That Doesn’t Look Like My Old Jeans

That Doesn’t Look Like My Old Jeans

A while back I made a note to myself to make paper from and old pair of jeans.  I wanted to play with some fiber in a different way from felting.

The first thing I did was to cut the fabric into small 3/4″ squares, discarding the seams.  Then I dragged out my old papermaking equipment which includes an ancient blender.

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Using warm water I filled the bender half way, then added a pinch of the squares and ran the blender for 30 seconds or so until the water turned blue.  This was a long process since I couldn’t overload the blender.

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The resulting pulp was strained.  When I had about a quart (1.14 liters) of pulp, I gave the blender a rest.

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The set up for making the paper included a big container of water, a mould, deckle, pellon and blanket sheets. The deckle in black, the screen covered mould on the left.

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Using a handful of pulp, I added it to the water and agitated it. With deckle on top of the mould, I submerged the pair into the water at a 45 degree angle and came out with a pulp filled sheet.  Without going into all the nitty gritty of all the papermaking steps and terms, I couched (pressed) the paper onto a wet pellon sheet and repeated the steps until I had used up all the pulp and had a pile of sheets.

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The next step was to press the paper in my homemade paper press.

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After letting it sit awhile, I gently placed the paper on a white board and used a haki brush to place it on the board to dry.

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Since the blender was old, the fiber didn’t get chopped very fine, but it made an interesting texture and look with the various long fibers running through the paper.

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Like an old pair of well worn jeans, the paper is soft. One side is smooth where the paper dried on the whiteboard, the other is textured.

I could run it through the process again, but I think I’ll try to felt with it before I do.  What would you do with denim paper?

35 thoughts on “That Doesn’t Look Like My Old Jeans

  1. That’s really interesting Marilyn! I don’t know what I’d do with denim paper, I bet Ruth would have a load of great ideas though 🙂

    1. Thanks Zed! This paper is a little softer than I expected, but most paper is made from cotton and can be folded, written on or used in sculpture.

    1. Denim is cotton fiber. It’s just a heavier fiber than most papers are made from. If I had a Hollander beater I could have gotten a much finer paper. It’s a matter of breaking down the fiber so they can be realigned and pressed into another shape.

  2. What a wonderful experiment! I am all for repurposing and up-cycling, and now I am thinking about all those size 8-10 jeans never worn because too they were too small when I bought them. However, your procedure for making paper out of denim does not look easy by any means.
    How fragile is the paper? Look forward to hearing about how the felting goes.

    1. Thanks Cathy! This paper is fragile only because the fibers were long. It is a time consuming process when cutting by hand and using a blender.

  3. This was really fascinating! I had no idea you could make paper from denim. I know to can mix all sorts of stuff into the pulp when you make paper, but assumed that you had to include a certain amount of fibrers from wood (or recycled paper/cardboard). Interesting to hear that cotton fibrers work too. I actually bought a frame and mesh for making paper a while back, but haven’t gotten around to trying it yet. Will put that on my list of things to do this summer! 😉

    1. Thanks Zara! There are many plant fibers that paper can be made out of. There is a process to break down each type of fiber by using cooking with a alkalis. I’ve made paper from Iris leaves, Cattail leaves and other common garden leaves. But most of the paper I made was from cotton pulp. I used to buy the pulp already processed. It is possible to buy cotton and abaca (banana plant) linters that have been processed and dried. They just need to be rehydrated and beat in a blender. Wood based paper are primarily used for newspapers and advertisements.

      Its a fun project to use newspapers and other household papers with the kids to make paper. Just make sure you use a dedicated blender. Let us know how it goes!

    2. Jepp, I definately need to hunt around for an old blender now that I have realized the possibilities! 😉 This got me reading about the history of paper, where using old clothes and other textiles (made from cotton or flax) to make paper preceeded the use of wood pulp. Apparently, it was the limited availabilty of old textiles in Europe during the first half of the 1800’s that drove the development towards using wood as an alternative source of material. We can certainly learn a lot from history about recycling. 🙂

    3. Yes, there is a long history of papermaking and many kinds of papers and processes. Think back to papyrus. The East and West both have long histories of the art of making paper. It is all fascinating and it seems we are coming back full circle. Have fun learning about it!

  4. Haha, you won’t believe this, Marilyn, but I too was recycling an old pair of jeans – I cut Emanuel’s jeans to make yarn! I would never have thought it was possible to make paper, this looks amazing. I’d use it to make notebook covers 😊 Show us your end product when you have one!

    1. I believe it Leonor. I’d love to know how you make yarn from denim. And please post some pictures. I’ll definitely post whatever I make with the paper. No clue right now.

    2. There’s a post for this, absolutely! I’m keen on recycling these jeans and see if I can make decent yarn… I hope you come up with a great idea for what to do with your lovely paper 😊

    3. Thanks Leonor! Good luck with the denim yarn! I can’t wait to see. 🙂

  5. Fabulous paper Marilyn – when you say ‘felt with it’, do you mean cut inlays for felt from the paper?
    It would also be very good to stitch onto.

    1. Thanks Lyn! Yes, I may tear some pieces to use on felt and see how it will felt. Stitching is another good option. I can sure use the practice. 😉

  6. I have only made paper once and it is a lot of work. I am sure that the jeans were a bit tougher since they are heavier material. I would just try all kinds of screen printing, stamping, stenciling etc. with a variety of inks, thickened dyes or paints. Then bind them together in a journal. I stitched on some of the paper that I made and it worked great. Look forward to seeing what you do with it.

    1. Thanks Ruth. Yes, papermaking is a lot of physical work. This paper is very soft. I’m not sure how much handling it will take. But we’ll see.

    1. Thanks Sharon! Wow! I can only imagine trying to keep that many hands busy and little minds focused! My hat off to you Sharon! Have fun if you fInd your supplies and stop by and let us know how it goes!

    2. I hear you Sharon. I’ll practice on my grandsons! That’s about all I can handle these days, too.

  7. cool Marilyn, home made paper is such wonderful stuff. I never write on any I have because I don’t want to wreck it. We did some once at a guild meeting that we let dry over cups to make little bowls.

    1. Thanks Ann! I given plenty away that people hang on to for the same reason. ;-).

  8. Wow, fascinating experiment Marilyn, I’m just as excited to see if it will felt too, do post your results (even if it doesn’t work). I have a book somewhere that talks about moulding handmade paper around 3 objects to make bowls and 3D forms, perhaps if mixed with a little PVA or CMC your jeans paper will be strong enough for that if it doesn’t attach to felt?

  9. Thanks Teri! It does felt and I will be showing that in an upcoming blog post. I’ve moulded handmade paper to shapes without the use of PVA. I have used CMC which is mixed with the paper solution before coloring or papermaking. I believe in this instance the paper was soft and wasn’t as strong a bond because the fibers were long due to using the blender. I could re-process it, but it is a long process because of using a blender. You can only put a pinch of swatches in at a time. If I did it again I would contact a friend who has a Hollander beater which would make the process much easier and less time consuming.:-)

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