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Books/Fiber/Paper/Handmade Paper/How-To: Handmade Silk Paper

Filed under: Folkcat's Craft Library — folkcat at 9:28 pm on Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Handmade Silk PaperTitle: Handmade Silk Paper
Author: Russon, Kath
Publisher: Search Press
Copyright: 1999

This is a book that was only recently given to me as a gift, and I haven’t had much opportunity yet to evaluate it. Let me, then, offer you instead some quotes from the Introduction by author Kath Russon:

Paper is such an ordinary thing. We use it every day, usually without thinking about it. Silk, on the other hand, has always had an aura of mystery about it; it is extraordinary. Its lustre stops you in your tracks and makes you long to touch it. Imagine, then, making something as ordinary as paper out of something as extraordinary as silk.

There is nothing new about silk papermaking. Whilst paper as we know it is thought to have been invented by Cai Lunn, a Chinese eunuch in the court of Han emperor Wu Di in the year 105 AD, silk had been used long before this to record events for posterity. Apparently, by the second century BC it was widely used in China for official letters and documents. However, it was very expensive, so a method was developed by which old silk rags could be pulped; the resulting mixture, thinly spread on a frame, produced a material which could justifiably be termed silk paper.

In the course of this book, we shall try to copy the Chinese ancients in producing paper; in our case, not from pulp, but from actual silk fibres which are now available in a variety of formats, either undyed or dyed. The process of silk papermaking could not be simpler; you need no special tools or equipment and the process takes minutes rather than hours.

Kath Russon is a papermaker first, and this book thoroughly explores using silk to make paper. She covers the different varieties of fiber you could work with; how to dye the fiber; and how to incorporate non-silk fibers in your work. She even gets into how to mould three-dimensional shapes, and how to make felted silk leaves which take their shape and details from real leaves.

I’m not sure if or when I’ll actually get to making silk paper, but I think I’m awfully glad I’ll have this book to refer to when I do.

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