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Okra is the toughest of the three natural fibers I have made paper with so far.
It also required more treatment–I peeled the outer bark from the stems with a vegetable peeler:
And left the stems to dry for a few weeks:
I smashed the largest stems with a sledgehammer (any hammer would have done, but this was handy):
Then I used snips to cut the pieces up into chunks:
I boiled them with soda ash (1 T. per quart) for 6 hours, about twice as long as was needed for the daylily and the yucca:
I rinsed the okra and beat it to a pulp. At least I tried to beat it. It was still pretty tough and wasn’t getting as pulpy as the lily or the yucca. At last I got it to a semblance of suspension in the vat and tried a sheet.
It couched okay, but the fibers were larger than I was hoping.
I think I will cook them again and hope that helps. I imagine cooking them in lye would speed up the process, but for paper I prefer soda ash. I get enough of lye making soap.
Here is the dried and ironed result:
Here it is for comparison with the other papers so far, from left–okra, daylily, and yucca:
Next on the yard paper schedule: butterfly weed stems
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 absolutely beautiful photography and illustrations of both historical and modern examples of paper craft, plus detailed instructions on beginning basic and creative, artistic techniques. I love this book.
If you can’t find washing soda in the laundry aisle of the supermarket, you can order it online here.