mulberry experiment

A recent experiment between a friend and me:

Late June.
She a botanist, me a fiberist,
discovered a plant,
the paper mulberry,
or if you prefer Broussonetia papyrifera,
grows here as an invasive exotic.

So we relieve a local park of an unwanted pest plant
brought it home
stripped the bark and soaked it in water for two weeks to let it ret, a stinky rotting process even after multiple rinses throughout,
[I'm skipping the bubbly mess picture]
mixed it around
removed some of the outer bark pieces,and pulled it through a screen
to make paper.
It's quite lovely.


A wish to hear the thoughts of the person who invented this process while they were developing came to me as we made this.

The harvest portion of the experiment was a little itchy when handling new growth, it didn't last long once we rinsed our arms, but be forewarned.

In the future separate the outer bark and the inner bast fibers sooner, perhaps a week in, so they won't be intertangled.

Some of the dry bark coils were held back to develop material studies later. Plaiting and cording the unretted bark and retting some for a shorter time might result in a longer fiber for spinning string.

Wiki mentions paper mulberry is used to make tapa cloth all over the Pacific Islands. Add an additional process to the experiment list.

also posted:
by Liz the botanist, here (Part 1), here (mid-ret notes) and here (Part 2)

related to:
experiments with nettle posted here by Susan Kruse

top four images taken by Liz Martin


Anita Thomhave Simonsen said...

very interesting to read about the process of making this kind of paper..thanks for sharing your experience about it....

A rambling rose said...

Great photos of a fascinating process - thanks for sharing it

Kirsty Hall said...

How amazing, I love seeing processes done from scratch like this.

Kruse said...

Ooo, how wonderful! Isn't it incredible when nature provides? Okay, so here is your next project: oak-gall ink. it is utterly wonderful stuff and there are loads of recipes for different ways of making it. Eventually it does rot the paper because of the iron in it, but after many, many years.
I've made loads of it and it is beautiful stuff.

Erin Curry said...

Thank you, This process was really interesting. This was the first paper I've ever made solely from plant material pocessed myself rather than recycled paper pulp. It's a different kind of stinky and really quite white.

Susan, oak gall ink is suddenly on the must try list. I'll be on the lookout for galls.

Cobalt Violet said...

Wow, that is very inspiring though it might be a while before I try something like that in my LA apartment (no outdoor area) ... love your photos and your blog!


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