handmade paper and envelopes

How to recycle scrap paper to make beautiful, colourful card from scratch

Looking for a new crafting hobby? Making your own paper is a simple, low-maintenance way to get creative.

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It may feel as if you no longer use paper anymore, especially as bills, banking and even birthday cards available to us online, but it is still being made on a large scale. In fact, 4 billion trees are cut down every year all over the world to produce paper and in the UK, 12.5 million tonnes of paper are used each year.

We’re also used to treating paper as disposable, even if we are recycling it. Think about how many times you have opened a letter, scanned through it and put it straight in the bin. It feels pretty wasteful, right?

Fortunately, there are ways to re-use your scrap paper that go way beyond scribbling down a phone number or a shopping list. In fact, if you feel like getting crafty, there’s a way to repurpose your scrap paper and turn it into unique, high-quality card that you can use for envelopes, letter writing  – it’s even beautiful enough to frame.

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“Making your own paper and card is great because you don’t need fancy equipment  – I started off with my kitchen blender and two pieces of wood,” says Steph Bezzano, who designs and sells her own paper.

Steph creates all her paper from waste materials and specialises in beautiful pastel paper designs and envelopes. Here, she shares her tutorial on how to make your own paper at home with minimal equipment.

What you will need to make your own recycled card

  • Scrap paper
  • Mould and deckle (you can also make your own easily)
  • Blender (avoid using it for food after having used it for papermaking)
  • A container like a washing up bowl
  • A piece of couching material, like towel or felt
  • Some kind of press, like two pieces of wood screwed together 

A step-by-step guide to making your own recycled card

  • 1. Add paper and water to your blender

    Add a handful of scrap paper to your blender and top the blender up with water until it’s about three quarters full.

  • 2. Add the mixture to your container

    Pour the mixture into your container and stir it to get rid of any lumps to create an evenly mixed solution.

  • 3. Place your mould and deckle into your container

    With the part of your mould and deckle made of mesh facing down, place your mould and deckle into the liquid in the container, bringing it swiftly out. When you bring it up, shake it backwards and forwards to ensure the liquid is evenly distributed.

    Leave it on a flat surface to drain until the liquid is fully drained. 

  • 4. Transfer your sheet from your mould and deckle to your material

    When your paper is dry, place your mould face down against your couching material and rock it from side to side as you move it up, in order to remove the paper from the mould.

  • 5. Repeat the process and then press your paper

    Repeat the process for however many pieces of paper you want to make. Then, put your couching material down and place your paper on top (add another piece of material in between for any more paper). You can press using two pieces of wood in between the stack, ideally screwed together. You can then place something heavy on the stack or stand on it and leave it for a few hours.

  • 6. And your paper is ready!

    When your paper is dry, remove the wood and, voila! Your paper is ready to use however you’d like.

Steph’s expert tips for hand making card

Make your pulp as fine as possible

The blending process when you turn your paper and water into pulp is a crucial part of how your paper will turn out. “Make it as fine as you can and make sure you stir the liquid afterwards or the pulp will stick together,” Steph says.

Take steps to ensure your paper is strong and sturdy

If you don’t take care to follow the steps above carefully, your paper will end up being weak and it will potentially rip. “Ensure that when you’re lifting the paper from your mould and deco, you make sure to shake it to help the fibres interweave,” Steph says.

Quality is key

You can use any kind of scrap paper for this tutorial but Steph does add that the better quality paper you start off, the better quality the end result will be. So if you are looking for super thick, strong paper, it might be worth starting off with slightly thicker, higher quality paper.

Customise your paper

You can make your paper colourful by using colourful scrap paper to start off with and you can also add other embellishments like flowers. “Simply add them into your container before you mix your pulp,” Steph says.

  • Steph Bezzano, paper maker

    Steph creating paper
    Steph is a paper maker based in the UK.

    Steph is an environmentally conscious papermaker and maker of wonky, waterproof handmade paper pots based in Leicestershire. She established her practice as a papermaker, Pots and Paper by Steph, in 2020 in her small home studio.

Images: Steph Bezzano