Paper Making!

On Saturday, Origami Minnesota hosted a paper-making workshop! We took over some space at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and made ten sheets. The workshop was led by Amanda, one of the people at Cave Paper.

We had two fibers to work with: abacá and flax. Abacá is a banana plant that grows in the Philippines, Borneo and Sumatra. It also works well for paper. It does not require the harsh chemicals that would be necessary if we were using most tree fibers. That means that we only had three ingredients, all non-toxic: fiber, water, and dye. We also had a relatively small supply of flax which is grown from the Mediterranean to India. It is notably stronger than abacá, but can be thicker.

Before we got there, the fiber had been sent through a machine that tears it into bits. These bits are dyed to a preferred color and mixed into a pulp.

The pulp mixture sits in a large tub, and a mesh mold is used to scoop up the fiber.

Then the water is drained out. The amount of time this takes is variable, dependent on the fiber and how much it was shredded before mixed into the water. One pulp we made was shredded really finely and absorbed an awful lot of water, which took a long time to drain. It was also really gooey, like snot.

The mesh mold is then flipped over and pressed against a wet piece of felt.

More felt is placed on top, several layers, until it is large enough to be pressed.

Note, the press uses a car-jack. It is pumped up to 5000 PSI and then released. Then each sheet is removed from the stack and put on a rack to air dry.

I think that it is important for a folder to make paper at least once in his life. It has given me a better appreciation if the fiber and the quality of the sheets. It also makes me more aware of the fact that each sheet can be customized for the model that is folded. First there was paper-making, and then as a natural extension, there was paper folding. Now I have a better understanding of that progression that has led to my chosen craft.

I had a blast making paper! Thanks to Cave Paper and Origami MN and the MCBA!

[All pictures taken with my camera.]


  1. Flax can actually be grown most anywhere, it's very similar to wheat. It can grow quite well in this area and the way it's processed to make linen is quite cool to see. Have you had a chance to fold the paper you made?

  2. Thanks for that correction! I have been busy and haven't gotten around to folding it yet. We couldn't fold the paper right away, since it had to dry. Cave Paper watched over it as it dried and then sent it to me in the mail. I have received it, but still haven't found time. I'll post some quick pictures of the finished paper today, though.