Recycling Old Paper to Make Beautiful Handmade Paper

Woman placing petals in handmade paper.
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You can make paper from recycled scraps of just about any paper you can find. By adding decorative items, such as petals, you can create beautiful personalized stationary. This is a fun craft that teaches about recycling while making a useful handmade product.

Types of Paper You Can Recycle

You can use pretty much any type of paper product for this project, but steer clear of waxed cardboard. 

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

Decorations

There are many materials you can add to the paper for a decorative effect. You may wish to add flower or vegetable seeds to the paper, which can be planted.

  • 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 pulp your paper and make a rough product just by pouring it out and allowing it to dry, you can also form your paper into a rectangular sheet if you use a frame. You can make a frame by duct-taping an old piece of window screen onto a small rectangular picture frame. You could also staple the screening onto the frame to make the mold. Another option is to bend a wire coat hanger into a shape and slip old pantyhose around it to act as a screen.

Make Your Own Paper

You are going to pulp the old paper together with water, spread it out, and allow it to dry. It's that simple!

  1. Tear the paper (feel free to mix different types) into small bits and put it 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.
  4. Set your mold in 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, etc.). Shake the mold from side to side, keeping it in the liquid, to level out your paper pulp mixture.
  5. You have few different options to absorb the excess water. You could remove the mold from the liquid, let the paper dry in the mold, without absorbing the liquid. You can also flip the paper paper out onto your countertop and use a sponge to wick away excess water or you could press a cookie sheet onto the paper to squeeze out the excess liquid.