Sunday, February 14, 2016

Unpaper Towels

     As a family we have agreed to strive towards Zero Waste (somehow, at some point, painstakingly changing our habits until we are one of those households that end up with just one mason jar full of trash per year).

     I haven't mentioned it or blogged about it because it really seems like an "all-or-nothing" achievement - and making the decision doesn't make all of the already purchased paper products disappear, or all of the needed replacements appear. 

     Many of the principles of Zero Waste happen to coincidentally align with some of my own, so a lot of the changes others may need to make to reach the Zero Waste goal my family is already used to living with. 

My principles are:
     #1. Never spend any money on anything if at all humanly possible.
     #2. Use an aesthetic that dictates most things look like they could have existed in 1897.
     #3. Do everything yourself; because if someone else can do it, so can you (plus this helps achieving #1 and #2).

     Because of the above ideals we already use as little plastic as possible (because it's ugly), plan the crap out of our weekly meals (the kids are used to my husband and I high-fiving over a "Zero Dollar" meal), build everything from reclaimed scraps and shop thrift stores.

    Living in Sonoma County already dictates we bring our own bags to shop, use as little as water as possible and plant alternatives to lawn grass (we now have the fluffiest clover lawn you've ever seen).

     So the first step is to wean ourselves from the most difficult dependencies. Paper towels and paper napkins are a huge hurdle.

    Today I am attempting to begin the switch to "unpaper" towels. A roll of fabric towels that sit on the paper towel holder and function the same way.

    I will preface this by saying I am not convinced my family will fully participate in this experiment, but if I don't try I won't know.

     First I started in the shed and picked through my fabric scraps to see what might be appropriate. 

     I picked some felt for the wicking side and a variety of green wovens for the other side. I did some field testing on each to gauge absorbancy and drying rates (and also to be sure the green fabrics wouldn't crock or bleed). Most people making these themselves are using terry cloth for the wicking side, but I didn't have that in my bins. I know felt will not machine wash well, so these are designed to be rinsed after using and hung to dry.

    I picked a variety of greens and browns (because I really only like things to be green and brown - if I can help it).

     Because I was at the mercy of my mismatched scraps dimensions, it took a long time to do the math needed to maximize what I had. I came up with all towels measuring at 10" high (the roll height) and at varying lengths ranging from 10" to 14".

   If you are novice sewer this is the perfect project, because it is essentially a pillow (and pillows are the first thing they teach you to machine sew in Home Ec).

      If your fabric has a "right" and "wrong" side, be sure to put the "right" sides together.

      Sew all 4 corners but leave an unsewn gap along the long side (back tack each edge).

      Snip your corners for easier turning.

      Turn the whole thing right side out and use your scissors to push pointy corners.

      Top stitch your gap closed. If this was a pillow you stuff it before this step. 

     I used metal snaps because I am avoiding plastic - but I am not sure how they will hold up (or if they will scratch wooden surfaces when the towels are being used). 

   The only thing you need to consider when placing the snaps is to make sure every set is the exact same distance apart (so any towels can snap to any other). Velcro is another option.

     I will post more about these once we've lived with them for a while.

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