Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Un-Paper Towels

We go through a lot of paper towels. A LOT. Or, at least, we used to. Now we hardly use any! How is that even possible!? you ask. I'm glad you did. And I'm here to save the day. Or, the paper towels, at least.

The fabric I used

Now, I'm not a "tree-hugger." Sure, I love nature, and I'm glad all those loggers are replanting trees as they go. But these just make sense. I mean, paper products are expensive. And if you skimp on price, you skimp on quality. I've used paper towels that tear quicker than a page in a Bible, and absorb half as well. So these un-paper towels were a quick, easy solution. Sorry I don't have any pictures of the production of such fine merchandise. I will get better at this blogging thing, I promise.

As you can see from the picture above, I used three different fabrics: red flannel, patterned flannel, and white terry cloth. Because I wanted these to be cute as well as functional. I wasn't thinking I'd ever have to bleach them. WRONG.

Terry/flannel cloths
The flannels were 7.99 a yard and the terry was 6.99 a yard if I remember correctly. I got two yards of the patterned flannel and one each of the solid colors. This was enough to make a dozen 12"x12" towels with fabric left over to make more. So, some towels are flannel and terry cloth while some are just flannel. NOTE: I like the terry cloths the best. If you want to make your buck go even further, just do single layer terry cloths. It'll basically be a wash cloth, but at a fraction of the cost. Also, I'd make them white so you can bleach them... one of mine is stained pink already and it's been like 2 weeks. They get dirty fast.

Wash your fabric first. Not with whites!! I colored a white tank top pink. Joy. (I'm so home-savvy!! I thought it would be okay if I used a color catcher. It wasn't. Nothing else got colored, though, just the tank top... the white terry came out nice and clean even though I washed it with the red flannel... go figure.) Iron. Now to the fun part!

Flannel/flannel cloths
Match right sides together. With the flannel be sure the fabrics stretch in the same direction. Then I just used a ruler and some fabric chalk to mark 12x12 inches, then cut them out. Pin together. Using the sewing machine you borrowed from your mother (if you're not lucky enough to own one) do a quick basting stitch around the edge. I used the presser foot as a measurement, and it was probably 1/4 inch from the edge of the fabric. Really, it can be as close as you want. (Since I used 12"x12" for the starting piece, my un-paper towels are a little smaller than that. You can add a seam allowance if you want, or if you don't care, I found the ruler to be quite easy.) Try to make your corners square by leaving the needle in the fabric, lifting the presser foot, and pivoting the fabric around the needle. Be sure to leave a few inches open so you can flip your towel right-side-out. Do so after you've finished sewing around the edge. Once it's flipped the right way, iron again.

Then simply go around the edge again with the top stitch to close up the hole and make it look purrrty. Make your corners the same way you did before with the whole pivoting-on-the-needle business. Iron a third time, if you so desire. I didn't want to, so I didn't do it. I think they're just fine. =] But I'm lazy.

Big picture of where the basket is on our kitchen wall.

Now figure out how to keep them in your kitchen. We have next to no counter space and not much cupboard space either, so I didn't want a basket some place it would take of valuable space. So I had Jonny nail a little basket to the wall above the sink.

Close-up of the basket. You can see the pink cloth towards the bottom of the stack.
To extend the life of your cloths, or if they're not very absorbent, wash them several times with an extra rinse and dry without fabric softener. They should start absorbing better.

I find that for now, a dozen cloths has been sufficient for us. I do wash these with our clothes (bad me; you'd think I'd have learned by now), and do a couple loads a week. We go through the terry cloths the fastest. If I were to make more, I would be sure to make them all terry.

This is a super easy project, that I, as a novice sewer, had lots of fun with. Be creative. Change the size, fabric, or stitches to gain expertise. And remember, when you make a mistake and end up ripping out stitches for hours, that you can chalk it up to EXPERIENCE.

**EDITED TO ADD** These are single use towels. I don't just use one per day, or use them till they stink (I hate smelly towels). Also, I let them hang dry on our oven door handle before putting them in the laundry basket so they don't grow mildew while sitting in that nice, moist, dark environment. An added precaution against stink is putting some soap on them (especially the soaked ones) and rubbing it in so that when you wring it out, it's all sudsy. That will help prevent build up as well.

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