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Japanese Knotweed Paper

Burlington Parks and Rec did a great job at removing Japanese Knotweed from the bike path last summer. Trash bags full of knotweed sat at the 311 North Avenue Park property for months. Everyone scratched their heads while they pondered what to do with it. Most of the stalks were too mature to make into any palatable food dish, but throwing everything into a landfill didn't feel right. What did knotweed ever do to us? Other than, you know, completely obliterate the habitat of numerous native plants. That aside, we must not forget that knotweed is a living thing that did not invade North America on its own accord. It also still has the potential to be useful, even when it's dead in a trash bag. We decided to experiment with papermaking as a way to repurpose plants with bad reps.

Knotweed might not be one's first choice for papermaking-- it does not break down or mold easily. But it can be done! It took a lot of trial and error, but it was a fairly easy process once we figured it out. On the other hand, it will take a lot more practice before it actually resembles normal paper. Most people say it took them years before they got knotweed paper just right. Our paper is a little rough and cardboardy, but it has the potential to make some beautiful art.

Here's what you do if you want your paper to be like ours (impractical but pretty):

  1. Soak knotweed stalks in water for 24 hours.

  2. Boil the stalks with soda ash for ~2 hours.

  3. Blend the softened stalks with a little bit of warm water.

  4. Dump contents in a bin with more water.

  5. Submerge a mold and deckle into the mixture.

  6. Flip over the mold and deckle onto a surface where the paper can dry, such as a piece of parchment paper or a cutting board.

  7. Sponge up the extra moisture so that you can pick up the screen without ruining the paper.

  8. Let dry for 3-7 days.

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