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How to Sew Unpaper Towels; 2 Methods Serger and Sewing Machine

Updated: Oct 10, 2023


I (Emmaline) rarely have paper towels at my house. It’s been a few years since I last purchased them. All we use are my homemade adorable unpaper towels. Not only are my custom made-to-match-my-kitchen unpaper towels far cuter than ordinary paper towels they are also more environmentally friendly. Besides the harmful environmental impacts of more trash because of the disposable towels (which really, probably isn't all that bad when compared to the actual plastic the towels come wrapped in or the other hundred things we do), I just couldn't bear paying money to wipe up the spilled water (of all things) on the floor. I’m not kidding, water, it wasn’t even juice or anything that bad.


To me, paper towels were simply a waste of our families hard hard-earned money! And, to be honest, I didn’t think they were very pretty and I’ll just admit it, I want my kitchen to be pretty.

HOW TO SEW UNPAPER TOWELS; 2 Methods

I am pretty experienced at sewing, but believe me when I say this is a BEGINNERS pattern and tutorial. Anyone can make these, they are just that simple.


Today I am going to show you 2 methods to sew unpaper towels. The first method uses a serger and if you don’t have a serger the second method uses any sewing machine.


BUT, before we can sew let’s talk about the materials we need and how to prepare the fabric squares.


Materials (same for both sewing methods):

The towels are made using two layers of 100% Cotton Flannel. Or, if you prefer you can use one layer of 100% cotton Flannel and one layer of any cloth diaper or more absorbent fabric like Birdseye, Terry Cloth, or Cotton Weave/Waffle. I show an example of Terry Cloth in the video.


The color and print of the fabric is totally up to you. I generally use a pretty pattern on the top and a solid color on the bottom. I love tribal prints … and floral … and anything nautical … and travel related … okay, okay, I love ALL FABRIC! If you love color and fun prints look for those. Prefer floral, that’s easy to find. Want animals, there’s always cute animal prints at my fabric store. Just head to the fabric store and browse the aisles of endless fabric goodies. I dare you to leave without at least 10 cuts in your hand. C’mon someone dare me back, because I need someone to help me have some self-control at my local fabric store. They see me coming and know to call another associate to the counter to help cut.

The amount of fabric you will need depends on what size you want your towels to be, and how many you make. On this tutorial I cut the fabric for my towels at 13″ square and when they are sewn they are 12″ squares. I love this size!


My family also loves the smaller unpaper towels that I sew in a variety of sizes from my leftover scraps. We use the little ones for little messes or as napkins at the dinner table. To be honest I also use them as washcloths in the bath and makeup removers. It’s totally up to you how you use them and what size you make. I think it's personal preference. If I’m making a set for a friend I purchase a yard of each. That yard makes 6 full sized and 6 smaller unpaper towels. A perfect starter set to ease someone into using these.


In addition to your fabric you will also need some standard sewing supplies: cutting mats and rulers or a hard surface and a tape measure, coordinating or contrasting thread and scissors, a sewing machine and/or serger, and perhaps some pins and an iron.


Preparing the Fabric to Make Unpaper Towels

Cut two squares of fabric 13″ square from coordinating or contrasting colors.


On the video I show my favorite way of cutting fabric on the fold.

Serger Method

The serger method of sewing unpaper towels is the easier and shorter method of the two, but takes a special serger instead of a regular sewing machine. Therefore, if you don’t have a serger skip to the next method below.


Pair up two squares of fabric, wrong sides together. Remember, if your fabrics have tops and bottoms make sure the top and bottom face the right way. (That’s why I like one fabric plain, then this doesn’t matter).

Ideally, the two blocks line up perfectly… If not, no big deal, the serger trims as it sews!


Sew around all 4 sides using a 1/2″ seam allowance.


Once you've sewn around the edges you are done …


OR you can do the next step which is optional but adds a beautiful touch.


Optional Step:

Sew a large X across the towels from corner to corner. This is important if you did not pre-wash your fabric, less so if you did. It is an optional step, but I admit I always do it because then my towels never tug or become misshaped in the wash. I pull them out, give them a shake, and fold. No tugging or tucking necessary.


Sewing Machine Method od making Unpaper Towels

Pair up two squares of fabric, right sides together. Remember, if your fabrics have tops and bottoms make sure the top and bottom face the right way. (That’s why I like one fabric plain, then this doesn’t matter). Ideally, they'll line up perfectly. If not, no big deal, you can trim them, later! Or leave it since it will be on the inside anyway.

You need to leave an inch or two space unsewn so that you can turn the towel inside out. I use the width of my hand to measure the opening.

Once you've sewn around the edges leaving a 1/2″ seam allowance, except for the turning opening, trim any excess or uneven fabric (if you choose). I don’t normally trim.


Turn your towels inside right and make sure your corners are “picked out”.


Iron or finger press your turning opening so it lays perfectly before you top stitch.


Now it’s time to top stitch. The top stitching is how you'll close up the turning hole that's still open. It also adds a beautiful finishing touch. I top-stitched around the towel with a decorative stitch leaving about a 1/4″ seam allowance. The key here is to get as close as you can.

Optional Step:

Finally, I sewed a large X across my towels from corner to corner. This is important if you did not pre-wash your fabric, less so if you did. It is an optional step, but I admit I always do it because then my towels never tug or become misshaped in the wash. I pull them out, give them a shake, and fold. No tugging or tucking is necessary.



Now that the Unpaper Towels are all sewn and Marie is back from her vacation it is time to gift them.


Note: Some people worry that their towels will become stained and ugly. I assure you they hold up very well and are no more stained that the average kitchen towel. If mine get to the yucky stage I do what I would with any old towel, I add it to the truck cleaning bucket. Once I clean the truck with it 4 or 5 times it will be time to permanently retire it. You can throw them away or use them as small animal bedding in a gerbil or rabbit cage. Some organic fabrics can even be composted.



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