Last Updated on February 9, 2020 by wendigratz
Getting Rid of Paper Towels…
We haven’t had paper towels in our house for a couple of years now. Besides the environmental downsides to disposable towels (which really, probably isn’t all that bad when compared to take-out containers, excessive packaging in shipping and the oodles of other wasteful things us Americans do)… I just couldn’t bear paying money to wipe up an orange juice spill.
I have a stash of cotton crocheted dishcloths that do the job and have held up incredibly well. But I was looking to diversify.
Bring on the Cloth Towels!
I was chatting with my friend Ellen, who was experimenting with sewing unpaper towels. Ellen is extremely crafty, I usually wait until she’s done all of the hard work perfecting something brilliant, and then I jump in and give it a try (since she already knows it will work). Perfect arrangement, if you ask me!
Ellen’s unpaper towels work fabulously, so I’m going to show you what she showed me!
The towels are made using one layer of cloth diaper fabric (makes sense, right? Absorbent and washable!) and one layer of flannel (the more fun the print, the better!). Diaper fabric is apparently called Birdseye… news to me.
The amount of fabric you need will depend on what size you want your towels to be, and how many you make. Mine are 9″ square, and I used 2 yards of the birdseye and 2 yards of flannel. I ended up with 24 towels. Ellen opted to make hers 12″ square… I think it’s just personal preference.
I recommend pre-washing the fabric (to make sure any shrinking gets out of the way) before you begin.
You’ll also need some standard sewing supplies: thread and scissors, a sewing machine (technically optional, but makes the process much quicker) and perhaps some pins and an iron if you’re the tidy type.
How to Make Unpaper Towels
I’m not a genius at sewing… so believe me when I say that these are pretty easy!
Step 1: cut your fabric
Cut your fabric into the size you want your towels to be. Remember that a little bit will get used up as seam allowance, so account for that in your cutting.
Here’s my shortcut for cutting: fold your fabric in half. Cut along the fold line. Repeat until you have squares that are the size you want! Easy!
Cut both the fabric and birdseye into squares (or rectangles if you want) of the same size.
Step 2: sew squares together
Pair up one square of birdseye with one square of flannel, right sides together. Ideally, they’ll line up perfectly… but mine didn’t. No big deal, you can trim them, later!
You need to leave a 3″ or so space unsewn, so that you can turn the towel inside-out.
Once you’ve sewn around (most of) the edges, trim any excess fabric and clip the corners.
Step 3: turn! (and maybe iron)
Turn your towels inside out. They’ll look a little puffy:
I ironed mine before top-stitching… because I’m picky like that. (I find that the ironing makes the top-stitching easier) Ellen didn’t iron… and hers turned out great, too!
Step 4: top-stitch
The top-stitching is how you’ll close up the hole that’s left from turning the towels inside-out. It also adds a tidy, finished look. I top-stitched around, about a 1/4″ from the edge:
Step 5: use and enjoy!
I’ve been using my unpaper towels all week long, and I love them! They’re lightweight and absorbent, and the birdseye is very slightly abrasive, which is good for wiping up stuck-on stuff.
Give it a try!
If you sew some of your own, you’ll have to report back and tell me how it went!