Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Chinese Invented It: Paper - How to make your own

Papermaking is one of the Four Great Inventions, along with Gunpowder, the Compass and Printing. These inventions are celebrated in the Chinese culture for their historical and far ranging impact.

Having learned about the history of paper, and that some 2000 years ago the Chinese invented paper made from pulp, as we know it today- we decided to make our own paper. 

You will need:
  • paper scraps
  • frame
  • screen material
  • staple gun
  • a vat large enough to easily accommodate the chosen frame
  • blender
  • water
  • cookies racks and baking sheets

I started by making four frames - I used empty thrift store frames, and stapled screening tightly along the edges. I used the same screen material you have in your windows, which can be bought as a roll. You want the screen to be taut for better results.

Our neighbor's cat decided to join us :)
The most active, time consuming part was tearing our paper into pieces that were approximately 1" 'square'. Using packing paper that is accumulated at work, the girls and I set to work, filling the bin of paper pieces.

Once the paper is shredded, it needs to soak. The amount of time it needs to soak depends on the type of paper: thin paper like tissue paper is ready in less than half an hour. Our paper was fairly durable, and would require a few hours. We poured boiling water over it, and because we got caught up in other activities, let it sit overnight, into the following evening. 

We were then ready to make some pulp. We drained the soaked paper bits, and pulled out the blender. For each sheet of paper you would like to make, you need a handful of soaked paper and two cups of water in the blender. Pulse for 15 to 30 seconds to break the fibers down and create pulp. Over 30 seconds is too long. Pour the pulp into a vat. We repeated this step five or six times. Once we were sure we had enough pulp for our four frames, we added to the vat a blender full of water. We wanted to make thick, sturdy paper. If you want thinner pieces of paper, add more water to the vat. This part takes some practice to get a good idea on the ratio of water for the results you want.

The girls found the pulp revolting looking, and were quite happy to notice the color was very different once dried.

Some paper making done indoors in the evening, and some outdoors on a sunny afternoon.
Now it's time to gently slide the frame into the vat of pulp, swishing it back and forth to get an even layer. Let it drip for a bit over the vat, then place on cookie rack over baking sheet (to catch the rest of the water. 

Our first batch was done on a rainy day, and so had to dry indoors. This took quite some time, though once I finally thought of bringing out the fan, the drying process sped up significantly. Our second batch was done outdoors, and the paper there dried much faster.

The pulp had seeped a little along the edges between the frame and screen. To release the paper, we pushed down gently along all the edges, and carefully popped one corner out, making the rest of the sheet easy to remove. 

By the end of the week, we had a dozen sheets we were quite proud of. We made them thick because we want to use them later as album leaves for our brush paintings. When we try again, we'll make thinner sheets by adding more water to the vat of pulp. 

Making paper from scraps is a project I have always wanted to do, but never got around to doing it, so I was quite looking forward to this. We kept the process fairly simple, without the use of deckles and letting the paper dry in the frame - but I'm certain we will be exploring further. I have a box of interesting paper scraps for the next time we'll be making paper. Since making this, I came across a fantastic tutorial for paper making, with a few added steps, and ideas to jazz up your paper. If you're interested in making paper, I highly recommend you check it out:

Babble Dabble Do: How to Make Paper

You can learn more about the Four Great Inventions with our earlier posts:

You can find more cultural and historical activities at the following linkups:
You can find more creative and kid friendly activities at the following linkups:
Entertaining & Educational and Afterschool Link Up

Highhill Homeschool


  1. What fantastic paper! I love the fact you are going to put it to good use with another of your wonderful Chinese projects. Your girls will look back on a child hood full of precious time spent with a mum who gives of herself so freely.
    Have you decided on next year's learning yet? I'm holding off until you decide!!! No pressure!

    1. Thank you Claire!
      I'm still mulling about next year - but it will definitely in Africa - now whether we focus on just one country (how do we choose?!) or a few spread out through the year has to be figured out... You'll be the first to know once I figure it out :)

  2. My kids really enjoyed making paper. I love that it's thick and you have a painting project in mind to go with the paper.

    1. I can't believe we've waited this long to do it!

  3. We made paper too for China, but yours turned out much better - ours was very uneven in thickness and broke easy, but we went for a faster production process of mixing shredded paper with boiling water and turning the blender on. Thanks for sharing with Afterschool.

    1. I think unevenness is part of handmade paper charm :)

  4. I like the way your paper turned out. We made paper, too, and added in cloth and dryer lint. It made an interesting texture. I do so love your activities and am excited to hear you will be doing a country in Africa next year. We are studying Africa, one country a week this year, so it is quite a whirlwind. I am going to love all the things you can do with a whole year's worth of study instead of one week. :) We might have to come back and do some more fun stuff once I see the activities you do.

    1. Cloth and dryer lint sound so interesting! I'll keep that in mind for our next go. I have been having a difficult time deciding what country to focus on next year, or maybe a collection (ie West Africa) - maybe you can help me - with your weekly study, is there a country/area that you might recommend?

  5. Wow, what a great learning project! I'm not sure I'd want to use that paper after all it took to make it! Thanks so much for linking up at After School.

  6. What a cool project! I agree with the girls - it was a bit revolting looking at first, but looks fabulous when finished :) Thanks for sharing at the Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop!

  7. Thanks Leanna - I was a little worried at first about how it would look in the end, and quite happy to see that it looked much much better :)


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