We’re trying to make a concerted effort to live a more sustainable life. Partly because of the environment and whatnot, but mostly because it’s cheaper. The hubs and I have been doing some things already, like using reusable containers for food storage and packed lunches, recycling, and growing an herb garden on our balcony… but I want to step it up and try to cut out some paper products. We use a ton of paper towels, and they’re used for everything. I’m talking napkins, cleaning, wrapping veggies to steam in the microwave, emergency Kleenex… you name it! I’ve busted out the extra linen napkins from our wedding, and last night I finished up a roll of up-paper towels!
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I first saw un-paper towels on Pinterest a couple years ago, and loved the idea… but life happens and there are so many other distractingly adorable ideas on Pinterest… ANYWAY, it’s been two years since I first pinned this tutorial from That Short Girl’s Blog, but I finally made a roll of six un-paper towels! To further add to the sustainability factor, I used an old towel from our linen closet and fabric from my stash that I picked up at a thrift store once upon a time. I’m so excited about the final result and can’t wait to use them! I’ll try to update you all on my quest to eliminate paper towels and napkins! Has anyone else had success kicking their paper habit?
1 bath towel, or similar amount of terrycloth fabric
Fabric in coordinating colors
Matching thread (the sturdier the better)
Sewing supplies: pins, scissors, seam ripper, ruler, tape measure
Snap press and snaps (or Velcro)
Rotary cutter and cutting mat
Measure your towel and cut into equal pieces. I wanted my un-paper towels to be square-ish, so I ended up cutting my bath towel into six equal pieces. You might end up with more or less depending on the size of your bath towel.
Be prepared for you craft space to be literally covered in little towel fluffies. As you can see in the picture, they get everywhere!
Press your fabric before cutting. This will make it easier to both cut and sew. I tried ironing my towel, but it didn’t seem to make a difference so I think it’s safe to skip that step.
Using a rotary cutter and cutting board (or carefully with scissors), cut your fabric into six squares that are the same size as your towel pieces.
Carefully pin a piece of fabric to a piece of towel, with wrong-sides together.
Using your sewing machine, sew about 3 1/2 sides of the square, removing the pins as you go. You need to leave a big enough space to flip it back to right-side-out.
Trim off the corners to remove some extra bulk for the next steps. [Doesn’t my hand look super weird here?!]
If there’s any extra fabric on the sides, you can trim that off too. You’re about to flip everything right-side-out and sew another seam, so it will be easier if there isn’t a big wad of terry cloth along the edges.
Flip your in-progress towel right-side-out. Carefully pin the opening closed. You might choose to pin the edges as well (to make sure everything is lined up really well), but I didn’t bother.
Using your sewing machine, sew all the way around the un-paper towel. Since I’m potentially going to be scrubbing counters with these babies, I also sewed an “X” through the center, from corner to corner, just to keep the fabric and towel layers together.
Now it’s time for the best part! The snapping! Well, I think it’s the best. I bought a KAM snap press specifically for this project, and now I’m just dreaming up ways to use it for other things. Most people use them for cloth diapers, but I have no babies and no incontinence problems (yet, lol) so I don’t really need any diapers. I’m considering using snaps on skirts in place of a hook and eye, since they’re such bright, pretty colors.
OH MY GOD GUYS. I’m so sorry for that snap tangent.
Okay, anyway, back to the un-paper towel tutorial! Bust out your snap press and snaps (4 per towel, two innies and two outies).
If you don’t have a snap press, you can use Velcro here instead. Be warned — I’ve heard that because towels/terry cloth shed so much in the wash, it will kill the Velcro pretty quickly.
Double, triple, maybe even quadruple check the location on your snaps and make sure they’re facing the right direction. I say this because I completely messed up the snaps on one towel like four times in a row, and had to keep cutting them off (which is not easy, and ended up ripping my fabric pretty bad). Even after all of that, I still ended up with one towel that attaches upside-down because I put the snaps on the wrong sides.
I put two innies on one side (right-side-up), and two outies on the other side (wrong-side-up). You’ll want to put the innies and outies on the same side of every towel, so they snap into each other properly. I measured for each side to make sure the snaps were equidistant (so they could snap onto the next towel in the roll) and ended up spacing them 11 inches apart.
If you’ve never used a snap press before (like me, 2 days ago), I recommend watching this short video from KamSnaps, the people who made my snap press.
If might help to line up your towels to visualize how they’ll be snapping together when you finish.
When I was done snapping all of my towels together, I also added two snaps to an empty paper towel tube so that I could keep the whole roll together. I’ve seen other people use sturdy plastic mesh to create a paper towel roll, but I didn’t have any on hand.
That’s it! Stick the finished roll of un-paper towels on a paper towel holder and do your best not to use regular paper towels! Then come back later and let me know how you’re doing!