Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Not quite paper towels

I don't know about other people but my kids spill a lot of liquids, often full cups of water and milk. Finn demands a glass of milk, takes one sip and runs into the living room. Alice moves over to his chair and promptly spills the rest on herself, the table, the chair, the floor, and anything else near by. Our go-to in these situations has been cloth prefolds from the changing table in the bathroom, which work great, but I thought it would be nice to have something I could keep in the kitchen without taking up too much space or making things look too cluttered.

So, I've run across these cloth towel rolls that people have been making for themselves. Some people also sell them on Etsy for waaaay more than I would pay (not more than they're worth mind, I'm just cheap). I figured this seemed like a quick little project that I could tackle pattern-free, and I did.

My kids always hated being swaddled, but before I had Finn everyone and their grandmother gave me receiving blankets. So far I haven't been using them. I already had flannel wipes I made for myself to go with the Fuzzi Bunz cloth diapers I bought. I wanted to use something more fun for the cloth pads I made myself. So, they were basically taking up space.

It seemed like most people were using quilting cotton and terry cloth to make their cloth towel rolls. I figured using old receiving blanks had multiple benefits including adding more absorbency than quilting cotton and using up materials I already had. So, I went to the Salvo and bought someone's old towel for $3 and I was ready to go!

I didn't take pictures of the process because my camera battery needed charging and I didn't think it would by that hard to figure out from written instructions.

You'll need: Terrycloth and some sort of woven cotton fabric, plastic or metal snaps and snap tool, and plastic canvas.

1.  Cut as many 13" square pieces of each fabric as you can (the same number of each) The number you get will depend on how much fabric you have to work with.

I ended up screwing this step up spectacularly because I can't math. I ended up with enough squares for 8 towels and some oddly sized rectangles that I'll have to find a use for.

2.  Serge the squares together wrong sides facing cutting off a ½" margin on each side.

If you don't have a serger you'll need to either sew and zig zag over the edge or sew right sides together, turn, hand close and then topstitch, the latter looking a bit more polished than the former. 

3.  Deal with serger thread tails either with scissors and a dot of Fray Check or pull the tails under the loops with your smallest crochet hook and trim.

4.  Next I put together my plastic canvas inner towel roll. I rolled up a sheet of plastic canvas and cut a size I thought looked like the right diameter. Then I added snaps on either end. I measured this so that the snaps would be 11" apart on both the roll and the towels. They still ended up too close but once you roll up the towels you can't tell. Secure your tube however you please. I used size 10 crochet thread (which I have a huge cone of) to sew the sides together. This was not easy to do, so if you think of something better by all means do it!

I've also seen others use various materials for the tube including single layer cardboard and multiple layers of a thinner more flexible plastic canvas. You just need to find something that will hold its shape reasonably well and can take snaps. Come to think of it, an actual paper towel roll would work fine if you slit it, added snaps and taped it back up again. I should have done that.

5.  Snaps!!!!! You'll need to add a minimum of 4 (some people use 6) snaps to each towel. Two snaps facing up and two down so that you can snap them into one continuous line and roll them onto the tube. All of the towels will have snaps in the same configuration.

If you're struggling with the snap positions or any other part there are some other great tutorials some of which KAMsnaps (the maker of my snap tool) have gathered together here.

So there you have it; not quite paper towels. I did this project in two days, cutting on the first and finishing everything else on the second. It's a pretty quick project, probably quicker if you measure correctly and don't make the world's most complicated center roll.

I bought an extra towel and have more than enough receiving blankets to make more of these. Maybe someone will be getting them as a gift. :)

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