Posts tagged: paper

Homemade Recycled Paper – “Flat” Monthly Unplugged Project

By , April 28, 2010 10:58 am


I have always wanted to try making paper so I confess, that is why I chose the theme flat for this month’s Unplugged Project (paper was already taken).  We finally did it and it was so fun!  I am also fairly proud of our efforts because we recycled not only a lot of used printer paper and newspaper, but also a picture frame which became our deckle.  It is amazing what you can do with old picture frames!

This paper was fairly brittle and could never be used for wrapping, however it would make nice note paper or scrapbooking paper.  Also, don’t expect a smooth, fine paper.  It is quite rough and well, homemade looking!  I really love the look of it.

Here’s how we did it.

Make the deckle:

You can get fancy and use wood to construct a frame for your deckle, or buy a ready-made deckle at a craft store, but we did something different.  I seem to have a love affair with alternative uses for picture frames, so I used one as the frame for our deckle.

Get an old 8″x10″ wooden picture frame (or other size, but the size of the frame will determine the size of your paper) or buy a cheap one at the dollar store.  You’ll also need some aluminum window screen.  If you don’t have an old screen at hand you can buy some cut to measure at a hardware store.  I bought one foot of screen for $1.12.  Aluminum is apparently better than nylon because it holds its shape better and is more rigid.

Cut the screen to the same size as the outside dimension of your frame.  The aluminum screen cuts quite easily with a sharp box cutter or X-Acto knife.  Staple the screen onto the back of the frame using a staple gun.  Try and make it as taught as possible.  That’s it!

Gather your materials:

We used old newspaper and some scrap printer paper.  You can also use wrapping paper, construction paper, paper bags, any kind of paper really.  Apparently there is an art to combining short and long fibers to achieve both strength and flexibility, but that was all beyond us at this point.

Also gather up some embellishments if you wish:  flower petals, leaves, yarn scraps, glitter, foil scraps.  We used construction paper punch outs that were left over after using a fancy hole punch.

You will also need a blender or food processor, some clean dish towels (or a scrap of felt) and a rolling pin.

Make the pulp:

Tear your paper up into smallish pieces about 1″ square, no need to be exact since they are going to be shredded in the blender (my 4 year-old really liked the tearing part).

Fill the blender no more than 3/4 full of water and add a handful of paper scraps.

Blend vigorously until scraps are shredded and combined with the water.  Keep adding small amounts of paper and pulsing the blender until your mixture looks like watery porridge (should be about a 4:1 ratio of water to paper).

It might take a few tries to get the consistency right.  If you find in the next step that the mixture is too watery, then pour it back in the blender and add some more paper.  If it is too thick, then pour back and add some more water.

Last, add any embellishments to your pulp but don’t blend unless you don’t want to shred them up.  Be careful you don’t add too much extra stuff because the more extras that are in your pulp, the less the fibers will stick together.  You might want to add a bit of glue or cornstarch to your mixture if you put in lots of decorative items.

Make the paper:

Pour the pulp mixture into a basin that is large enough for your deckle to lie flat on the bottom.  Tip the basin a bit and slide your deckle in under the watery pulp.

Swish it back and forth a bit to evenly distribute the fibers and lift it out of the water.  You should see a thin and even layer of pulp over the entire screen.  This is your sheet of paper!

Let the water drip through the screen until only a few drops are falling (a few minutes).

Meanwhile, prepare your towels.  I put some folded newspaper down first to help absorb the water, then I topped it off with a clean, folded dishtowel. Apparently felt works really well for this too, but we didn’t have any.

When most of the water has drained from your paper, gently tip the deckle upside down onto your towel or felt.

Gently tap the back of the screen so the paper falls off onto the towel.  It should fall in one sheet, but if not, keep tapping and it’ll probably all assemble OK on the towel.  Cover the wet paper with another clean, dry dish towel folded in half and roll over it with a rolling pin until much of the water is squeezed out.

The tricky part is getting the paper off the towel.  Carefully peel up one end until you can pull the sheet off in one piece.  I found that it was actually a bit easier to put a large plate upside down over the paper, lift the towels and the plate all together, and then flip it all right side up so the paper lands on the plate (kind of like getting rolled pie pastry from a sheet of wax paper into a pie dish!).  Gently peel off the towel and you’ll have a lovely whole sheet of paper on the plate.

Hang it with clothespins someplace to dry.


Newspaper/white scrap paper:

Newspaper/scrap paper and fancy hole punches:

White scrap paper only with grass and flower petals:

Newspaper/white scrap paper with red food coloring added to blender:

Newspaper/white scrap paper with blue food coloring and a bit of light weight kitchen foil added to blender (the foil shredded fine in the blender but I had to add a bit of cornstarch to the pulp because the paper wasn’t holding together well – next time I’ll use less foil, or use foil wrapping paper instead):

Tips & Notes:

  • You can fix holes that occur when you tip your paper off your deckle by making another small piece of paper on the deckle and placing it on top of the holes.  It will all blend in together and patch the holes when you roll it with the rolling pin.
  • If your paper doesn’t look good, just toss it back in the bin of pulp and swish to break it up.  Try again.
  • I had read that bleach could be added to make the paper white.  We tried that on one of our first simple newspaper sheets but it made no difference.  Perhaps we didn’t use enough, or didn’t let it sit enough?
  • You will find that your paper will be much lighter in color after it is dry.
  • I really like with printed paper how a random word will surface every now and then and become part of the new paper.  If you don’t like this look, then stick to plain paper, or grind your printed paper more thoroughly.
  • Would soaking the torn paper in water overnight or for a long while help improve the texture of the result?  Or pouring boiling water over it?  See Mother Earth News for more information.
  • I read that using already recycled paper for your pulp produces a sturdier result.
  • A few paper-making friends had the following ideas for me:  For color add cotton thread or string (embroidery floss apparently works well).  Just cut up and blend with the pulp.  Try a streak of ground dried chilis for interest (spices – great idea!), or sharpen some colored pencils and add the shavings.  Thanks guys!
  • There is a definite learning curve to paper-making.  Our first few tries were not as successful as later ones.  Just keep experimenting!
  • Reader Clara beat me to it with the idea of paper for this month’s Unplugged Project and posted this comment:

“Did I send this already? Papermaking! Great recycling project, and artistic and usable! You soak newspaper for a day or so, add a few drops of bleach (or not) and put into an old blender. You strain the pulp and spread a layer on a very FLAT board, place cloth or other paper on top, and weigh down, allow to dry, and while still damp, you can add flower petals, small blossoms and thin leaves to make it pretty. This was in the early 80s, so if you have any corrections, PLEASE add them! You can add thinly shredded cotton cloth before soaking, and this colors and strengthens the paper. You get a cream colored very artsy looking stock. Enjoy!”

Thanks so much Clara!  I think we’ll try your method next time. I like that no deckle is necessary.


Some really good advice from an expert:  Instructables Homemade Paper

Color – Marbleized Paper (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , February 2, 2009 9:20 pm



This has actually (unintentionally) been a colorful week for us.

I haven’t mentioned Odyssey of the Mind (OM) here yet, but my friend and I just discovered it (actually she discovered it) and we dived right in last fall as coaches for our children’s Montessori class (1st – 4th grade). It’s a bit complicated to explain OM in this post, but suffice it to say that the children have to come up with an engineering or creative project entirely on their own.  “Outside Assistance” is heavily penalized.

My 8 year-old daughter apparently has the role of a tree in her completely student-created play.  She decided she wanted to dye some net green to be her leaves, so she chopped up an old artichoke that we happened to have in the kitchen and boiled the net in it to dye it green.  It didn’t work so well. She then tried green food coloring. Not too effective either (I think it would have worked better on a natural fiber). That was all entirely her idea.

Personally I probably would have headed to Walmart for some green dye, or better yet, green net!  But of course I couldn’t say that to her – “outside influence.”  So, I look forward to seeing what possible solution she comes up with next.

I was so proud of my daughter’s initiative and creative thinking!  These Unplugged Projects are more than just a diversion.  I believe that they encourage original thought and teach that it is OK to not get it right at first.  Just experiment to see what works, and if it doesn’t, then try and figure out how to make it work.

That was a bit of a tangent, but her experiments with dye got me thinking about food coloring and how we could incorporate that into the theme color. I began Googling food coloring and oil because I knew that the two don’t mix and I thought there might be something fun out there. I was quite excited to find this: Marvelous Marbling.

I have wanted to try marbelizing for a long time now. I have fond memories of loving it the time we did it in elementary school. Since the memory has stayed with me that long, it must have made a big impression!

Traditional marbleizing involves oil paint and turpentine. Frankly, I have never had the energy to tackle that. Turpentine – ick. This webpage tells how to marbleize using just food coloring and cooking oil. I had to try it!   So we did.  I made a few alterations – here is my version.


For this you’ll need a shallow pan that is large enough to fit the paper you’ll be using (we used baking pans), food coloring, cooking oil, white paper (we used card stock – NOTE:  thick card stock produces as a nice result, thinner paper tends to get a bit greasy), water and an eye dropper.  The eye dropper is optional, but we found it worked better than just pouring.


Put just enough water in the pan to cover the bottom (**VERY IMPORTANT!**).  As we discovered, if the water is too deep, the color will sink if you work too slowly.


Put about 1/2 tablespoon oil and 1 teaspoon food coloring into a glass (we halved the proportions of the original since we only had tiny bottles of coloring and I didn’t want to use it all up).




The two ingredients will not be mixed. [NERDY SCIENCE NOTE:  Oil and water don’t mix due to dissimilar molecular bonds – “like dissolves like” and water molecules and oil molecules are not alike.  Read more here about why oil and water don’t mix:  Let’s Talk Science, and here is a good, simple tutorial about solubility and water: Water Tutorial]

At this point, the mixture will look something like this:


Beat it hard with a fork until well blended.  It is like mixing an oil and vinegar salad dressing and will take a few minutes.  We experimented with mixing it in a jar and shaking it up.  That worked even better, just make sure the top is on tightly (we had a bit of a food coloring disaster the first time my daughter tried it).




When done, it will look more like this:


Using the dropper (or gently pouring if you don’t have a dropper), place drops of colors on top of the water.  The drops will stay in a blob, or perhaps explode a bit.  You can place one color inside another.  Experiment.




When you have dots of color all over the surface of your water, use a toothpick, or a fork, or a feather (whatever you want to try) to make patterns in the colors.  They’ll make blobs and swirls and pretty patterns.



When you are happy with the design, gently place your paper on top of the water.  Leave it for a little bit.  We waited until the oil started to show through the back of the paper (about 30 seconds?) and then peeled it gently off.



There will be lots of oohs and aahs as the pattern is revealed!



That last one reminded me of a medical slide. LOL!

We even tried hot water vs. cold water.  Knowing that molecules move faster in hot water, we wanted to see if anything different happened to our oil/color mix in really hot water.  We didn’t see anything too dramatic, but my daughter did note that the blobs converged a bit more quickly.  (For more on hot vs. cold liquids, please read my post:  Molecules in Motion).

We also experimented with dropping a blob of food coloring directly onto the wet cardstock.  We could work it a little with a toothpick for a bold effect:



Let the paper dry then use it for cards, wrapping paper, framed art, whatever you want.  Ours will become thank you notes.


According to my 8 year-old daughter, this is her “new favorite project!”


For more color project ideas, please check out all the links here.


The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be:


Hope to see you then! (If you want to join us, please read about how to here.)




Newspaper – Newspaper Beads (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , May 11, 2008 9:21 pm



The theme for the Unplugged Project this week was newspaper. I confess that I was being sneaky when I chose this theme. I had planned on doing this project last week for green (green=eco=recycle=newspaper beads – get it?) but we lacked time, so I made sure to pick a theme this week that would still fit my plan. That is an advantage I have in being theme-picker!

We adapted a project that I saw in the wonderful book: Recycled Crafts Box by Laura C. Martin. The project is Paper Bead Bangles (p. 25) and she suggests using gift wrap or glossy magazines. I thought the beads might look interesting made with newspaper instead, so we tried it.

What we needed: newspaper, drinking straws, Elmer’s-type glue, small paintbrush, string or yarn, ruler, scissors, and pencil. Here are our supplies:


The first step was to choose our newspaper pages. My two oldest children chose the colorful comic pages. I thought the financial section or classifieds might make interesting beads due to the small typeface.

Next we drew a rectangle over the area we wanted to use. The rectangle was 1.5″(about 4cm) tall and exactly the same length as the straw. Here are our rectangles:


We poured some glue into a bowl and used the brushes to paint it on the back of the newspaper rectangles. Make sure your children flip their rectangle over before applying glue, otherwise the wrong side of the paper will be showing. Be sure to glue thoroughly all over the rectangle, paying special attention to the edges. The seam should be really well glued for this to work well.

The final step is to glue the paper to the straw. Put the straw in the center of the rectangle. Wrap one side over the straw as tightly as you can. Then roll the straw up in the rest of the paper, again, as tightly as possible. We then brushed glue on the outside of the wrapped straw, especially along the seam.

Here are some of our wrapped straws:

Let the straws dry and then cut them up evenly into “beads.” String the beads on the yarn or string (or wire?).

One point to consider: the straw openings are really too big for a knot. Of course you can string the beads without a knot at the end if you are making a loop for a necklace or bracelet for example. But if you just want a single strand for a tassel or something similar, then you can tie the first bead on to the end of the string by looping the yarn through and then knotting it. That will make a large enough blockage to prevent the other beads from falling off. That’s what we did for our tassel. You could also string a large ordinary bead on first to prevent the paper beads from falling off. That might be pretty too.

You can make bracelets, necklaces, bookmarks, or even tassels to hang on backpacks or dresser knobs. If you and your kids really like this project and have lots of time and straws, you could even make a 1960’s-style long beaded curtain to hang across a doorway. That would be really funky and unusual, especially for a teen!

Another idea: My daughter said she thought it would be fun to cut rectangles out of plain paper, decorate them with markers, and then turn the “homemade” paper into beads. Or how about turning old children’s artwork into beads?

Here are our finished projects –

A bracelet:


A necklace:


And our favorite – a tassel for my oldest daughter’s school binder (that they use instead of backpacks):


My littlest (age 2) desperately wanted to join in and was fixated on the paintbrushes and glue so I gave her some newspaper, a cup of water, and a paint brush and she was pretty happy despite a crabby day. She even proudly showed us what she “made” (soggy newspaper):



What did you make for newspaper?

If you made something newspaper-related with us this week, then please put a link to your project in Mr. Linky. If not, then please visit the participants to see what creative projects they came up with…and join in next week!


My oldest daughter picked next week’s theme:


Good luck and have fun!


Scissors – Silhouettes and Stick Puppets (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , April 20, 2008 9:50 pm

So what to do for this week’s Unplugged Project theme: scissors? We could try a little Modular Kirigami, or some traditional Kirigami. In fact why not create an exact 3D miniature replica of our town using only one sheet of paper and some scissors!! Well…maybe not. But it was a fun thought to consider.

Instead we decided to tackle something that I remembered from my childhood, and which seemed a bit more manageable in scope – silhouettes. As is often the case with these Unplugged Projects, there was an evolution: the silhouettes became stick puppets, which led to a puppet show and even a shadow puppet show!

Here are the materials: desk lamp, white paper, masking tape, pencil, glue stick, dark colored construction paper and, of course, scissors.

We set ourselves up in the guest room which has heavy velvet curtains that can make the room quite dark, even in the daytime. We put out a small chair parallel to a blank wall. We then set the lamp on a table as far away from the chair as possible (the farther away the lamp is, the smaller the shadow will be and you want the whole head to be able to fit on one piece of paper). My oldest daughter sat down and I masking-taped some paper to the wall where her shadow fell.

I traced around the outline. I repeated the process with my 5 year-old son, but not my 2 year-old since I knew she wouldn’t sit still long enough.

The kids got stuffed animals and made their own silhouettes of them:

Next we sat at the kitchen table and glued our white paper outlines to pieces of dark construction paper:

Then we carefully cut along the pencil markings:

Once it was cut out, all we had to do was flip the whole thing over to see a lovely dark silhouette! I glued the children’s black silhouettes to some white poster board and experimented with framing. I think I shall have to redo my son’s though, since his haircut makes him look a bit like a light bulb, or a Saturday Night Live conehead (he’s on the left, below).

The children had the brilliant idea of coloring the white sides of their silhouettes and attaching craft sticks to make stick puppets:

I was then presented with a puppet show over the arm of the sofa:

Their next inspiration was to try a shadow puppet show in the guest room using our desk lamp.

One simple project snowballed, and turned into an afternoon of fun!

TIP: I would eventually really like to make a small (4″x 6″ or 5″x 7″) silhouette of each my three children to put, matted, together in one frame. Since I don’t have a lamp powerful enough or a room large enough to be able to make silhouettes that small, I plan on reducing my tracings using a photocopier and then will follow the same simple procedure.


If you joined us for the scissors project, thank you and please link to your post in Mr. Linky. For those of you who have chosen to turn off all those screens for Turn-Off Week (whether you are participating in the TV-Turnoff Blog Challenge or not), I shall expect you to produce true masterpieces for next week’s Unplugged Project (lots of free time, right??)!


In honor of Spring, next week’s Unplugged Project theme will be:


Remember, the theme is only a starting point. If you can’t think of anything directly bird-related, then what is associated with birds? Feathers, nests, eggs…any of those things “count!” Be as creative as you want to!


Magazines (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , February 10, 2008 9:57 pm

Anything related to magazines usually sends me straight into collage-mode, but this week I decided to be adventurous and try some decoupage instead. OK, I know, decoupage is really just kind of like 3-D collage, but we had a lot of fun.

I dug out some very old decoupage glue that I had stashed away. I think I bought it before my oldest (now 7) was even born and one jar of it did look ominously congealed. This shows you all just how often I do crafts!

NOTE: Here is a recipe for homemade decoupage glue and glaze (Modge Podge) – Modge Podge is the classic decoupage glue and glaze that you can buy in craft stores. For simple fun-with-kids decoupage, I personally would simply dilute some white Elmer’s-type glue with a bit of water until the consistency is workable but not too runny.

I also found a few items to decoupage: an ugly picture frame, one of many plastic restaurant cups (the kind with the plastic lid and straw that seem to collect in every cupboard), a useful-looking can that I had been saving simply because I am a pack rat, and a partially squashed little cardboard box (another pack rat item).

For those who have never tried decoupage, here are the basics of how to do it:
Cut out images from magazines, old Christmas cards, anything (you can even use stickers). Glue them in place on the item to be covered – like a collage! When everything is glued on, brush the whole object with glue (make sure you use decoupage glue or watered down white glue). It will go on white and cloudy but will dry clear. Repeat with at least one or two more coats. This will create a hard clear glaze over the object that will smooth out the cracks between the glued on paper and make a shiny finish. Allow to dry. You can use any object really, you can even do this on furniture with beautiful results.

We had a pile of kids’ nature magazines that had been read and were sitting around, plus a few catalogs. This is what we did:

The supplies:

My 5 year-old son chose the cup, my 7 year-old daughter chose the can, and I took the box. My son had no plan. My daughter decided to do all animals. And I chose to do blues plus neutral textures and patterns to match my bathroom (to make a little catch-all kind of box).


Painting on the glue to seal:


The finished products:

By the way, my whole box was done using the Chiasso catalog. So there really is a use for all those unwanted catalogs, while waiting for them to disappear after “declining” them at

What did you do? Please put your link in Mr. Linky if you did something with magazines this week.


Next week’s Unplugged Project:


Don’t panic, it doesn’t have to involve sewing. How about making a collage of fabric scraps? Creating a dress-up costume out of old clothes or fabric remnants? Tear an old piece of clothing into strips and teach your child how to braid? Sort fabric scraps by color, or texture? Also, don’t forget that fabric glue exists if you want to sew something simple but can’t, or don’t have time.

What can you come up with to do next week with fabric?

NOTE: Mr. Linky appears to be down at the moment…so please just leave a comment and we’ll visit from that!

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