Recycled Handmade Paper and business cards with stamp pad and stamp.

DIY Recycled Handmade Paper

DIY

Let’s jump into the world of recycled handmade paper! You probably remember making paper in elementary school or at summer camp. Mushy, bumpy paper that looked more like old oatmeal than it did anything you’d want to use right? Well, guess what: handmade paper doesn’t have to resemble your breakfast. Recycled handmade paper can be beautiful, flat, and usable. 

Recycled Handmade paper with rose petals.

I’ve been working on this DIY project for two months. See, I really really wanted to make my own business cards from recycled handmade paper. What could be more Salvage & Stitch? And I LOVE how my paper turned out in the end, but I went through some major trials and errors before finally feeling like I knew what I was doing. Meanwhile, I kept talking about making paper on Instagram, getting people all excited. I’m so happy I can finally deliver this tutorial because for a minute I thought I might never make the kind of paper I wanted to make. 

Recycled handmade paper hanging on a clothes line.

And what about those business cards? They turned out great in the end! I ordered a custom stamp and used a standard sized business card to trace onto my handmade paper and cut out. Yes, they look like handmade business cards, but I’m an eco-friendly DIY blogger, I would hope they’d look a little handmade! 

Recycled handmade paper hand-stamped business cards

If you don’t have making business cards on the horizon, you can still use your recycled handmade paper for a variety of projects! Love letters anyone? Making journals? Also, it makes amazing watercolor paper. And of course, it’s a great way to recycle old paper like junk mail and old bills that you have lying around. I get blasted by a ton of nonprofits on the regular, so I’m always trying to reuse paper in creative ways. 

I actually made the batch of paper photographed from old sketchbook pages, which I have a lot of! 

Handmade Paper Trials & Errors 

Here are some major things I learned before you start, so you can make sure to get the best paper possible. I made 3 batches of paper over the course of 2 months. My first batch was a terrible mess. It was lumpy, too thick, and oddly blue.

The second batch of paper had big yellow splotches from yellow flower petals. I recycled this paper into new paper and it turned out a pretty color of ivory. To make it ivory, I drained the water after I soaked it and used new water. The original flower petals were chopped smaller in the blender and looked really nice. Below is a photo of the ivory paper next to my first batch of white. The rose petals bled, but I decided I liked it. 

 

Ivory and white recycled handmade paper.

Color Bleeding

ANY dried plant material you put into your paper will bleed color as your paper dries BUT fresh plants will shrink as they dry in your paper and could fall out. If you don’t mind the bleeding color, that’s fine, but if you want to fix this problem, steep your plants a few times in boiling water, like you would if you were making tea. Drain the water (or use it to dye fabric) and use the plant material for your paper. If you make some paper you hate, you can always tear it up and remake it. 

Water Spillage

You will get wet. Everything you own, your floors, table, counter, wet. Your pets will be wet. Your kids, wet. But it’s worth it. If you want to help with this mess, put down a tarp or a plastic shower curtain. 

Texture

Your paper will dry the same texture as what it’s dried on. DO NOT dry it on terrycloth. Dry it on a flat cotton dishtowel for best results. You might find that your paper also wrinkles when dries, if so, just iron it. 

What To Put In Your Recycled Handmade Paper 

Recycled handmade paper with rose petals.

You can put a variety of really cool things in your paper. If you want to leave your sheets blank, that’s fine too, but if you’re going to go through all the trouble to make your own recycled handmade paper, you might as well make it fun! 

Stuff to Add: 

  • Spent tea 
  • Flower petals
  • Grass
  • Leaves
  • Shaved wood 
  • Cotton Fabric scraps cut small 
  • Straw
  • Seeds (for plantable paper!) 
  • Pine needles 
  • Glitter (It won’t be compostable anymore, FYI)
  • Paper confetti 
  • Feathers

How To Make Recycled Handmade Paper 

Holding recycled handmade paper.

The papermaking process goes A LOT better if you follow instructions. Don’t take shortcuts. The list of supplies might look extensive and quirky, but I guarantee you all this stuff is needed. I tried making paper without the frames using only the screen, or without the felt, and I ended up with mediocre paper. 

Supplies:
  • Used paper, old bills, or junk mail ripped into small pieces
  • A bowl for soaking
  • A large basin, I used a storage container 
  • 2 frames: wood picture frames are fine, I used the frames from old canvases I had. 
  • Mesh window screening 
  • Staple gun 
  • 2 rubber bands (to hold your deckle together)
  • Blender (that you only use for crafts. I got mine used for $14) 
  • Sponge
  • Some towels 
  • 2-3 pieces of craft felt 
  • Dishtowels for drying paper
  • Fun add ins! Flower petals! Confetti! Your choice! 
Instructions: 

         Ripped paper to make recycled handmade paper. Soaked paper to make recycled handmade paper.

1. Soak all your paper in a bowl of water overnight. Short on time? Boil a kettle full of water and soak your paper until the water is cool (I tried both soaking methods, both work fine). 

Stapling screen to frame to make deckle.

2. While your paper is soaking make your deckle (the screen part). Staple your window screening to one of your frames and cut off the excess. Leave the other frame empty. When you make your paper, the empty frame will sit on top of the frame with screen, sandwiching the screen between the two frames. 

Frames to make deckle.

Deckle completed.

3. After you’ve soaked your paper, add it to your blender and fill the whole thing with water. It’s important to fill it with enough water because you’ll burn out your blender motor if you don’t! Blend the paper into a fine pulp. It will look a little like cottage cheese. (Note: You can add larger plants at the very end to break them up if you want.)

Adding pulp to basin to make recycled handmade paper.

4. Add your pulp to your basin, and then fill it with water a couple inches deep. My cat really needed to supervise this part! 

Rose petals added to paper pulp.

5. Add your add-ins if you haven’t already! I used dried rose petals that I purchased in bulk at my grocery store. 

6. Place your empty frame on top of your frame with the screen, so that the screen and staples face up. You want to make sure to dip your deckle in with the screen this direction. Use your rubber bands to hold the frames in place. Your deckle is ready. 

Deckle being plunged in paper pulp to make handmade paper.

7. Dip your deckle into the basin, plunging it into the water, and lifting it back up. Let the water drain out, and you’ll see that pulp has collected. 

Paper pulp collecting in deckle.

8. Remove the top frame. You’ll find you have a pretty piece of mushy paper to work with. Immediately place a piece of felt on top of it and flip it over onto a towel. 

      paper uncovered from deckle. Felt on top of paper.

9. Use your sponge to sop out the excess water through the screen. You’ll probably need to ring your sponge out a few times. You’ll know you can stop sponging when you’re not getting that much moisture back. 

         Sopping water from paper with sponge. Recycled handmade paper ready for second sponging.

10. Remove the felt. Sometimes the paper will come off with the felt, other times it won’t. If it doesn’t, CAREFULLY peal your wet paper from the frame and place it back onto the felt. Put another piece of felt on top and repeat the sponging. This will help your paper to achieve a nice flat texture. 

sponging paper a second time.

11. Carefully lay your paper out to dry on a dishtowel. It will take anywhere from 6-12 hours to fully dry. 

Letting paper dry on dish cloth.

12. Repeat the process as many times as it takes to use all your pulp. I always ended up with a little pulp at the end that wasn’t enough to make paper with. You can collect this pulp on your screen, ball it up, and save it for next time. 

Handmade paper hanging on clothesline.

More Recycled DIY Projects

DIY Firestarters With Soy Wax

DIY Foraged + Compostable Wreath

Have a lot of junk mail lying around? Make your own recycled handmade paper! Making your own DIY paper is really easy, customizable, and you can fill it with rose petals, seeds, or anything else for floral DIY paper that can be used in a variety of projects.
Have a lot of junk mail lying around? Make your own recycled handmade paper! Making your own DIY paper is really easy, customizable, and you can fill it with rose petals, seeds, or anything else for floral DIY paper that can be used in a variety of projects.

6 thoughts on “DIY Recycled Handmade Paper”

  1. I’ve never been successful at making paper, but this has inspired me to try again. Thanks for sharing your insights — I love the I dea of upcycling the paper that comes with bills!

    1. I’m so glad you’re going to give it another go! I had some ups and downs too with this one, good luck!

  2. Elana, this is so gorgeous. When I get the time, I want to do this and see how MUCH I can make things bleed. This whole DIY is so incredibly inspiring!!!

    1. Thank you! And I’m so excited that you’re into the bleeding part because it was the bane of my existence and with the final batch i just finally gave up. I liked the rose petal blood though 🙂

  3. These are so cute! I’ve only made recycled paper from old newspaper, but I did that when I was a kid. These are so much cuter! Thank you for posting this!

    1. Thank you! I totally made that newspaper paper too, but I was excited that this paper actually turned out flat! Glad you enjoyed it.

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