Paper towels don’t have to be an essential part of your shopping list! Making your own un-paper towels is budget friendly, eco-friendly and so easy to make – it’s a one hour project for even the newest sewer.
“Spending my hard earned money on cleaning cloths is one of the biggest things I was ever duped into! Our mothers and grandmothers didn’t need a fancy dishcloth to polish the silverware or clean the bathroom sink.”
If I asked you to hang a plastic bag in your kitchen & collect all the paper towels that you used this week… you would be pretty shocked at how quickly it fills up. At Simply Living, I often talk about how some of the smallest changes to the way you think about making your home can make huge changes in your budget, your health and the environment that we’re passing on to our children.
Making your own unpaper towels is an ideal first project for your inner seamstress. If you have some old towels or flannelette sheets in your linen cupboard then they are completely free to make and although paper towels aren’t the most expensive item on your shopping list, by making & washing unpaper towels, you’ll soon realise that if you take care of the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves.
What you’ll need:
Some needles & thread. You can sew these by hand using a simple stitch or if you have access to a sewing machine, use the zigzag stitch.
Terry towelling material (the fabric used for towels) is probably the most absorbent cloth to wash with but flannelette is more readily found in your linen cupboard. If you don’t have an old flannelette sheet on hand make sure you grab one from the op shop next time you visit.
Using a large sheet means that you’ll have matching unpaper towels… or you can use what you have on hand. We love to hear people making do with what they have. Our op shops sell queen sized bed sheets for about $2 – you might be able to find some sheets or towels that will co-ordinate with the colours or theme in you kitchen.
Cutting the fabric:
Unpaper towels work best when they are two-ply. You’ll be taking two squares of equal size and stitching them together. The size of these towels completely depend on what you want or need. The average paper towel is about 25cm x 25cm .
If you’re an old hand with the sewing machine and own a cutting mat, then use a sharp roller blade, stanley knife or scissors to cut your squares.
If you don’t have a cutting mat, you’ll need some chalk for marking out. Fold the fabric in half and pin together before you mark out your graph lines. Basically you’re going to turn your bed sheet into a graph of equally sized squares/rectangles. You can trace around a square book or an old face washer if you can’t find a ruler!
Always use the sharpest scissors in the house when cutting fabric – cut along your chalk lines. If you haven’t got pins to hold the fabric in place then do not fold the fabric in half first, but cut each square individually.
Many Homemakers prefer to trim the corners off their unpaper towels and have rounded corners much like face washers. This is optional – it doesn’t make a difference to the bench top you’re cleaning. Pretty, but not essential.
If you’re using terry towelling fabric, and trim them with pinking shears and use them as they are without stitching the edges.
Sewing your unpaper towels
Take two squares of fabric and make sure that you can see the patten on both sides, then pin them together. You can use any simple
stitch you like if you’re hand sewing. For the strongest hold, use the zigzag stitch on the sewing machine. Set the machine to sew small stitches and stitch close to the edge of the fabric. Take it slowly if it’s your first time and don’t worry if it isn’t the straightest line in the world – at the end of the day, you’ll be using them as kitchen rags! The edges will eventually fray…let them! You’ll be too bust saving money on paper towels to worry about things like frayed edges.
Variations of Unpaper Towels
There are endless variations on the unpaper towel so here’s a chance to get really creative. You can use different colours of thread to sew around the edges – then you can use blue edges in the kitchen and red edges in the bathroom.
You can use different types of fabric (white on one side and blue on the other side).
You can also sew snap fasteners onto the corners of your unpaper towels. When you finish sewing them, join the snap on one towel to the snaps of another towels and you’ll soon have a long roll of paper towels that you can store on your old paper towels holder for easy access.
You can make different sizes – large ones for napkins or small ones for around the kitchen sink. Make different colours for different rooms around the home.
Washing & Using Unpaper Towels:
I have my unpaper towels folded up and waiting in a napkin tray in the corner of my kitchen bench. Sometimes I rinse & hang them to air dry around the sink, often I use it, make it filthy and then throw it in the laundry. Depending on how soiled they are, you may prefer to wash them separately from your regular laundry but if you rinse the unpaper towel off when you’ve finished cleaning with it, just treat it like any other face cloth & throw it in with your next load of laundry.
To me, unpaper towels are all about making the most of the resources we have on hand. It’s about recycling & reusing. I really don’t mind how tatty they get, as long as they get the job done.