Thursday, February 16, 2012

Our Not-So-Paper-Towels and a Bag Line

What I accomplished yesterday... 

When I worked at the sheriff's department, t-shirts were an everyday requirement.  In summer, we had to wear white v-neck t's, and in winter, we had to wear black crew necks.  I have dozens of t-shirts.  Some of them are being kept for grungy work, cleaning days, and sleep shirts, but a lot of them are becoming something new.

I've been saying for a while that I was going to try to cut back on paper product use and disposable stuff.  Cotton is the component of nearly every kitchen towel and rag in existence.  It's not necessarily *the* most absorbent in t-shirt form, because there's not a lot of lift or pile, but I figured they'd make good cleaning rags, napkins, and paper towel substitutes.

When I cut them up, I maintained as much of the torso in one rectangular piece as I could.  The yoke and sleeves will be cleaning rags.

Once they were cut up, I bleached them.  Long hours of wear in summer heat in an environment as dirty as a jail tends to leave white t-shirts not so white.

The rectangular pieces from the body became roughly napkin sized and towel sized rectangles.  None of them are exact, each one is slightly kitty wompus, and I reckon that's just fine.

 None of the thread I used matches, either.  This thread is leftovers from my Gramma.  She never threw anything away, I swear, and I am almost as bad.  This one spool has the gold and brown that you can see, and underneath that is another layer of orange and white.  The bobbin has the blue, and underneath that was white and green.  These napkins/towels are all different colors around the edges.   I didn't figure it would matter a heck of a lot since they're destined to wipe dirty hands, faces, and counters.  I also have no idea what in the world else I might use some of these old odd lengths of thread for. They're primarily remnants of spools that Gramma wound up together to consolidate.  No single color is anywhere near enough for much of a project.  Most of them weren't even long enough to go around the edge of a single napkin.  But, at least I didn't throw them out, or go buy thread special just to hem up some old t-shirt scraps.

 I don't think you can see it too well in this picture, but I didn't even bother hemming the edges over.  I used one of the fancy stitch patterns on my sewing machine that shoot barbs off to the side of a really close spaced line.  I figured that would act like a wrap edge to keep the unfolded edges from unraveling too far.  I didn't want to hem them over, because I didn't want a right/wrong side.  And I like the fact that they'll eventually get a little ragged edge around the stitching.  They're far from perfect.  The old thread broke a lot. (I haven't really figured out how the tension works) and it wasn't polyester like most new thread is.  It was almost all cotton, so I don't think it could handle the same tension weight.  I'm still working on figuring out the sweet spot for it, but the last few towels I hemmed only had a couple of thread breaks.

I think they're cute.  They sit in a basket on my dining table, which is almost as convenient as the roll of paper towels on top of the stove.  When they get dirty, I just toss them down the stairs to the basement where the laundry is.  I suppose I could get really anal and put an empty basket out for dirties, but that just seems like a waste of counter space when I could just throw them down the stairs all lazy like.

I have read several blogs where people wash and reuse their zippie bags.  My problem has been getting them to stay open to dry thoroughly.  I don't like the idea of the damp trapped in the bag potentially growing molds that I can't see, but could still infect our foodstuffs.

I thought about one of those cute little drying racks that I've seen a few bloggers using, but didn't want to buy one or spend money on materials to make one myself.   So this was my solution.  I have several spools of  hemp twine that I use now and then for random crafty stuff.   I used a staple gun thinking that would be tight enough to hold the hemp to the cabinets, but it wasn't.  So I tied little nooses around the staples.  It won't hold anything heavy, I don't think. I might be able to use it as a make-shift delicates drying spot for when it's rainy out, but I can't dry something in the dryer.  I haven't tested that theory, yet, but it's definitely strong enough to hold my baggies.  It also lets them drip right into the sink, so I don't have to worry about putting a towel down under them.  Pretty convenient, I think.

Now, I just have to get B to throw them in the sink instead of the trash.


  1. I wash my baggies, turn inside out and when that side is dry, I flip outside out and pop them over spoons in my canister and let dry even more thoroughly. Like you I'm not fond of the idea of moisture and mold.

    BTW I used to wash out the baggies I stored meat in as well. I washed those in super hot water and used a splash of vinegar in the water too but these days I choose to use previously used clean bags to store and then toss the bag out after.

    Love the t-shirt rags/cloths...Another project I'll put on my list.

  2. Those are really cute you are so creative!

  3. Thanks y'all :)

    As far as the baggies go, that's primarily what I've been doing, too Ms. Terri. If it was cooked meat, I'll trust it a little better than raw meat, but mostly I only use baggies for bread, fruits, and veggies anyway. I usually put meat in storage containers. I have this thing about them leaking. Even if it's just sweat, it bothers me, because I am just sure that I have raw meat goo all in my fridge. And that totally grosses me out, so I have to bleach the fridge :P

  4. I also really like your new tshirt towels. The decorative stitch on the borders looks great.
    I recently made 16 washcloths and am really liking them, maybe I will blog about them.

    I also use up odd thread for projects like this, all the colors make me happy, Make it do, etc. Right? And if gas really does go to $5, there will be more people doing these kinds of things too.

  5. Gods, if gas goes up to $5/gal, B is going to have to start bicycling to work, and I'll have to figure out ways to cut more corners. Right now, it's between $3.30 and $3.50 depending on where you're at in the area.

    I have to admit, the variety and mish-mash of colors makes me happy, too. It's random, silly, and kind of fun. I know my Gramma would like them, and that makes me happy, too. :)


Share your thoughts, ideas, advice, recipes, suggestions - I'd love to hear from you.