DIY | Unpaper Towels

We are slowly going zero-waste in the Henry Home. It’s been a slow journey but we try to make cuts on disposable items where we can in our home. Awhile ago, I blogged about the reusable napkins I made out of upcycled bed linen. Ever since then, I knew I wanted to try to make unpaper towels. Fast forward to a year later when I am 9 months pregnant and frantically trying to finish all my sewing projects, I present to you DIY Unpaper Towels!

Ideally, you can use old scraps of fabrics (old cotton t-shirts, flannel bed sheets, old towels, etc.) you have lying around. Or you can thrift some fabrics from old linen. However, I went a little overboard when I found out I was pregnant and bought a bunch of flannel fabric for the baby. I made a bunch of cloth wipes for the baby since we will be cloth diapering but still had some left over flannel. I figured this would be a good time to work on some unpaper towels and use up my supply of flannel.

Materials:

fabrics

  • Flannel – about 1 yard (I roughly had two food-related flannels that were 1/2 yard each)
  • 1 old towel
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Something to cut and measure the fabric with

Directions:

  1. Take a sheet of paper towel you want to mimic the dimensions of. We currently use half-sized paper towel sheets and I prefer these over the full-sized ones. The paper towel measured 11.5″ x 7″. I added a half inch allowance, which meant I cut my fabrics pieces into 12″ x 7.5″.

    Fabric next to a paper towel

  2. Cut up your materials to your preferred size. In my case, I cut up a bunch of flannel into 12″ x 7.5″ and my one bath towel into 12″ x 7.5″ pieces as well. It’s surprising how many unpaper towel pieces you can get from just one bath towel. My unpaper towels are two-sided: one side flannel (for absorbency) and one side terry cloth (for scrubbing power and absorbency).
    Note: you will get a lot of lint from cutting terry cloth. This is normal.
  3. Next, sew sew sew. Line up your fabrics, right sides together and pin. I sewed on a 1/4 seam from the longer sides first, starting at the middle. Make sure to leave open a two inch gap when you sew around your rectangle. You will use this gap to turn the towel inside out. After turning the towel inside out and getting your corners as pointy as possible, iron the towel and seams flat.
  4. More sewing. Sew around the entire rectangle, I did a seam allowance of slightly smaller than 1/4. Make sure you sew over the opening you had left open before. I also sewed an X on top of all my towels. This will help it keep its shape every time you put it in the wash.

So those are for unpaper towels without snaps. I prefer these since everytime you wash, you don’t have to snap them together. I prefer to roll them up and place them in a basket. This way, I can still appreciate the prints.

I have a basket hanging on my kitchen wall. It used to contain my salt and pepper grinders and a bunch of random dish towels. I took those out and placed my rolled up unpaper towels in there. When all the towels are clean at the same time, there’s too many of them to fit in one basket so I usually stuff four in one of our tin camping cups and hang that near the basket.

Now, if you want to learn how to make an unpaper towel roll with snaps, keep reading.

After making my first set of unpaper towels, I still had an urge to make an unpaper towel roll. I had a bunch of random flannel pieces so I figured why not try it out. For this project, I decided to ditch the terry cloth (all the lint drove me crazy) and decided to stick with flannel and a few other fun cotton pieces. I figured if we needed to use a rag to scrub something off the counter, I already had those made and rolled up. This roll was strictly going to be for wiping up spills and/or placing food on.

Essentially, you will repeat all the same steps above. What’s different about the roll, however, is that you will need snaps.

  • After sewing all the pieces you want for your roll (I had about 16 12″ x 7.5″ unpaper towels), place the snaps. Take care to place all the same snaps facing down on the right side. On the left side, place all the counterparts of the snaps but facing up. I did 2 snaps per long side on each towel.

    Front & back sides | Front – flannel; Back – different types of fabric I had lying around. You can see that they have ridges on the back, I figured this can create a light scrubbing power.

  • Connect/snap all the pieces together
  • Roll them up and put the in your paper towel holder.

And you’re done! Feel free to just make one or the other or to go overboard and make both like I did. I like having options in the kitchen, that way I am less likely to get frustrated by my zero-waste options. I have no regrets making these. It also brightens up my kitchen 🙂