One of the first things that caught my attention were links to etsy.com stores, where crafters were making "un-paper" towels out of cloth. Some were making them the size of the Bounty Select-a-Size towels, adding snaps to them, and attaching them to a plastic roll so they'd go right on your already-in-place paper towel holder. The idea is that you'd simply rip off a towel from the roll.
I was intrigued by them. I use a LOT of paper towels...at least 10-20 a day. If I'm cooking something messy, it's not unusual for me to go through a half a roll of paper towels. I've tried to break this habit by purchasing flour sack towels, and while they have helped some, it wasn't the right substitute. What I liked about these towels, is that they were small...a finished size of 6" x 11". Just the right size to grab and use once or twice and then launder.
While I appreciate the details and design from the etsy crafters, I knew their designs would need some tweaking on my part. When I wipe down my counters, I don't really want a snap in the way. And when I'm folding laundry, I sure as heck don't want to have to attach all those snaps each time.
So, I simplified the project by making mine a 2-ply cloth, with no snaps. Instead of putting them on a roll, I fold them in half and stack them in a basket. The basket is placed directly underneath my paper towels (still like them for raw chicken!), so that I will grab a cloth towel instead of a paper towel.
I'm proud to say that I've cut down my paper towel usage tremendously. I've been using them for a couple months, and in that time, the same roll of paper Bounty is still in place.
Benefits to this project: I'm creating less waste, saving money, and *gasp!*...I actually like them better!!
I chose to use Birdseye fabric (aka diaper cloth) for both sides because it's an absorbent fabric, and looks just like a little paper towel. Also, being all white, it's easier to bleach out stains if needed.
So how did I make them?
- First I bought 5 yards of Birdseye fabric. I wasn't able to find it at Joann's but did find it at our local quilting shop. It was about $3 a yard. From those 5 yards, I was able to make about 28 2-ply towels, with an end cost being about 50¢ per towel. That may seem high, but it's a one-time cost. You may be able to find a better price if you hunt around for sales.
- Next, I prewashed the fabric. I'd never used Birdseye fabric before, so I'll let you in on what I learned...it shrinks...a LOT. In fact, it shrunk even more the second time, even though I washed in hot water, and dried on high. So, going forward, I'd recommend washing and drying twice before cutting the fabric.
- When the fabric was dry, I ironed it (easier to work with and get more precise cuts), folding it in half length-wise as I ironed.
- Once the fabric was ironed, I kept it folded, cutting using a rotary cutter/mat to cut 11 1/2" x 6 1/2" pieces. I cut two at a time so I wouldn't have to match them up later.*
- Then I stitched all around, using a 1/4" seam. I left a 2-3" opening on one of the longer sides so I could turn them right side out later.
- After stitching, go around again, with a zig-zag stitch to keep the fabric edges from fraying. Or use a serger for steps 5 &6. The Birdseye fabric frays easily.
- Turn the towel right side out and gently square up the corners, with a point turner/creaser. Be careful, as it's easy to poke right through the fabric.
- Iron flat, making sure to fold in the opening.
- Top stitch 1/8" from the outside edge, making sure to close up the opening. That's it...you're done!
I took the project a step further and made everyday napkins as well. For these, I chose a patterned piece of cotton fabric for one side. I kept them exactly the same size. I've wanted to buy/make cloth napkins (and stop the awful paper napkin habit!) but was always put off by the large amounts of fabric used for each napkin. I don't want all that folding each week, and buying all that fabric is pricey. I learned that for everyday use, I really like the 6" x 11" size. On laundry day, I fold them in half and place them in my napkin holder.
For Christmas, I made a napkin set with a holiday print on one side.