Unpaper Towels

So I’ve been dreaming of this project for a while now – I have many versions of this pinned on my Pinterest page (go check it out here, to see for yourself).

People who have done these before me and posted it on the internet have done a variety of things:

  • terry cloth on one side, cotton/knit on the other
  • diaper cloth (birdseye cotton) on one side, cotton/knit on the other
  • knit for both sides – one even used old t-shirts
  • diaper cloth for both sides
  • end to end hook and loop to attach the towels together in a roll
  • end to end snaps to attach the towels together in a roll
  • button hole to hang the towels on a hook
  • throw all the towels in a drawer to decrease the tedious feeling that comes with some of the other options

So anyway, don’t think that the way I did this project is the ONLY way. And I didn’t make this up myself – crediting every blog I’ve read about projects similar to this would take me all day (you and I don’t have that kind of time), just know that I encourage you to see what other people have done before deciding what would work best for you and your family.

I chose the cotton/diaper cloth option with a button hole for hanging – I knew that if I put them in a drawer I’d never use them (out of sight out of mind), and if I snapped or hook/looped them, I’d never roll the things back up, even if it looked pretty. I DEFINITELY don’t have that kind of time!

This is a super easy project. Here goes:

Step One: Choose Fabric and Size

Decide if you will buy new fabric for this project, or if you will use up small pieces you have in your stash. I chose to use up some of the stash. That way there was no pressure to color match if I decided to make more later. Also decide how big you want them. I decided I’d cut at 7 inches by 11 inches. (but don’t cut yet!)

Step 2: Fabric Preparation

Prep your fabric. Find my post on that here. Make sure you do this ESPECIALLY with the diaper cloth – it shrinks A LOT! The last thing you want is to make something nice and have the diaper cloth shrink and make the towel look goofy. Also take shrinkage into consideration when you buy the fabric in case you are hoping to make a certain number of towels.

Step 3: Measure and Cut

If you have a rotary cutter and a self-healing mat it will save you a lot of time in the cutting stage. If not, get out your scissors.

Find more information on using a rotary cutter in this post.

Step 4: Sew Edges

Once all of your pieces have been cut, you want to align 2 pieces wrong sides OUT (you should not see the designs). I guessed and said the the diamond pattern was the “right side” of the diaper cloth.

Using about a 1/4 inch seam allowance (your sewing line should be about 1/4 inch in from the edge of the fabric). If you have a serger, you can certainly use that for this step – I don’t, so I can’t speak much to how that would work here. HOWEVER!!! Don’t sew all the way around – you want to leave about 2 inches open to be able to turn it right side out.

Step 5: Trim

Cut the corners on 45° angles. This will help make your corners even more crisp when you flip them.

This is also the step to trim edges with pinking shears if you feel the need. Pinking shears help decrease fraying, and since I don’t have a serger and didn’t use a zig-zag stitch for this project, I chose to use them. It also helped to even out a couple of the edges that didn’t end up lining up quite right.

Pinking Shears.jpg

Step 6: Flip

Time to turn your unpaper towels right-side-out. Use the bit that you didn’t sew around to turn them. I use a chopstick to help me. I have also heard of using a crochet hook. Basically use whatever you have around. As you are turning out the corners, make sure you use your chopstick to get the corners as pointy as you can.

Turn RSO.jpg

Step 7: Iron

To be honest, this is NOT my favorite step. However, it’s a really important step if you want your towels to look as good as possible. Basically, you want to iron it in such a way that the side seams of the towels are flat. You can use your chopstick to help you with this step.


Step 8: Finishing Seam

Sew another seam with about a 1/8 to 1/4 inch seam allowance – although this is more of a “choose your own” based on how you want your napkins to look. This would be a good time to use any sort of fancy stitches you may want to add or practice (they are just towels, so this may be the best time to practice anything fancy your machine might have). Add the seam all of the way around being careful to close the opening appropriately and get the edges of the opening folded in enough to get sewn by the seam.

unpaper towels

Step 9: Button Hole for Hanging

Whatever you decided as far as hanging/buttoning/snapping/etc. Now’s the time to do that. I had never done a button hole before this project, so I thought it would be super hard – it wasn’t. You can even do button holes by hand if you want (it will take longer, of course, but you do you!).

Voila! Unpaper towels! Start using them for all of your kitchen and household needs!

unpaper towels 2.jpg

PS: check out our super 70’s backsplash…