Saturday, March 9, 2013

Kapok Craft

Since I posted a photo of the kapok tree on instagram a couple of days ago, I learned that a lot of people have fond memories of using the cotton fiber from the kapok fruit for crafts. It was, however, my first encounter with the tree and its fruit the other day when I visited the GK Enchanted Farm with my cousins and Bea Gomez of GK. She randomly pointed out the tree, and even climbed up the tree, but the fruit was too high. My cousin Ralph and I took turns throwing his sneaker, trying to hit the dried up fruit, and finally, one fell down. Bea cracked it open, and I ooh-ed and aah-ed for a good 5 minutes on the ground. So amazing!
The Kapok Tree
It may look skinny, but this long thing packs A LOT of fiber inside! I filled almost 4 cups (loosely) with the fiber from just one fruit.
Kapok is tropical silk cotton. The cotton fiber is traditionally used to fill pillows, mattresses, and maybe even plush toys.

At first, I tried felting the kapok fiber, but I learned (the hard and prickly way) that felting works best with synthetic fibers. Natural strands like kapok break easily and don't stay together even when poked with the felting needle from all the angles. I slept on it, and the next morning, decided to do this:

Handmade Paper from Kapok Fiber!

This was a trial recipe, and I think it can still be improved. It worked, though, which is why I'm posting it. First thing I did was separate the fibers from the seeds. That takes quite a while, and it is best done while watching no-brainer shows on tv.
1. Soak the fibers in water. Get your hand in there and ruffle the fibers with your fingers. Some unwanted dark plant fibers may come loose during this process, and remove them when you can. Remove 90% of the water from the bowl, leaving behind just enough water to cover the fibers.
2. Add starch, one tablespoon at a time until the fibers feel paste-y. Mix it in with your fingers.
3. You need a screen with bigger holes for faster results, but this silkscreen frame was all I had. I squeezed out the excess water and flattened it using a rolling pin.
4. You can air dry it overnight, but if you're impatient like me, you can also bake the paper. Haha! I stuffed it in the oven for 15 minutes at 190 degrees C.

And here's the finished product!
I trimmed off the ends to clean up the uneven edges, and the little hand-carved birdie (purchased from Silahis store) seems to like it! The paper turned out thick, but light, and can probably be used to make notebook covers. Will try to make more next time, and add some dried flowers leaves from the backyard. Yay, paper-making success! :)