Create a Modified Mexican Poncho From a Towel




About: I yam what I yam.

Intro: Create a Modified Mexican Poncho From a Towel

As every good Douglas Adams fan knows, a towel is a massively useful item. This Instructable is a way to make a towel more useful.

This project came about in thinking about hiking gear. I want to take a towel on extended hiking trips in case I find a place to go swimming but I also want the towel to function in other ways. Multi-purpose items are important when designing a light weight pack. If I can use the towel as a piece of clothing it may enable me to eliminate one item of clothing.

Unlike a regular Mexican poncho, the hole for your head has loops so it may be closed. I did this so the item can still be used like a regular towel.

Another difference from a regular Mexican poncho is I do not have tassels hanging from the bottom. I think the tassels are there to wick water off the bottom of the poncho. They make no sense on a poncho towel. This type of poncho would not be effective for rain since a towel is designed to absorb water.

With the material eyelets I added to the outside of the towel I will be able to attach the towel to my sleeping setup (future Instructable hopefully) and use it as a blanket. The eyelets also enable me to hang the towel on a ridge line or attach it to the back of my pack to dry without using cloths pins. Having the eyelets on the towel enable the sides of the poncho to be closed, effectively making the towel into a short sleeve shirt. This could be worn under a sweatshirt to create an extra layer of warmth. If it's a towel that looks like mine you could wear it outside and run around the woods looking like Robin Hood! 

This project references two previous Instructables.
1: Reinforced fabric hole -
2: Quick loop from twill tape -

Step 1: Tools and Materials

-Sewing machine and thread
- yard stick or measuring tape (optional)

- towel
- hand towel
- reinforcement material (artificial leather or something along those lines)
- twill

Step 2: Getting Started

Select the towel you wish to use.

The towel I used has a dimension of 30 x 59 inches.(76 x 150 mm). I am 5ft8, 140 lbs (That's 10 stone for you Brits out there). This size towel easily closes around my sides with material to spare. You may consider choosing a towel with different dimensions depending upon your size. Placing a towel over one shoulder, you should be able to safety pin the bottom together around your waist. The length of this towel is pretty good for me as well. There is enough material that I can create pockets using different attachment points.

Step 3: Create the Eyelets.

My poncho has a total of 24 eyelets around it. I have placed a red dot next to the eyelets in the attached picture. Here is how I determined where to place the eyelets

- one was put in each corner. (4 eyelets)
- one was placed half way between the corners.(4 eyelets)
- On the short sides an eyelet was placed between the center and the corner. (4 eyelets)
- On the long sides, Three eyelets were placed between the center and corner. Their positions were determined by folding that space in half, and then in half again. (total of 12  eyelets)

Just adding eyelets will make your towel more functional . Depending on how you wish to use the towel you may want to put eyelets in different locations. Maybe you are a weightlifter with big arms or want to put a lot of clothing under this poncho. It could be possible the eyelets that form the arm hole need to be moved then. You will really need to test out what works best for you. This setup works for me. You always can add more eyelets.

For instructions on creating a material eyelet follow this Instructable.

Step 4: Cut the Neck Slit.

The neck hole is located at the center of your towel. First, fold the towel in half the long way. You may measure, but folding works. Next, fold the towel in half the short way and mark where the fold is. Reopen the last fold. Cut through both layers of the folded towel towards the end. See image. The total length of my cut was 13 inches  (34mm). This means I made a cut half that length since the material was folded in half. This may have been a bit too long of a cut. 10 inches (26mm) should be a good size for the neck hole. I recommend cutting into the towel about 4 inches and testing it out. You can always make the slit longer.  It's better to err on the side of caution. I cut too much from the start.

Step 5: Cut the Collar Material

I created my collar using a hand towel. This does make for a thicker collar but it retains the absorbancy on the back of the towel and also seals up the slit better when it is pulled together. Feel free to use another material. I recommend using something soft that will be comfortable when you use the towel to dry yourself. The main reason I added a collar was to protect the cut material at the neck slit. What is important here is to protect the towel from fraying and ripping.

You need two rectangles of collar material. Cut the material the same length as your neck slit and twice the width you want your collar to be. The collar material will eventually be folded around an edge of the neck slit.

The image shows a partially cut hand towel on the left and a cut portion of a hand towel put in place and folded under the neck slit.

Step 6: Attach the Front of the Collar Material.

For this step I only attached the front of my collar and did not fold it over. I knew I would be adding loops and wanted to make attaching the loops easier. I did not want to attach the loops through 3 layers of towel. If you are using a thinner material for you collar feel free to attach both sides at once.

Using pins attach your collar material to the towel.
Sew the collar material fast to the towel.
Do this for both sides of the collar.

The first image shows the first side of the collar pinned fast.
The second image shows what the back side of the towel should look like when only the front of the collar material is attached.

Step 7: Add Loops to the Collar.

The purpose of the loops on the collar is to tie the neck slit fast so the poncho can still be used as a towel.

Five loops on each side of the collar should be sufficient.

The following instructable explains how to create and attach a loop.

I held off on attaching the material that covers the frays until a later step.

Step 8: Attach the Back of the Collar and Fray Guards.

Now that the loops are attached to the collar and towel, the backside of the collar can be attached. Doing things in this order will also hide the sew marks on the back of the towel from where the twill was attached.

Fold the back of the collar into place. Pin it if necessary. Because you are going through a few layers of thick material there is a risk of breaking the sewing machine needle. Warning: Do not pull the material, let your sewing machine do all the work.

I put two sew lines on my collars. One close to the slit and one close to the outside of the collar.

After you have attached the collars, attach the material that will cover the twill ends.

Step 9: Reinforce the Ends of the Neck Slit on the Back.

The ends of the slit are weak spot in the poncho, you must reinforce these points to avoid the poncho towel ripping when you put it on and off.

Cut two pieces of collar material to reinforce the ends of your slit. I choose to just make the collar look like a rectangle on the backside of the towel.

Sew around the entire perimeter of the material you are attaching and at a few places through it so ensure it is attached well.

The red ovals in the image show the slit end reinforcement.

Step 10: Reinforce the Front and Add a Little Style.

Cut a piece of strong material to reinforce the ends of the neck slit. These are to be placed on the front side of the towel..

I chose to make the material a shield shape.

I attached the material by sewing around the entire perimeter of it. I then sewed a square and an X in the flat end of each piece.

I apologize that the first image is blurry.

Step 11: Some Uses for Your Finished Poncho Towel.

The images are of the poncho towel set up as a towel, worn as a shirt and made into a sack.The sack was configured by folding the towel in half and using the eyelets and loops of cordage to create a cinch strap.

Any ideas or improvements are welcome.

If you did this project I would be interested in seeing your results and learn about ways you found to use this item.




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    5 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Nice. I made a rudimentary version of this using a small and light fleece blanket, but this sure takes it to the next level. I may need to go back to my version and add some eyelets. (basically I just cut the neck-slit and reinforced the edge of the slit a bit to prevent tearing)

    1 reply
    Todd Gehriswazzup105

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    I'd like to see some picture of how you tie up the fleece when you complete it. I am working on a layered sleep system that uses a sheet, fleece and sleeping bag. Haven't quite figured out how I want to set up the fleece though. I also like a pillow when I sleep so I'm modifying some pillow cases. They'll have cinch straps, a way to use them as a back pack, and I want to see if I can use them as sleeves to attach to this poncho. Might be a bit of work to tie together but it would be worth it if the temperature drops.