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Recycling – upcycling: un-paper paper towels

Recently in our house we had a demise. Yes, something died. One of our most favorite sets of flannel sheets died. There were huge holes in the top sheet right under where your chin should be. I promptly bundled it up and put it out in the van….and then just as promptly brought it in in a bag for another upcycling/recycling project that I did. Which I will show at another time, maybe. Here is the sheet.

This project I will share with you today. When I was in the middle of the other ALL day and the next day project. I was posing questions to the kids in my house. What should I do with the flannel sheets? I had several answers; more pillow cases, fabric yarn then made into a crocheted rag rug, pajama bottoms for the kids. If the sheets had not been so worn this might have been a good idea, except then we would feel like singing “The Hills are Alive…” and dancing like the Von Traps in The Sound of Music.  What I decided to do came to me in a moment of need. We were out of paper towels. I don’t know about your house but at our house we have several people (that shall remain nameless) that enjoy cooking. They use 5-6 paper towels when cooking, sometimes as many as ten because they wad them up and then throw them away. The purpose of paper towels in their mind iis to keep their hands from touching any yucky liquid. Which makes me unhappy because I am buying paper towels all the time. I have seen cute un-paper towels that snap together and you roll them onto a paper towel roll and can even put them back on the paper towel holder! That sounds wonderful but I know that I will never roll them back onto that roll or even keep the paper towel roll to roll them onto and I certainly won’t be snapping them back together.  If I can just get them into a basket on a counter or in a drawer in the kitchen I will be happy, and as long as it keeps my family from using my nice bleached dishtowels on the floor, I will be a happy Mom.

So here is the tutorial on salvaging a flannel sheet into un-paper towels. Upcycling at its best, recycling with cleaning in mind. Here you go!

1. First cut or rip your fabric into slightly larger than paper towel sized squares.

2. Take two pieces the same size place them wrong sides together and sew around the edge. Round the corners so you don’t have to poke out corners when you are done. It should look something like this:

Be sure to leave an opening for turning the un-paper towel inside out. To make it easy on me and a beginning sewing activity. I had a child do the sewing around the edges for me. It is a great beginning sewing project because it doesn’t matter if the edges are a bit off or the towels are a different sizes. (I should say that it worked for me as I really do not care and this is utilitarian sewing.) It might matter to you. I rounded the corners and doubled the fabric so I wouldn’t have to do tiny hems or tie knots.

3. Trim the corners so that it isn’t bunchy when you turn it right side out. You can see the trimmed corner in the picture above.

4. Turn it right side out. Run your hand around the seam on the inside to poke out those rounded corners.

5. Tuck the opening edges to the inside and top stitch close to the edge all the way around, back stitch a little when you come back to the beginning and clip the threads short. There you go….you are finished! One un-paper towel.

Now if you want to speed up your sewing process.

1. Cut all the squares out at one time.

2. Lay them all out right sides together.

3. Sew around the edges of all of them one right after another.

4. Trim and turn them right side out all at the same time.

5. Top stitch them all at one sitting.

That should speed up the process. I mean, who wants to spend all afternoon cutting and sewing un-paper towels!

Talk to you later!


A few extra notes: flannel is naturally sticky (hence the flannel graph) so I didn’t pin, If you use different fabrics you will want to pin them together. I purposely created this so I wouldn’t have to deal with picky hems or serging. My serger and I are not friends at this point in time. You could serge both pieces of fabric together and be finished that much faster. However, I had someone that needed to practice sewing curves and this project was perfect as it wasn’t a piece of clothing or a gift for someone.

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Etsy Shop Feature: SewEcological

Sew Ecological is  a wonderful shop full of ecologically conscious knitwear. You can choose from an assortment of up-cycled scarves and mittens.  

Rose also has beautiful hand knit wool items as well. Here are a two of my favorite cowls.

Stop by Rose’s shop at Etsy and take a look at her full line of ecologically friendly accessories. You can find her shop on Etsy here:


Talk to you later,