Introduction: Artisan Craft Paper From Junk Mail

About: I am married with two children. Spring, summer, and fall are my very favorite times of the year. I enjoy working in the yard, sewing, cooking, quilting, gardening, and creating. I do this to keep my sanity.

For the holidays I decided to make gifts without purchasing a lot of things. I made my own paper from junk mail. I know there are a lot of paper tutorials but I wanted to make my paper with flowers, leaves, and scent the pages. I also wanted to show what I made from the paper.

Last year kiteman published an instructable on " How To Make Paper" which has been the inspiration behind this instructable. I actually wanted to try using plant fibers but the weather did not permit so I made paper from junk mail instead. I wanted to make the paper for gift tags, crafts, and journals. 

This instructable will show you how I made paper using junk mail, grass, flowers, herbs, spices, and essential oils. This method is quick and easy and quite fun to do. The directions seem long only because of the different types of paper you can make. I made about 8 sheets of paper the first day I did this, as I fumbled through the process not knowing what to do. Follow through and I will show you how to make some beautifully crafted paper! 

Step 1: What I Learned

I recommend making 1 batch using a picture frame and junk mail with nothing added except water. This will give you a lot of experience and practice without wasting supplies and you can experiment along the way.  If the paper does not turn out simply add water to the blender with the paper pulp and repeat the process! 

For the deckle I used a picture frame and covered the back with screen wire and duck tape. It worked well enough for me to know that I wanted to build a durable deckle because I will be making a lot more paper! I made paper all evening one night and it held up fine. If you use a picture frame, I suggest one that does not have a beveled edge making it easier to remove the paper. You could use a cloth on the back (I think), but it would take a little longer for the water to drain through. I recommend a thin cotton from a very worn sheet or perhaps a nylon stocking could be stapled to the back of the frame. The frame I used was 9" X 12",  but it would be fun to make a deckle from a mini collage picture frame for smaller pages.

My husband built me a frame but after using it a few times; I wished I had asked him to make it into 2 pieces like kiteman's. He made a  frame that is much easier to remove the paper. I would add a way to secure the back of kiteman's frame so it would be re-movable but would also allow you to clamp the screen to the frame section, somewhat like they use for picture frames with glass. To see kiteman's deckle look at his video:

Most of the pages I made were card stock paper. If there were a way to press the pulp harder between a press of some sort; you could achieve a smoother thinner paper. Ironing the paper with a smooth cotton cloth did make a significant difference or you can use a rolling pin and wax paper. The paper I made did not fold very well,  although I have a couple of sheets I made tonight that will fold nicely. I soaked the paper in water overnight and blended it longer to achieve this thickness and I used a rolling pin and ironed it.
I also used less pulp in the deckle achieving better results for thinner paper. 

When drying the wet pages it is important to use a flat smooth surface and smooth cloths because any rough towels will  texture the paper.

I made my paper thicker for an art journal, so I got one to two sheets of paper from each batch measuring 9" X 12".

The starch will prevent ink from bleeding on the paper when used for writing. 

You can make acid free paper by adding calcium carbonate and liquid starch. You can test your pulp with a PH strip to see if it is acid free, it should be 7 or slightly greater according to:

If adding dried or fresh flowers, herbs or grass remember you only need to add a tablespoon or two and a short blend will give a more attractive appearance. A longer blend will speckle the paper.

Using junk mail will give you a muted color; If you desire more control over the color the paper will be, use white paper with no ink or after the pulp is made, place the deckle in the water bath and pour the pulp into the frame and rinse the pulp by dipping it in and out of the water a couple of times. Empty the container of water in the toilet and then refill it with water. Repeat rinsing one more time and then return the pulp to the blender if adding the colored paper, starch, flowers and oils.  Rinsing the pulp should achieve a whiter and brighter appearance because the water bath removes dies from the ink making the paper lighter in color. 

I also used beet juice in the blender to color the pulp. It worked Ok but it did not color the paper as dark or as bright as I wanted because most of the color washed out in the water bath. I read somewhere by adding vinegar to the pulp and letting it soak overnight helps retain the color. I have not tried this method. Perhaps using construction paper would make a difference in the color.

I added pressed dried flowers to a few pages after the final rinse while the pulp was very wet. It worked with very flat flowers and stems. Some of the thicker stems did not stick. It was better to let it air dry because ironing the wet page caused the flowers to move. 

I also added a heart from tissue paper which fused to the paper very nicely. I did not dry it with an iron. 

To air dry; it is important to use a very hard flat surface with a smooth absorbent fabric between the layers and flipping the page over a couple of times so they dry thoroughly. Some of my pages wanted to curl up. As I make more paper I will refine the drying process so this does not happen. I ironed the pages that curled up.

To achieve a stronger scented paper allow the oils to soak in the pulp overnight and then place the pulp into the deckle to form the paper.

Step 2: Supplies

2 Cups Shredded junk mail ( You don't want glossy or waxy paper.)
4 plus  Cups warm water.
Several drops "Essential oils" such as  Vanilla, Mint, Lemon, Pine, Cedar, or any kind. Optional
I added 2 teaspoons of liquid starch " I read if the paper is used for writing the starch will keep the ink from bleeding; it worked for mine."
Approximately 1 sheet colored tissue paper (This will be used to color the paper.)
Several pieces of flowers, grass, parsley, cloves, fresh mint, or leaves, approx 2 Tablespoons optional
1 Large sponge.
1 Package Scotch Brite kitchen wipes.
1 Package Sponge Cloths
Old bath towels
2 Cotton fabric squares larger than the deckle used for ironing the pages to achieve a smoother finish and for drying the paper faster. Optional

Step 3: Tools and Utensils

1 Picture frame desired size or a deckle 
1 screen wire or cloth to fit the back of the frame
Duck tape
Liquid Measuring cup
Old blender you will not be using for food
Rolling pin for smoother paper
Cookie sheet
Wax paper or 2 pieces of cotton cloth larger than paper for ironing for smoother paper
Use a flat point to help remove the paper from the picture frame
Container for water larger than the deckle frame
Iron and board for smoother paper and for drying more quickly
Cookie sheet not shown 

Step 4: Preparations

Shred the paper or cut it into small pieces.
For best results; soak the shredded paper in water overnight. "Optional"  Please note: do not add tissue paper here.
Place a bath towel on the table to absorb the excess water from the deckle frame.
Place a Kitchen wipe over the towel.
Place the container in a sink or bathtub and fill with water just enough to float the deckle.
Have the cookie sheet close to the water bath to catch water drippings. 

Step 5: Add Water and Paper

It will be helpful to read step 1 again before making the paper. 

Add warm water, starch, and the shredded paper to the blender including the tissue paper if you want colored paper. BUT if you are aiming for a custom color or wish to add herbs or flowers  Wait . . . 
Blend on low speed until the paper turns to pulp, approximately 1 Minute for textured or 5 minutes for smoother paper.
Add oils and herbs at this point if you are not triple rinsing the pulp.
Blend for several seconds; then check the size of flower pieces to see if you like it.
Blend longer if desired.
Go to the next step. 

Step 6: Pour Pulp Into the Deckle

Place the deckle frame into the pan of water.
Pour the paper pulp into the frame; until the pulp coats the edges of the frame as shown.
Dip it several times stirring with your fingers; this helps remove the ink and even out the pulp. 
Lift the deckle frame up evenly and allow the water to drain.
Place the deckle frame onto the cookie sheet.


If you are triple rinsing; empty the pan of water into the toilet and refill the pan with clean water.
Repeat one more time dipping the deckle frame into the water bath stirring with your finger and allowing the pulp to form the frame evenly.
Lift the deckle up and drain and place the deckle on the cookie sheet. 

If adding dried flowers or a tissue paper design to the paper; do it now, placing them where you like and lightly pressing the flower into the pulp. 

Place the deckle frame on the towel OR remove the paper pulp from the deckle and place it into the blender with water and add oils and flowers or colored tissue paper. Remember soaking the pulp overnight with the oils or dies will achieve the best results. If doing this I would not add the flowers until the solution has soaked overnight. Add the flowers after the soaking period and blend lightly in the blender before dipping into the water bath to form the paper sheet.

Step 7: Removing Excess Water

Place a kitchen wipe over the paper.
Using the large sponge remove the excess water from the paper by placing the sponge over the paper and firmly pressing down.
Wring out the sponge as needed.
Repeat across the paper until all the water is gone. I used both types of sponges to accomplish this.
Remove the kitchen wipe very carefully beginning at one corner. If the paper sticks to the kitchen wipe you need to remove more water.
After the kitchen wipe is removed carefully turn over the deckle frame and place it upside down onto the towel with the kitchen wipe. 
Carefully give it a tap or two maybe three to allow the paper to drop from the frame.
You may need a knife to lift the corner but most of the time the paper will fall out from the frame.
Cover top of paper with a kitchen wipe.

Step 8: Drying

You may place a sheet of wax paper over the paper and use a rolling pin to smooth the paper. Optional
Place the paper on a hard surface to dry, covering it with a kitchen wipe.
Flip it over a few times over the next 24 hours so it will dry on both sides.


It can be dried by ironing it between 2 sheets of thin cotton fabric sheets which is smoother and quick and easy.
If you have pressed flowers in the paper I would air dry it instead.

Step 9: Sunshiine's Final Thoughts

Sunshiine made a couple of journals! Here is the link:
I think they are so pretty!  I have made paper beads, bowls, and gift tags using this paper and they look good for my first try. What a fun project this was. I made so much paper I have no more junk mail, can you believe that! I was hoping to get some in the mail today but the mail box was empty!  My husband signed up for NO  junk mail; so it takes me a while to accumulate enough for all my instructables! Go make some paper and enjoy your creations!

I wish to thank Instructables, our sponsors, and loyal readers for making this a great place to share! Thank you for stopping by and have a splendorous day!

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