Hand Papermaking with Yucca

by Daisy on 09/22/2008

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As I mentioned in a former post, I have been getting around to making paper from the plants in my yard and environs. This time it is yucca paper.

I decided to use the old, dried leaves instead of the green ones. These have been “retted” (allowed to break down) by nature, and I hoped would be easier to transform into paper pulp.

After cutting or yanking out the old leaves, I put them in a bucket to soak overnight, just as I did with my daylily leaves.

The next day, I rinsed and drained them and cut them into 1 inch pieces with a serrated knife. The yucca leaves were a lot tougher than the daylily and the fibers were much more obvious. I can see how they have been a source of fiber for artists’ brushes.

Again, as with the daylily, I cooked the chopped fibers in soda ash at a rate of 1 T. per quart, for three hours. I brought the water and soda ash to a boil, added the leaves, returned to the boil, reduced heat to a simmer, and timed the three hours from that point.

After the fibers were cooked and cooled, I washed the yucca with several changes (at least 10) of water until the rinse water was clean(ish). (It looked like wet hair).

I beat the fibers to a pulp (I love saying that), and repeated the papermaking process. The paper dried overnight and here it is:

It is a bit lighter in color than the daylily paper and speckled with golden yellow. It seems very strong and flexible. A big thumbs up on the yucca paper.

Next, I have my eye on the okra and asclepius tuberosa stalks and iris leaves.

The book I consult most for papermaking is The Art and Craft of Papermaking, by Sophie Dawson. It’s from 1992, and I’m sure there are lots of newer books on papermaking, but this has been an excellent resource for me. It has tons of gorgeous photography and illustrations of both historical and modern examples of paper craft, plus detailed instructions on beginning basic and creative, artistic techniques. I’ve spent a lot of time poring over this beautiful book.

If you can’t find soda ash (washing soda) in the laundry aisle of the supermarket, you can order it online here.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Bethany September 22, 2008 at 2:05 pm

Beautiful paper! I’d love to know what you come up with for the okra fibers, I’ve got a few of those to work with. When we lived in AZ, I always thought that the palm tree fibers would make great paper/crafting supplies, but never really got around to it.

Thanks for the comment on my blog, it’s much appreciated!

Tempyra September 23, 2008 at 7:45 am

Wow! That’s awesome. I wish I had yucca plants – I’d so try that!

Tomato Lady September 23, 2008 at 1:30 pm

Thanks, guys.

Bethany, I’m looking forward to the okra, too. Still have a few pods growing–almost ready to chop the plants down.

Tempyra- Any leaves that are hard to tear crossways probably have some paper potential–iris, daylily, etc.

I don’t know much about this but it’s fun experimenting. If you try it I’d love to see the results.

ga.farmwoman September 23, 2008 at 9:08 pm

Hey Tomato Lady,
I have some yucca plants around and lots of day lillies too.
That is a really good idea. It would make a great card/present to give someone and special too.
Good post!

Al September 5, 2009 at 12:50 am

I live in AZ and there are tons of these in neighbors yards. I think I’m going to introduce myself as the resident nut by asking for all their dead leaves lol. But one quick question. What is soda ash and where to I find it? (sorry if you explained it in another blog, new here and its taking me a while to get through them all)

Lizardbites January 17, 2011 at 4:17 pm

I’m envious that you have yucca plants. Have you ever tried making soap from the root?

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