• Obtaining bags for your projects
Crafting with recycled plastic bags requires lots of bags. Make sure the plastic bags that you use are NOT biodegradable as they will turn to shreds over time. Save all the bags you receive from grocery and retail stores. A few ideas on how to obtain more plastic bags are:
Ask your family and friends to save bags for you. It’s an excellent way to encourage recycling with other people and provide you with the additional plastic bags you need. You will receive bags from stores that you don’t normally shop and this provides a great opportunity to get new colors of bags to add to your creativity.
Check with your local stores that have recycling bins for plastic bags. Most don’t care if you take from these bins as this is the purpose of these collection sites. But ask first so you know it is okay. Also some stores will even let you take the whole big bag of recycled bags if you want them all. Just be aware that not all these bags will be usable and clean.
Remember depending on your product you can use bread wrappers, dry cleaning bags, grocery bags, clothing store bags, tire bags, plastic caution tape, unused garbage bags, packing or shipping plastic bags, plastic tarps, and many other plastic materials make wonderful “yarn.”
• Width of strips
The width of your strips will vary but some tips are:
If using very stiff plastic or plastic store bags, cut your strips about ¾ inch or less in width. This makes it easier to crochet with the “yarn” that is created.
If using lightweight plastic bags, cut your strips 1 to 1-1/2 inches wide. Don’t pull too hard when making your yarn as they tend to break. If the strip does tear in half, just tie the ends together. You can always hide the knot in your work.
• Cutting the strips
You can cut the strips with scissors or for a quick cut, use a paper cutter.
• Cleaning plastic bags
In most cases, use only clean plastic bags for projects. Throw away any bags that smell or have something sticky or dirty in them. Should you find that you need to clean a plastic bag that has a small sticky or soiled area, use a warm damp towel or sponge. Wipe the area off and make sure it is completely clean and odor free. Once the bag is clean then air dry the bag before you use it in your project.
• Hiding loose ends
To successfully hide loose ends, use a small crochet hook. Weave the loose ends under on the inside or backside of your projects. Bury those loose ends by going under stitches and in the same direction as the loose end lies. Then cut the end close to your work to get rid of any excess loose ends.
• Minimizing and hiding knots
After you have intertwined two plastic bag strips together, sometimes the knot is big or is very noticeable. I roll the knotted area between my thumb and index finger and the knot becomes much smaller making it easier to hide in your project.
• Sore fingers or joints
Crafting with plastic bag yarn can be hard on your hands. If your fingers or joints become sore from crocheting or crafting try shaking out your hands. Don’t pull so hard on your stitching with your fingers. Take breaks to rest your fingers and hands. If they become very sore, take a few days off from crafting. A nice rest of several days will take the pain away in most cases. Always consult your doctor should your pain not be relieved by these suggestions as you may have a more serious problem that rest cannot heal.
• Converting patterns to recycled plastic bag projects
Speaking as a crochet crafter, I have found that many existing patterns can be made using recycled plastic bags as yarn. Just remember to use a large hook and check your gauge on the product. Purses, rugs, placemats, and totes are normally excellent products using plastic bags.
• Shaping or squaring a project
Sometimes a purse or rug project just isn’t square or is an odd shaped due to the plastic bag strips. You can usually gently pull on the corners or edges to reshape the product. If that doesn’t work, I have found if you just gently warm your project, it allows you to reshape it to the desirable shape. For example, I put my blow dryer on the low setting and lightly warmed the area that needed reshaped. I then pulled on the end that needed stretched and then it laid flat. Just be careful, never get your project hot or too close to a heat source as it will melt. The key is to just barely warm the plastic enough so you can reshape it.
Remember have fun and be creative. By using recycled plastic bags, your projects will virtually be free to make and wonderfully eco-friendly!