Paper products are one of the number one “wasted money” items we purchase. **Fear not, I do not suggest you rethink toilet paper – though some do.** Think about how much a roll of paper towels costs. It may not seem like much, but now think about how many you use in the course of the day. Do you try to save a few buck by buying the cheap or store brand paper towels? Do you use quite a bit more because they don’t clean up as well?
For just a couple bucks you can make 30 unpaper towels. And the best part? It requires no fancy sewing machine and it takes almost no time at all. I just did another set of 30 in the time it took my toddler to watch “the pony movie” (Spirit).
How to Make Unpaper Towels
You want to purchase some flour sack towels. I found some at Walmart. They come in five packs and each towel measures approximately 28″ x 29″ which is completely overkill for a paper towel replacement. We are going to turn each towel into six towels, giving us 30 towels.
The key to sewing unpaper towels is to realize that your sewing job can be terrible and no one will ever know. Do not allow yourself to waste more than 5 minutes per towel. Once washed, the stitches and corners are not going to be seen. Put the pedal to the metal and run that sewing machine at full speed.
Fold & Cut
Lay out your towel on a flat surface. You want it unwashed and somewhat flat (but again, no one is going to notice if it’s perfect or not). Next you want to fold it in half with the fold on the longest side (one side is 1″ longer than the other side). Cut along the fold so you now have two long pieces. Jagged edges are completely acceptable.
Cut Some More
Take your two long pieces and stack them on top of each other. Fold these strips into thirds. You then want to cut these folds. This leaves you with six towels of approximately the same size. Here is an optional step: You may choose to iron at this point. The edges curl a bit and can cause some issues when you stitch the sides. I personally never iron. It’s too much of a hassle with a toddler running around and only small windows of opportunity to sew.
On to the sewing. I don’t have a serger or fancy sewing machine. I only have the basic functions. I knew I didn’t want to play around with pressing and hemming, so I decided to do a simple zigzag stitch so they wouldn’t unravel.
I decided to do a test to see which zigzag had the best results, so I did one towel with a small and tight zigzag and a second towel with a wide 3-step zigzag. After washing, drying and reviewing the results I decided to go with the small and fairly tight stitch.
You will notice that some edges will already be “finished”. There is no point in re-sewing those parts. Just sew around the unfinished edge with the edge of the material as close to the outside of the zigzag as possible. If there is a huge amount of fabric on the outside of the stitch when you’re done, just trim it off a bit. Otherwise, we move on to the next step.
The first few washes will provide threads. Just trim them off when you take them out of the dryer. When the unraveling reaches the zigzag it will stop. Learn from my experience here: Do not wash your towels with other stuff for the first few washes. I had threads all through my microfiber diaper inserts and my son’s flannel pajama pants. I actually suggest using a small laundry bag located in the kitchen to put your used towels and washing them separately.
Here are some small laundry bags that are perfect for hanging in the kitchen to keep your dirty unpaper towels in: