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Trash to treasure: The eco-art of homemade paper

Help your child discover the centuries-old craft of papermaking, and creative recycling, by turning scraps into one-of-a-kind cards.

By GreatSchools Staff

Given the economy, “Money doesn’t grow on trees” may be a familiar saying in your household, but it doesn’t hurt to remind your child how much we rely on forests for other needs, including that school-supply staple paper. According to the EPA, the average American uses the equivalent of a 100-foot Douglas fir tree in paper and paper products annually. Help your child make the connection between conserving natural resources and recycling by introducing her to the art of papermaking.

Explain to her that paper sheets contain different amounts of wood pulp — paper with a high "bond number" has more pulp — and that the pulp is made up of shorter or longer cellulose fibers (which can be viewed with a microscope or hand lens). Every time paper is recycled, the fibers get shorter, and after being recycled five to seven times, the fibers become too short and brittle. By turning old scraps into homemade paper, your child will not only extend the life of discarded Post-Its, paper towels, and magazines, but she’ll also create a uniquely textured material perfect for greeting cards, bookmarks, and other crafty gifts.

What you’ll need

  • Paper towels (unused)
  • Construction or other colored paper, flower petals, pine needles, spices, magazine pictures, or bits of fabrics to make interesting-looking or scented paper
  • A blender
  • A mold and deckle (a frame that holds the pulp in place and shapes the paper — you can buy this at a crafts store or make a simple one with two embroidery hoops and some nylon window screen; see instructions below.)
  • A dishpan or water-tight tub
  • A sponge
  • Wax paper