crater paper

material investigation

Construction V Spring 2016 :: Allison Gaskins

Partner :: Marissa Jordan  (2 weeks) 


To explore the paper-making process with varying materials, focusing on fabric fibers due to their tensile strength and water-deterrent capabilities.


cotton balls, old newspaper, water, frame with screen, plywood, staples, baking soda, 100% cotton t-shirts (reused), denim (reused), Rockite


food processor, stove + pots, blender


Rhino 3D (pattern-making), Adobe Creative Suite

Material sources

Home Depot, personal closets, H-E-B, Coop Art Store


We wanted to create a fabric fiber-based material through the paper-making process. Repurposing old cotton-based clothes, we attempted to produce a fiber-based pulp using common kitchen appliances such as a blender and a food processor. Our blending appliances had limited power and capabilities, however, and we were unable to grind the fabric into a small enough fiber pulp. We then continued our investigation with virgin material, 100% cotton balls, maintaining original concept of repurposing material. Materials that are fabric fiber-based have an advantage over paper-based products because:

• Fibers have a greater tensile strength than paper; they are less easy to tear and shred

• Fibers such as cotton have greater water-deterrent capabilities; this is why paper currency is able to survive washing machines

• Fabric material can be bound by sewing; strategic seams and folds in a fabric can give it inherent strength and self-supporting qualities

• The aspect of reuse of material drove our experiment; repurposing old unwanted clothes into a new product was something we felt was worth investigating


We chose to alter the paper-making process by creating a fabric-based pulp rather than a wood-based pulp. We used a familiar process (paper- making) as the constant in the experiment and the different materials as variables.


To better understand the potential for this product, we undertook a series of studies using additives as variables. Each prototype tested a cotton-to-paper ratio and in some studies we introduced additional material variables into the mixture. Our first iteration included a shredded cotton t-shirt mixed with used white Strathmore and used printer paper. Realizing we had limited resources to continue shredding fabric, our next set of studies tested a series of cotton and old newspaper mixtures, using ratios as variables. To create a constant we first produced a 100% old newspaper prototype and a 100% cotton prototype separately, using the same papermaking process as before. The 100% cotton prototype was fragile and fell apart easily because there was nothing in the mixture to bind it together. The 100% newspaper prototype, however, held together due to the cellulose already present within the material. We then combined the two raw materials into one prototype, varying their percentages. We found that the prototype which used an equal amount of newspaper and cotton was the most successful. We then used that recipe to introduce a new variable, Rockite, into the mixture. Although Rockite gave the prototypes compressive strength, naturally, we realized this introduction would prevent us from eventually sewing our prototypes into a module, which was an important part of our material determination process. Lastly, we collected lint and attempted to produce a 50% cotton, 50% lint prototype. This study fell apart easily like the 100% cotton prototype due to the lack of a structural or binding component.


True Reusability:

As mentioned before, we were unable to implement the crux of our thesis: reuse of otherwise wasted materials, due to our lack of resources. Given more time or a higher budget, we could find (or buy) a better means of shredding non-synthetic fabrics such as denim, 100% cotton t-shirts, or even burlap and hemp to create a pulp with which we could then further our prototyping process.


Due to Austin’s humid climate, we had trouble preventing our prototypes from growing mold as they dried, and some took over two days to fully dry. We never resolved a way to prevent molding.


In its essence, cotton can survive submersion in water, however it cannot repel water in the way that certain synthetic fabrics do. Given more time, we would investigate using lamination in this process to create a water-repellant product.


Modular Flexibility:

The prototypes were ultimately sewed into a module which could then be used for various applications. Like any fabric, Crater Paper could be implemented into interior partitions, apparel, or furniture. It differs from traditional fabric in its reuse history and papermaking process. The Crater Paper module is easily compressible or expandable, depending on usage and storage needs.

Any pattern could feasibly be applied to the product because the size of the sieve could be adjusted to accommodate any pattern. We chose a pattern which would allow our prototypes to be bound in a way that would allow for flexibility, depending on the application. The prototypes on their own have little strength or ability to selfsupport, but the aggregation of the individual sheets allow the Crater Paper to be self-supporting in any orientation.