Got Milkweed Pods? Let's Make Paper

Last week we visited the art building at Cornell College in Mt Vernon, Iowa to learn how to make paper. Our good friend is an Art Professor at the school and we were lucky enough to spend a rainy afternoon in one of his classrooms while he guided us through the paper-making process. Some of you may have experienced his art in the form of our YouTube channel as his music is featured in our intro/outro audio for each video!

We had collected some Milkweed pods the day before from a prairie next to Sutliff Farm & Cider House where we enjoyed some libations and live music. This time of year the Milkweed plant has already blossomed and bears fruit (or pods) which eventually open to release seeds. The U.S. Forest Service provides a detailed description of "Common Milkweed," or Asclepias syriaca, stating:


"Flowers are greenish-pink to rosy pink to purplish-pink and very strongly and sweetly scented. Fruits (pods) are about 10 centimeters (4 inches) long, inflated and covered in little finger-like projections. They are green initially, turning brown as they mature. They split open revealing 50-100 seeds each with a white, fluffy coma ("parachute") that allows wind dispersal."

We brought the seed pods to the studio, eager to see if we could make a couple sheets of paper with the fibers from the pods. We fell in love with how it all turned out between the milkweed-fiber paper, paper with milkweed seeds added, and paper with shaved crayon confetti. Next time? You guessed it, we're eager to find a fibrous mushroom to see what we can do! See how it all turned out on the gallery of images at the bottom of the page.

Milkweed fiber paper

 

What you'll need:

Fibrous Material

Water

Blender

Mold (wooden frame with stapled metal mesh screen)

Deckle (same size empty wooden frame)

Loose metal mesh screen

Water Basin Tub

Sponges

Wooden Blocks

Towels for clean up

Flat tool (exacto, palette knife, etc.)

*optional* Additional materials for texture/visual elements on paper

*optional* paint for adding pigment to pulp in blender


Paper-Making Process:

  1. Tear/soak fibrous material into a pulp

  2. Use a blender to thin the pulp (make sure to add ample water as needed) *optional to add paint for pigment*

  3. In your water basin tub, place mold screen side up so it floats

  4. Place deckle on top of mold as a barrier for the edges

  5. As you hold the deckle and mold together, evenly pour thinned pulp mixture onto the screen

  6. Once the pulp is evenly distributed, carefully pull the mold and deckle out of the water basin and place securely onto the edge

  7. Remove deckle and add any additional elements to pulp (for instance we added the crayon confetti *see photos below*)

  8. Place loose screen on top of pulp and press out water with wooden block, letting the excess water fall into the basin + use a sponge to help soak up any excess water that rises above the loose screen as you press the wooden block

  9. After thoroughly squeezing out most of the water, transfer the mold, pulp and screen to a towel to continue to press out as much moisture as possible

  10. Use a flat tool to *carefully* separate the edges of the paper from the mold edges, slowly peeling off the paper so it lands on the loose screen

After that just let your paper dry!


 

Sources:


U.S. Forest Service

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