Paper Bites

On this page we aim to offer you a range of useful information, recipes and ideas to help you learn and extend your own practice.  If you would like to contribute an article please click here to contact us.


Drying flower heads and petals
by Lee D & Claire B

This is a great way to prepare items for inclusion into paper.

  1. Cut flower head close to stem.
  2. Take 2 terracotta/ceramic tiles and 2 pieces of hand towel.
  3. Make a ‘sandwich’; use tiles with the unglazed side to the inside.  Place items in the following order:
    1. Tile
    2. Hand towel
    3. Flower head or petals
    4. Hand towel
    5. Tile
  4. Microwave for up to 30 seconds, open the layers and check the flower.  Continue this way, reducing the microwave time as the plant dries.  Change the hand towel as it becomes wet and stains.  **Note: the flower (or petals) will continue to dry when removed from the microwave so be careful not to over dry.
  5. Remove from the hand towel when finished or they will stick. Finish air-drying on a non-stick surface; a tile, workbench, acetate mat or similar.  Consider placing the items between weights to ensure they remain flat during the air-drying process.

Note from Claire: When leaving the centre of the flower intact (with the calyx) the leaves, being very flimsy, will dry faster than the centre and you can see from my photo above how part of the middle area has dried too much.  For the next trial I removed the entire middle of the flower – so essentially I was holding a pile of unattached petals – and dried these.  They dried more evenly and I got a flatter outcome with a nicer finish.


Daffodil paper
by “Unknown” – recipe from the internet.

  1. Cut stems and leaves into about 8mm lengths.
  2. Put into pot (don’t use anything from the kitchen, have a dedicated plant fibre pot), cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer about 30 minutes – or until they tear apart easily.
  3. Drain through muslin and rinse thoroughly under cold water, then allow to fully drain.
  4. Put fibre on wooden board and beat it with a rolling-pin (again, not equipment you use for food preparation).  Keep turning and beating the fibres until they turn to pulp.  The fibre will be the right consistency when you drop a bit in a glass of cold water and it blends with the water with no clumps.
  5. You can add extra petals or leaves when you add the pulp to the vat in preparation for paper making.

As this recipe is from the internet, let us know what it is like if you try it.


Creating formation aid from Okra
by Sue

Cut about 500g of Okra into 2cm pieces and leave it in water overnight.

In the morning you will find it has added Mucilage, a thick, gluey substance produced by nearly all plants and some microorganisms, to the water.

Add the water and Mucilage to your paper fibre and pull some sheets.  Mucilage doesn’t add a lot of structure to the paper but enough so you can handle it.  Although it’s fragile it doesn’t tear too readily which helps you produce paper items from it.


Recipe to antique paper
by Jeanette


  • heavy paper – either handmade or cartridge quality
  • rabbit skin glue – available at art supply stores
  • wax – either paraffin or beeswax, or a mix of both (optional)
  • paint or dye
  • shellac mixture – 1 tbsp shellac dissolved in 1 cup metholated spirits
  • black or brown boot polish


  1. Dissolve 1 tbsp rabbit skin glue in 1 cup water in a double boiler (may soak first for ease of dissolving).  While glue mixture is still warm paint both sides of your paper and let dry.
  2. Melt wax and paint patterns on both sides. (optional)
  3. Paint paper with coloured paint or dye in a thin solution all over, let dry.  Note: I use fabric printing paints which work well.
  4. Apply shellac solution and let dry.
  5. Apply boot polish with brush all over, let dry.  Softly polish with cloth.

This paper then has a lovely feel to it, like leather.
Use as book covers, book marks, card fronts, box covers and the like.


Blady grass paper
by Toni

Blady grass (aka Cogon grass) – Imperata Cylindrica

This is a native of Lord Howe Island, but very widespread in NSW where it can be a pest.

Use either fresh or dry.  Cut into 10cm lengths.  If dry, soak for 24 hours..
Cook 1 1/2 to 2 hrs in caustic solution (1 tbsp per litre of water).  It will be cooked when it feels slippery and pulls apart easily.  Rinse, rinse and rinse again.

Can be beaten by hand, in a kitchen blender or Hollander beater.  Don’t forget the usual safeguards – rubber gloves, etc – when working with alkali.

This is one of my favourite papers; pale green from fresh leaves and golden fawn from dry leaves.


Skeletonised magnolia leaves
by Jeanette

  1. Pick large magnolia leaves, the older ones – not the new, soft ones.
  2. Put in an ice-cream container with water and cover with an old stocking, which is held in place with a rubber band or similar.
  3. Leave container outside in the shade for one week.  Hosing gently each day will replace some of the water.
  4. At the end of the week take into the kitchen and, using a babies toothbrush (the softest that you can buy),under gently running water softly brush each side of the leaf to remove any loose material.
  5. Replace in container, cover with the stocking and put back outside again.
  6. Repeat the process, brushing them every two or three days until all the soft material comes away.
  7. Press the wet skeletons onto a window to dry.

When you remove them, once fully dried, you will be surprised how much ‘stuff’ is left on the glass.  Who needs curtains?


Skeletonised ivy leaves
by Toni

I use fresh, variegated, fairly large (over 7cm long) leaves.

Cook in washing soda (1 tbsp to 1 litre of water) for about 3 hours.  You can tell when they are done because the skin swells up and moves easily on the skeleton.

Rinse and, when cool enough to handle, rub the skin off with your fingers.  Wash the skeleton gently.

Dry flat between blotters, under a book or in a press.