Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Seed Paper Ornaments

Today I made the Christmas gifts for my students: Seed Paper Ornaments. This was my first experience pouring paper pulp into a cookie cutter instead of using a regular papermaking kit or a mold and deckle; also, my first time adding flower seeds to the pulp. The idea is that the children can hang the ornaments on their tree now and then save them for planting in the Spring. Here are my notes.

You will need:

cotton linters (find these at Michaels or a local craft store)
OR torn up white paper

colored tissue paper for dyeing your pulp (optional)


an old blender (or a new blender you don't mind destroying)

a measuring cup or scoop

two medium/large bowls

a colander or sieve

cookie cutter(s)

a flat surface which can get wet

two large cotton towels which can get stained

a large piece of cheesecloth

one or several cooling racks (used for cookies/bread)

packets of flower seeds

a hole punch and some ribbon (for hanging)


1. Put your cotton linters or torn up white paper and your torn up tissue paper (optional: this either adds flecks of color to your white pulp or dyes it the color of the tissue paper) in a large bowl of water to soak. The longer the better. If soaking it overnight, I recommend you stick it in the fridge so it doesn't spoil.

2. Lay one of your old towels out on the flat surface (I used the combined surface of my washer and dryer since they are in the kitchen and handy). Lay the large piece of cheesecloth on top, leaving the edges free to overlap the paper ornaments later.

3. Lay out your cookie cutters on the cheesecloth. Set the other towel aside for now. You can do the same cookie cutter over and over and make all your ornaments the same shape OR you can use a variety. A shallow cookie cutter works best since you have to stick your fingers in it to spread out the pulp and you don't want to waste time trying to get your fingers into deep tight tiny corners. I used a star shape since it's pretty foolproof and still looks good after you've smushed it a bit to squeeze out the excess water.

4. Pour your cotton/paper/water mixture into the blender. Use a generous amount of water to paper ratio or you will burn up your blender motor very quickly. Perhaps 3 cups of water to 1 cup of cotton/paper pieces. We'll drain out the extra water later using the colander so don't worry. Pulse 30 seconds or until the paper and cotton is all chewed up and the whole thing is mushy. Sortof like an Office Depot smoothie!

5. Set the colander or sieve on top of the cotton/paper/water bowl containing the mixture you HAVEN'T blended yet and pour the pulp from the blender into it. The extra water will go back in to the yet-to-be-blended mixture, which is helpful. It also helps you because this will make your pulp thicker and less messy for the next step, which is where you shape the ornaments. So let it sit and drain for a bit.

NOTE: If you are adding seeds to your pulp, I suggest you add them now. Don't add it before you blend or you'll destroy them. If you try to stick the seeds on after you make the ornaments, you will find they don't stick to the pulp very well. So this is the best step for adding them in. I used yellow tissue paper for my dye and made golden stars but the seeds ended up muddying them a bit, so consider a darker paper color or simply go with pure white.

6. Dump the pulp in your colander or sieve into bowl #2 and carry it over to your cookie cutter mold(s). Using your fingertips, pick up a bit of the pulp and spread it around in your cookie cutter. Spread evenly all the way to the edges. When your paper is the shape you want, gently lift up the cookie cutter. If the pulp sticks to the cookie cutter, it's a little too dry so add a bit of water. The release should not be difficult.

7. Continue to pour and mold the shapes you want. Continue to mix new batches of pulp as needed. I recommend you go ahead and use all the pulp you've made, even if it means more ornaments that you were expecting (you can also use them as gift tags) because once you get into a groove it's really quick and fun; however, you can also freeze the pulp (squeeze out extra water) for another papermaking adventure on another day.

8. Lay the edges of the cheesecloth over your finished work (or put down another piece on top if you don't have any long edges -- this keeps the ornaments from sticking to the top towel) and put the other cotton bath towel over it all. Press down firmly to help absorb excess water. Then uncover the ornaments and lay them on the cookie rack(s) to dry.

Drying your ornaments:

You can iron them on low heat. You can air dry them. You can dry them in the sun. You can place them in a low oven with the door open. You can blow dry them. You can microwave them in short intervals. Whatever works for you!

My favorite papermaking book:

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