Published on September 22, 2020
I crocheted this beach bag using plastic shopping bags
Turn your plastic shopping bags into something useful
By Jan Edwards
This COVID-19 pandemic seems to be going on forever. Those of us staying home are cooking more; I know I am. I’m re-discovering recipes I forgot I had. Eating more, though, leads to going to the grocery store for more ingredients we need. Inevitably, we are left with lots of plastic bags.
So, what do we do with all those bags? I believe in reducing, reusing, and recycling. I take my own bags to places like Aldi, but at other grocery stores and pet stores, I use their bags for convenience. I reuse those bags for bathroom trash can liners, and cleanups for our pups’ deposits. I don’t know if there is still a store that accepts bags for recycling.
I have discovered a project that uses a lot of those plastic bags and creates something useful made from them. I discovered p-l-a-r-n projects. What is plarn? Well, the “pl “comes from the plastic bags used to make it, and the “a-r-n” comes from the yarn it becomes – hence plarn. It’s easy to make – if I can do it, anyone can. Save your plastic bags, and when you have hundreds of them, just Google “making plarn”. There are several demonstrations - some are illustrations, and some are videos. I found it easier to use a video on YouTube.
Once you have the hang of making the plarn, make up a ball of it, like you would yarn. When you start making plarn, be aware of the colors of bags you get: Walmart bags are soft gray with touches of blue, Kroger bags are tan with touches of blue, PetSmart bags are white with red touches, Dollar General bags are yellow with black touches, Stewart’s and HEB have white bags with red and black. They can all be used together, or colors can be separated out for a different look.
There are numerous plarn projects on the Internet. Beginners often make sleeping mats for homeless people. I would have done this, but I don’t know who gives them out to homeless people, so I looked for something else. First, I made an entry rug – but that didn’t work because it slipped when it was wet.
Then, I stumbled on this beach bag pattern. I made several of them, and they all look different. The kind of plastic bags you use and the type ribbon you decorate with makes then all look different.
The finished bags can be used when you need a big bag - diaper bags, beach bags, even tool bags. All you need is some ribbon, a crochet hook and your plarn.
I’ll share the beach bag project with you. I made two during hurricane Harvey. If you crochet, this is easy. It gives you something productive to do, recycles unwanted plastic bags and makes something you will be proud to use or give.
What you’ll need
Lots and lots of plastic bag plarn (around 200 bags)
Crochet hook size H (I use J because I crochet so tight)
About 17 yards of 7/8” ribbon
Stitch markers or safety pins or paper clips
Needle and thread same color of your ribbon to attach to bag
To begin, first construct the base:
Rows 1-13: Single crochet into each of the 36 chain, chain 1 and turn;
Row 14: Single crochet into the next 35 single crochet, 3 single crochets in the next single crochet at the end of the row (i.e. 36 single crochet stitch) This makes the corner. Then single stitch in the stitches that make up the width of the bag (about 12 stitches), 3 single crochet in the last stitch that makes up the width (this makes the second corner). Now you are on the other side of the length of the base where you originally chained 36. Single crochet in each of the next 35 single crochet, 3 single crochet in the next single crochet at the end of the row (i.e. 36 sc stitch – this will make the third corner). Single crochet in the stitches that make up the width of the bag (about 12 stitches), 3 single crochet in the last stitch that makes the width and slip stitch to join the beginning row.
Now construct the body of the bag
Row 15: Chain 1, single crochet in the back loop only in each single crochet in the round. Slip stitch to join the round.
Row 16: Chain 1, single crochet in both loops in each single crochet in the round. Slip stitch to join round.
Rows 17, 21, 25, 29, 33, 37: Chain 3 (counts as 1 double crochet), double crochet in both loops in each single crochet in the round. Slip stitch to join.
Rows 18, 22, 26, 30, 34, 38: Chain 1, single crochet in both loops in each double crochet in the round. Slip stitch to join round.
Rows 19, 23, 27, 31, 33: Chain 4 (counts as 1 double crochet and chain 1), skip single crochet, *double crochet in the next single crochet, chain 1, skip next single crochet, **, repeat * to ** 54 times, slip stitch to join round.
Rows 20, 24, 28, 32, 36: Chain 1, single crochet in each space in the round. Slip stitch to join round.
Lastly, construct the shoulder straps for the bag
Preparation for placement
Lay the bag flat. Measure 5” in on the right and left ends of the bag and mark with a stitch marker or safety pin. Do this on the other side of the bag as well. The 5” marker is the middle of each strap. This means you will have 4 stitch markers in all (2 on each side of the bag). Crochet the straps to the following pattern:
*Row 1: Slip stitch into the single crochet that is 2.5” from the end of the bag and the stitch marker. Chain 1, single crochet in the next 7 single crochet. (You will have to take out your stitch marker when you do this, but you will no longer need it on this side of the bag.
Row 2: chain 1. Single crochet in the next 3 single crochet, chain 1. Skip next single crochet, single crochet in the next 3 single crochet.
Odd numbered rows: Single crochet in the next single crochet and in the spaces.
Even numbered rows: chain 1, single crochet in the next 3 single crochets, chain 1, skip next single crochet, single crochet in next 3 single crochets. Repeat even and odd number rows until you have 77 rows (I think this is a bit long, shorten to 73 rows) total. Single crochet the strap to the other end of the bag on the same side of the bag making sure that the middle of the strap is at the place where the other stitch marker is. Remove the stitch marker if it is in the way. ** Repeat from * to ** for the other side of the bag.
Add ribbon embellishment in the gaps you created in rows 19, 23, 27, 31 and 33, weave from the outside to the inside. Tack ribbon to bag and to complete the circle, I also use permanent fabric glue to secure the ribbon.
(Write Jan in care of The Bulletin. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Snail mail: The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX, 77516.)