Adventures in Papermaking 2013

I was fortunate enough to be awarded the Research Grant for Graduate Students at SIUE. My proposal was to create paper from invasive plant species.

I collected phragmites grasses, garlic mustard plants, and cattail leaves. Below left, I am placing cattails leaves into the bed of the truck. Below right, I am chopping phragmites grass down to a workable size for papermaking.


Garlic mustard is an exotic invasive plant that is presenting a problem for our woodlands. The first image below is the second year growth of garlic mustard in our woods, and the second image below is an image of the harvested plants for papermaking.

My guide was the book Plant Fibers for Papermaking by Lilian A. Bell published in McMinnville by Liliaceae Press in 1983. Papermaking is quite a process and includes cooking botanical materials in a alkaline solution, washing the materials, beating the materials either by hand or mechanically, immersing pulp into the vat, and finally pulling sheets of paper with a screen.

Below, top left is a pot of cooked and washed garlic mustard plant material. The garlic mustard needed to be cut down just a bit more before I added it to the blender to be beaten. Below, Patty Gillespie and I are working on the garlic mustard. Much thanks to my family for joining me in the pursuit of paper!

Below, I am stirring the vat to make sure the pulp is evenly distributed.

I made two screens to pull paper from my vat. Above left, I’m preparing to pull a sheet. The above right images are sheets of paper drying. The screens are so large that I need help from another individual to pull the fibers from the vat.

Below, I’m removing a fully dry sheet of paper from the screen. Thank you Laura for helping steady the screen!

Above, I am holding up a sheet of phragmites paper!

Since this project was an outdoor event, we met some curious volunteers eager to help us on our quest for paper.

Below a mother hen and her chicks investigated and left several little footprints on a freshly pulled sheet of paper.

Below, a buckeye butterfly rests on a drying sheet in the sunshine.