Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Even though you may be carefully carrying your own eco-friendly bags when you shop, in some mysterious way or another, plastic bags always find their way into your home. So, wanted or not, you probably have a stash of plastic shopping bags somewhere in your home. This form of trash takes up a lot of space and, if kept in any other than a perfectly dry place, can become an unsanitary mess for the growth of bacteria and a home for cockroaches.

You really don’t want all those plastic bags taking up semi-permanent residence in your home. So, of course, you try to remember to carry your bags to the large grocery stores that will recycle them. Obviously, the recycling bin is the right place for most of them. But there is another thing you can to do: you can recycle a part of your plastic bags at home by making them into crafts. These turn-your-trash-into-art projects are eco-friendly, fun for you and entertaining for your children.

Plastic bags become useful material for your craft projects when they are converted into what is called: “plarn”, a kind of string or rope that’s made from plastic bags. You can make plarn by knitting, crocheting or braiding strips of plastic bags together. Unfortunately, the bags we usually get are white, and those aren’t the most interesting ones for our crafts. You want to look around for the best colors. (Ask family members and neighbors to save their nicest-colored bags for you.) Also, to get a sturdy plarn, you want to choose a medium weight bags – not the really light weight thin ones that tear as they are cut or the very heavy ones that will be difficult to work with.

The colors that I could more easily find were beige and gray, so I combined those colors with some onmipresent whites bags to make my first 2 easy projects.

Here’s what I did.

I cut up the plastic shopping bags in continuous strips, starting with the largest rectangle that I could make, having cut along the side and bottom seams. Then I cut one continuous strip starting at an edge and spiraling around the bag. I cut the strip yo be about an inch and a quarter thick.

There is no problem for a bit thicker or thinner strips - these differences just make it a bit nubby and don’t detract from the overall appearance of the final product. Just don’t let the strips get any thinner than about ¾ inch because then they tend to break apart when you’re working with them. You can also tie the strip from one bag to that of the next without any problem and then roll the resulting long strip into a big ball of plarn.

To form the plarn for my projects, I single-chained the plastic strips using a size “I” crochet hook and rolled it into balls. With the three large balls of plarn –white, beige and gray, I made these 2 decorative items.


With plarn from just 4 white bags, I made my first project. (I had more bags of this color than I needed so I didn’t have to worry about waste from any mistakes.) I began on one side and knotted the crocheted plarn around a plastic clothes hanger. Starting at the base of the hook, I tied on the plarn and continuously knotted the plarn around the hanger, pushing the knotted loops as closely together as I could. When I got back to the base of the hanger on the other side, I tied off the plarn, leaving the hook of the hanger as it was without any adornment. The resulting plarn-covered clothes hanger looks fairly attractive - and clothes don't slip off. After I knotted the plastic around the hanger, it still didn't look very decorative. To spruce it up a bit, I crocheted regular yarn in a bright green color around the edge of the knotted plarn. (This same project can also be done successfully with 2 wire hangers taped together. So, use those wirehangers if you have them - so you don't have any excuse for buying more plastic hangers.)


I used the beige and gray plarn from 8 bags to make the strings for a beaded wall hanging. I began with a thin strip of wood, 2-feet long for the top of the hanging. I tied on 3.5-foot strings of plarn, alternating the beige and gray colors, and placed them 2 inches apart. To decorate the hanging strings, I used colorful paper beads and tiny flowers - these last cut out from the flat tops of colored Styrofoam plastic egg cartons - and strung them on the hanging plarn. I knotted the plarn after adding each piece of decoration and tied small wooden round beads on the ends of the plarn to help weight them down.

I used unpainted egg carton material for this project but it could also be painted with acrylic paints. The paper beads were made of strips of colored magazine pages that were rolled around a crochet hook. See my earlier blog for general instructions on how to make the paper beads.

A similar plarn, paper bead and egg carton project can be done for a child’s room, using flowers, birds, stars, small truck shapes or any other motif that you like. With a little encouragement and help, older children can use these materials to design and make their own wall hangings. Just as a reminder, the tops of plastic egg cartons should always be washed before use as craft material.

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