In an effort to try to be more green, I decided to ban paper towels from our house. Jethro has this stunningly annoying habit of ripping off about five of them at a time, just to dry his hands even though there’s a perfectly good clean hand towel within arms’ reach. Which I hate. Hate, hate, HATE. (Sad part is, he’s an environmental scientist. He KNOWS better.) But I’m just as bad, using them instead of towels to clean off counters, dry messes and kill bugs. (After I’ve yelled and flailed about it and then convinced Jethro to step on it for me. I don’t do well with bugs.)
But now, no more paper towels in the Mess household! We will use cloth napkins for everything! They’re washable! They’re eco-friendly! We’ll be a green couple and finally trendy! It’ll be epic and life-changing! Pretty soon, we’ll be driving a Prius and churning our own butter!
Or not. I’ve learned a couple of things in my journey to be green…mostly that I’m pretty terrible at it.
I decided instead of buying pre-made cloth napkins, I could make my own out of birdseye cloth, the same thing they make cloth diapers out of. I bought about 6 yards at Joann’s, measured about the size of a typical paper towel (10″x10″) and set to cuttin’.
And here’s where I ran into some trouble. The thing is, birdseye unravels like a mofo. And therefore, I’d need to serge the edges to keep it from fraying. Only problem is, I don’t have a serger. And a quick check on Craigslist shows they run about $300 bucks used. (Yes, I attempted to buy a serger rather than use paper towels. When it comes to DIY projects I have a problem.)
Try as I might, I could not convince Jethro that we’d save thousands of dollars if he’d just let me buy a serger. So I decided to go ahead and just hem the damn things. All 75 or so of them. And here’s where I hit another snag – I sort of suck at sewing. Well, not the actual sewing part, but the preparing the machine. The bobbin specifically.
It used to be that I was a sewing whiz. My required production lab class for my theatre degree was in the costume shop and the one time I did summer rep and didn’t get a part, I spent 8 hours a day for two months in the costume shop. It used to be that you could give me a pattern, and I could go to town. (Ask Beylit about the evil yellow dress.) Even now I’m pretty good with a sewing machine, it just takes me a few minutes to get back in the groove. However, the one thing that I cannot for the life of me ever get right is loading the bobbin. I don’t know if I was drunk that day in costuming class or what, but I SUCK at loading the bobbin. I ALWAYS get it so that the thread gunks up under the needle plate. I don’t know why or how and I’m sure I could fix it if I Google it, but I always jack it up. And this time was no different, I got through about four cloth napkins when I had to replace the bobbin and then the swearing and cussing at the machine started.
Jethro listened to me for about ten minutes and then suggested that I just leave the napkins as is. I warned him that they would fray, but apparently vacuuming up little white bits of thread is preferable to listening to me cuss and sigh at the sewing machine while he was busy trying to watch Extreme Ice Truck Fish Logging.
So! I put our lovely cloth napkins in a pretty bowl on the counter. A galvanized steel pail with a bow on it that held our programs in the wedding would now hold our dirty cloths before they went to the wash. I had lemon juice on hand to use in conjunction with our phosphate-free detergent for super whitening power. We were set. Commence with the greening of our lives.
Of course, there were issues.
For one thing, I refuse to use cloth for super yucky messes. Maggie doesn’t have incidents very often, but I need to keep a roll on hand in case she does. Washing a dog poop napkin is right up there with reuseable sanitary napkins – not gonna happen. (Sidenote: When I had my tonsils out, it was my “moon time.” Since I couldn’t wear tampons in surgery, they gave me giant mesh underwear and the largest cloth pad I’d ever seen in my life. My best friend, who was there at the time, laughed so hard he nearly peed himself.)
I also discovered that I need to hide the paper towels from Jethro. Even with pretty white towels on hand to dry his mitts, he’ll still rip off 6 foot of paper towels instead. Rather than stab him, I hide the roll in the closet.
Another snag we ran into was forgetting that our very well-behaved dog IS a dog. The steel bucket was previously on the floor, but after an evening of arriving home to discover dirty napkins strewn all over the floor, we moved it out of her reach. (Lord help us when we have children.)
But these were all minor blips. Other than that, things went fine. We were on our way to being more eco-conscious. Yay for us.
That is, until this.
You see this? THIS is what happens when you wash a load of unhemmed birdseye cloth napkins. The fraying starts getting worse until they just can’t take it anymore and the threads begin to mate in an orgy of woven ecstasy.
All that work, $30 worth of fabric and I end up with a giant wad of eco-friendly sh*t.
If I’m looking on the bright side, I can use this to attach to our mop handle and dust with.
If I’m looking on the other side….G*DDAMMIT.
I think I’ll just buy these on Etsy like I was going to. Once again, DIY has let me down. And still I can’t give it up.
Any paper towel alternative advice? Any eco-friendly fails? Discuss.