If you have little to no sewing experience already, this is a very forgiving project to start. It doesn’t matter if the edges are a little wonky or if the thread color doesn’t match quite right. And while it is nowhere near as precise as this post about making cloth masks like a pro, it gets the job done.
Sometimes, that is enough.
Old bedsheets, who has those?
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I used to look at upcycling instructions for old bedsheets and towels, and think to myself “but I’m using all my bedsheets and towels, they aren’t near being used up yet!”.
And true enough. While this old flannel bedsheet/duvet cover that I used could certainly be used for many years to come, it was also true that I had picked it up for free from a person who had too many. Most I gave to a friend to weave rag rugs, but this one I kept for myself.
But after a Christmas where my husband wished for bedsheets for Christmas, even I had to say we had more than enough. Especially for guests. We didn’t need three flannel bedsheets and three smooth cotton. For once, I could upcycle something!
So here is a DIY for exceptionally sloppy, I-didn’t-even-iron-it-first unpaper towels. The washed out flannel soaks up spills exceptionally well, and they help stretch our nicer cloth napkins out between laundry rounds, in case we have guests. A stack like this would also be fantastic as dedicated wee wipes in the bathroom. When done, just throw in with the rest of the laundry! What could be easier?
If you are not handy with a needle and thread, you can also buy unpaper towels from places like Etsy. Look for a producer close to you!
You will need:
- An old bedsheet. I used a single duvet cover, 140 by 200 cm.
- Sewing thread
- Fabric scissors
- Measuring tape
- Sewing machine or sewing needle
First out, measure the width of your bedsheet. Mine was 140 cm. I wanted fairly large unpaper towels, at least the size of cleaning cloths. So I divided by 4 to get 35 cm each (almost 14 inches).
I cut my bedsheet into 4 equally wide strips. Then I went ahead and cut those strips into squares. You can fold one corner up into a triangle to see where you need to cut to get a square. But I adjusted the end so that I got full use of the fabric.
The thick seam with buttons and buttonholes at the bottom is the only part I cut off (but kept the buttons, of course!), to reduce bulk. I got 6 squares from each length of the bedsheet. Giving me 24 pairs of squares to turn into soft unpaper towels.
Introducing my old hand-crank Husquarna sewing machine from 1905! Yes, it’s heavy, and yet, it would probably be easier to buy a modern machine (especially as it only knows one seam – no zig-zag!). But I bought it on a whim at an antique market because the gold leaf was in such good condition and I just… it’s nice to have something that can outlast me. Plus, I’ll never have to worry about loosing electricity in the middle of my project!
Flip a pair of bedsheet squares around so the pattern is inside. Stitch a seam almost all the way around. But you want to leave a section about the width of a hand to turn the cloth right side out again. If there are old seams at the edges, just include those and consider the first or even two first sides (corners) already done!
Now for the fun part, and certainly one where any children can help if they want to – turn those darlings right side out again! Twist and turn and turn some more. Make sure you get all the corners out properly.
Last, but not least, fold the edges of the last space in on itself and do a last row of stitches as close to the edge as you can manage without actually being outside the fabric. This takes some practice, but don’t worry if it looks a little wonky. These ain’t the fine Sunday napkins you’re going to serve grandma with!
With that done, all you need to do is cut off any excess thread and your unpaper towel is ready to go! Now you just need to do the remaining batch that we cut to get yourself a nice, sizeable stack.
If you want to save thread and do it like a pro, remember that you can always chain your towels together and cut the thread at the very end, as Angela’s friend described eloquently in their face mask DIY post.
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