Who doesn’t have a drawer-closet-basket chock full of plastic bags just screaming to be recycled and upcycled? Why not combine your plastic bag stash with a community service project to benefit local shelters and the homeless in your area? This is a wonderful project where children and adults of all ages can combine their creativity, talents and labor to provide sleeping mats for individuals and organizations in need to weather the elements all by using plastic yarn made from plastic bags.
Recycle! Reuse! Gather The Plastic Bags
A word of forewarning when putting out the call to action for collecting plastic bags – be prepared for an avalanche of plastic bags. This is a great way to involve your local church group, knitting or crochet group, youth group or scout organization with collecting and sorting the bags. Tips and tricks to hold a plastic drive – plarn drive are available here.
Choose a collection day and drop off location. Have your volunteers ready to sort the bags and prepare the bags to make the plarn as sorting the bags from the beginning will save time later. But wait – plarn? What’s plarn?
How To Make Plarn For A Plarn Project
Plarn is the ‘yarn’ also called plastic yarn that you will use to knit or crochet the plastic mat. Plarn is constructed from the plastic bags and will be used just as one would use yarn in knitting or crocheting. We will go through the steps below to make plarn and then the knitting and crocheting will begin. The gathering and sorting of the bags and making the plarn are perfect projects to involve children in the community service project.
How To Make A Sleeping Mat With Plastic Yarn “Plarn”
I have made a quick tutorial on How to Make Plarn with the step by step directions. It really is easy once you make a few strands!
How To Make Plarn
I’ve also included free plarn projects in my DIY Plarn post which is a very nice resource for eco friendly crafters. Plastic yarn can be used to crochet shopping bags very easily. The basic instructions are above and can be modified to the desired size of bag. You are now ready to begin knitting or crocheting your plarn mat.
Materials To Make A Sleep Mat From Plastic Bags
The goal is a 3′ by 6′ size plastic yarn mat. Knitters and crocheters will use their experience to test the gauge which will determine the number of plarn stitches necessary for a 3′ by 6′ mat. I used size 10.5 knitting needles with a gauge of 3.5 stitches per inch, but I am a very loose knitter.
Knit Or Crochet A Test Gauge With Plastic Yarn
Make a swatch to test your gauge to determine the number of stitches. A 3′ by 6′ marks standard size, minimum length is 5′. The thickness of the bag can slightly alter the gauge. I found thinner plastic bags such as ordinary grocery store bags (or my favorite Kroger bags!) were the easiest to knit; plarn looks thin, but actually knits or crochets like bulky yarn.
Tip: Plarn can have a tendency to be sticky on the needle, I found bamboo knitting needles were the easiest to work with plarn. Some plarners report rubbing the needles with wax paper helps the plarn glide easily over the needles. I have tired a few different types of needles from my needle stash and definitely prefer large gauge bamboo needles.
Bamboo knitting needles are inexpensive compared to steel or aluminum needles. The bamboo needles can be purchased in packs with different sizes. If you are unsure of the needle size, the bundle packs have needles up to size 15 which gives alot of latitude to find the needles which suit your gauge and the plarn. The minimum size of knitting needle used is usually 10.
Tip 2: The writing on the plastic bags may transfer to your needles; while this does not matter for the project, but just to be safe I wouldn’t use your favorite go to needles or crochet hooks on this project.
Let the knitting and crocheting begin! As with any new project once you are acclimated to the plarn, the stitches will begin to fly faster after those first few rows. Anything goes with plarn – it is quite flexible and forgiving – if a piece breaks simply tie it back together with a knot and continue where you left off.
Optional Carrying Strap
Depending upon the needs of the organization where you are donating the mats, an optional carrying strap can be included. Check with the organization first to determine their needs for the population they serve; many shelters like to have a few mats in their inventory particularly with cold weather approaching in the north.
The carrying strap is simply a few stitches wide and long enough for a person to carry the rolled up mat cross body or over the shoulder. Roll the mat like a tube, attach one end of the strap and test the length of the mat on a volunteer to gauge the length needed before attaching the second end. Yoga mat straps also make a very practical and useful carrying strap.
Eco Friendly Knit And Crochet Projects
I really enjoyed using plarn for knit and crochet projects which peeked my interest in other eco friendly knit and crochet projects. Amazon has a great selection of books for eco friendly projects. Check them out – sustainability is a good good idea indeed!