Instructions for Making Paper With Cotton Rags

Homemade paper has a significantly different look and feel than paper purchased from a store. The homemade paper is slightly thicker, with a rougher finish. Artisans sometimes make handmade paper using cotton rags. The cotton rags have a clean white colour that gives the paper a pure white finish. The finished paper has a soft and luxurious feel, but the process of making the paper is fairly challenging.

Cut the cotton rags into small pieces, approximately ½ inch on all sides. Pour 1 ½ gallons of cold water into the stock pot and then pour the lye into the mixture. Protect your hands and face with rubber gloves and goggles because the lye is dangerous to the human body. Place the cotton rags in the mixture and let the pot sit overnight to completely soak the rags.

Place the stock pot on the stove and turn to a high temperature. Once the mixture comes to a boil, turn the heat to low and let simmer until the cotton rags fully break down. Strain the excess water from the mixture by pouring the pot over a colander. Add cold water to rinse the lye from the rags and squeeze the rags to remove all the water.

Line the paper mould with sheets of felt. Reserve a few sheets of felt for the top of the mould. Add equal parts water and cotton rag mixture to a blender and mix until it has a thick consistency. This is sometimes referred to as paper pulp.

Set the paper mould on a flat surface and pour your paper pulp mixture on top. Rub the mixture around with your hands or tilt the mould in various directions until the paper pulp evenly coats the mould. Shake the mould gently, removing any excess water. Place a second sheet of felt on top and press down to remove more water.

Peel the paper away from the paper mould and remove the felt. Lay sheets of blotting paper against the top of the paper and press down to remove any excess water. Cover both sides of the paper with sheets of blotting paper and then set the paper on a flat surface. Set a heavy object on top of the paper to press it flat. Let it dry overnight.

Things You'll Need

  • White cotton rags
  • Scissors
  • Large stock pot
  • Three tbsp lye
  • Rubber gloves
  • Goggles
  • Colander
  • Paper mould
  • Felt
  • Blender
  • Blotting paper
  • Heavy object
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About the Author

Jennifer Eblin has been a full-time freelance writer since 2006. Her work has appeared on several websites, including Tool Box Tales and Zonder. Eblin received a master's degree in historic preservation from the Savannah College of Art and Design.