Hello and welcome to The Compost Bin. I'm Compostwoman and I live with my family in rural Herefordshire. We have nearly four acres of garden and woodland, all managed organically and to Permaculture principles, which we share with Chickens, Cats and assorted wildlife. We also grow a lot of our own food, run courses in all sorts of things and make a lot of compost!

I am a Master Composter and have spent more than a decade as a volunteer Community Compost adviser with Garden Organic and my local Council.
I'm a self employed Environmental Educator so I run workshops and events where I talk about compost, veg growing, chicken keeping, cooking, preserving and sustainable living. I also run crafts workshops and Forest School/outdoor play sessions in our wood.

We try to live a more self sufficient lifestyle here, as best we can, while still having a comfortable life and lots of fun.

To learn more about us click on the About Compostwoman tab and remember to click on the photos to make them full size!

Thursday 5 March 2009

Eco Club - Paper making fun

well, recycled paper making... :-)

We made paper from recycled paper last week at Eco Club so I thought you might be interested to see how I do it and what preparations I make.

Recycled paper making is fun, but very messy!

I have built up a list of useful equipment over the 3 years I have been doing this, just to be able to do it in the most easy manner. Remember I am doing this with between 15 and 30 children, so I have extra sets of everything!

Paper making kit

Lidded bucket (to make and transport pulp)
Old laminated floor tiles (useful flat surface to roll out on)
Rolling pins
Jugs (useful to scoop out pulp)
Stick blender or masher
Spoons (for adding/mixing pulp)

Mould and Deckle (you need to make (or buy) a mesh frame (sometimes called a mould) and an outer frame without mesh (called a deckle) Two picture frames and a piece of mesh stapled on to one frame would work.

Sponges (for removing excess water from pulp)
Trays (bigger than the mould and deckle, for the actual paper making part. I use unused plastic cat litter trays)
Plastic tablecloths

My Paper making kit ready to go to Eco Club, all stacked in a big plastic box in the boot of my car, paper pulp in SEALED buckets (formerly had bird food in them, washed and reused for this), standing in the paper making trays. If pulp spills it is VERY hard to clean up!

To make the pulp

Take cut or better still shredded white office paper (printed is fine, but good quality office paper makes the smoothest recycled paper)

Many other types of paper that can be used include: Newspaper (If you want a grayish colored paper), old magazines, old cards (makes heavier paper) tissue paper (for finer paper)

Put a generous quantity of torn or shredded paper into a bucket and add warm water. Leave overnight if possible to let the paper absorb lots of water - this makes the fibres easier to break up. If you need to speed this process up you can add boiling water.

Liquidise or mash the wet paper until it is pulp. I find putting half the pulp in another bucket with some more water is best to liquidise it, if the pulp is too thick it is hard to liquidise.

It will look like porridge when it is ready.

Wash your hands after handling paper pulp as it is alkaline and can leave your hands very dry, and remind the children to wash their hands as soon as they have finished doing the pulp handling bit.

To make the paper

There are several ways of doing this, I put the mould and deckle in water (frame mesh side up, deckle on top)

and then spoon/pour pulp into the frame until I have enough. This is easier for children to do!

OR you can put some pulp in a bowl (bigger than your frame and deckle) with water.
Take the frame and deckle, hold them firmly together and scoop them under the surface of the pulp mixture until you have picked up enough pulp from the water to make an even layer of pulp on the mesh. This makes finer paper but is hard for children to do!

If you want to colour the paper add food colouring to the water at this stage.

Agitate the frame and deckle in the water to get an even layer of pulp inside the deckle, on the mesh. You can spoon some pulp into the deckle and frame to fill in any holes.

When all of the mesh is evenly coated lift out and allow the frame and deckle to drain, keeping level.

At this point you could add glitter, dried leaves, herbs, flowers, scraps of coloured tissue paper etc. I add some vanilla food flavour for a lovely scent, or a drop of lavender essential oil, or some dried lavender also looks very attractive.

Lift the deckle off,

place a cloth (I use old j cloths, anything absorbent will work) over the paper on the mesh of the frame. Gently dab with a sponge to remove the worst of the water.

Carefully lower the cloth and paper, cloth side down, on to a flat surface (I use an offcut of floor tile) covered with newspaper/cloth to absorb water. There WILL be a lot of water around!

You now have the cloth on the tile, the paper next then the mesh of the frame. This is the back surface of the paper, seen through the mesh.

Press down with sponges on the mesh, so the water is blotted off the paper through the mesh.


Lift off the frame from one corner, pressing gently from the mesh side as you go, leaving the paper behind on the cloth

You now have a cloth with some paper on top of it!

Put another cloth on top and roll with a rolling pin to remove any further water (and flatten the paper a litle.)

Repeat whole paper making process, adding each cloth to the stack.

When you have enough paper sheets, place something flat on top ( I use another laminated floor tile) and weigh it down to flatten the paper stack. Leave for a bit (a few hours if possible but it is not too critical).

Peel apart the cloths and leave each sheet of paper and cloth to dry out a bit more if needed.

Restack and put a weight on the stack to flatten the sheets

Finally peel off the cloths and leave the paper to dry out completely. DO NOT put in too hot a place or the paper will buckle as it dries!

I get the children to work in pairs, each one working on an end of the frame and then the sheet can be cut in half when dry. Odd bits can be re used to decorate other sheets of paper.

Put in a warm dry place to dry and make sure you know who made it!!


And THAT is how we made paper!


  1. What a lovely informative post. I might just give this a try, I love the look and feel of handmade paper. Thanks.

    Sue xx

  2. I remember making paper in elementary school as part of a science project interestingly enough (I'd have thought art, but nope).... I think that paper might still be somewhere in my parents' house along with all those other projects they have saved... But seeing your pics reminds me of how fun it was... the "mess" is the best part! Do you know how your club-members will use it?

  3. Yes I have experimented with this too - coloured tissue paper often ends up a completely different colour, and you can get some interesting textures depending on what type of cloth you use.
    One of my books recommended adding potato starch to stiffen, and there was a way of sealing it so you could write on it with ink, but I can't remember. Enormous fun!

  4. Hello all!

    I AM glad the post was informative, I spent a long time taking photos and getting it right, so am glad it makes sense to you all...

    I didn't mention the starch ( hits head!) Yes, if you want to use ink you need to add starch to the water...but we tend to use the results as artwork on cards or today at Eco CLub we are going to make the paper a centrepiece for the covers of nature notebooks, so the starch is not so important.

    I notice the difference in paper texture just from the different meshes I have on the moulds, the one with the very fine metal mesh makes very fine paper whereas the one with the plastic mesh is more textured....

    Its all good fun, and I talk about where paper comes from, how it has been made in the past and why we want to use recycled paper as much as we can , so as to preserve as habitat old growth forests for the flora and faunas living there....

    The children "get" it, immediately.... :-)

  5. Hi, is my first time here, great tutorial and pictures, thanks for share!!!

  6. I've been meaning to try making paper for years, I can't ever remember doing it but have seen some lovely books made out of handmade paper at the local neighbouthood project

  7. I have great memories of making paper w/ my mum... Then years later w/ my kids.. Thanks for bringing back my memories... Great Post!

  8. This is a fantastic post, many thanks! I'm going to try this with my son :) Cheers ears.

    Have a top weekend!
    Lu. x

  9. Like others this has always been something I wanted to try when ever i read about it but after your excellent tutorial I am definately going to give it a go.


  10. Just had a thought. Was talking to my daughter last night about making an annual memory book each year for the garden. This would be a wonderful way to do it if you could add flowers etc to the paper. Would you know if you could just add the flowers or would you have to dry them first?


  11. Hello again to all!

    MArgaret if you want to add flowers they are best if pressed flat and dry...so a flower press is useful as well ( I have several in my "kit" and it is something we do several months beforehand so there are lots to add....)

    Am so glad everyone is enjoying this post, I LOVE doing this with the children!

  12. A great job on the paper and how to.

    We used to make paper years ago with the 4H kids, soooo much fun. We also made the paper into books, cards.

    For a twist one year we used seeds in the paper, wrote our notes on them and left a message to plant the paper for the seeds to grow.
    Worked great.

    Thanks for sharing this and bringing back good memories of the fun we always had making the paper.



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