Sunday, May 07, 2006

Making paper work ... and work

I've taken to sewing again as I've noted previously. One of my more difficult tasks recently was trying to buy thread and zips that match the colour of fabric.

It caused me to remember what my mum used to do whenever an item of clothing got too worn out. She removed the buttons and zips so that they could be re-used elsewhere, or by someone else.

It was the same with umbrellas. Most of us would be familiar with umbrellas turned inside out and the metal frame is bent backward beyond repair. Most people would simply throw these away. Mum carefully removed the cover bit from the metal frame, so that if/when she found a metal frame with a broken cover, she might marry the two again.

My latest 'research' into recycling concerns paper. I've never understood what is meant by 'handmade paper' that I come across often in catalogues. I now realize that this is made from used paper or clothes, commonly found plants, etc that have been pulped and shaped into sheets and dried in the sun. Because of the different ways that natural materials like flowers, leaves and grass can be added to it, such paper are very distinctive and popular with people who make cards and those who are into scrapbooking. (Scrapbooking is something else that I do not understand. Perhaps in another blog....)

Commercial manufacturers of such 'handmade papers' are often found in India, Nepal, North Thailand and some African countries. The capital outlay to start up such businesses is low and there are lots of women who are happy to do this kind of work. The climate means there is no shortage of raw materials (lokta, mulberry, silk, etc) and the constant sunshine makes drying the paper naturally possible.

So I'm planning to try paper-making myself in the summer with my son during the school hols or even before. Nothing like letting him get messy and enjoying the result of our labour.

There are lots of unwanted paper coming through my letterbox all the time which needs shredding because of personal details printed on it. Anyone who gets hold of these details can simply phone up the company concerned and make orders in my name. All the companies ask for in terms of identification is one's full address. This is clearly pre-printed on every bit of promotional material they send out.

So what better way to make use of this unwanted paper than to convert it into handmade paper again. I somehow can't see myself doing this as a commercial venture, but I think it will be very therapeutic to see the mountains of wasteful paper in my house being turned into something useful again.

There is one catch though. Water is required in the process. I've read about how some manufacturers in India recycle their water. I imagine that the water used in paper-making can also be reused in the garden.

Any advice from other paper-makers out there will be welcome.

Back to Organic-Ally.

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