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Beautiful to behold and delightful to touch, decorative paper is fun and easy to make. Just blend recycled paper products and supplies you have around the house.
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Measure and cut the dowel into four 9-in pieces and four 6-in pieces.
Form a pair of 6-in x 10-in rectangular frames by gluing and nailing two 6-in pieces to two 9-in pieces (Frame and Deckle Project Diagram).
Cut an 8-in x 12-in piece of aluminum screen. Working first from end to end and then side to side, stretch the screen over one frame and staple it to the underside. Carefully trim away excess screen at the corners with scissors or a utility knife.
A mold and deckle are used for papermaking. The screened frame is called the mold. The bare frame, called the deckle, holds the pulp over the screen and creates a soft, ragged edge on the paper as it's removed.
Tear paper products into roughly 1 inch squares. Put the pieces into the blender with twice that volume of water. (For example, use 2 cups of water to 1 cup of shredded paper. Too much water is better than too little.) Allow the paper to sit in the water for several minutes before blending so it first absorbs water and softens.
Blend the pulp mix using the "chop" setting. The paper and water mix should have the consistency of thick soup. Don't blend the mixture too fine, as fiber in the pulp will be broken down too much. Small bits of paper in the pulp add character to the final product.
Pour the pulp mixture into a plastic tub and mix in additional water as needed to disperse the pulp. Experiment with the ratios of water and pulp in the tub to vary the thickness of the paper.
Add food coloring, dye, or paint as desired after the pulp is in the tub. (Do not add paints or dyes to pulp in the blender.) Pulp with color added can stain, so handle it cautiously, and wear nitrile gloves to avoid staining your hands.
Set the deckle on top of the mold with the screen side up. Dip the deckle and mold into the pulp mixture, scooping low to get under the pulp. Let the pulp settle for a moment, then keep the mold level and slowly lift the mold and deckle straight up out of the tub. Experiment to determine the thickness of the paper you prefer.
Let the water drain for a minute or so. Then remove the deckle from the mold; this creates the frayed "deckled" edge. Immediately rinse off the deckle in clean water.
If you are unhappy with a resulting paper, quickly return the still-wet piece to the tub of pulp. Stir to dissolve the piece into the pulp to be reused.
Lay a wet cotton towel or rag on a water-resistant work surface and smooth it out. Flip the mold over on top of the towel and carefully press the frame of the mold onto the towel until you see the water from the paper saturate the cloth. Slowly lift one end of the mold while holding the opposite end of the mold down, so the paper separates from the mold.
Lightly press a moistened sponge onto the paper to absorb water. Wring the sponge and repeat.
Dry the paper by hanging the towel and paper from a clothesline. Or lay the towel and paper flat on a window screen or drying rack that allows air to circulate. Let dry for 24 hours or more.
Experiment with different techniques for different looks. For a smoother finish, let the paper dry, and then iron it. Add fresh or dried flower petals, leaves, tea leaves, coffee, spices, or herbs to lend texture and color to your paper. Use cookie cutters to make paper in interesting shapes: Set the cookie cutter on top of the mold screen and spoon or pour paper pulp into it. Allow it to drain for a minute, remove the cookie cutter, and transfer the paper shape to the towel blotter.
Turn a piece of paper into a decorative envelope for small notes by first downloading the paper pouch pattern. Trace around the pattern with the help of a ruler along the straight edges, cut out the design, punch holes in the circles, and fold where shown on the dotted lines of the pattern. Thread a piece of narrow ribbon through the holes to hold the pouch together.
Give a plain glass vase a makeover in paper. Cut a rectangle of paper nearly as tall as your vase and wide enough to wrap around it. Cut a smaller band of paper in a contrasting color to create the stripe. Glue together and add a heart-shaped accent.
Cut hearts out of paper and string together on a ribbon. Homemade paper adds novelty to this simple project.