I have an absolutely wonderful pen pal who lives in Italy who absolutely ADORES Xena (stop reading if you want to be surprised, missy!), so what I've been doing over the last couple of days is making aged "scroll paper" to write my letter on to her - right out of "I-wish-history-was-really-like-this".
So I thought I would provide a "How-To" on how to do this for those of you who either like crafts or have pen pals who would get a kick out of receiving an "old" letter.
You can do this with any kind of white paper, but obviously the better quality the paper, the better your outcome. I used both a high grade acid-free paper to test a couple on, as well as a low quality generic white printer paper. You get a much deeper colour with the acid free and it feels almost cotton like when you're done, which adds to the mystique of it. Be careful if you're using the cheaper generic paper, as it will rip very easily as you go through the processes.
What you need:
2-3 tea bags (I used Tetley's Orange Pekoe)
Boiled water in a mug
Flat cookie tray
Oven or iron
A thick towel that can get stained/dirty
To begin, take your paper and crumple it up. Un-crumple it and crumple it again - you're going to want to do this at least ten times.
Put the paper aside and, in the kitchen, boil a cup of tea with 2-3 tea bags. Ready your paper, flattened, on the tea towel (folded to be about the size of the paper). Using your kitchen tongs, grab a tea bag and start to brush it against the paper, covering it in deep reddish brown water. You can lift up corners to make the water slide into place it hasn't yet been. When the front is complete, do the same with the back, dabbing the excess water off with the towel as you finish each piece of paper.
Another way to do this is to boil the water, add the water to a mug with 3 tea bags, let it steep about 30 seconds and then pouring the tea water into a flat tray that you can simply set the paper in on one side and then flip to do the other side. You'll get different results both ways, so try experimenting to see what you like best.
After you've done either of the above steps you need to dry your paper. This can be done two ways, depending on your own preference. First, you can take the paper, and, two sheets at a time, place it on a clean cooking tray, atop some wax paper - then cook the pages in the oven at 200 degrees for five minutes. When you pull the pages out of the oven, they will most likely be curled and lumpy - this may be the look you're going for, but if not - what I do is take a kitchen cutting board (we have a lovely big thick wooden one here), place it on top of the paper on the kitchen counter, pile it high with recipe books for weight, then leave it over night to flatten. It will take less time depending on how many papers you have stacked together.
An alternative way is to use an iron on the pages (atop the towel) when you have finished staining them with the tea. Put your iron on a medium to high setting and lightly go over the pages. You'll hear a woosh sound as the water evaporates with the touch of the iron - don't worry - that's a good thing! Doing it this way will also save you the waiting time from the previous step as you won't need to pile books on top of your paper (or at least you won't have to wait as long).
So, when your pages are dry and flattened to your liking, go ahead and put a fresh pen to the page - or, you can print some stationery onto it (like what I offer here at SMA) and go for gold!
Let me know if this process turns out well for you - there are loads of different ways to make aged paper, but this just happens to be what I find works with the items I have on hand. You can try a really dark coffee, for example, if you wanted an even deeper colour - experiment and have fun with it!