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Tips for Crocheting and Crafting with Recycled Plastic Bags

Posted on February 3, 2007

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.

Enjoy

Remember have fun and be creative. By using recycled plastic bags, your projects will virtually be free to make and wonderfully eco-friendly!

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9 Responses to “Tips for Crocheting and Crafting with Recycled Plastic Bags”

  1. Deanna
    Feb 21, 2007

    I applaud your recycling efforts! I am also a recycle-crafter though I tend to use more cast off metals. I would love to try this but don’t crochet. Can this be applied to knitting? Keep up the good work. D


  2. Cindy
    Feb 26, 2007

    Yes, you can knit with recycled plastic bags and other such materials. Here is one link that has knitting instructions http://www.diynet.com/diy/cr_needle_arts/article/0,2025,DIY_13768_3059465,00.html

    Good luck and thank you for your kind comments!
    Cindy


  3. Cher
    Apr 20, 2007

    You ROCK!!!! This is soooo cute. My husband works as an executive for a grocery chain and I used their bags and the office people and owner went nuts over it. What a great use of these land waste materials. My granddaughters love them as well.

    Thanks for sharing,
    Cher


  4. [...] Be all ironic and crochet your plastic bags into a larger, cooler, better plastic grocery bag. Some helpful tips for working with the plastic yarn are here, as well as link to finished projects and crocheting instructions. I’ve made a few [...]


  5. Ann
    Oct 17, 2010

    Another place to get recycled plastic bags might be your local dry cleaners. Several of ours have huge boxes and customers are invited to leave the plastic from their dry cleaning in them. Cutting and sizing may be a little tricky, but free is free and recyle is recycle. Plarn is a novel idea!


  6. Lori
    May 03, 2011

    Another source for plarn is using old VHS tapes, and it’s ready to go without any prep time! Just take the case apart and you have a spool of plarn. I use tapes I have recorded over so many times they have a lot of static. If you don’t have any VHS tapes, try the local Goodwill store. They have a lot of tapes cheap.


  7. Cindy
    May 04, 2011

    @Lori:
    Yes, crocheting with vcr vhs tape is another resource for recycled crafting. You can see my vcr tape tutorial on how to reclaim the tape from the cartridges to create your yarn. Also I have several free patterns available here that are made using recycled vcr tapes.


  8. Phen
    Apr 08, 2012

    Folks,
    this is a great article! I am going to do this; but using bags from an unknown source is yucky (to say the least!)!
    You can purchase plastic shopping bags (exactly like the ones you carry your groceries home in from the supermarket) from Office Max for about $7.00 for about 150 if I remember correctly, and that will make a LOT of plarn!) or you can also order them online; Google ” plastic grocery bags”.
    This way you can also get a plentiful supply at one time to complete your project.
    I already recycle my own, but am hesitant to recycle bags from unknown origins, so to speak.
    Happy and safe recycling,all!
    PS- I’m also going to give this a try with regular trash bags. Yes, those big shiny,ugly, black garbage bags! Now days they come in some really cool colors like hot pink, blue, white, clear and purple. Some are even colored but transparent!


  9. Cindy
    Apr 09, 2012

    Phen — Thanks for your comments and I just want to reply to a few things you mentioned. First if you are concerned about the source of the plastic bags you are recycling into plarn, you could always wash the bags before use. Using warm water and a dash of soap should remove any germs or other concerns you may have. Never use any bags that have had meat in them as to avoid any bacteria from the meat or juices. As far as buying bags, there are plenty of other sources available than buying brand new bags. The main theme of crafting with recycled materials is the Recycling. We aim to reduce, reuse, and repurpose what we can to avoid it ending up in landfills. I hope you will consider washing your plastic bags and saving yourself money by crafting with recycled materials rather than store bought plastics.



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  1. [...] Be all ironic and crochet your plastic bags into a larger, cooler, better plastic grocery bag. Some helpful tips for working with the plastic yarn are here, as well as link to finished projects and crocheting instructions. I’ve made a few [...]

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Hello, I’m Cindy or aka RecycleCindy. I love to learn and share information about crocheted and other items crafted from recycled materials. This is a green, eco-friendly website that is dedicated to recycling and crafting.
This blog and my life have taken on a new journey when on March 10, 2008, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I have added a special area on my blog in which I chronicle my journey into the pink.
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