By Angeline Hawkes

Issue #153 • May/June, 2015

With two professional fiction writers in my household, we drink a lot of coffee. Keeping it hot and ready meant going through a lot of paper filters. In the big scheme of things, paper coffee filters are not that expensive nor do they do much damage to the environment. I can buy a package of 500 filters for a dollar. The used coffee grounds can be composted along with the paper filter. However, one day I ran out of filters. We don’t use disposable napkins or paper towels, so I couldn’t improvise a disposable filter. I was digging for my 1950’s stovetop coffee maker when I had a better idea. Why not make muslin, reusable coffee filters that only need washing and don’t get thrown away? I’m all about reducing our footprint!

This is a very simple project. Basically, it is a circle with sewn edges. In fact, if you’re using a basket filter in your coffee maker, you could get away without sewing the edges at all (though your filter will ravel at the edges and not last as long). You will need to sew if you’re making cone-style filters. These instructions are for a 10-12 cup coffee maker of either filter style.

What you need:

  • 11-inch muslin circle
  • scissors
  • sewing machine
  • thread

Basket-style filter

1. Cut out your muslin circle: I found that an 11-inch circle worked best for both the basket and the cone-style filter. I used a bowl turned upside down to trace around to make a pattern. Look in your kitchen for a pan lid, bowl, or plate that measures approximately 11 inches and trace around it on top of your muslin fabric. Cut it out.

2. Sew the circle edges using the tightest and widest zigzag stitch on your machine. Sew around the entire outside edge. No need to hem, just zigzag stitch the edge.

3. The final step is nice, but not necessary for the filter’s function. Find a saucer or small pan lid measuring 5 inches in diameter. Place this in the center of your 11-inch circle and trace around it. Now, sew on top of your traced inner circle using the same zigzag stitch. I found that the stitched inner circle makes the basket filter fit better.

Cone-style filter

1. Complete Step 1 from the basket-style filter instructions.

2. Lay the 11-inch circle on a flat surface and fold it in half. Cut the fold, which makes two half circles.

3. Fold the half circles in half again to form a cone-shaped triangle.

4. Sew the straight edge of the cone-shaped triangle using the tightest and widest zigzag stitch on your machine. Open the cone up and sew around the outside edges as well. No need to hem, just zigzag stitch the edge.

To wash your filters, soak them in hot water for a couple of hours with whatever dish soap you prefer. Rinse well and allow to air dry. My filters have made hundreds of pots of coffee and are still going strong!

Angeline Hawkes is a Bram Stoker Award-nominated professional fiction writer, who, on occasion, has been known to also write non-fiction. Writing as Louise Harding, she has written close to 1000 how-to articles. When not writing, Angeline spends her time sewing, gardening, canning, and trying to raise her four children in a self-reliant manner with her husband in Texas.


  1. I like it! Coffee filters are probably my cheapest daily expense, but if you count the pennies, the dollars take care of themselves, right?


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