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Yesterday I cooked up cattail head fluff to make sheets for book covers. This
paper looks so much like pigskin,
it seems appropriate for that purpose. Pulled sheets till the vat ran low,
added some leftover
hemp pulp and pulled sheets
till that ran thin.
Added velvet leaf/black willow
and pulled sheets, then
added eucalyptus and pulled
till the vat totally ran out of pulp. (I’m still desperate to clean out the
refrigerator.) All of the mixtures made excellent paper, but they would, since
all were excellent quality pulps to begin with. The only question was whether
the appearance of the mixtures would work, and they did. As a side note
regarding the cattail heads — do
store the heads in an enclosed container unless certain they are completely
dry. When I had company several weeks ago, I pitched recently gathered heads
into a plastic bag and stuffed them out of sight. I opened the bag yesterday
and discovered that they were beginning to mold. If I had thought, I would have
known not to bag them, but I don’t always think. The mold didn’t affect the
pulp, but there wasn’t much of it. Don’t know what would have happened had it
Pulled 24 sheets of
then dried the rest of that pulp. That pretty well empties the refrigerator.
Hurricane Lili should be bringing us rain for the next few days, so I wouldn’t
be able to pull anything even if I did have pulp. I’ll likely clean out and
organize the closet that holds dried pulp and dried plant materials. Need to
take an inventory so I’ll know what I do have on hand.
Stopped by the Arts Council and shot a better picture of
the piece I have on exhibit there.
So, my refrigerator is empty of pulp now, something I’ve been working toward for
a month. And what do I do? I go out and harvest milkweed, Johnsongrass and
mistflower. Papermaking is a sickness. The milkweed has dropped its leaves
now, and even were there monarchs this year, it would be safe to harvest.
Gathered so many plants, the stalks required two pots to steam for stripping.
The mist flower is the wild variety of hardy ageratum and is far taller than its
cultivated cousin. Cooked the stems for three hours while I was working up the
milkweed. I had gathered the mistflower more or less in desperation. There are
few plants growing this time of year that I’ve not tried. In the field the
stems appeared as if they would yield fiber easily enough, but that was before I
started cooking them. After two hours of cooking, they had not softened at all,
and after three, I simply turned them off. They’ll sit in the pot until
tomorrow, then we’ll see. I only gathered enough to try in the blender, so
little will be lost if the stems don’t break down. As for the Johnsongrass,
normally it is tough and beginning to dry at this time of year, but the patch I
found had been mowed a few weeks ago and was springing up fresh and green, far
too tempting to leave. I’ll cook and process it and the milkweed tomorrow.
Washed and processed the mistflower stems in the blender first thing this
morning, but they wouldn’t make paper, at least, not that way. After blending
for one minute, they were still far too coarse and had little fine material to
slow the draining or actually form the paper. I have little doubt the stems
would make paper if processed in a beater, but I didn’t have enough to warrant
that. Instead, I bleached them (they were an ugly shade of olive) and will use
them as an inclusion in something. One interesting thing was the bast from the
mistflower. It was lovely and silky, just not enough to make it worthwhile to
gather and strip. It’s a shame. **Cut, cooked and processed the Johnsongrass
in the blender. I’ve done it in both the blender and the beater, and this is
one plant material that I really prefer to process in the blender. The pulp was
a deep poison green, and I bleached it because I wanted a thin
parchment like paper.
Johnsongrass, like Kentucky bluegrass, does this beautifully. After I finished
bleaching the pulp, I noticed that I’d failed to pour out and drain the last
batch from the kitchen blender. Okay...so tomorrow I’ll mix that with the
bleached mistflower stalk pulp and we’ll see what that will do. Johnsongrass is
exceptionally slow about draining; the mistflower drained far too quickly. This
should be a good match. **Cut and cooked the milkweed bast and left it sitting
in the pot for tomorrow.
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Thought this was going to be one of those “best laid plans” days. Got
sidetracked more times than I liked. Did manage to pull the green
though I ended up having to use some of the bleached Johnsongrass with it, as
well. Without that, there was too much inclusion for the amount of fine pulp.
It’s still too heavy on the inclusion, too light on the fine binding fibers to
be called paper, but it can be used in a decorative situation where no stress
will be involved. **Rinsed, ran the milkweed through the blender, then bleached
the pulp. I’ve done milkweed in midsummer, early fall and late fall. Of all
the times, midsummer bast produces by far the cleanest pulp. The later in the
year the plant is harvested, the more dark flecks will be in the pulp. These
come from the scarred, damaged and dying spots on the bark/bast. It’s possible,
once the pulp is cooked, to pick these out, but it is a job and a half if there
are many. I chose to leave them this time and consider them “points of
interest” in the paper. Yeah. That sounds good...points of interest.
Pulled a few
sheets of the milkweed
to see how dirty it would be, but it’s really quite nice. Put the rest of the
pulp in the refrigerator. My houseguests will just have to cut me slack.
Beat a ream of computer paper for Friday’s Children’s Art Project at the
Kentucky Guild Fair. I’m not directly involved with the project (don’t do
kids), but I am willing to do the background work for their papermaking project
and take the pictures of the kids pulling on Friday.
This has little to do with paper, but everything to do with my life over the
next few days. Bear with me. It is art related, and since the journal this
month is shorter than normal, I feel free to add non-paper snippets of life
around here. It began raining early yesterday evening, rained all throughout
the night and all through the day today...hard at times. As of this evening,
we’ve had something like 6” of rain. Guess what. It’s Kentucky Guild Fall Fair
time again, and I’m a fulltime volunteer during the event. Dug out my calf-top
boots and rainsuit and went out at noon to help several friends set up in the
rain and deliver the paper pulp. Thank goodness it wasn’t cold, because I was
soaked to the skin by evening. Ate at PapaLeno’s this evening with my husband,
several craft friends and my sister-in-law, Marybeth, who has arrived to spend
five days. Good thing the restaurant is laid back. We played come as you are,
royally attired in muddy boots and soggy clothing.
Went out early to help with the last minute details The show is held alongside
a winding paved pathway up through the woods at the Indian Fort Theater. After
six plus inches of rain,
tires do interesting things to woods dirt.
That’s Jimmy Lou Jackson, one of the finest glass bead artists in the state.
(There were rumors that an exhibitor’s truck sank here, but it’s mere
speculation...mere speculation.) The rain finally ended shortly after the show
opened, and the day really wasn’t half bad. Took digital shots of the kids
pulling paper, painting with watercolor and watching a puppet show. The
pictures will go into a Power Point presentation to be used in the schools next
spring. Teresa, my other houseguest for the weekend, arrived just before show
closing. We all attended the KGAC dinner this evening, still outfitted in muddy
boots. It was “come as you are,” and I was in good company.
belonged to the Director, Allison Kaiser.
Hey, when you have 30 minutes between show ending and dinner beginning, you
don’t have time to shower and dress.
Turned out to be a glorious day, full of sun and smiles. My husband and his
sister went to see Perryville Battlefield today, and I spent the morning at the
Fair taking promotional pictures. Teresa and Icame home for a while this
afternoon to take a break, but we ended up making paper. We used some of the
milkweed pulp, not the easiest thing for her to learn with, but she did a good
job pulling envelopes and letter sheets. Went to a gallery reception this
evening at the Berea Arts Council.
Rained a little last night and it’s much cooler today. My bones can tell it.
Spent the morning helping out at the Fair and visiting with Teresa. She left
for home about 1 and I left the Fair shortly thereafter. The Fair ends at 5
today, so my life is more or less back to normal.
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My sister-in-law, Marybeth, asked me to show her how to make paper today. We
made up recycled pulp and she pulled envelopes and sheets. She loved it.
Marybeth was a normal person before this. I suspect I may have corrupted her.
She leaves tomorrow full of plans to make paper at home.
Gorgeous day! Too pretty to stay inside. Once outside I couldn’t keep from
looking for plants to harvest. Found some robust curly dock plants on Dresser
Industry property and harvested the leaf stems, stripping the leaf itself off.
Most of the stems were 1.5-2’ long, new growth put on by the plant to prepare
for next spring’s spurt. I was afraid they might be too tender (hard to think
anything would be too tender this time of year), and they did cook up very
quickly, something like a half hour. When I took the hose to the cooked
material, most of it separated into strands, yet left the base of the stems more
or less intact. Those were…get this…purple. They were soft and could be squished
between my fingers much as cooked turnip green stems. (Is “squished” a good
technical papermaking term? Papermaking list member Peter would say so.) I
couldn’t bear to run the stuff through the blender and ruin those purple pieces,
so I plopped a handful of the cooked stuff in a small vat, pulled a couple of
sheets, placed them in the press and squeezed the heck out of them. Under
pressure the chucks of plant material spread out and mashed flat and thin. I
realize this is “non-paper” because the plant material was never beaten or
the result is awesome!
I exchange dried the couched sheets, and with each change, more features
appeared. It wasn’t until the sheets were almost dry that white “threads” showed
up. The two sheets are various shades of deep green with swaths of purple and
fine white curly threads spread throughout. That was weird enough, but when I
went back to pull more, the pulp had changed color and taken on a purple tinge.
I pulled eight more sheets and set them to dry. They’re deeper in color than the
first, with a definite purple cast (which I can’t catch in a photo). I left the
rest of the pulp to “age” till tomorrow. The sheets that I made would be
tremendous pastedown sheets in a formal book. The fiber patterns are amazing,
some of them looking like painter’s brushstrokes.
Fair warning…. If you try curly dock leaf stems as above, pull the sheets
immediately after cooking and get them dry ASAP. Do NOT let the cooked plant
material sit around in a pot or in the refrigerator. The purple from the lower
leaf stem fades while sitting wet. It also bleeds out into the other plant
material and dulls the colors. Bah!
Linda Wallpe set me some elephant ear leaf stems to try. The deal — she would
supply them, I would cook and beat, and we would split the pulp down the
middle. This turned out to be a bit of a hoot. Gayle Gregory had tried the
leaves and found there was little but mush in them. I figured if there was
going to be any fiber at all, it would be in the stems, but when they arrived
and I stuck a fingernail in them, I knew we were in for trouble. There did not
appear to be any fiber on the outside and the insides were gelatinous, not a
good sign at all. Still, I’m game, so I set them on to cook. Good thing I
checked early on, because after twenty minutes, the stems mashed under a spoon
like well cooked celery. Hmmm… Washing the whole pot of cooked stems in a
paint bag yielded
little more than a handful of material.
It doesn’t appear to be fiber, but rather, like Gayle’s experience, mush.
However, I refuse to be defeated in this. The stuff goes in the refrigerator in
a plastic bag till I come up with some brilliant solution. (No time to wrestle
with it now. I have a bookbinding workshop this weekend.) Linda also sent
along three huge elephant ear leaves. They’re drying on the back porch,
awaiting yet another grand and glorious idea...which seem to be in short supply
Finally got around this morning to dealing with the sow’s ear. Not sure that
the result is a silk purse, but it’s definitely interesting. I mixed some well
beaten gampi with the elephant ear mush to give it a good fiber base, and added
a small dab of partially beaten gampi for contrast.
The result is actually rather striking.
The paper is smooth, quite thin and crisp and rattles nicely. I had pulled the
pulp thick, knowing from past experience with the curly dock leaf stems, that
the mush would flatten out, and it did so nicely. Will I ever do elephant ear
leaf stems again? Um, I doubt it, not because of the paper, but because the
yield is so small. Still, I’m glad I did. It goes in the database, joining
Peruvian daffodils and a few others, as a plant with little or no fiber.
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