Out of all the materials I have ever crocheted with, I would have to say one of the most fun and rewarding is Plarn. For those of you who don’t know, “plarn” is the common terminology for “yarn” or cordage made from repurposed plastic grocery bags (plastic + yarn = plarn).
Despite the name, plarn actually contains no yarn and is made up entirely of strips from these grocery bags. Many countries have put initiatives in place to stop the enormous amount of plastic grocery bags from entering landfills and polluting the environment – but in America, we are mostly still woefully wasteful when it comes to these things.
That’s why it’s so satisfying to turn them into art instead! Also it’s like SOOOOOO FREEEEE.
Did I mention how durable this stuff is? You may not think that plarn would be strong, since grocery bags are relatively weak, but once you combine and stitch them, they are astonishingly durable. The first plastic bag yarn bag I ever made was in 2010, a nice simple drawstring mesh bag. For 6 years I have crammed my shower supplies and towels in that thing and dragged it from camping trips to festivals to cross-country journeys and it’s still holding up. Mind you, I have not treated the poor thing gently at all. That’s how strong this stuff can be!
I won’t show you a picture of that bag, since it is pretty dingy after all that back woods hippie behavior, but I do have a few others to show. Here’s one from 2012…
I used tapestry crochet for the trunk on the flap of this messenger bag and then slip stitched the green plarn on the surface to make a swirling leaf design.
If you’re friends are nice enough, they will save you special colored plastic bags and you can make something like this mandala messenger style bag out of colorful plarn!
There’s lots of different ways to make plastic bag yarn, so I’ve collected a few links to tutorials I find most helpful to narrow down the search:
This HubPage article by Moira Durano-Abesmo demonstrates both the double-strand and the single-strand method for creating plarn (I use the double strand method)…
…while this Hubpage article by the same author talks about ways to make plarn softer by spinning it or working it.
Look At What I Made has a great post about making plastic bag “thread” for use in smaller plastic bag projects. Also, she mentions that plastic bags in the UK are mostly biodegradable now and therefore not good for use in projects you want to last! Again, here in wasteful America this isn’t a consideration, but something to keep in mind for readers from other countries.
Another great video on making plarn and then spinning it can be found on Youtube in a video from Wind Rose Fiber Studio.
Of course, there’s a million billion awesome creative uses for this plastic bag yarn once you’ve made it. I tend to make bags (I call them Bag Bags), but one simple Pinterest search will overwhelm you with other ideas – like this awesome Hammock project from Too Many Hobbies, Too Little Time.
One thing I searched for but couldn’t find was a tutorial for the “whole bag method” that was taught to me by a member of my festival family that he used to make recycled plastic rope. It’s stunningly simple AND you don’t have to worry about throwing away those pesky handles!
The theory is similar to the double strand method, only you use entire bags to make the loops instead of strips of a single bag. To start, you need some plastic bags (duh) and scissors.
Take the scissors and cut down the side of the bag, from the bottom of the handle opening down to the seam at the bottom. Repeat for the other side.
Grasp the bottom seam in one hand and the top handles in the other, and smoosh the entire bag into one big loop.
Grab another bag and repeat, making other big loop.
Overlay the loops and pull one back through itself, creating a knot.
Continue making whole bag loops and looping them together. The cordage that this makes is really thick and stronger than normal plarn, especially if you twist or braid whole strands of this stuff together into rope!
It’s so thick that I haven’t tried to crochet plarn (plope?) made from this method, although I am sure there are intrepid bulky crocheters or knitters out there that have done so or will do. What about you? Have you worked with plarn, and if so, what do you like to make with it?