just starting out, or want to make small amounts of handmade paper, it is easy to make paper at home using simple household supplies and waste paper that is turned into paper pulp.

Making Simple Handmade Paper at Home

Many papermakers use a mold and deckle to produce paper. This is perfect for producing large pieces of paper. It is possible to make smaller pieces of paper without this equipment and using only a plastic container lid or cookie cutter as a mold. Because you are not using a paper press, deckle, or other special equipment, the end result may be thicker, charmingly rustic, and less refined-looking than handmade paper produced using special equipment.

This process is ideal for making small pieces of paper. While the finished paper can be cut with scissors or a craft knife, making smaller pieces of paper with a finished size or shape result in textured edges.

Types of Paper Used to Make Paper Pulp

Many different types of paper can be used to make paper pulp at home. This includes newspaper (although the newsprint will give a gray look to the paper), uncoated junk mail, tissue, construction paper, or even clean toilet paper. Some types of cards and card stock can also be recycled this way. The inner rolls from toilet tissues, for instance, can create a textured effect in handmade paper.

Easily customize your handmade paper with additives, such as seeds, leaves, glitter, yarns, fibers, or a wide variety of other items you can mix in with the pulp. Handmade paper can also be colored with dyes, food colorants, or pieces of colored tissue paper. Create an impression in the wet paper pulp by using rubber stamps as another form of decoration.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Hand blender
  • Multiple towels or cloths
  • Mixing bowl
  • Plastic container lid or large cookie cutter (use as a mold)
  • Rubber stamp (optional)

Materials

  • Paper
  • Piece of plastic sheet or parchment paper
  • Additives (optional)
  • Colorants (optional)
  • Card stock (optional)

Instructions

  1. Prepare the Paper

    The first stage in making paper pulp is preparing the paper. Here, we used a mix of paper tissues and the inner roll from toilet tissue rolls.

    1. Tear the paper and card into small pieces and put it in a mixing bowl.
    2. Cover the pieces with water and leave to soak.

    Soaking Time

    The paper should be fully soaked within a couple of hours, however, you may want to leave it overnight or even for a day in order for it to be fully soaked. This helps to break down the paper to make pulp.

    Make Paper Pulp
    The Spruce / Kate Pullen
  2. Pulp the Paper With a Hand Blender

    Use a hand blender to pulp the wet paper mix.

    1. Blend the paper pulp mix until all the pieces have been removed and there is a single mass of paper pulp.
    2. After the paper is thoroughly pulped, squeeze the pulp to remove some of the excess water.

    Substitute Hand Blender

    It is possible to do this without a hand blender. A potato masher, for instance, will give the same effect—albeit with a little more effort.

    Use a Blender to Make Paper Pulp
    The Spruce / Kate Pullen
  3. Press the Paper Pulp Into the Mold

    1. Line the plastic container lid with a piece of plastic or parchment paper. This makes turning the paper out easier.
    2. Start to press the paper pulp into the mold or cookie cutter.
    3. Keep pressing the paper pulp firmly into the mold so it is evenly distributed.

    Expect a Mess

    This is a messy and wet process, therefore it is best to work on a well-protected work surface.

    Press the Paper into the Mould
    The Spruce / Kate Pullen
  4. Press the Water Out of the Paper

    1. Use a towel to press firmly on the paper pulp to remove the water. The harder you press the more water will be removed and the firmer the end result.
    2. Tip the lid slightly to drain the water.

    For Smoother Paper

    Smooth towels, such as tea-towels or tea-cloths, will produce smoother results. A brayer (small hand roller) could be used to flatten the surface of the paper pulp even more.

    Press Water from the Paper Pulp
    The Spruce / Kate Pullen
  5. Turn the Paper Out from the Mold

    1. When the paper is firm and as much water as possible has been removed, turn the paper out onto a dry towel or cloth which has been placed on a flat surface.
    2. Use a dry towel to press more water from the paper.
    3. Place the paper in a warm and dry spot to fully dry.

    Dry Paper Faster

    Some people place the paper in a warm oven or toaster oven to dry. This can be useful when the weather is cold or if you are working in humid surroundings. 

    Turn the paper Out of the Mold
    The Spruce / Kate Pullen
  6. Finishing the Paper

    When the paper is thoroughly dried it can be cut and decorated as required. The surface of the handmade paper is rough and not completely flat, however, this helps to highlight the handmade nature of the paper and emphasize that no two pieces will be truly the same.

    Handmade Paper Tag
    The Spruce / Kate Pullen