Eco-Friendly Non-Paper Towels

8 Materials
1.5-2 Hours

Y'all!!! I could jump out of my skin I'm so excited! As many of you who follow me may know, I'm not a sewer AT ALL. I've tried and tried but have never been able to master the art of sewing. I've been wanting to do this project for years but was too intimidated by it--especially since it involved a sewing machine--and now that Rob and I will be welcoming a baby girl in a few short months, I'm going coo-coo about wanting to learn to sew so that I can make her bibs, dresses and everything girlie. After a lot of soul searching and researching, Rob and I came to the decision to finally invest in a legit sewing machine for me (not a super cheap one like I had a few years ago that I broke after project attempt No. 3 or 4--haha--true story!). So without further ado, here is the No. 1 project I've had on my "when I sew some day" list that is finally complete! I know there's probably tons of hiccups and mistakes but I'm happy as a clam because I finally got me some non-paper towels that didn't make me want to pull my hair out when I created. Now here's to a zillion more sewing projects!!!

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-1-1/2 yards cotton fabric
-1-1/3 yards terry cloth fabric
-cutting mat
-straight edge (I used an old transparent academic triangle I still have from college)
-Fiskars fabric cutting tool (they have a whole variety of cutting tools)
-Starter Pack KAM Plastic Snap Setting Pliers & Awl Set (this came with 100 plastic snap sets in a variety of colors)
-Brother Simplicity SB3129 sewing machine

Not pictured:
-fabric measuring tape

Note about the fabrics: I wanted to be sure to have enough in the event I messed up so I ended up having some left over...if you're an experienced sewer, you should be ok with 1 yard.

STEP 1: Cut fabrics
First, I cut my cotton and terry cloth fabrics into squares using my fabric cutting tool and straight edge. My Fiskars cutting tool is so much better than scissors; it glides across the fabric and is great for curved edges. I looked up the standard paper towel size and found it to be 11"x11" so I cut my squares 12"x12" to ensure that once I sewed everything, they would be closer to the standard size of a paper towel.

Here are my two stacks of fabric squares. I really loved the colors of these and how they meshed so well!

STEP 2: Sew fabric squares together
Next, I set my sewing machine on the straight stitch (center needle position) setting which has a default stitch of 2.5 mm apart. (I apologize but I don't know the sewing lingo yet so I'm just going based on what I read in my manual).

Then, I laid a square of my cotton fabric FACE DOWN onto a square of my terry cloth fabric and sewed straight down each side, having the sewing machine foot just close enough to the edge of the squares so that a tiny bit of excess fabric was exposed.

Once I sewed all the way around my square, I left a gap big enough so that I could pull the fabric inside out--the gap was approximately 1-1/2".

Here, I flipped my sewed (or is is sewn?) square inside out. Make sure to push out the points of all the corners from the inside so that you have nice, straight edges.

Then, I straightened out the gap from the outside, making sure to flip the edges of both the cotton and the terry cloth fabrics inward so that the side was nice and straight, and finally sewed the gap closed.

Here are my seven non-paper towel squares {insert happy jig here!}.

STEP 3: Add snaps
Finally, it was time to make my finished fabric squares into a continuous roll of non-paper towels. I'm super pumped with this cool kit I got from Amazon--once I read the instructions and watched a little tutorial online of exactly how to work this gadget, it took me no time to add snaps to my squares.
For seven squares, I ended up using 24 caps, 12 sockets and 12 studs.

To add top part of the the snaps, I first took the awl tool and poked a hole through the fabric of my squares where I wanted the snaps to go. I decided to put my holes the side where I did my final stitch so that once the non-paper towels were on a roll, you wouldn't be able to see that stitch. Then, I inserted a cap in the hole on the cotton (floral) side and a socket on the back (terry cloth) side. Finally, I took the KAMsnap pliers (make sure that the cap is snuggly in the cap die tray [black piece of the pliers!] and squeezed hard so that the prong of the socket flattened.

Here is how the top part of the snap should look once you've squeezed it with the KAMsnap pliers.

Next, I had to add the bottom parts of the snaps so that the non-paper towels would SNAP together. I repeated exactly what I did for the top part of the snaps, only this time after I poked my holes with the awl tool, I inserted the cap on the back (terry cloth) side and instead of using a socket for the other side, I used a stud which I placed on the prong that was sticking out on the cotton (floral) side.

Here is the finished look of snapping the towels together.

I'm pleased as punch at how these adorable non-paper towels came out!!! I feel like once I get a technique down, I can whip these up as gifts for family and friends, maybe eventually monogramming them with vinyl. Oh the possibilities!

Suggested materials:

  • 1-1/2 yards cotton fabric  (JoAnn fabric)
  • 1-1/3 yards terry cloth fabric  (JoAnn fabric)
  • Cutting mat  (on hand (from JoAnn fabric))
See all materials

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Have a question about this project?

3 questions
  • Elizabeth Stevenson
    on Mar 13, 2017

    Did you preshrunk the fabric?
    • PamPam
      on Dec 18, 2019

      I think they are a great idea, and lovely. So what if they shrink differently or the red color run, they are non-paper towels. When they get beyond cute, you can finally toss them and make more. Still greener than constant paper towels in the trash. I applaud you.

  • Susan K. Mueller
    on Jul 7, 2017

    Won't the snaps scratch the surface you are wiping with them??
    • Cindy
      on Nov 5, 2017

      I would think if you'd grab for towel, your hand can be gripping the exposed snap and so no harm; you'd have the control. ( To scratch/ Not 2 scratch.) Thanks for thinking of another useful project, keep them coming!
  • Catherine Sigmon
    on Aug 7, 2017

    How many towels did you make with that amount of fabric?

Join the conversation

3 of 82 comments
  • Rdy31549481
    on Feb 2, 2018

    Seems a bit expensive $35 for replacing paper towels..... I buy cheap washcloths at Wal Mart, they come dozen in a package for $3. and keep them under the sink, use them instead of a paper towel. toss them in the laundry...... not pretty or fancy, but do the job, cheaper, and don't take up counter space.
    • Jacqueline
      7 days ago

      Hi there Rdy. I realize your comment is from 2018. I am commenting on March 30, 2020. Today we are in the middle of the beginning of a new (novel) Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic claiming lives world wide. My county in the USA is locked down. People are standing 6 feet apart down the sidewalk waiting in line to go inside grocery stores. There is zero toilet paper. Toilet paper and paper towels are selling out within an hour of the store opening. The idea of homemade toilet wipes and hand towels is very interesting. All ideas are helpful and can be modified for our individual circumstances. $35 might be the cost of getting one person to wipe his or her hands sending the germs into the bin for washing and sanitizing. I think kids prints would help little kids enjoy. This project would not cost me $35 to make. I would consider using hook and loop or Velcro brand instead of snaps if they are wrapped around a paper towel holder. I have another idea that I'll practice with before suggesting it. Day care workers and childcare providers don't need to wrap these around a paper towel holder. They can use the tutorial to make really cute, thick hand towels. They can use solid colors or animated characters for each day so they know when the change out towels. Without the snaps and paper towel holder, the tutorial is still helpful and relevant. Now I'm off to make some. Many people don't have fabric hand towels because they always used paper towels. In other others like mine, fabric hand towels are completely sold out. This tutorial for a paper towel replacement is relevant to 2020 and will help new sewists create helpful, cute items for themselves and their loved ones. Cheers and stay healthy and safe. Kindest regards - jac

  • Cynthia H
    on Feb 15, 2018

    I've looked at several projects like this online, and yours is by far the most detailed. Thanks for a great tutorial!
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