I first shared this fun Valentine’s Day tutorial, back in 2012. It’s still a fun idea and it’s definitely time to share it, again. This project would be easy and exciting for kids, so gather them around and enjoy some time creating, together. Besides making my own paper, I also get a real kick out of embedding flower seeds in the paper, so the Valentines can be planted, later, in the flower bed! This project, actually, has so many more applications that just Valentine’s Day, so get creative and make a whole bunch of recycled paper projects! Send me the pictures, I would LOVE to see them!
I had pinned a blog post on how to make our own paper from junk mail and scrap paper we had around the house, quite some time ago. The blog it leads to is Positively Splendid and Amy has lots of great, crafty ideas to share, over there. My mind immediately traveled back a few months to our summer trip to Ohio and the Bob Evans Farm Festival where we had watched a demonstration of the exact same thing. The lady there was selling kits to make your own paper at home. So, I scanned the blog post I had pinned and realized how simple it would be to just gather the supplies at home. A new Pinterest project idea was born!
I love the idea of recycling all the old paper in the house and reusing it for craft projects and cards. It saves money, it reduces waste and it’s actually really fun and easy to do. Since we were making paper to use for Valentines, we gathered scraps of napkins, scrapbook paper, junk mail and magazine pages that had reds, pinks or lavenders and used them in this project. The colors you can make are as plentiful as the scrap paper stash you have on hand!
What you’ll need to make paper:
- a blender
- scrap paper, envelopes, magazine pages, dinner napkins, scrapbook paper, any paper scraps you have on hand
- an old picture frame or embroidery hoops
- window screen scraps big enough to fit your frames
- duct tape
- dishpan large enough for your frame to lie flat in
- square of felt just a little bigger than your frame
- an old bath towel folded over two or three times
- a blow dryer
- (optional) flower seeds – This was such a fun idea we gave it a try, for our project, but you definitely don’t need seeds to make paper.
The picture frame I had in the garage was broken, but since we were going to be taping the whole screened frame together, anyway, it didn’t matter and it was a great way to reuse something I already had. In hindsight, the frame has a ridge along the edges that can trap extra paper pulp, so next time I would choose a frame with flat sides and edges or even use an embroidery hoop which was an idea that came to me after I had already built my frame. They would make round or oval sheets of paper, instead of rectangular, but if you will be cutting out shapes from them, it really doesn’t matter. I know I saw some old hoops at our local thrift store, for a quarter a piece. I think I will definitely go back and pick them up for future paper-making projects.
I cut window screening to fit around my picture frame, leaving about 2 inches of overhang on each side to fold over and tape down on the back of the frame. Size matters, here. Be sure the frame you build will be able to lie flat and be completely submerged into the container (dishpan) you are using for the water.
Using duct tape, I pulled the screen tight across the frame and secured it on the back, going around all four sides.
Now that the screen was complete, I filled my dishpan 1/2 full with water.
Then I tore our scrap paper into small chunks and filled my blender canister about 1/3 to 1/2 full with the pieces.
I added hot water to the blender canister filled with paper, until it reached the point of being about 2/3 full.
Then I used the pulse feature on my blender to chop the scrap paper into tiny pieces. The mixture wasn’t purely liquified. There were still a few detectable bits of paper floating in the pulp. You can decide how large or small you would like those bits to look in your finished paper.
I poured out the blender canister into the dishpan filled with water and then I repeated the process, so that I actually had two canisters worth of paper pulp in my dish pan. I tried to make the paper with just one, but it came out thin and uneven. I personally preferred working with two canisters at a time and got several sheets that way. Use your hand to stir the pulp into the water.
Once you have stirred both canisters of paper pulp into the dishpan of water, you are ready to make paper. Submerge the frame you built, screen-side up, into the dishpan. Try to keep it perfectly flat and level as you lift it back out. There will be a nice thick coating of paper pulp sitting on top of the screen. If you have holes or gaps that didn’t fill in evenly, you can simply submerge the screen again to rinse the pulp off. Give the water a gentle stir with your hand and then submerge your screen again, lifting it out flat.
At this point, the woman who demonstrated in Ohio and the blogger whose post inspired this project, both quickly turned their frames upside down onto a piece of felt and the paper came off the screen onto the felt. Then they set the felt aside to allow the paper to dry, taking up to 24 hours, depending on how quickly the moisture evaporated from the paper.
I’m not sure what I was doing wrong, but no matter how many times I tried, I could never get the paper to come off the screen onto the felt. I’m only guessing but maybe the problem was that I was using craft felt, which is mostly polyester and I should have used wool felt, which would definitely wick away the moisture more quickly. I just don’t know, but I didn’t have access to wool felt, so I had to come up with another method.
(Optional use for flower seeds): At this point the blog I read, suggested sprinkling the wet paper pulp on the screen with flower seeds. What we discovered is that they didn’t stay adhered very well, once the paper was dry. Our solution, we sprinkled the flower seeds into the dishpan of water that we added our blended paper pulp to. That way they became part of the paper, instead of just resting on top of it. The idea is that the paper hearts can be planted in a few inches of soil, watered and eventually sprout a few flowers for the person to whom you give them. Since the paper will breakdown and become compost in your soil, it makes great sense and it’s a fun Valentine gift idea.
Once I lifted the frame from the water, I flipped it over onto the felt which was lying on top of the folded bath towel. Then I blotted out a lot of the excess moisture with a folded wash cloth. A sponge would work well, too. Just blot right through the screen to start pulling the moisture out. I used a blow dryer on the highest setting to dry the paper, right through the screen while it was still lying on top of the felt. I eventually flipped it and made sure the top was dry, too. It was completely dry and ready to use in about 8 or 9 minutes. Which sure beats 24 hours when you have kids who want to use it “right now”! I grabbed one corner and lifted it right off the screen. Some pieces curled a little as I was drying them, but I discovered a couple quick blasts of steam from my steam iron pressed it smooth. Perfect!
I traced hearts of all sizes and combined them with heart shapes I cut with my Cricut. Then I glued them together, with Elmer’s White Glue.
Once the hearts were finished, I attached them to lollipop sticks and added green cut-out leaves. The hearts and leaves attached easily to the lollipop sticks with white glue.
Once everything was dry and set, I poured some glass beads into an old candle jar I had saved when the candle was gone. I arranged the hearts in the jar like a flower bouquet, tied on a bow from a piece of fabric in my scrap basket and added a note I printed from my printer and glued to another lollipop stick. The note says, “Friends are flowers in the garden of life. I’m glad you bloomed in mine. Happy Valentine’s Day!”
This was simple and used items I had around the house. It would be a unique Valentine’s gift for a friend, aunt or even Grandma! Who doesn’t love hearts and flowers?
We’re going to be making even more homemade paper projects and, hopefully, perfecting our technique. If you try it, I would love to hear about your projects or have you share pictures on our Facebook page!