Thursday, July 5, 2012

How to Make Plastic Yarn, or Plarn

Some of my friends knit.  Now, when I say they knit, I don't mean that they play with yarn a bit, and produce somewhat passable blankets.

No, when I say knit, I mean something more along the lines of "Grab some yarn and effortlessly turn it into a masterpiece without even breaking a sweat."

I, on the other hand, can't get past step one.  I've never been able to knit.  I am, however, very talented at getting tangled up in the yarn after only a few minutes of trying.

See, this seems to be some sort of talent that you're born with.  Some have it, and some don't.  Those that have it can create projects of magnificent, mind bending proportions with a simple piece of yarn.  The rest of us... Well...

I crochet.  I'm not the best at it, but I'm not the worst, either, and it's a whole lot easier for me than knitting is!

What does this have to do with environmental responsibility?

Well, a few years ago I discovered something pretty amazing.  It's called 'plarn'.  Plarn is, quite simply, plastic yarn.  You can make it yourself, and all you need is some scissors and a plastic bag.  Or two.  Or ten.  It's really dependent on what you're planning to make with it.

This ensures that those extra plastic bags get reused!

To top it off, plarn is something that's more easily used in crochet projects than in knitting projects!  Yay!  Don't get me wrong, I'm sure you can knit with plarn.  I just haven't seen any knitting patterns in which it's been used.

The first time I used plastic yarn, I started simple.  I made a simple scrubber to clean my stove with, using a small Hershey's chocolate bag.

It wasn't pretty, since I was just doing things quickly, and with no real rhyme or reason, but I had managed to reuse a plastic bag that would otherwise end up in the trash, and it did its job pretty well!

Later, I blended plarn and cotton yarn together in order to create some simple shoes for my daughter.  The plarn was used for the sole of the shoe, and the tops and straps were made from cotton.  Breathable and protective!

So how do you do it?

Grab an old plastic grocery bag.  Everybody has one laying around, because even those of us that have reusable bags occasionally make the mistake of leaving them at home.  Flatten the bag, making sure the creases align properly.

Once you have that done, fold the bag in half, lengthwise.

Now make a second lengthwise fold.  You're doing this to make it easier to cut. You're going to cut off the seam of the bag.  After that's done, cut the straps off the top in the same manner.  You should now have a really long rectangle and a bit of plastic waste.  Just get rid of the seam and handle waste.  You won't use it.

Now that you have your rectangular piece, make sure that you've folded it enough to be able to easily cut chunks off of it.  You can continue folding it in half, lengthwise until it feels manageable, if you feel the need to.  Just be sure it stays reasonably aligned.  Cut off chunks that are at least an inch wide.  You need the plastic to be decently thick, so that you can work with it.  If it's too thin, you'll end up ripping it apart, which is no fun.

When you unfold each chunk of plastic, you'll notice that you've cut the bag into several loops.  Now we need to make it into plarn.  Grab two of those chunks of plastic and open them into circles.

Draw one of the circles of plastic through the other, and then through itself, in order to link them together securely.  I know... that explanation isn't the best.  Unfortunately, since I'm using clear(ish) plastic bags, the pictures didn't explain it well, either.

Here's a couple of my daughter's hair ties that I've linked together instead, to show you what I mean:

Simple, right?  Now just pull them secure.  Be careful, though.  If you pull them too tightly, the plastic could snap, depending on the strength of the bag in question.

Do this with each circle, attaching each new one to the last.  Very soon, you'll have one long line of plastic rope... or should I say yarn?

Last, you'll want to wind it tightly together, just as with yarn made of fiber.  Make sure that you squish each loop thin while you wind, or you'll end up with a rather unworkable mess.

Viola!  You have plarn!

Those plastic bags that were filling your cupboard have finally found a use.  Depending on what you decide to make, your plarn creation may last you quite a while!

Now all you have to do is figure out what to make with it.  Rugs, cup cozies, dish scrubbers, and baskets are some useful things that you can do with your plarn.  Let your imagination run wild!  Just remember that it needs to be a pattern that requires thick yarn.  There are no delicate and graceful doilies in your future!

What are some other design ideas that you can come up with?  For those of you that knit, do you think this might work for you, as well?


  1. I have/some beautiful floppydenim blue hats which were made of plarn. They keep the sun put of my eyes in the garden, and when I am driving into the sun, and they look fabulous with my jeans! However, that particular color of plastic bag is no longer available. A friend may have a pattern for the hat, though. My hat had small light yellow enblems on them, which gave the hay a a tiny bit of contrast. I would like to find those denim blue bags, though, as I crochet also. Gee, at

  2. Gee, that's so awesome! Are photos of them posted anywhere online? I'd love to take a look at what you've done!