Friday, January 7, 2011

Making Paper: Part 1

The products that Sun Ministries makes in its sewing center are made up of almost all reclaimed materials, and we enjoy being able to do that. The coffee roasting companies go through so many burlap sacks that some don't know what to do with them. And we get the privelege of turning them into products that not only give us skills we can teach to others, but provide us with funding to keep doing everything we do.

However, we end up with a lot of burlap sacks, and even after we cut what we need from them, we are left with barrels of waste burlap.

We've heard that you can make paper from jute, which is the plant material that is woven into burlap. We started the new year experimenting with this process. We could find no clear information for turning jute burlap into paper, so we read up on making recycled paper and tried our best.

We assembled our tools, and set up a makeshift paper making station, which included: a basin for water, a blender, a food processor, a piece of wood, a potato masher, an old metal tray for a drain pan, coffee pots set up making really hot water, and our hand made mould and deckle (basically wooden frames for making paper). Then we cut up the sack into little pieces and let it soak for a few hours in hot water. After that, we dumped the mess, which looked like wet hair, into the blender, and blended. And blended. And blended. We couldn't seem to make "pulp". Undeterred, we spread out the blended wet jute on to our mould (a screen stretched over a frame), let the water drain, set the mess between some pieces of fabric, and pressed it between boards under the weight of a hefty tool box, and waited.

We produced what looked like dried, matted pet hair. It could be called a sheet, but it definitely was not paper.

We tried again, this time putting dry burlap pieces in the food processor before blending, and ended up with something that looked like a small kitten.

We have since researched some technical papers on the commercial manufacturing of jute paper, and it appears soaking in an alkaline solution is necessary. So we will continue in our experimentation using the safest materials possible. In the mean time, we have also developed some smaller products which will use more of each coffee bag, and we are also offering whole bags for sale, so you can experiment with your own crafts. We will keep you posted on our efforts.

No comments: