Friday, July 9, 2010

The Wonder of Plarn

Plarn.  Ever heard of it?  I hadn't either. Well, that is, until recently when I attended a class on it.  Amazing stuff, I tell you. The things people come up with...

Plarn is plastic yarn. It is one of the ultimate reuses -- maybe even THE ultimate reuse.  Basically, you cut up plastic bags into strips, tie them together, and you crochet with it.  There's something so postmodern about it, it almost makes me laugh (one of my favorite college professors always joked about our generation being "raging pomo's". She'd also laugh at the idea of plarn, I'm sure). But, really, it's awesome.  When all this plastic is crocheted or knitted together, the end result is something waterproof and super-durable, not to mention really nice-looking when it's done right. 

The woman who taught the class I attended brought in an amazing array of bags she has made with plarn. She uses them for shopping (talk about a reusable bag!), swimming (again, they're waterproof!), and as a purse (hers is really cute -- it's all multi-colored. You'd never guess it was made out of plastic bags)  I think a plarn bag would be great for trips to the beach (you lucky people who go to the beach...) because the sand would just fall through the holes.  I'm planning on using my plarn bags (work in process) for shopping.  Do a Google image search for plarn.  You'll see incredible things -- really cool shopping bags, purses, rugs, and even shoes! (the shoes seem a little extreme, I'll admit).

Plus, you'll be doing the environment a favor. Most estimates are that it will take 500 years for one plastic bag to biodegrade (some even go as high as 1000 years). In a year, about 500 billion plastic bags are used by consumers. By using plarn, you not only reuse the plastic bags and, in essence, recycle them, but you also save more from being used.  Imagine if everyone just cut back a little and used a reusable bag now and then -- the numbers would drop dramatically.  I'm no crazy environmentalist, but I'm all for using our resources wisely. Okay, stepping off the

And I'm not even mentioning one of the best things about plarn -- it's free! All you really have to buy to make anything out of plarn is a crochet hook or a set of knitting needles. Despite the fact that I take reuseable bags to the grocery store, I still have a bunch of plastic bags in the cabinet under my kitchen. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has an abundance of these plastic bags. 

So how do you make plarn?  Here are the steps to get the ball of plarn rolling...

Start with plastic bag and lay it flat, tucking the side folds.  (note: from what the instructor of the class told me, Target bags are a little more difficult to work with. She says they're "stickier". Just thought I'd mention it.)

Fold the bag in half lengthwise.

Fold again.

And again.

Next, cut off the handles and the bottom.

Cut the rest of the bag into 1 - 1 1/2 inch strips.  It doesn't have to be precise. Just eyeball it.

Unfold them. You should have a bunch of plastic rings.

Now, here's the part that's hard to explain. The next step is linking the rings together. You can just skip my attempt to explain this step and watch this YouTube video (this step is at the 6 minute mark). Don't worry - I won't take it personally if you do.

I used a yellow bag to help illustrate better.  Place one ring over the other.

Take one end of the yellow bag and insert it into the other end.

Pull the ends tightly until it forms a knot. Don't pull too tightly or it will tear. You want the knot to be small, though, so it doesn't show when you crochet or knit with the plarn.

Keep linking the rings together, rolling the linked plarn into a ball as you go.  To give you an idea of how many plastic bags you'll need, the instructor said she uses about fifty bags to make one of her plarn shopping bags.  That seems like a lot, I know, but once you get the hang of it, it goes by really quickly.  This is something to do when you're watching a movie or TV.  Or you could recruit your children (if they're old enough and willing) or spouse. 

Seeing as I'm just learning to crochet myself, I will make no attempt to teach you how to make the bags. It'd kind of feel like the blind leading the blind. From what the instructor said, it only takes a basic knowledge of crochet or knitting to make these.  I found out as I'm writing this that are a lot of videos on YouTube about plarn and how to use it.  Also, the woman who taught the class suggested a site, Crochet Pattern Central, as a great resource; you can find an extensive list of plarn projects at this link from that site.  The instructor said she basically taught herself how to make this bag by following the patterns on the site.

I'm a sucker for creative reuses, so this seems right up my alley.  I'll post a picture of my bag once it's finished. Ahhh, there's nothing like using a blog to keep you accountable and on task...


Nisha said...

This is a fun idea. I got some reusable bags months ago, but then they sat in my house. Finally, I started keeping them in the car, and now, I remember to actually grab them before I go in the grocery store. The bag lady hanging in my pantry is now empty. No more plastic bags for me.

Conny said...

I like your post! Come over to my blog and visit. I've made bags, shoes, rugs etc. out of plarn.

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