How to knit a plastic bag

posted by Mike on November 17th, 2005

Reusable bag titan Rajiv Badlani points out that because you can’t convince every shopper to use cloth shopping bags, there will always be some plastic bags out there. He plans to recycle these into textiles.

You can do something similar at home, with shopping bags or the plastic bags they put your newspaper in on rainy days. All you have to do is cut the bags into ribbons, twist the ribbons into a sort of yarn, and then knit or crochet the yarn into whatever you like. This is an inexpensive way to make holiday gifts for the environmentalists on your list.

The best technique I’ve seen was taught to me by Ines Beron. She has put her own instructions on-line; what follows is my explanation of her technique, with links to her photos and instructions.

  1. Trim the bottom seam from the bag. (Photo)

  2. Unfold as much of the bag as possible and flatten it out. (Photo)

  3. Fold the bag not quite in half widthwise (with the fold perpendicular to the seam you cut off). Let one of the edges stick out about 1 inch. Fold the part you already folded in half, repeating until the folded part is also about 1 inch wide. (Photo)

  4. Cut off the handles.

  5. About every inch, cut the folded part of the bag widthwise. Try not to cut into the unfolded part of the bag. (Photo, Photo)

  6. Grab the unfolded part of the bag, and shake gently. The folded part will unroll into a fringe. (Photo)

  7. Open up the unfolded part of the bag and spread flat. (Photo)

  8. Make a cut from the center (widthwise) of the unfolded part to the nearest cut, diagonally. (Photo)

  9. Keep cutting across the unfolded part, diagonally, connecting the different cuts. (Photo)

  10. The last cut will be similar to the first, finishing in the center, widthwise, of the unfolded part.
  11. Now you have turned the plastic bag into a single long, thin, plastic ribbon. Roll it into a ball. (Photo)

Tote knit from plastic bagsKnit or crochet using this piece of “plastic yarn.” When this piece starts to run out, tie another piece to the end and trim the knot.

Ines has made lots of great stuff out of plastic bags, including a little backpack and large handbag (pictured). I wish I had a photo of the purse she made with a little flower added, or the lilies she’s crocheted.

There are many nice photos of crocheted plastic bags online, including this one.

(If you’re looking to avoid plastic bags in the first place, see our instructions on how to sew a canvas bag. On a related note, you can carve your own crochet hook (via Boing Boing).)


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17 Comments Leave a comment.

  1. On April 4, 2006 at 11:06 Mike (Worcester) said:

    Sandals out of plastic bags: Boing Boing.

  2. On February 8, 2007 at 16:07 Shaun Muscolo said:

    Photo of my wedding gown all knitted from white plastic shopping bags.

    http://people.tribe.net/1ea907a2-d307-482b-96ad-406ad8124875/photos/f70f6a43-2ce0-4420-ad1f-ba3cb080084c

  3. On February 8, 2007 at 16:54 Mike said:

    Wow! That’s great!

  4. On March 20, 2007 at 03:35 GreenBeing Nancy said:

    Great instruction you have posted here. I have posted your link in my blog to encourage others to reuse their plastic bags.

    Check out how I use my plastic bag.
    http://greenbeingnancy.blogspot.com/2007/03/plastic-bags-before-you-throw-check.html

  5. On May 2, 2007 at 18:44 marta guthier said:

    Love everything you make out of recycled materials, specially the purses. I would like to try one of them thanks for the patterns

  6. On July 10, 2007 at 01:16 beta said:

    So where are the instructions on how to make the actual bag?

  7. On July 11, 2007 at 11:48 Diane Drinkwater said:

    Amazing! What a great idea. I love the wedding dress idea too! Fab stuff.

  8. On September 26, 2007 at 09:31 Peter said:

    Great post. My wife loves knitted stuff & i\’m sure she\’ll make the most out of your post :)

  9. On October 1, 2007 at 05:42 Nancy Poh said:

    I have discovered a new way to use strips cut out of plastic bags. I do it by using my health supplement bottle as the weaving tool. I have posted the Hand weave to knit method with information on how you can make use of it on my blog.

  10. On October 14, 2007 at 00:20 Arny said:

    It’s a great idea to recycle.
    I make handbags and accessories from plastic shopping bags, check my boutique on http://www.arnym.etsy.com

  11. On December 10, 2007 at 12:18 erik said:

    Why did you even think of making a voven plastic bag

    -an inquiring man

  12. On December 31, 2007 at 10:59 punky said:

    I have one of those my great aunt made me, I LOVE IT.

  13. On November 2, 2008 at 13:31 Duncan said:

    Great Article. Would like to get more information to include on my site : http://www.RecyclingFactsToday.com

    Please let me know

    D

  14. On April 22, 2009 at 12:22 dove said:

    Recently saw some really great hats made from plarn that had, reportedly, been stretched really thin. Any clues as to how this is done?

  15. On September 28, 2009 at 15:19 Britni Boulter said:

    Wow that is so easy. How cool. Thanks for the post. I am going to have to try this, like tonight!

  16. On June 11, 2011 at 07:05 Karen Angold said:

    I have made a tote bag out of recying paper bags. It looks great and things do not fall out of it. I love it. It was a blast to make also.

  17. On August 21, 2013 at 02:01 Rosemar Dominy said:

    I can hardly wait to make the plastic “yarn” and knit and crochet with it. Your explanations are terrific
    and I appreciate the prompt replies you people give me. Your cite is fantastic for ideas and help.
    Many Many thanks. Rosemary D.

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