Recycling Old Paper Into Beautiful Handmade Paper

Woman placing petals in handmade paper.
Peter Ptschelinzew / Getty Images

You can make beautiful paper for yourself or as gifts from recycled scraps of just about any paper that you can find. By adding decorative items such as flower petals, you can create striking personalized stationery. This is a fun, inexpensive craft project that results in a unique, useful, handmade product while benefiting community recycling efforts.

Paper for Recycling

Steer clear of waxed cardboard, but otherwise you can use pretty much any type of paper products. These include: 

  • Construction paper
  • Printer paper
  • Magazines
  • Junk mail
  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Paper bags
  • Newspapers (will produce a grayish paper)
  • Card stock
  • Non-waxed cardboard
  • Napkins

Decorations

Many materials can be added to the paper for decorative effects. You might wish to add flower or vegetable seeds to the paper, which then can be planted by the recipient if you use it as a gift. Materials to try include:

  • Flower petals
  • Seeds
  • Fine leaves or grass
  • Foil
  • String or yarn
  • Dryer lint
  • Food coloring (for dyeing your paper)
  • Liquid starch (to make your paper less absorbent so that you can write on it with ink)

Build a Frame

While you can make the paper you gather into pulp and create a rough product just by pouring the pulp out and allowing it to dry, you can also form your paper into a rectangular sheet by using a frame.

You can make a frame by duct-taping an old piece of window screen onto a small rectangular picture frame, or you can staple the screen onto the frame to make the mold. Another option is to bend a wire coat hanger into a shape of your choosing and slip old pantyhose around it to act as a screen.

Make Your Paper

Here is how to pulp the old paper together with water, spread it out, and allow it to dry:

  1. Tear the paper (feel free to mix different types) into small bits and put the pieces into a blender.
  2. Fill the blender about 2/3 full with warm water.
  3. Pulse the blender until the pulp is smooth. If you are going to write on the paper, blend in 2 teaspoons of liquid starch so it will not absorb ink from a pen.
  4. Set your mold into a shallow basin or pan. You can use a cookie sheet or a sink. Pour the blended mixture into the mold. Sprinkle in your mix-ins (thread, flower petals, yarn, etc.). Shake the mold from side to side, keeping it in the liquid, to level out your paper pulp mixture.
  5. Absorb the excess water. You have a few options for doing so. You can remove the mold from the liquid and let the paper dry in the mold without absorbing the liquid. Or you can flip the paper out onto your counter top or a large cutting board and use a sponge to wick away any excess water. Another option is to press a cookie sheet onto the paper to squeeze out the excess liquid.
  6. Air-dry the paper on a flat surface.

The resulting paper can be used as writing paper or to create elegant greeting cards, to make or line envelopes, to wrap gifts, to fashion gift bags or collages, or for any other use you can think of.