My love of all-things-paper goes way back to my summer art camp days when I spent hours upon hours sinking my hands into basins of cold, soggy paper pulp, grabbing handfuls of fibers to then smooth them with the palm of my hands onto screens for drying. Peeling those sun-dried handmade sheets off produced such immense satisfaction! Way before Pinterest and the wedding industry took handmade paper to new heights, I was just a denim skort-wearing, marker-wielding girl with a true-blue love for the process.
Fast-forward to 2019 and the simple beauty of a thick, textured piece of hand-made paper still delights me. Combine a handmade paper with the deep impression of a letterpress printing? Cue that eight year-old toothy grin.
Getting a request to print or letter on hand-made paper tops my love list. While using handmade paper has a few downsides, it has more than a few benefits for those whose style it suits.
Below are a few tips and things to remember when opting for the handmade look along with a list of some of my favorite handmade paper sources.
1. Measure Twice
When you’re working with handmade paper, be aware that standard (and/or super precise) sizing may not apply. Many handmade paper manufacturers are creating close-but-not perfectly sized sheets that will vary slightly in size. So, if you’re opting for standard envelopes and/or papers, make sure that your coordinating pieces are size compatible. Also note that foreign manufacturers (ie: UK) have a different sizing system for stationery pieces. In the U.S., the standard size for wedding invitations is 5x7” (or what’s called A7) and 3.5x5” (called A1 or 4 bar) for reply cards. Enclosure cards can vary in size, particularly if they don’t require a matching envelope.
2. Check Your Quantities
If you plan to use handmade paper for your entire invitation suite, be sure to find a paper source that can accommodate a large order. Etsy, for example, can be a great place to find paper-makers, but if you find one that you like, just make sure you can order in bulk. Also note that you’ll need to be sure to order extra because chances are you’ll need to have more on hand for printer set-up.
3. Be a Little Edgy
Deckled edges are really something special. If you find a paper that you like, remember to check that your printer is able to print pieces “to-size” meaning they’re not printing multiple pieces to a larger sheet and then trimming down. You don’t want to lose those lovely hand-torn edge if you’re cutting down from larger sheets!
4. Ensure Smooth Sailing
Hand-made papers vary greatly in their amount of texture, ranging from super bumpy to relatively smooth. Be aware that heavily textured stocks are not ideal for all types of printing and/or lettering. Soft-handmade papers are often great for letterpress, as the cotton fibers do a great job of taking the “impression” of this printing method. Some digital printers, however, may not be able to run the more irregular sizes and finishes through their machines. But, do ask! Not all papers are created equal, and each printing method and printer has its own capacities. Another thing to remember is that if you’re wanting hand-lettered details on a fibrous stock, a traditional calligraphy pen might drag along the fibers and prevent a really smooth line quality.
5. Count Your Costs
This one is probably pretty obvious, but handmade paper is a considerably more expensive option. I once printed a Save the Date on a beautiful Italian paper. The job cost quite a bit more than it would have had I used my standard, thick high-quality cotton stock. Handmade is a look, though, and if it’s what you’re after, you’ll be paying for it. It’s created with love and handled more carefully during every step of the process. If you’re wanting to go for it, chances are you understand the worth.