Plant fibre paper: Strelitzia

Having started down the route of learning to make paper from plant material (see previous posts re Monstera Deliciosa trials) I spent a day with my friends at Primrose Paper Arts learning the basics.  As I have a huge Strelitzia plant which needed a trim it seemed like a good place to start.

sp5Stems were cut down, leaves removed (as they cook at a different rate to the stalks), stalks were split and chopped into 5-6cm pieces and soaked for a couple of days.

gpf4At Primrose Park several of us wanted to cook our fibres but most had different plants.  To keep these separate we bagged each type and added them to the boiling copper (water + caustic soda solution).  Above you can see how much colour comes out and how we used the paddle to press the bags testing for the softness of the stems as they break down.

Once cooked, the bags were removed and the contents thoroughly rinsed.

gpf6Here you can see my now mushy plant material and the close-up shows how much it has softened and disintegrated.

Back at home I liquidised the fibres into pulp ready to make paper.

sp2Then started forming the sheets.

sp3I didn’t have a huge amount of fibre but was able to make 11 A4 sheets, which I felt was a good number for a practice run.  They are quite fine, probably around 40gsm.

sp6A new tip I picked up from my husband is a good way to ensure the fibres stay well mixed and suspended in the water instead of clumping.

He suggested running the deckle/mold frame through the water several times instead of mixing by hand.  This made a big difference, I’m not sure why but he did try to explain some scientific reason why an item this shape is such a good mixer.

I borrowed a portable press from the group.

sp7It’s a great piece of equipment and is easily carried where needed.  Being so organised they also have all the compressed rubber mats and felt pre-cut to size ready for workshops.  Luckily I got to borrow a complete set over the Christmas period.

Once my paper was pressed it was ready for drying, and this is where my latest tips from Jill Elias came in handy.  Each time I’ve made paper, dried it and pressed it flat in my Albion press it has come out with crinkled edges.  Jill suggested I roll my damp sheets on to the window and leave them to dry there.  OK, I’m happy to try anything.

sp8So I rolled the paper and couching cloths on to the window, carefully peeled away the cloth and left them to dry.  The results couldn’t be better, and not a crinkled edge in sight.

sp9Now I just need to clean the remaining fibres off the window ……….

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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.

8 Responses to Plant fibre paper: Strelitzia

  1. Phil says:

    Very impressive Claire! I especially like the window technique.

  2. Pia says:

    My hubs just cleaned the windows yesterday. Ideal, but I may end up in the dog house….

    • Claire B says:

      This window drying system works really well. The side of the paper against the window goes a little shiny though, but I don’t mind that. I prefer shiny and no wrinkled edges than the crumpling I got when drying the paper on the cloths on the floor.

      • Pia says:

        Have you tried ironing (perhaps steaming?) the crumbled ones? Read that somewhere, didn’t try yet.

        • Claire B says:

          Hi Pia,
          Yes, I tried ironing them but it didn’t work. Because I used to dry my papers flat on the floor on their cloths they curled up a little as they dried. This allowed the edgings to ‘stretch’ slightly, so once they were flattened the sides were too long to lie flat without puckering a bit. If that makes sense.
          However, steaming and ironing whilst quite wet might work to improve them because I’ve got a good 3cm all around that isn’t great.

  3. Mandy Burgess says:

    Wonderful paper Claire!

    • Claire B says:

      We had a good time getting these fibres prepared and boiled, didn’t we Mandy? I’m so happy with the sheets I got and have already started working on some other fibres.
      How is your banana paper coming on? Will you keep it until we go back to Primrose Park to make it into sheets?

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