In an earlier post I told you how I made papermaking material out of dried daylily leaves from lovely plants like the one above (the leaves, not the flowers). Here I’ll show how I transformed that “stuff” (an actual papermaking term, technical-sounding, isn’t it?) into four, 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheets of paper.
Pound the Pulp
I stored my cooked daylily material in the freezer in one-cup portions and removed one cup to thaw overnight. The next day, I pounded the pulp on a thick, very sturdy butcher’s block-style cutting board with a wooden mallet.
This was a learning experience. For one thing, the pulp flies everywhere. I really needed a splash-guard of some type, but I just kept collecting the errant pieces of daylily and putting them back on the board. Secondly, I wasn’t quite sure when to stop. The Art And Craft of Papermaking says to put a portion of it in a jar of water and shake. If it is suspended in the water and clump-free, it is ready. I skipped this step (because I had forgotten about it), and used my best judgment. I noticed that the pounded pulp had a slightly mucilaginous quality–it became a little bit slimy after beating, and I took this as a good sign–some sort of transformation had occurred.
I added a quart of water to my pounded pulp in a mixing bowl to see what I had. It felt soft and pulpy. Now I had to decide how much water to add to my vat (a shallow, rectangular plastic rubbermaid container). This was decided largely by how much volume I needed in order to get the mould and deckle below the level of the water/pulp without diluting the pulp excessively. I added water a quart at a time, testing the level with my mould and deckle with each quart until I arrived at the magic number: 8 quarts seemed to do it.
Form a Sheet
Holding the deckle tightly on top of the mould I dipped it under the surface and — Okay. True confession time. My first sheet I put the mould on top of the deckle (they look the same when you hold them together!!) and had to “kiss off” the first sheet from the wrong side of the mesh. Embarrassing. Note: “kissing off” is another of those papermaking terms I am learning. It means to replace a malformed sheet of paper back into the vat by touching the mesh to the surface of the water. So. . . my second sheet I dipped the mould and deckle into the vat and submerged them into the pulp. I brought it up and tried to shake it from side to side and front to back until it appeared a fairly even coat of pulp had dispersed itself over the surface of the mould.
It is simply a water-resistant board, larger than the felts which are in turn larger than the sheets of paper you are going to couch. My “felts” are rectangles of polarfleece. Wool is traditional, but I am not in possession of a good, tatty wool blanket suitable for sacrifice at the moment. To top it off, I have another large, thick board.
I flopped the mould over onto a felt laid on top of the bottom board and peeked underneath. The sheet had not magically detached from the mould. Hmm. I took a towel and blotted from the top, pressing down in hopes of marrying the sheet to the felt.
Peeked again. Some progress. The sheet was beginning to detach. Kept blotting. It worked. Eventually. It was touch and go for a while, though.
I made three more sheets before the amount of pulp in the water had diminished to the point it no longer formed a sheet that covered the mould. One is supposed to anticipate this and have a ready supply of additional pulp to add after you have removed some. Next time I will be more prepared, but for now I am happy with my four novice sheets.
I placed a couple of dry felts on top of the last sheet and topped the small post (a post is the term for a stack of sheets) with the second board and put a large jardiniere on top of that. Excuse me? Well, it was heavy, and I didn’t have any clean bricks.
In a couple of hours, I returned and removed the jardiniere and the top board. I hung up my sheets, still attached to the cloths, using bent paper clips as hangers.
They make a nice, papery sound when I flutter a sheet, are very flexible, and tougher than the average sheet of paper. I think it would make an excellent accent on a card or collage art. Here is a closer shot after a quick press with the iron to smooth and flatten them out a bit:
I am looking forward to experimenting with other types of plant matter from my environs: iris leaves, yucca leaves, asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed) stems and okra stems are on my short list. I can’t wait.