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Plasticbagcrafts Roundup
We all know how bad plastic grocery bags are for the environment. Research suggests that 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. The city of San Francisco will be first city in the U.S. to take a stand and ban plastic bags in large markets and pharmacies.
But what can a crafter do to help the cause? Round up the bags you do have laying around in the house or collect them from neighbors and friends to start reusing plastic bags for your next craft project. Here’s a post rounding up some of the best projects we’ve seen around. Sew ’em up, cut them into strips for knitting or crochet — the possibilities are endless!

HOW-TO – Make Plastic Bag Yarn
Helle of Gooseflesh who makes amazing crochet sea creatures has a tutorial up on how to make your own yarn from plastic bags. – Link.
Dress A
Plastic Grocery Bags into Knit 1950’s Outfit
Cathy Kasdan of Clevland, OH and I were emailing back and forth a bit yesterday afternoon regarding my post on the knitting machines. Then my jaw dropped when Cathy sent me this beautiful photo of her finished thesis project — a handknit 1950’s style ensemble made from plastic grocery bags. Cathy is currently finishing up a Master’s in textiles at Kent State University and her thesis is based on consumer culture. See more photos here. – Link.
Knit Plastic Tote Bag
MagKnits has a pattern by Katherine Vaughan showing you how to knit up this handy tote. Link.
Knit Plastic Bag
By cutting up strips of plastic, MelGiggles on Craftster knit up this handy tote bag that’s perfect for the beach or pool. Link.
Purse Bag
Tips for Crocheting with Plastic Bags
Cindy of My Recycled Bags sells her cool crochet bags and products made from recycled plastic bags. The site is full of information and resources about crochet and other crafted recycled bags. Her tips open up your creativity to incorporate plastic bag as yarn projects for almost anything. Cindy says, “Speaking as a crochet crafter, I have found that many existing patterns can be made using recycled plastic bags as yarn. Just remember to use a large hook and check your gauge on the product. Purses, rugs, placemats, and totes are normally excellent products using plastic bags.” – Link.
Fusing Plastic Bag Tutorial
Amanda at Etsy Labs has a great tutorial showing you how to fuse plastic bags so you can refashion those plastic grocery bags into cooler looking totes! – Link.
There’s also an accompanying video of the process here. – Link.
Fused Plastic Bag Tote with Octopus
This beautiful fused plastic bag tote complete with octopus design is made by Betz White who’s been doing some amazing experiments with plastic grocery bag fusing. It’s been fun to see the progress Betz has been making and TreeHugger has taken notice too with a write up about her bags as well. – Link.
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Extreme Plastic Bag Makeover
Jmesdiylounge on Craftster got inspired by fusing plastic bags and created her own collage design complete with adding a recycled shoe lace for the trim and handles. Link.
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Plastic Bag Dress
Made by mleak on Flickr the dress was fused together to form fabric and then sewn together.- Link.
Plastic Bag Raincoat
Pen Felt on Etsy collected plastic bags from trash cans for 1 week to make the material for her plastic bag raincoat. Link.
Plastic Bag Jewelry by Anna Roebuck
Treehugger has a great story about artist Anna Roebuck who makes jewelry from plastic shopping bags. The bags and other materials are layered, collaged together and bonded by fusing. – Link.
Plastic Bag Headband
Make yourself a cute headband by fusing plastic bags like panic_paislee on Craftster. Link.
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Plastic Bag for Cosmetics
Jamiewatchthestars on Craftster sewed up this cute cosmetics pouch all made from plastic bags. Link.

193 thoughts on “Plastic Bag Crafts

  1. Ireland started the tax on plastic bags a few years ago (it originally was 15 euro cents, but has recently increased), and the results were dramatic. When we come to the US, we have a huge number of the bags that we bring back with us (for small trashbins and keeping in pockets). Now I can make myself a neat bag as well, with all these Target bags! (Oh, they don’t have those either :-) ).

  2. Thank you for featuring my fused plastic bag. I love your mag and blog so much, it is so neat to see something I made here! Thanks again!

  3. These are *very* cool– but I have one concern. Could you have someone verify that it’s safe to heat up the plastic? I’d be concerned about toxic fumes…
    Thanks, I’m sure the scientific-types over at Make can answer this one off the tops of their (smarter than mine) heads.
    I want to give this a try!! — just want to make sure it’s safe first.

  4. Hi There,
    I talked to Bre from MAKE and this is what he says:
    “Yup, it’s fused plastic, so there are toxic fumes. Do it with a lots of ventilation and don’t do it when you’re pregnant!
    Of course you could replace the fused plastic with a tarp… or any durable fabric! ”
    Hope this helps!

  5. I tried this over the weekend, and there were less fumes, or at least less odor, than I expected. Mine turned out pretty well, and I am curious if this works with chip bags and candy wrappers as well. I will try it and let you know on my craft site

  6. Just because you can’t smell vapors, doesn’t mean that they aren’t present. I would be very very cautious about fusing plastic inside. To my mind, this is an outside-when-the-breezes-are-blowing type project.
    Because we never really know what plastics are made of, or what chemicals will be released when they start to melt/burn, it really isn’t possible to find a proper air-filtering respirator to protect yourself from hazardous chemicals when doing a project like this.
    Be careful, folks!

  7. I’m really interested in that plastic bag rain coat. Does anyone have any recommendations for where I can get a pattern/instructions for sewing one of those together? I’ve seen the MAKE podcast about melting bags together, so I guess I’m more concerned about putting it together.

  8. what are we releasing back into our ozone layer when fusing these plastic bags? Even though we think it is alright what is the long term effect to our lungs? Just like everything else, we don’t really know and then it is usually to late and the damage is done.

  9. 1. You cannot assess “the amount of fumes” without equipment. Just because you feel OK and didn’t smell much doesn’t mean you are not harming the atmosphere obviously. It is precisely this mentality which has led us to our current state of environmental disaster. Out of sight our of mind?
    2. The question isn’t whether the fumes are harming you. The fact is they harm the air. For what gain? Your ego? Did anyone really think that plasticy smell was beneficial for our air? I find that hard to believe.
    3. The amount of electricity you burn up with your iron *obviously* creates a net environmental deficit from this practice regardless of the fumes.
    4. Everyone overheats a bag at some point so theories about the fumes which focus on best case scenarios are pure nonsense. The fact is that if you do this you are releasing unfiltered solvents, polymers, and polyethylene into our air supply. Definitely harmful to the earth and your lungs — if you had just let the things biodegrade (which they’ll have to do eventually anyhow) they would have done *way less* damage to the environment than you are creating.
    For what gain? Think about it.
    So to summarize. You are using electricity, releasing unfiltered toxins into the air, and at the end of the craft’s lifespan that bag is going into the landfill in a much more evil form because the bags biodegrade but your crafts will not.
    Stop killing the earth.

    1. I honestly cannot believe that you have problems with crafting. Focus that energy on something like world hunger and make a difference. Please stop attacking creative soccer moms.

  10. BTW there are tons of “cold” applications for plastic bags. The yarn and fabric idea is *brilliant*. You can also easily turn them (by hand) into rope, dog leashes, plastic flowers, etc.
    Keep this in mind — those huge plastic factories you see are filtering their output. Unlike you when you iron these biodegradable bags into not-so-biodegradable crafts. (most of which get thrown out soon anyhow)
    P.S. when re-purposing cheap things don’t use a bunch of electricity! You’re just fueling the machine…

  11. To Corey: I usually don’t post comments, but I had to respond to yours. Firstly, where did you get the idea that plastic shopping bags are biodeqradable?? Are you living under a rock? There has been a movement in the USA and other countries(even China!!) to get rid of the things because of the harm they do to the environment. (they take thousands of years to degrade.) Secondly, how do you think they make the bags?? they heat seal them!! That doesn’t mean it isn’t harmful to heat them with an iron, but one person heating a few bags doesn’t do as much damage as the company making the bags. Thirdly, most plastic bags are not actually recycled due to the contamination from food products, so your argument, unlike the bags, holds no water!!!
    If you are going to rail about the environment, do some research first, instead of spewing your own misinformed opinions.
    stop killing everyone’s fun.

  12. I love the idea of reusing these plastic bags for fun crafty ideas. My concern is the dioxins released from the plastic as they are heated/fused. Ive been playing around with the techniques published here and don’t know if anyone else has a concern with these toxic chemicals being released. Right now I’m having a internal delema about weather these plastics are more of a threat as a physical presents or if the chemicals released into the environment may cause greater long term damage to wildlife and the water supply.
    I’ve only done a little research, but to my understanding these dioxins can contribute to breast cancer and have huge effects on little kids, due to their ability to imitate hormones in people. If anyone has anymore info or concerns with this process please pass it on. But for now ill be using an organic mask when i work with these potentially harmful chemicals.

  13. I haven’t finished but.. I’m fusing bags to make liners for our wooden shoe rack. The shelf liners at Target are an arm and a leg. I need something to sit between the shoes and boots (with salt, snow, sand) and the wood of the shelf that can be cleaned every so often.
    I’ve expanded the project to make a large tray/mat to set my bike on when it’s sloppy, sandy, road gritty.
    Not the prettiest of projects but practical and money saving for me, which counts. And it means that the bags aren’t being downcycled if recycled at all.
    No fumes when I iron. Trust me, my body knows how to respond to toxic plastic fumes. I got fired from a plastics factory because I had a headache and was nauseous within the first few hours. I kept having to go outside. It was horrible and embarrassing to get fired but my body just couldn’t deal. Not that there aren’t toxics being released – obviously different ones in this case.

  14. Hey!! That’s my jacket!! I was just cruising the Craft website to tell them they should write about my jacket. Funny.
    I made the jacket buy buying a jacket whose style I liked at the goodwill and taking it apart at the seams. Then I cut my pieces of fused plastic to match that pattern and sewed it together using a sewing machine.
    I’ve also made a 10 foot by 6 foot inflatable American Flag out of the same stuff.
    If ya’ll have questions about how to make a jacket, convo me on Etsy, as I hardly ever check out this site (I get the mag).

  15. I don’t know if this works, but I’ve been thinking lately of taking layers of plastic bags and sewing them together to make a basket to hold recycling, but I don’t know if that would work without fusing. That fumes thing sounds nasty.
    By the way, I would be doing this more to save money than because I think I’m some kind of environmental do gooder (although I try).

  16. actually, according to, plastic bags take 10-20 years to break down back into the earth..not “thousands”, kate. And yes, that means that they are considered ‘biodegradable’. Idk, it seems to me that if fumes really are released into the atmosphere (and potentially one’s lungs) then it’s not really worth the ugly fashion anyways. The only thing I would actually sport from all the crafts above would maybe be the octopus tote, since it’s least trashy-looking (literally)…and maybe the mickey mouse tote and crocheted bags as well, those aren’t so bad.

  17. Hmm, I really don’t think the fumes are a concern, but it never hurts to be careful (and as Bre said, particularly if you are pregnant) but I don’t think anyone need to worry if you take some simple precautions (ventilation).
    About it being an environmental problem, it is because the amount of plastic bags used and thrown away each year is so huge. And 10-20 years means they will be a problem for animals (and will look bad in the environment) even if it is ‘biodegradable’.
    I think it looks cool too, but i guess that is personal. (And depends what you do with it of course). =)

  18. wow, not touching that “which is more enviornmentally concious” argument with a ten foot pole… anywho,
    has anyone tried knitting with the plastic yarn? I’m having a lot of trouble with it. The stitches are way too tight and won’t move on the needle- are my needles too large, or is it just the material?

  19. tooter– hopefully, they recycle them (not within the store– send them away to be melted down and recycled).
    that is, if you actually trust them to. i doubt the stores actually all do send them to be recycled.

  20. this goes out to all the people that think that a little fumes from this may hurt the world. the very small amount of fumes that may come from this is like a needle in a haystack. the only thing that really hurts the enviroment is big things like industrial air pollution, car emmisions, and big “out of control” fires out in the west. these possible fumes are not to be conserned about, just don’t do it in a non-ventitated area.

  21. The idea that just a “small amount of fumes” can’t really be harmful is spurious. If you think that your tiny little emission is meaningless, think again. You’re being selfish and self-indulgent just so you can do something “crafty.” You’re fooling yourself into thinking that because you made some plastic bags into something cute that you WOULDN’T OTHERWISE HAVE BOUGHT, you’re doing something good. You’re not. You need to STOP using plastic bags or reuse them forever, start using re-usable canvas bags, and START buying things that are made out of recycled plastic bags. Eg. fiberfilled jackets, lumber-substitute, etc. And I do recall hearing that the fumes from melting/burning plastic are TOXIC to birds, so I’m not so sure it’s a great idea to do it with ventilation–don’t kill yourself, just kill the birds!!! I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade, but we need to think more deeply on this. Thanks for hearing me out. I appreciate your creative energy and thirst for beauty!

  22. I must say, get a grip with the arguments.
    I have been surfing the web all day, bookmarking anything I could make. I crochet, so this was perfect! Thank you. I’m going to the beach soon, and a plastic bag bag would be perfect, and with a family of six, I have enough safeway and target bags to make an army of totes!!!

  23. I found this on Etsy.
    “About the fumes;
    Shopping bags are made of polyethylene, which is a combustible material. When you burn it, it breaks down into carbon dioxide and water. This is exactly how some municipalities deal with their LDPE “recycling”; they incinerate it. This is unlike polystyrene (styrofoam) that a cocktail of toxic vapors when burned. Burning PE plastic has the same hazards associated with it that burning wood and other combustible materials have. Inefficient combustion releases carbon monoxide, which can be deadly.
    As long as your area is well-ventilated, you should be okay. I can’t speak for the safety of the inks in the plastic, however.”

  24. I saw some people said they didn’t have a sewing machine. Mine recently broke and I used the iron to fuse the edges together, I actually liked this better because I felt it was more of completely recycled style.

  25. everyones going on about how difficult it is to recycle these plastic bags y dont we all just quit using them.that way all the top markets and fashion houses etc will stop buying em from manufacturers who in return will stop producing em.Its demand that keeps production going out there.
    I reckon strong paper bags that are biodegradable and which u can reuse several times are the best option.
    The crafts ideas are great but only if they dnt exceed the damage that these plastic bags cause.

  26. You don’t have to live under a rock to think plastic bags are biodegradable. Here in the UK more than 3/4 of our supermarkets use recycled and biodegradable carrier bags. That’s why I’m worried mine will fall to bits, I’m hoping to sell recycled crafts for charity.
    As for releasing CO2 into the atmosphere, they will do that when they break down anyway. The ozone is depleted by CFC propellant gases so it’s aerosols not bags to worry about.
    Sometimes you have to use a bag, when you’ve forgotten to take a bag from home and I often rescue them from friends’ bins. So it’s always good to be able to recycle them. I’ve been knitting with chunky needles as it’s a bit easier.

  27. I’ve made several trips to India where the only plastic bags allowed are biodegradable. We’ve tried reusing them and they don’t last very long. If left out in the sun they begin to biodegrade pretty quickly (couple of weeks) and are too weak to be used to hold anything. The plastic bags there are not recycled, just thrown on the ground in many places when they are no longer able to be reused. The bits of plastic bags end up blowing around, but it is easy to see that they are biodegrading. I assume this would not happen as quickly in a colder climate, but I wouldn’t want to take the time to make crafts out of biodegradable plastic bags. Biodegradable plastic is being made in the USA, but most plastic bags here are not yet biodegradable. Even the biodegradable ones aren’t very good enviornmentally because they’re made from corn, which could be used instead to feed people and animals.

  28. I want to make my own sandwich wraps and had the idea of using fused plastic bags. Either fusing them and sewing them to fabric, or actually fusing them to the fabric. My questions are, has anyone tried fusing bags to fabric, and do you think the plastic would be safe enough to use as an eating surface?

  29. These are great ideas! I use tote bags, so do not get plastic shopping bags from the stores. But I have been looking for something to do with the bags a lot of food comes in. Especially number 4 plastic, which is not recycled where I live.

  30. Bod extruded plastic mesh & nets are manufactured in China from the highest quality polymers through a unique thermoplastic extrusion process to produce many variations of thermoplastic nets. For example, plastic net bags, protective sleeve, bath ball, etc.

  31. Theres a lot of mention about the fumes that fusing bags give off and I have to say.. so what. As a substance, Plastic gases. its what it does, heating up the plastic simply speeds up the process, so for those of you that are harping on about the fumes Id suggest that you get rid of all the plastic items in your homes, for plastic off gases constantly.

  32. yeah, i just now found this after looking for things like this for years, and it took googling melting plastic gases to get here… awesome entry!
    over a year ago i made a small line of clothing out of old plastic bags as part of an installation i did for this experimental theater event/exhibition in Shanghai. I made undies, shirts, a skirt, and a button down (out of that packing plastic sheeting that i don’t know the name of). i had a lot of fun using it as ‘fabric’.
    if anyone would like to check it out, look at “A Taste of Red” on my website:
    It’s true that using plastic in any projects raises the environmental questions, even when it’s recycled, which is why i haven’t used it since, but as a conceptual art tool it can be really powerful. it did a great job of shoving consumerism and waste and environmental issues (among other things) into peoples’ faces. so, i guess u just gotta pick your battles.

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  34. plastic bags are used to make rain coat. fantastic idea. plastic bags for buying clothing canbe made into raincoat. as the rain coat what we buy in the shop are tearing and the size keeps changing especially for children we can make this idea work well as generally we get lot of thick plastic bags and we do not know how to use them. thank you.

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  36. I’ve been using some of my plastic crocheted totes for 8 years. If you keep them indoors away from sunlight except for hauling in groceries, they last and last. They do stretch with use and I have to remind baggers to keep the loads light. Not for the sake of the bags but for my load limit. I made some small enough to use for loose fruit and vegetables.
    I hardly ever get a bag any more but friends keep me supplied. Since each tote uses close to 100 bags, I think I’m doing my bit to keep them out of the landfills. I take the end and pieces back to stores that claim to recycle them.

  37. very interesting article! I will follow your themes.
    Can I subscribe to your posts on Twitter or on your Facebook profile?

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  42. You people are ridiculous, although I must admit that I’ve never laughed as hard in my life until I read your followers comments. Can it be true that you honestly don’t have anything better to do than complain about the toxins that are released from a harmless craft. I am truly disgusted.
    Factories pump out unimaginable amounts of destructive gases everyday and landfills are being poured in the oceans by the tons. If you spent haft the time and energy you’re useing to complain about ridiculous “DANGEROUS TOXINS FROM A HARMLESS CRAFT” and spent that time into stopping major problems in society, the enviorment, and politics than the world would be a better place. Thank you for further convincing me that I have no more hope in humanity. Is this what they teach you in school?

  43. Love the comments. I recently did some research about burning plastic bags as accidentally did just that in my home and I was worried about the fumes. From what I’ve been able to gather, dioxins are not released from the type of bags that are made from LDPE plastics, only from burning materials made from PVC. However, I did find this report which talks about the ash left over from various burned plastics.

  44. Awesome post on different kinds of plastic bags and their uses in routine life. Got lots of good and new ideas which i don’t have knowledge and not thinking use of plastic bags about them. Thanks a lot. Keep sharing.

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