Sep 26, 02 - Since cattail heads were such a success finally, I kept my eye peeled for stands of thistle. Well, instead I found Spotted Knapweed by the highway. I stopped and grabbed one of the bags I now always keep handy and plucked the wads of down captured in and between the buds. I sped home with my hard won prize and began processing that very nite!
Click on the thumbnails for a closer look.
This is what the down looks like before the water is added. Like cattail fluff, this stuff is pretty water resistent and requires the water to be hot before it starts to sink.
Here's a bee's eye view of the down after my attempt to get the fresh down under water.
Here's what they look like after the water gets hot. I ended up cooking them for four hours in washing soda - one tablespoon per quart of water. At two hours I pulled some out and whirled it in the blender and was unhappy with the results. I whirled another batch at three hours.
At the end of four hours, the down had settled to the bottom of the pot and looked really nasty. My godson said, hopefully, "That's for your paper, right? It's not soup, is it?" I assured him he wouldn't get a single spoonful.
This is what the wad of fiber looks like after rinsing and before whirling in the blender. It took quite a bit of effort to rinse this completely out. I was at it for almost ever! TIP: No matter how long it takes, the secret to beautiful paper is in completely rinsing the pulp until absolutely NO color comes out. The rinsing removes impurities that float to the outside and discolor the paper if not removed.
The cooked fiber only takes a short 60 seconds in the blender to render into pulp. It's awfully pretty (my godson disagrees with me). The pulp is sweet to work with and can be pulled very thin.
There is little difference between the wet and dry papers in color. The wet paper is quite delicate, but once I ironed them dry, they were quite strong. Unlike cattail fluff, knapweed down paper is not leathery at all and feels like something between wrapping tissue and typing paper, depending on the thickness it is.
The dry paper inclusions are more pronounced and the color becomes just a couple shades lighter than the wet. It is a lovely khakhi tan. In conclusion, I think the knapweed down proves, to me at least, that any of the downs will make a lovely paper in varying degrees!
During the months of September/October 2002, I had a booth in the local Farmer's Market. I took the sample papers I had drawn from all the papermaking experiments with me. I found these papers lost their lovely color when exposed to the sun.
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Last revised: November 14 2008