How To Make T-shirt Wipe Ups

My husband told me recently that he was impressed with my method of using washable wipe-up rags for cleaning around the house. He noticed that we hardly ever use paper towels anymore! I remembered that I had a tutorial for making recycled wipe-ups from tees from years gone by, and dusted it off to share.

Recycle old t-shirts into paper-towel replacing wipe-ups! I sewed up a stack and use them all around the house. Especially handy for small spills and messes in the kitchen, or any job a paper towel can do. When they're dirty, just throw them in the wash!

Also great for wiping dribbly drooly baby chins and other messes in baby's room. What could be softer and more absorbent than a well-worn 100% cotton t-shirt?

The size of the finished wipe-up depends on the size of the tee: a small tee makes a small wipe-up, and a really large get the picture!

Sewing machine with zig-zag stitch
Size 70 to 80 ballpoint sewing machine needle
Yardstick or straight edge
Fabric marking pen or pencil

Recycled 100% cotton t-shirt
Matching thread

STEP 1: Turn the tee inside out and spread it smooth on a flat work surface, front side facing you (you can tell by the collar, which dips down further on the front side - check the picture below).

STEP 2: Draw a rectangle inside the tee: make a line across the top of the tee just below the collar stitching using the straight edge and fabric marker.

Draw two more parallel lines down each side of the tee close to the sleeve stitching.

Finish the rectangle by drawing a line across the bottom of the tee close to the hem.

STEP 3: Pin all around the INSIDE of the drawn rectangle through both layers of the tee.

STEP 4: Cut out the rectangle along the lines.

STEP 5: Sew a seam along the outside edge using a 1/2" seam allowance. Make sure to leave a 3" opening along one long side to turn the wipe-up inside-right.

Use a very narrow zig-zag stitch to leave some "give" in the knit tee fabric. Try a stitch lenth of about 3 to 3.5mm and a stitch width of about .5 to 1mm. Sew a few samples on the discarded sleeve fabric. The stitches should hold the seam well and still give just a bit of stretch.

Use a walking foot attachment if you have one to help keep the layers from shifting.

If sewing with a standard zig-zag foot, try ever so gently to s-t-r-e-t-c-h the fabric as you sew. You may need to stop every so often to adjust the layers as you stitch. The outside edge may appear to be slightly stretched out after sewing, but will bounce back after the first wash.

STEP 6: After stitching the outside seam, trim the corners close to the stitching.

STEP 7: Turn the wipe-up through the opening and gently (ever so gently) push out the corners with the eraser end of a pencil or any other blunt ended thingie. Use an iron to press the seams flat, turning under the opening. Pin the opening closed then pin well along all the edges.

STEP 8: Top stitch all along the outside edge using a wide zig-zag stitch. Try a stitch width of about 3mm and a stitch length of about 2mm.

STEP 9: With a ruler or straight edge, divide the wipe-up roughly in 3rds (the long way) and mark with a fabric marking pencil.

Stitch along the lines with the same zig-zag stitch used in the last step.

That's all there is to it! Now you're ready to tackle any household clean-up job with your "new" recycled wipe-up!


Karin said…
These look so much cuter than paper towels too! Nice idea.
Unknown said…
wow sweet, I'm off to goodwill
Anne K. said…
I LOVE this (no surprise that I'd click on the "upcycled T-shirt" link on your front page!!! I'm forever cutting up T-shirts to use as rags -- did that just yesterday for window-washing -- but how nice to have a "proper" wipe-up, with nice finished edges and not pathetic dangly sleeves like I was using yesterday!! :)
Lisa said…
What terrific ideas. 6 yr old spill all the time and use a ton of paper towels. I am going to try this. Thank you for sharing.
Phytotherapy said…
Hey there! I pinned this on Pinterest a while back! I just wanted to let you know I posted a blog with a link back to you. =)
Christina R said…
Why do you divide in 3rds and zigzag? Thanks!
Erika Mulvenna said…
Hello Christina R., I added the steps of dividing in thirds and top-stitching with a zig-zag stitch to keep the two layers of the wipe-up together. Without the top-stitching, the wipe-up would be like a big, empty pocket, and the layers might separate and get all wonky in the wash or while in use. The purpose of using a zig-zag stitch is so the stitching will be "flexible" and stretch when needed with the wipe-up.
Chris A said…
Can you use these in the microwave?
Erika Mulvenna said…
Hi Chris A, using these in the microwave? I'm not sure about that, I've used them with super hot water to clean stuff, but I've never put them in the microwave before. :-)
You can use 100% cotton (including the thread) in the microwave. For short periods. But I would not use it if it has printing on it. The printing would probably burn easily.
Erika Mulvenna said…
Thanks for the tip Jeans and a Sweatshirt - I never thought about that!
Jaya Pratheesh said…
rip up the tshirt, use it as a rag: was the usual method i used. Thanks for making a classy alternative. i will surely make a few :)
Anonymous said…
My kids all have kids of some kind - 2 legged or sometimes 4 legged. I'm sure the savings on papertowels will speak for itself once I help them out with reuable pretty rag/papertowels. Thanks for the great picture by picture and instructions and whys. - A
Erika Mulvenna said…
Thanks so much Anonymous! I hope you enjoy making and using these wipe-ups! Happy stitching - Erika
Arv said…
What is a good finished size?
Erika Mulvenna said…
Hi there Arv, the finished size really depends on the size of the t-shirt you start with. I found that I liked the size that I ended up with from like a man's medium or woman's large sized shirt. I've got a pretty good selection of all sizes, though!
Etak said…
Hi, great site you have ����
I wrote on a previous comment that I'm new to sewing and am going to start hand sewing after reading some of your great tutorials so thank you once again.
I think I'm going to buy a sewing machine because I have one sat in the garage I've never used, big industrial thing Brother on a table, but I think it's too much for me, would you be able to advise me on what to look for? I would just like a small easy to use on that could handle different projects like quilts for example
Thanks ever so much in any case.
Erika Mulvenna said…
Hello Etak, and thanks so much for stopping by my blog! So glad to hear you are interested in learning to sew, and are interested in looking into purchasing a sewing machine. Honestly, there are so many different types and brands of machine to choose from, I can suggest looking for a sewing machine shop near you to go look in person. I started sewing on my mother's old machine, and currently sew on a host of vintage machines in my collection as well as several newer BERNINA brand machines.

If you do go to a sewing machine shop in person, the staff can help with finding a machine that fits your budget and has all the features you need to do general sewing and some quilting. Best of luck to you! - Erika
jane said…
I do the same thing with tee shirts only not as neat and professional. Usually, I just straighten the tee shirt make a square stitching a decorative stitch and then cut around the stitching. Not as finished. It is a great way to re use tee shirts and knit scraps. Going to try your method. PS. Love your sewing room!!
Erika Mulvenna said…
Thanks so much jane for stopping by my blog! I hope you give this method a try and love it as much as I do. I still have a few of these original t-shirt wipe-ups that I made - still going strong! - Erika

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