This month I've been thinking a lot about how to make my crafts more eco-friendly. One thing in particular I try to combat in my house is plastic shopping bags. Despite the fact that I have been using cloth shopping bags for years, I can't seem to completely eliminate the plastic ones from my life. I just hate throwing them out. Every time I see those heart-wrenching images of sea creatures inundated with plastic bags I think "Oh my god, is that pink floating one MINE?" which of course is exactly their aim. GOOD JOB YOU GUYS, I AM TOTALLY GUILT-RIDDEN. I've got to DO something with them though, and being a yarny-type that is of course where I headed first. I've got to say though, I don't love the look of the "plarn" people have come up with when it's used on its own. I wanted to create something that didn't look quite so much like... well, trash.
So I started to play around with using plastic bags as a core, and covering it with yarn. I cut up my plastic bags as per the "plarn" instructions I found (since the idea here is not to throw any plastic out, I didn't throw away the handles, and I cut the bottom open instead of off - any leftover pieces I just tied on to the other strips with a double knot). I made the strips approximately 1 1/2" wide.
I own an I-cord machine (Embellish-Knit) which I love, and I used it to create an I-cord which I then threaded the plastic yarn through to sort of stuff it. The result was something you could use to braid or wrap (or crochet using it as your yarn) into a basket or rug, but I wasn't satisfied with the efficiency of the technique, so I turned to crochet.
I found this lovely tutorial for making a crochet rope basket and used the basic premise to crochet over the strips of plastic bag instead of rope. The result is this little improvised basket. I used Noro Silk Garden Sock and a 5 mm (H-8) hook to crochet, and in total used up 5 shopping bags in its creation. I wouldn't use thinner than fingering weight yarn for this project unless I was making skinnier plastic strips, but I do intend to experiment with heavier yarn weights (and corresponding larger hook sizes as well). For example if you wanted to hide more of the plastic of the core, a heavier yarn would help fill in those spaces.
It gets a little lumpy in areas where I crocheted over the knots in the plastic, but I think it has a certain rustic charm. Plus it's cheerful, holds its shape well, and doesn't look like it belongs in a landfill. I plan to make more, larger baskets with my remaining bags (Perhaps a market basket with shoulder straps? Hmm.). I'm glad to have an actual demonstrable use for the bags that find their way into my house, although I'll continue to combat them wherever possible.