02 November 2011

Experiments in Papermaking: Goldenrod

So after several years of not making much paper, a request from a client got me working on it again. I ended up making a big batch of recycled paper from 100% cotton rag printmaking paper--mostly proofs and misprints, with a stack of book pages I had done and then decided not to use to round it off. The result was a lovely, soft, speckled-grey paper then took letterpress printing beautifully. I know I've already showed this photo, but here's the result of the job I did for the client.

But I decided that if I'm going to start papermaking again, I want to do some real papermaking, starting with raw plant materials and ending with paper. So I looked around my property and decided we had plenty of goldenrod and tall grasses in the back field. Goldenrod is also a dye-plant, and Nova Scotia has 19 native species. I think I had two different species in what I harvested. I've showed this photo before, too, but here's what I had after an hour or two of cutting plants.

The next step, once the plants are thoroughly dry, is to cut them into pieces, about an inch long or so. When I was done, this blue plastic bin was just about full (for size comparison, it's about half the size of the big bins in the previous photograph). You may notice that even dry, goldenrod stays green.

Then comes boiling. Lots of boiling. I boiled even longer than my book recommended, as the plants just didn't seem to be breaking down at all. Then I rinsed--lots of lovely golden brown water that I'd do something with if I knew anything about dyeing (an experiment for a later date maybe: hand-dyed bookcloth). Then a shorter boil. Then I drained the plants until I'd have time to blend them.

Still quite green, you'll see. And for those curious about the results of my canning-pot quest, I found this one at Value Village. It's even bigger than the one my mom always used (and still uses) for preserves.

Then comes blending. I didn't take a picture of either that or the resulting pulp. But it stayed very green. Dark, lovely, grey-green. Something to do for next time, perhaps, is to file the blades of my blender so they beat rather than cut the pulp.

I tested out the pulp when I did the demo for the awards gala. I mixed it half and half with my recycled rag paper pulp, because I hadn't had time to blend all of what I had boiled, and I wasn't sure how quickly I'd go through it.

Even mixed with the other pulp, the goldenrod still looked very dark when formed into a sheet, so I was glad I hadn't used it for the menus. However, by the time it dried, it became much lighter, and much less green. it's hard to tell from the photo, but the final paper is a greenish grey with straw coloured inclusions (mostly stem pieces) and darker speckles (the larger, greyer ones are from the recycled pulp and the smaller, darker ones are goldenrod).

I still have half a bin of dried goldenrod, plus a pot full of boiled waiting to be pulped, so next I'll try pure goldenrod pulp. At some point, too, I'm going to try boiling with a little bit of lye, to see if it breaks down better and eliminates more of the stem chunks. I'll be making a new postbound book to keep track of my experiments, with a sheet of the resulting paper and a plain sheet with notes on what I did. It'll probably be nicer than this sample book I made sometime in the late 90s.

The next thing I'm going to do, is make a two-colour linocut of goldenrod to print on this paper to make greeting cards. I just have to decide if I'll print directly on the paper, or print on a separate sheet and tip the illustration on. More experiments, I guess.


Rhonda Miller said...

The goldenrod paper looks great.

Niko said...

Thanks, I quite like it, too. I'm looking forward to seeing what it looks like without the recycled rag paper to lighten it up.

iNd!@nA said...

i boil goldenrod for different ends...it makes a fabulous green dye

Niko said...

I bet it makes a great dye! The water after boiling was a lovely deep golden brown. Too bad I know nothing about textiles . . .