Our current lead time is 2-3 working days

Snapdragon blog

Un-paper towels tutorial

make your own alternative to kitchen towels

My parents would never have bought dusters or kitchen roll - there was a bag under the sink of rags, cut up shirts and t-shirts, there were cloths hanging over the taps. Yet somehow over the past couple of decades kitchen roll became a kitchen essential for me. I felt that - hey it's paper - it can be recycled . . . .

But it seemingly isn't that easy. Advances in manufacturing kitchen roll over the past decade mean that with most brands chemicals are added to stop it shredding when wet (you know those adverts!) - those chemicals stop it from being recycled by councils and they aren't keen on the spray residues or the fact it clogs machinery either. Some councils will allow a small amount of kitchen towel (less than 1% by volume) in your food waste bin, many will not. This why paper towels shouldn't be in your recycling bin and certainly why they shouldn't go down the toilet (paper tissues are the same). Even kitchen towels marketed as 'biodegradable' are not recyclable. I had been putting them into my garden compost bin - but thinking about what I'm introducing into an otherwise organic set up has been making me re-consider.

So I have been working on an alternative for cleaning that will suit everyone in the house *. Like most of my eco-alternatives it is at its core just going back to pre-1970s habits.

Commercially there are a few alternatives available - towelling backed cloths, elaborate popper based contraptions that mimic the traditional roll of kitchen towel - but I feel that they are over engineered, as well as expensive and I just know that I would never re-popper all the cloths into a roll or be able to dry towelling backed cloths.

So here is a step by step tutorial, recycling old fabrics into a good alternative to kitchen roll.

I use kitchen towel primarily for mopping up spills, for a quick wipe down of a surface, for drying my hands between tasks. An alternative doesn't have to be large or fancy but it does need to be absorbent, and, given that we live in Scotland where drying things is often difficult, it has to dry quickly.

My solution is inspired by two things - by those rags under the sink and by the Liz Earle muslin cleaning square. Making the rags two ply - basically joining two together with a stitched edge transforms them, making them sturdier, more absorbent, yet doesn't increase the drying time much.

The tutorial is for a machined version (because you need a lot of squares so it is worth getting a machine out and doing it as a batch) but I've added in hand sewing alternatives. PLEASE don't regard this as an exercise in neatness, we are making cloths to wipe up kitchen spills, not creating a quilt. The important thing is that it gets done, not that it is perfect!

1. Make a template. I used an A4 piece of paper folded into a square (so 21cm x 21 cm) - a good size for most things.

2. Cut out squares from waste fabric. Most of mine are from the same holey sheet that I made the produce bags from, some are from a moth eaten brushed cotton pillowcase. Check that the fabric you have is absorbent. You can use towelling but it will increase drying time and there is absolutely no point in doing this if you are then going to table dry your cloths . . . .

3. Put 2 squares together, right sides out and machine right round the edge with a zig zag stitch - make the stitch as wide as you can and a fairly short length (2-3 on my machine, not button hole kind of stitch but a nice firm zig zag). Trim the edges and also any excess fabric on the outside of the zig zagging.

4. You can also sew the edges by hand - a running stitch is fine. I find it is then worthwhile recutting the edges neatly half a centimetre from the stitching to neaten it all up.

Store your cloths somewhere obvious and easy - mine are currently in this basket along with the knitted dishcloths - and also provide somewhere to toss the dirty ones ready for washing - a bag that can go into the washing machine might work really well. I am beginning with 20 cloths but I suspect that I will need more if I am to have a good system where there is always a good supply.

* we are not a kitchen towel free home, as I still continue to use kitchen towel for absorbing oil from fried food, but I will try to source 100% recycled towel that is not chemically treated and keep it in a cupboard along with the baking parchment of foil!.

Comments: 6 (Add)

Yvonne on July 19 2019 at 09:12

Really useful. I had no idea that kitchen towel isn't recyclable. Thank you.

Gillian Smellie on July 19 2019 at 09:18

We haven't bought kitchen paper in years (although my husband occasionally pops a packet in the basket when on auto pilot). I am like your parents. All old tee-shirts are cut up for rags and I have a box of them where the kitchen paper holder used to stand. Likewise our dusters are the old sweatshirts my daughters wore for primary school (the oldest is about to graduate as a Dr next year!) Even my hoover bag is washable. Once you start ditching the unresuable it becomes habit forming!

Liz Stevens on July 19 2019 at 09:26

great idea Jane.

Sue Adlam on July 19 2019 at 09:55

Another thing that I need to eradicate! I don't use it very much, so can easily get rid of it. Thank you for bringing it to my consciousness Jane. Have loads of cloths that I use for cleaning, so not sure why I still use kitchen towels! S x

Catherine MacDonald on July 20 2019 at 20:26

Goodness me thank you yet again - I had no idea it wasn't recyclable as it was possible to put in food compost bin in Perth (not sure with here in Ayrshire as I have issue with their food recycling full stop). I have recently hemmed a bunch of old towels into suitably sized cloths and I absolutely LOVE my dish cloths I knitted from your pattern (they are so much better than shop ones). My main use of paper towel is to dry/wipe salad type veg any helpful solution gratefully received :)

Liz Stevens on September 20 2019 at 09:17

whogivesacrap do bamboo kitchen towel - and they give money to build toilets

Snapdragon social

This is my current work in progress.⁠⠀
It will eventually be a big cabled throw - the silk I'm using is pretty chunky so it should be a fairly quick knit. ⁠⠀
⁠⠀
The preparation will take longer though.  I wanted to make something for our home that is really connected to this place.  Something dyed with the plants that grow here.  Something slow.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
The yarns in the photo were dyed in early September with plants from the garden - the yellow is dahlia flowers, the greyish green is dahlia leaves with some iron, the paler blue grey is woad (next year I shall grow more to get deeper colours). The linen cloths were dyed with avocado.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
This afternoon I plan to cut some willow to soak for another hank.  I have 12 hanks and a wound ball in total.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
I found the silk in a giant yarn stash that lives at my Mum's house, I can't remember where we got it but it would have been bought in the late 1980s when we led each other astray in yarn buying sprees.⁠⠀
Do you ever find echoes of your childhood home in your current one?  If so, do you find it a bit like realising that you've begun to sound exactly like your Mum?⁠⠀
⁠⠀
I grew up in a house with a butler's pantry - it was a small corridor like room between the kitchen and the dining room.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
One side of the room was all cupboards, where plates and cutlery were stored, the other side was one of those amazing curved metal 1950s English Rose sinks.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
The butler was, of course, long gone. ⁠⠀
⁠⠀
Last month we redecorated our own 'pantry' - a small room between the open plan kitchen and the bedrooms.  It is really more of a large alcove than a proper room, there are no windows and only 3 walls.  It was a squalid mess 90% of the time as people dumped things.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
I decided that proper storage was the answer - we got the red dresser I posted last month, we relocated shelves and tables from elsewhere in the house and then we put up this antique glass fronted wall cabinet for the china and glass.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
As I walked past this morning I recognised the feel - I had made a little C19th butler's pantry in my 1980s bungalow! ⁠⠀
⁠⠀
I could, of course, do with the butler.
Small things that mean home.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
What is the first thing you do when you get home from holiday?⁠⠀
⁠⠀
On Sunday when we arrived back  from holiday I took my snips out to see what I could find in the frosted garden to put in a vase by the front door.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
It's nothing fancy - some starry bright common asters, deep pink persicaria, scabious and dill - all set off with blousy Japanese anemones. But for me it is a beautiful distraction from the piles of laundry and unpacked cases.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
The engraved glass plate is by @janeraven ⁠⠀
⁠⠀
⁠⠀
It’s the last day of our holiday - by lunchtime we will be back in the air and headed for London to catch up with our girls over dinner. 
For the past two weeks we have been staying high in the mountains, about half an hour from Split in Croatia, an area of stunning beauty - It is the end of season, the verges are baked to straw, the trees full of olives and pomegranates, paths are lined with a white flowered thyme. 
For me the fortnight has been a game of magic eye, squinting against the sun, suddenly spotting drifts of ‘love in a mist’ seedheads, the remains of white scabious, sweet scented clematis a few flowers on their second bloom, delphiniums, euphorbia, lambs ears and great spikes of campanula growing from the rocks. All wild, all natural, all in just the right place. 
It has been a wonderful break - and now I’m looking forward to getting home and making plans and getting everything out of my head and onto paper.
Yesterday, taking advantage of my calm, clear, well holidayed head, I wrote down a 3 year goal along with the 3 things I need to do consistently for it to happen and I emailed it to some friends who I know will root for me, keep me on track and cheer each time I get a step nearer. ⠀
⠀
Having lots of friends who I absolutely know will be happy for me when something goes well is a relatively new thing. In many ways I think friends for good times are more difficult to find than friends for bad. ⠀
⠀
Who are your cheerleaders? ⠀
Back in my previous life as a flower grower and wedding florist, this time of year was the most stressful. Economically it was essential, but the borrowed time, watching the garden slow down, waiting for a night cold enough to turn everything black was tense. ⠀
⠀
I rarely agreed to October weddings, but sometimes I was persuaded, because when they work they work so beautifully- the vulnerability of the flowers somehow glowing through. ⠀
⠀
This mug - officially Autumn meadow - is ‘Christine’s mug’ in my head. A mix of teasels and echinacea rebloom, some startlingly tall blue forget me nots on second flowering, and damp fennel seed heads, put together to decorate a tiny stone church 12 years ago. ⠀
⠀
The mug comes into the ‘we forgot to put it on the website’ category - that has been rectified now and you can get to it via the link in my profile.
Overwhelm 
It seems to be something that creeps up, tangling your feet, muddling your head- not all that noticeable until you begin to break through it. 
Or maybe it is visible there, as a shortness of breath, a tightening of shoulders, a fear of crowds. 
I am spending this weekend untangling my head by the sea in Croatia . Swimming and sitting still and decluttering my mind. 
And in the place of all the numbing fears and doubts, the undermining feelings that nothing makes a difference anyway, have slid in clear plans and steps and intentions. As if by magic. 
Do you ever feel overwhelmed?  What do you do to shake it off?
These are the kinds of dahlias that I'm going to be planting more of next year. ⁠⠀
⁠⠀
They are described as blue (which is obviously not the case - oh those lying insta filters!), they are pretty useless as cut flowers, they get easily damaged in the rain.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
But, oh how the bees LOVE them.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
So, therefore, do I.⁠ ⠀
⁠⠀
We begin our beekeeping course next month - making sure we have some good basic knowledge before the bees themselves arrive in the spring. ⠀
⠀
I’m very excited. Are you planning to learn anything new over the winter?
snapdragon.life
FacebookTwitterPinterest

About Snapdragon

At Snapdragon we gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

Through our communities, both free and paid for, through Jane's writing on the blog, through carefully hand crafted gifts and activity kits, and through our online and in-person workshops we aim to bring people back in touch with the rhythms of a seasonal life.

Learn more about why here

Loading