Ancient Egyptians made the earliest paper from the fibrous strips within papyrus stems. The strips were soaked in water, placed side-by-side and over one another, pressed flat and dried in the sun. Parchment followed and was made using animal skins washed in water and lime and stretched onto a frame to dry.
The high-quality white paper we are familiar with today can be traced back to China in A.D. 105. Grass, leaves and old rags were soaked in limewater until they turned to pulp. The mixture was strained and pressed into flat sheets of paper. Paper was handmade and expensive until the 19th century, when papermaking machines were developed. Today, there are many different kinds of paper.
Usually made from the plant fibre found in trees, paper can also be recycled. Recycling paper is fun, but messy. You will need an adult to help you.
What you need:
• Lots of newspaper
• Food processor or blender
• 2 tablespoons glue
• 2 or 3 cups of water
• Sink or small tub filled with 4 inches of warm water
To make the frame, bend and twist the coat hanger wire into a 6-inch-square frame. Tape the ends of the wire so they are not sharp (have an adult help). Stretch one leg of pantyhose over the frame, making it tight and flat. Tie knots in the hose and trim off the excess. You will need one frame for each piece of paper you make.
Put a handful of torn-up paper and some warm water into the food processor. Mix until all the paper has dissolved; add more water if the mixture gets too thick. Add 2 tablespoons of glue to the paper pulp. Pour pulp into a sink or tub with 4 inches of water and mix well.
Slide the frame to the bottom of the sink. Spread an even coat of the pulp on top of the screen. Lift it out slowly, letting the water drain for about a minute. Place the frame, pulp-side up, on a stack of newspapers. Cover with more newspaper and roll with a rolling pin to squeeze out the water. Remove frame from newspaper and allow to dry completely. Gently peel the paper from the frame. Trim with scissors and your homemade paper is ready to use.
Make a mosaic
Romans decorated their homes with mosaics made from tiny pieces of coloured stone or tile. Try making your own mosaic with construction paper. Sketch your design on the paper. Cut out small triangles and squares from pieces of different coloured paper. Then glue them onto the pre-sketched design.