scotchthistle.jpg (4774 bytes)

Scotch Thistle
Onopordum acanthium

September 16, 2002 - Playing around with the cattail heads and making paper with them led me to surmise thistle heads and/or fluff would also make paper. Well, my first experiment with the thistle heads minus the fluff proved out.

thistlehead001a.jpg (7099 bytes) Being a spiney, stickly plant, I ended up having to use the garden snips to get the heads off. I harvested just enough to make a few sheets then bolted inside and dropped them into a pot of water with washing soda in it (one tablespoon per quart of water). Since the heads were so prickly, I didn't bother to cut or crush or anything - I just dropped them into the pot, brought them to a boil and then simmered them for four (yes! four! and that still wasn't really enough) hours. Under threat of banishment from the kitchen, I stopped there, but could have gone, I think, one more hour for an ideal batch of cooked fiber. Next time I will use lye to shorten the cooking process. Nonetheless, the resulting fiber was still delightful.

thistlehead001g.jpg (7667 bytes) I bagged the fiber in my curtain material and rinsed it thoroughly, figuring on chopping it up after rinse. The thorny heads were not prickly at all while wet, so handling was a breeze. When I opened the curtain after rinsing, the heads had come completely apart by themselves! What a treat!

thistlehead001c.jpg (3383 bytes)I grabbed a very small handful, as the fiber is strong, and dropped it into a quart of water waiting in my blender.

thistlehead001e.jpg (5460 bytes) It took a good two to two and a half minutes of whirling on Liquify to get the pulp down to a reasonable length.

thistlehead001m.jpg (4589 bytes) The fiber was still somewhat long, but I tried not to make any more noise than I had to so I didn't process it down real fine.

thistlehead001o.jpg (4283 bytes)Still, it made a lovely paper. I put a couple handsful of pulp into my vat and pulled one sheet without a deckle and one with. It was a challenge to pull without a deckle as the fiber rushed from the surface quickly and I felt almost lucky to have any left on the screen. The deckleless paper was impossible to couch and I ended up peeling away some of the paper from the screen. The paper with the deckle was much more successful as the fiber was trapped. It drained fairly fast, but not in a whoosh and fairly evenly. I was still unable to couch it, so I blotted it real good and then picked a short edge free and gently peeled the paper from the screen in its entirety. I ironed both sheets. While wet, they were very delicate. When dry, they were quite strong, not a soft paper but not rattly. When folded, it holds the line and the paper doesn't break along the fold. It is a delicious khacki tan. The only drawback to this paper is it still bites! A point was along the edge of the deckled paper and stuck me! It didn't hurt, but it was enough to get my attention!

During the months of September/October 2002, I had 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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Copyright 1998-2008 Colleen D. Bergeron.
Last revised: November 14 2008