One of the first unsustainable products I “disposed of” when I made the decision to stop using single-use products, was paper towel. Old rags made from torn up pieces of old cotton bath towels worked beautifully. They absorbed more than paper towels, they were free, and they washed up nicely to be reused again. They weren’t, however, attractive. I like beautiful things, and when I first came across faux paper towels (also known as un-paper towels) on etsy I was attracted to them. Not only are they functional, eco-friendly and cheap to make: they are a beautiful addition to the kitchen! And they make great gifts.
I hit up the thrift stores and purchased a few towels in good conditon, as well as a few pillow cases and napkins, also in good condition, made with a fabric pattern that suited what I was looking for. 1 large towel makes 12, 11 inch un-paper towels. If you happen to already have fabric you like, and a few old towels, you won’t even need to purchase them. I admit it feels good to upcycle old bedding, table cloths or napkins into something new and useful!
Perhaps the most challenging part of the un-paper towel project is what to fasten them together with so they roll up nicely and stay together on the roll. I have a snap press used previously for making my babies’ cloth diapers so I chose snaps. Buttons would also be attractive, and velcro would work too. Or, if you don’t want them to roll up like paper towels you can leave them on the counter in a basket.
If you love the concept but don’t have the time, skills or materials needed to make them and would just like to buy them, check out Green Planet Parties (Canadian supplier but also ships to the USA) or this etsy seller (based in the USA), or google them and find many other WAHM-style cotton towels! Butterflies and Needles is a facebook follower of mine who makes and sells them. They sell anywhere from $40 and up, and are worth the cost if you can’t make them. They take several hours to make at home if you have the right materials.
- Attractive fabric for the decorative side of your towels. 11×11 inches or so for each cloth.
- One large bath towel for the absorbing side of your towels.
- A sewing machine or serger.
- Snaps, buttons or velcro for attaching them together.
- Scissors or rolling cutter (and cutting board), thread, pins.
- Wash and dry your fabric if necessary. Iron.
- Find something to use as an 11×11 inch, or 12×12 inch pattern. An old tile would work, or cut one out of cardboard. I used a child’s book .
- Cut 12 pieces of your decorative fabric into squares using your pattern.
- Cut 12 pieces of your towel into squares using your pattern.
- Place one piece of towel together with one piece of decorative fabric, right sides showing. Pin together and serge or tightly zig-zag your squares together. Repeat for all pieces. You could also stitch, turn and top stitch if you would rather have a more finished looking edge.
- Choose your fasteners. Make a simple paper pattern for snap/button placement. Mark the spots with a washable pen or chalk. If using buttons, make button holes on one end of each cloth and sew buttons on the other end. I’d recommend 3 per side. If using snaps, attach male snaps and caps to one end, and attach female snaps and caps to the other end, making sure that the caps on one end are not on the same side of the fabric as the caps on the other end, as shown. (Again, I recommend using 3 snaps per side). If using velcro, place fuzzy side (loop) and rough side (hook) on opposite sides and ends of the fabric. Attach.
- Fasten together your fabric and roll up, or onto a paper towel holder and you are done!