Hands up all paper addicts!
Good! Everybody has their hands up, oh look and some of you have two hands up! Well I am a total paper addict, as you know, and so when I was lucky enough to get an invite to visit the James Cropper mill, the guys behind Papermill Direct, I jumped at the chance. I do love seeing how things are made.
As well as the fabulous staff from the mill I also got to meet some bloggers who I've admired for a long time now: Hilary Pullen from CraftBlog UK, Laura Clempson from Cupcakes For Clara, and Bev Rochester from All The Things I Love, but I've also made a new bloggy friend and can add Natalie from Tea, Cake and Make to my 'blogs to admire' list!
Our tour started with a visit to the Mill's lab and learning about the processes involved in paper making and some of the factors involved, including thickness, texture, lightfastness, colour and finish.
Whilst in the lab we got a little hands-on and made our own paper using some pulp and whatever we had bought with us to add into the paper; I had some glitter and chilli flakes with me and I decided to make some chilli paper.
After stirring the pulp with the chilli flakes for a while, a binding agent was added to the pulp to help the colour particles to bind to the pulp fibres. The chillies plus pulp is the orangey red beaker on the left and the lilac beaker on the right is Bev's glitter pulp.
Some of the pulp was diluted with water and a fixing agent was added and mixed in, then the pulp solution was poured into a settling tray full of water.
As the water was drained away, the tray was shaken to help the even spread of the fibres onto a wire mesh. The fibres on the mesh could then be transferred onto blotting paper and were hydraulically pressed to remove some of the water, and now it was starting to look like paper. The final step was to dry the paper.
[Photo thanks to Hilary Pullen]
You can see by the smile on my face how much I enjoyed making the chilli paper, but in my defence I thought Hilary was only taking a close-up of the paper! I didn't realise she had me in the shot as well - Oops!
So having made paper on a small scale we then got to see the big machines and they are seriously BIG!
At one end the diluted stock of pulp and water is added in and colour matched with the information from the lab, data from the computer control and experience of the operator
and a couple of hundred meters later, or the length of a couple of Olympic-sized swimming pools or thereabouts (I didn't measure it so I'm just guessing!), you have paper rolling out the other end.
But in between it has gone through all the wet and drying stages we did on a small scale in the lab. The machine is on for five days of the week, 24 hours a day, making paper.
These rolls of paper can now be embossed, coated, cut or treated however the client needs or even end up in our baskets whilst shopping in Papermill Direct.
I've got a new respect and love for paper, I can tell you!
If you want to find out more about our trip then pop on over to Hilary's post on the Papermill Direct Blog or Natalie's post on her blog Tea, Cake and Make.
To learn more about the James Cropper Papermill and its long history visit their website and to order some lovely paper you can always visit Papermill Direct. You might want to link up with them on their social media outlets too as they have some fun things planned for us paper lovers (Blog; Twitter; Facebook; Pinterest)
Catch you later, just off to stroke some paper.