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Homemade Craft Paper

This is a great craft activity to do with children from about age 8 and up. Families, clubs and classrooms can have fun making something useful and beautiful out of scraps of old paper and other items commonly found around the house.

What you'll need:

*a blender
*warm water
*scraps of old paper torn into small pieces (soft, thick paper like construction paper works great -- you can also include dryer lint -- but don't use dryer lint ONLY since it won't give your paper enough body)
*a plain wooden picture frame (8"x10")
*a piece of window screen material (12"x14" or larger)
*a staple gun or waterproof glue
*two large plastic dish pans or baby bathtubs
*clean rags (at least 15"x15" square)
*old newspapers
*a rolling pin
*metal shears to cut the screen
Optional: spray starch, iron

Place the torn scraps of paper and warm water into a large pan to soak until saturated and soft (the resulting paper pulp mixture is called "slurry").

Meanwhile, stretch the screen over the picture frame and staple screen to the frame. Scoop out one cup of slurry, put into blender and add water to fill blender. (If you want pure white paper, add 1/4 cup chlorine bleach at this point.) Blend for a few seconds until it's smooth and mushy. Pour paper mush into large tub. Repeat several times until there's about 5 inches of mushy water in the tub. For texture and color in your paper, you can now add to the paper mush in the tub: shredded corn husks, fine sawdust, crumbled or whole dry leaves, dry grass, shredded dry onion skins, grated dry fruit skins, dry flower petals, dryer lint. Be creative.

Dip the screened picture frame under the mush; then holding the frame level, shift it back and forth until a layer of mush settles evenly over the surface. This layer should be about 1/2-inch thick. Without tilting frame, lift frame and mush layer out of the dishpan. Hold over the pan to allow the water to drain out. If the mush clumps together or there are holes, put the frame back under the mush layer in the dishpan and start again. (The mash left on the frame is called "wet leaf.")

Place a clean rag over the top of the drained wet leaf. Press down gently, squeezing out more water. Lay a few pieces of old newspaper down onto a table. Carefully turn the frame, wet paper, and rag upside down onto the newspaper, and CAREFULLY lift off frame. Cover the wet paper with another rag. (You now have a sandwich of two rags with a layer of wet paper between). Roll the rag/paper sandwich with the rolling pin to press out more water. You can sandwich the rag/paper between small stacks of newspaper and continue pressing with rolling pin to remove more water.

Carefully peel off the top rag. Turn the wet paper and bottom rag over onto either a smooth counter top or a piece of glass (paper side down), and then CAREFULLY peel off the remaining rag. Let the paper dry overnight or longer. If you want smooth paper, spray the dry paper with spray laundry starch until slightly damp; put a clean smooth rag over the damp paper, and iron with a slightly warm iron until the paper is dry. The starch will make the paper better for writing on, too.

You can use your homemade craft paper to make cards, wrap small gifts, cover a handmade book, or write beautiful notes. Have fun!

Deborah Taylor-Hough, author of several books including 'Frozen Assets: Cook for a Day, Eat for a Month' and 'Frugal Living For Dummies(r)', was recently featured in Family Circle Magazine (May 18th, 2004). Subscribe to Debi's free twice-a-month email newsletter, Simple Times, by visiting:

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