Introduction: True-Blue Recycled Paper From Old Jeans
There is untapped potential in glass jars, old pallets, junk mail—all of it. Finding new uses for the flood of post-consumer leftovers which surrounds us is a puzzle, a delight, and more important than ever. By day, I am a freelance writer covering nature, gardening, and environmental affairs, and, in my spare time, I love to give discarded things new life.
I recently made a prayer rug out of old blue jeans for a friend's birthday. (I used this Instructable for inspiration!) After my project was complete, I had a lot of very small blue jean scraps left over. I didn't want to throw them “away.” (There is no “away,” really.) As it often does, my mind turned to paper making. See, I routinely make my own paper out of everything from used office paper and old celery to foraged fungi.
Creating handmade, recycled paper is fun, relaxing, and it can be downright magical, if you ask me. But don't take my word for it. Why not give it a try yourself? Here's what you'll need. . .
Step 1: Gather Your Supplies.
You will need:
- clean, denim scraps
- shredded, used office paper
- corn starch
- scissors (for cutting fabric)
- old (but working) blender
- paper making mould (screen) and deckle (frame)
- container large enough to accommodate mould and deckle
- loose sheet of screen mesh
- soft, cotton rags (old T-shirt material works well!)
- C-clamps or heavy weight(s)
- two boards (for drying wet sheets of paper in between)
Step 2: Precut Your Denim and Shred Paper.
Because most blenders weren't really made to pulp denim, you'll need to use your fabric scissors to cut it up as much as possible ahead of time. Snip it into teensy, tiny pieces. When you think they're small enough, chop them up even more. (I don't want to be responsible for any blown-up blenders out there!)
Without some extra paper making tools, you won't be able to break down the cotton fibers enough to make really sturdy, 100% denim paper. That's where the used office paper comes in. (Incidentally, if you want to add in envelopes, be sure to remove any plastic "windows" first. I also advise removing any parts—like the envelope flap—that might contain sticky glue residue as this can affect your final product.) By adding some used office paper to the denim pulp, you'll have an easier time forming strong, usable paper sheets.
I've found that adding about one-quarter to one-half cup of denim snippings to one-and-a-half to two good handfuls of shredded office paper is a pretty decent ratio for producing pretty blue paper suitable for letter writing, grocery lists, and other day-to-day uses. Depending on the paper qualities you seek, you can experiment with those ratios.
For instance, more denim will yield very soft, thick paper which might work well if you wanted something that's more decorative than utilitarian. And, if you want something really sturdy and less vibrantly blue, you can increase the office paper content and reduce the amount of denim you use. Onward!
Step 3: Make the Pulp.
PULPING THE DENIM
- Place a very small handful of denim snippings into your blender along with four to five cups of water. (You might want to start with just a tablespoon's worth of denim pieces at first to see how your blender performs.)
- Blend until the mixture is thick and pulpy. (It should be a nice shade of blue!)
- Pour this liquid into your large container.
- Repeat these steps, continuing to blend the remainder of the denim—one very small handful at a time—with four to five cups of water.
PULPING USED OFFICE PAPER
- Place about half a cup of shredded office paper into your blender along with one teaspoon of corn starch and four to five cups of water. (The corn starch will help to make ink flow more smoothly onto your finished paper.)
- Blend until the mixture is thick and pulpy. (It should look cloudy and milky-gray when it's ready.)
- Pour this liquid into your large container along with the denim pulp.
- Repeat these steps as needed, depending on the amount of office paper you want to mix in.
Step 4: Form Your Paper Sheets.
The image above shows the process I'm going to describe here—just follow the numbered steps.
So, the pulp level in your container should be deep enough that you can easily submerge your paper making mould and deckle. NOTE: If you missed this earlier, here is an Instructable for making your own mould and deckle. Also, some people just use window screens and picture frames to form their paper sheets. Whatever works!
- Agitate the pulp bath with your hand to more evenly distribute its contents.
- Then, holding the mould and deckle tightly together with both hands, dip it down into the container. Move the mould and deckle from side to side and up and down as you bring it up to the surface. This motion helps "lock" the paper fibers together in your sheet.
- Allow excess water to drain through the screening and then place the mould and deckle upright on a rag or towel to catch drips.
- Remove the deckle from the top of the mould. Be careful not to drip onto your wet sheet of paper, as this will cause weak spots and visible defects. NOTE: If you do mess up, it's no big deal. You can just invert the sheet back onto the surface of the pulp bath—the pulp will slide off into the liquid, and you can try again. (Hooray for second chances!) Place a loose sheet of screen mesh over the wet sheet of paper. Use a soft cloth or rag to blot excess water. Carefully remove the loose sheet of screen.
- Lay one of your boards out on a flat surface. Cover with an absorbent cloth or several layers of rags and then invert the mould with the wet sheet of paper face down. Use another rag to blot the back of the mould's screen. This will help loosen the sheet enough that you should be able to transfer it from the mould onto the dry surface. (To help my paper dislodge from the mould and adhere to this new surface, I lightly strike the back of the mould with a flicking motion.)
- Now, slowly separate the mould from the paper.
NOTE: If the material you transfer your wet paper sheet onto has a lot of texture, your sheet will take on that texture. I like using old T-shirts and similarly tightly woven cottons for this part, because my paper's surface stays relatively smooth as a result. Time to dry. . .
Step 5: Allow to Dry.
As long as your paper sheets are wet, they will be very fragile, but, once they're dry, they'll be nice and strong. There are many ways to dry handmade paper, and, while this one is pretty easy and low-tech, it isn't perfect. (Some of my sheets end up a little buckled at times, but I fix this by ironing them on a low setting.)
Once you've removed the mould, make sure your wet paper is lying flat against the drying surface. Now, place another cloth over the top of the paper, smoothing it carefully with your hands. Continue to layer clean, dry cloths with all of the new, wet paper sheets you form.
When you've finished, top with another absorbent cloth or several more layers of rags. Then place the other board on top. Use C-clamps to squeeze the boards tightly together. Alternatively, place a heavy weight on top of the boards.
In a couple of days, you can peek at your paper. At this point, I usually replace some of the wet rags with dry ones and re-clamp everything. Once it's dry, you can smooth out your paper a little more by ironing it (without steam!) on a low setting and you can trim the edges or keep them as-is. (I like to trim mine and make them into handy notebooks, journals, and so on.) Ta da! You made true-blue denim paper.
This Instructable is my entry into the RAINBOW CONTEST. In particular, it is a celebration of all things BLUE! (But it is also a little bit green, amIright?) If you liked it, please vote for it! (And maybe even share it with a friend?...) Thank you!!
Runner Up in the
Colors of the Rainbow Contest
1 Person Made This Project!
- earthfeathr made it!