Making denim paper: Stage 1

This was a strenuous, fun, NOISY day!  My first experience with transforming an old pair of jeans into paper.

PPA-DP1The jeans were cut up, all seams, studs and the zipper were removed.  The remainder was cut into postage stamp pieces and weighed.  450gms to turn into paper.

Now to meet the beater:

PPA-DP2It’s a monster machine, very noisy when in operation and apparently worth a small fortune.
Clockwise from left: 1) The prepared beater with water already in the channel.  The hanging hose is used for draining when the process is complete. 2) Ensuring the rotating struts are clean, ready to turn and grind the denim to pulp. 3) Once the beater is turned on the denim pieces are slowly added.  The handle to the left is wound to increase the water movement pressure and grinding process through the water wheel.  As the denim becomes softer and starts breaking down the resistance is increased and the denim disintegrates into smaller fibres.

PPA-DP3These photos were taken towards the beginning of the process and on the left you can clearly see the pile of denim squares being slowly pushed around the channel.  On the right …. well, what has happened here?  PPA-DP4

The jeans were given to me washed and rinsed.  I then washed them another 4 times with no soap to ensure I would avoid any soap suds.  Who would believe how much soap could still be in the fabric?  I spent the first beating hour constantly removing as much foam as I could.  In addition, colour was coming out of the fibres and I was anxious to avoid accidentally dyeing the floor, the mop or my clothes.  I ended up having to wash my sweatshirt part way through as it became spattered with blue dye.

PPA-DP5Clockwise from left: 1) Unclogging the wheel when there is a backlog of fibre trying to enter this area. 2) I removed some of the semi-pulped denim to add back at the end.  This will add some texture into the finished paper sheets. 3) The fully pulped denim (after 2 1/4 hours) ready to be removed from the beater, drained and stored.

PPA-DP6Once removed from the beater into multiple buckets I strained the pulp into one, with a small amount of water.  The courser semi-ground fibres were mixed back into this.  So I’ve now got a huge container, labelled (heaven help anyone pinching any of it after hours of work) and ready to form into lovely sheets of paper.

I’ll split my pulp into batches, form some paper sheets from this original colour then experiment with adding dyes to create a variety of papers.  I hope that by adding yellow I’ll get a decent green, I’d also like to attempt a darker blue.  I guess I’ll try some red and see what type of purple comes out but that’s not my preferred colour.  The next dilemma will be what colour to use when I print on it in the future.

The next stage will come in a couple of weeks when I get back to the Centre to create my paper.


About Claire B

I'm a passionate printmaker, paper-maker and a poor sketcher (which I'm working to improve). I've stitched from early childhood and am a perpetual student, loving learning and participating in everything creative.
This entry was posted in My Creative Pieces, My paper and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Making denim paper: Stage 1

  1. Nola says:

    Wow so much fun! Can’t wait to see how the paper turns out.

  2. Lottie says:

    I saw your results first due to the nature of blog chronology but this then fascinated me as to wonder how. That beater is quite a monster. Sounds like quite a process and quite a challenge. Results definitely are its rewards though.

    • Claire B says:

      The beater is not something I’ve come across in my life before but it works wonders. The noise is a little overwhelming and the concrete ‘bunker’ where we work amplifies it, making it hard to hear other people and instructions during the process. I was quite worried about the grinding, sort of knocking noises from time to time but our more experienced members could gauge when to turn the grinder knob tighter or looser – lucky for me.

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