Scrappy Sprouts: Recycled Paper Project

What if we made our own note cards from recycled paper?  How many dollars and trees could we save? My daughters helped me try it, and what a messy but fun project!
First, they helped me tear up old newspapers, cardboard and other paper into small pieces.

Then, we soaked it overnight in water until it got mushy.

Third, I added more water and pureed the paper in the food processor (this was really hard to clean up and I wish I had an old machine just for this).

The girls helped me gather little flower petals and leaves to add later as decoration.

I added more water, per one recipe, four parts water to one part paper pulp.
My talented husband built me a frame and stapled a cheesecloth-like fabric to it.  An artist friend later told me that a regular screen would work better.  Also, she suggested I build it smaller.  Ours was 24 by 14, (for the economy of scale)...

Which is why I had to dip the screen into the paper mush in the bathtub (yes, also a challenge to clean up).

The second half of the batch worked better after I added cornmeal, per one recipe I found.

While a screen full of paper pulp was draining, the girls would help me add the flower petals and leaves.

Drying was a challenge, with layers of newspaper and old towels.

I tried ironing the paper, and it still took more than 24 hours to completely dry.
Here's what the paper looked like after I cut it into notecard sizes.  At this point, it still needed to be laid out flat with something heavy on top to keep it from curling.

Some things I learned from my mistakes are to be sure to add some cornstarch to help the paper become the right consistency, to keep the frame small so it can be used in a smaller plastic tub, to try a heavier sort of screen instead of fabric over the frame, and to make the layers thinner so they'll dry faster.  I looked at instructions that varied in these three places:, Wisconsin Paper Council, and the book Papercraft by Franklin Watts.

We saved approximately $50 in note card expenses, assuming that all 20 note cards are usable.  How many trees can recycling save and why does it matter?  More on that tomorrow.

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