Plastic Bags

My library teamed up with the local Zonta Club to celebrate International Women’s Day with our own totally-not-a-Maker-Faire-because-that’s-trademarked-or-something Maker Madness event. I had a table at the event that focused on plarn.  You know, plastic yarn–cutting up old plastic bags and reusing them for whatever fiber craft you’re feeling that day.  I put out a call for my co-workers to bring in plastic bags for me and WOW did I end up with a mountain of plastic bags in my office.

For me, as for so many others, the obvious path to take with plarn is crocheting. Here’s the turtle I crocheted as one of my sample items:

turtle crocheted out of old plastic bags

I also have a few bowls I’ve crocheted–one many years ago, and one the morning of the event because I’d gotten woefully behind on prepping for it.  Having only two (small!) samples didn’t seem like enough; having three (still small!) samples was at least 50% better.

Anyway I didn’t feel like trying to teach people to crochet in that setting; experience has taught me that that needs at LEAST an hour, and no one is going to stay at a single booth of a not-a-Maker-Faire for an hour.  So I taught people to do finger knitting with plarn.  I also talked up the fact that hey, plastic bags are polluting the world like crazy, and if you’re going to still use them at the store, at least have the decency to reuse them after that.  And I started telling them about all the things I’ve heard about other people using plastic bags for–embroidery, knitting, fusing them together with an iron and doing stuff with that, you name it.

Some people had heard all this before, but others were blown away by the mere concept.  So that’s one reason I’m writing all of this down.  The other reason, of course, is that even with all the people I taught to finger knit, I think I used less than a quarter of the plastic bag mountain that is now in my office.

So search of inspiration to kill off Mount Plastic Bag, here are some cool things I’ve come across online that reuse plastic bags in interesting ways:

  1. Knitting plarn into garments (not meant for actual wear, but still, holy crap these are amazing).  I will never be that good.
  2. Crocheting it into sea creatures.  I suddenly have feelings of inadequacy over my turtle.  I had no idea!
  3. Fusing bags together to make a raincoat. That… that is so cool.
  4. Fusing bags together to make mandalas.  I would totally hang one of those on my wall.  Do you suppose I can achieve a similar effect on my own, with my mountain of mostly white, off-white, and gray bags?  Sigh.
  5. Rolling beads out of plastic bag strips.  People combine beading and crochet, or beading and embroidery all the time… what if I used plastic-bag beads on my plastic-bag crocheting?  That could be super fun.
  6. Fusing plastic bags to make jewelry.  I’m not much of one for jewelry, but most of what I make ends up as gifts anyway…
  7. Heat-gunning plastic bags into containers.  Cool, but I’m not loving the likelihood of fumes.
  8. Wrapped plastic-bag basket.  I had actually hoped to have a basket to show off on my table, but didn’t finish it in time.  I was following(ish) instructions for a woven basket (meant to be made from willow) rather than a wrapped on, but this is equally cool!
  9. Plastic bag embroidery.  I’ve actually been wondering if I could embroider *with* plastic bags rather than on them–but maybe I could do both?  It sounds like embroidering onto fused plastic is the way to go…
  10. And of course there are all the normal projects you see everywhere–a crocheted bag made out of plastic bags, or a rug, or coasters, etc.

Anyway the moral of this story is that I need to get a move on with all these bags I’ve got right now.  There are way too many cool possibilities for me to let them gather dust.  (Even once we’ve accounted for the ones that will probably be co-opted for cleaning litter boxes.)

Things I need to learn about

What have I learned this week?  Well, my friends, here we go:

  1. A reminder that I hate being sick.  Hate.  Hate, hate, hate.  Thing to look up later: What *is* the maximum volume that normal human sinuses can hold?
    1. In my initial, less-than-five-minutes attempt to find this out, I have discovered that there is such a thing as the American Rhinologic Society.  Add that to my list of things that shouldn’t be surprising but somehow are.
  2. I have learned that I need to learn more about tea.  I consumed vast quantities of tea this week–white tea, Darjeeling, lapsang souchong, oolong, green tea with jasmine, and my more normal orange pekoe.  I know that lapsang souchong has a whole thing about being smoked… and isn’t oolong fermented, maybe?  But all in all I have no idea what makes these teas different from one another.  There are a couple books in the collection at work that I expect to be reading by this time next week.
  3. Snowshoeing is fun.  It’s probably not best undertaken on one’s first day of (relative) health after being flattened for a week, but I couldn’t resist my first chance to try out that Christmas present.  Somehow I had expected to “float” more on top of the snow than you actually seem to, but I have confirmed with multiple sources that I was mistaken in that belief.
  4. I have begun to read The Weaver’s Idea Book.  I had no idea so many things were possible on my rigid heddle loom!  Stay tuned for lots of weaving posts.
  5. I have also begun to read Needlework.  Lots of broad strokes in this one; it’s your basic historical overview.  Plenty of good pictures, though.
    1. I’m learning that when it comes to western embroidery, I generally prefer the aesthetic of pre-1700s work.  That’s always good to know, I suppose.
    2. Also stumpwork (aka “raised embroidery”) is a thing–embroidery in 3d.  I need to find some kind of directions/tutorial for a stumpwork project that isn’t hideously ugly.  Who doesn’t need to up their embroidery game to involve three dimensions??
      1. AND, someone wrote this book, which I need to ILL asap: Stumpwork, goldwork and surface embroidery : beetle collection

So I guess this week has been more of a week for “Oooh, I need to learn about that,” than anything else.