Introduction: Fusing Plastic Bags- the Eclipse Way

Picture of Fusing Plastic Bags- the Eclipse Way

There are a lot of tutorials for fusing plastic bags, but I get asked frequently for directions so I figured there must be room for one more. I have noticed every tutorial I read has differences and my method is not exactly the same as any others. I have done a lot of trial and error and this is what I consider the best, most efficient method with the best results. For this tutorial I will show how to make an appliqued zippered cosmetic bag from fused plastic.

Step 1: Materials List

Picture of Materials List

This is all you need to start fusing:

1. an iron
2. a hard heat-resistant surface like a wooden cutting board
3. baking parchment paper.
4. Some plastic bags! There's no shortage of those in the world, unfortunately.
For this project you need white 3 grocery type bags, some small scraps of colored plastic bags, and one thin clear bag such as a dry cleaning bag or newspaper delivery bag.
5. scissors

For the sewing part of the project you need:
A 7 or 9 inch zipper,
a sewing machine

Difficulty level: easy, but time consuming
Basic sewing skills required (straight lines, nothing fancy)

Step 2: Preparing the Bags

Picture of Preparing the Bags

To prepare the grocery bags for fusing, you need to trim off the handles, and trim off the seam at the bottom. When you are done, smooth out the bag into a flat rectangle.You can leave the side seams connected. You will end up with a double layered piece, like a tube.

Step 3: Start Fusing!

Picture of Start Fusing!

1. Set the iron between polyester and rayon, that is setting 3 on my iron but yours may vary.
2. Open a window- you should do this project in a well ventilated area. You are not burning or melting the plastic, it doesn't get hot enough for that, but it may release some fumes.

3. Cut two large pieces of parchment paper that cover your cutting board.
Whenever you fuse, the plastic will always be sandwiched between these 2 layers of paper.
The bottom layer of paper prevents the plastic from sticking to the board, and the top layer of paper prevents the plastic from sticking to the iron.

You will be fusing 1 bag at a time, which is 2 layers at a time. This project is using 3 bags so it is 6 layers thick. For larger or more heavy duty projects like a backpack, you'd want to use 8 layers of plastic. (4 bags) This applies to thin grocery store type bags. If you are using a thicker plastic bag like some fancy clothing boutiques, you may only need 2 or 3 layers.

4. On the cutting board, lay down one piece of parchment paper, then your bag, then the second piece of parchment paper.

5. Now start to iron the top paper. Press firmly and keep the iron moving, don't let it sit in one spot for more than a second or two.
6. On my cutting board, the whole plastic is bigger than the board. This means I have to iron it in sections. When you have ironed everything covered by the paper, then lift the paper and shift the plastic to iron another section. Continue until you have ironed the entire bag.

7. Now lift the paper and test your fused piece.
Rub the fused piece between your fingers to check for adhesion. If you hear crinkling noise, it's not fully fused. Re-iron any sections which crinkle, perhaps for a longer time or adjust the temperature up a TINY bit. It's finished when the whole thing is one fused layer and there is no crinkling or air bubbles.

Step 4: Adding More Layers

Picture of Adding More Layers

Now you are ready to add the second bag.
This will be the 3rd and 4th layers of plastic.
I always add one or two new layers at a time.
DON'T try to fuse all 6 layers at once, or the middle layers will have incomplete adhesion.

Lay the new, unfused bag on top of the fused bag, cover with parchment paper and iron again, just as you did with the first bag. Iron it in sections as you did the first bag.
Check again for crinkling, and re-fuse any areas which are not completely fused.

As plastic fuses, it also shrinks. This may cause the fused piece to distort in shape or to curl up.
If you find your fused plastic curling up too much, flip it over and fuse the next layer onto the back. This will equalize the shrinkage and flatten it out.

After the first 2 bags are completely fused, add the 3rd bag the same way as the second.
Fuse the third bag and let cool a few seconds.

Step 5: Trim the Fused Plastic

Picture of Trim the Fused Plastic

Now you have a piece of fused plastic 6 layers thick. This is a good usable size to make things with.
I do not like the method of folding a single bag twice upon itself to make an 8-ply fused piece, because it makes such a small piece, there isn't much you can do with it. This method of using 3 or 4 full size bags ends up with a nice sized finished piece. I find these are the perfect size to make cosmetic bags and pencil cases, but if you want to make a large item like a backpack or tote bag, you can sew several pieces together.

The edges are going to be wavy and raggedy and some will be less than 6 layers thick. So you will want to trim your piece to make it a nice clean rectangle. For my bag, I trimmed it to a 9 inch by 14 inch rectangle.

Step 6: Make Your Appliques

Picture of Make Your Appliques

Now comes the creative part!
I like to decorate fused plastic with appliques. I save any plastic bags I get which are pretty colors, so I can use these to decorate a plain white bag. You can do very simple appliques like stripes, or very complicated ones like this insane tree and bird.

For this project, since it is close to Valentines Day, I am doing some heart-shaped appliques.
I have some saved scraps of pink and red plastic, these were handles trimmed from other bags.

To cut a heart shape: Fold the plastic and cut an ice-cream-cone shape against the fold.
Then unfold, and you have a heart shape.

Repeat and make different sizes of heart appliques.

Step 7: Fusing the Appliques

Picture of Fusing the Appliques

For this project since I am making a cosmetic bag, the plastic will be folded in the middle, and the fold will be the bottom of the bag, while the two short edges will be the top. For this reason I am arranging the hearts to be pointy side facing the middle, and curvy sides facing the ends. This will assure my hearts are right-side-up on the finished cosmetic bag.

Arrange your appliques on the base plastic in a pleasing design. They can overlap if you like.
Cover with parchment paper and fuse them in place.

Once all your appliques are in place, you can cover and seal the top with your layer of thin, clear plastic. I use the bags my newspaper is delivered in on rainy days, but dry-cleaning bags also work great for this. This top layer adds almost no thickness but it adds a nice glossy finish and makes doubly sure the appliques never peel up.

Once you have fused the clear layer on top, trim the edges even with your base layer.

Now the fusing portion of the project is finished, and you can put away the iron.
You're ready for the second phase: sewing the cosmetic bag.

Step 8: Setting the Zipper

Picture of Setting the Zipper

Sewing tips for sewing with fused plastic:
You can sew the finished plastic material in the sewing machine or serger.
DO use a longer stitch length, so you won't have too many holes forming a perforated line.(prone to tearing) I use a long basting stitch length.
DO sew small items wrong sides together, especially if the plastic is very thick and stiff..
You DON'T need to turn the seams to the inside like you do with fabric items, because the plastic does not fray. Also, it may be difficult to turn smaller items like cosmetic pouches inside out.
For a larger item like a tote bag you can have the seams on the inside or outside, your choice.
DON'T pin pieces in place, because the holes will not close up.

This pouch uses a zipper, I use a 9 inch zipper but you can also use a 7 inch zipper for a smaller bag.
If you know how to sew, this is basic stuff, just simple zipper application. I am assuming some sewing knowledge and will not attempt to teach beginning sewing in this tutorial.

1. Put the zipper foot on your sewing machine, and sew the zipper face down against the RIGHT side of the plastic.

2. Fold zipper out, so it is face up and the seam allowance is pressed towards the plastic. Use your finger to press it- do not use the iron. Topstitch on the plastic close to the zipper tape.

3. Fold the plastic, right sides together, so that the other end of the plastic lines up with the free edge of the zipper tape. The right side of the zipper should be facing the right side of the plastic. Sew them together, right sides together.

4. Reach inside the bag (it will be like a tube at this stage) and UNZIP the zipper.
Now fold zipper out and topstitch the second edge, just as you did it step 2.

The zipper is now finished.

Step 9: Sew the Side Seams.

Picture of Sew the Side Seams.

For this project, I put the seams on the inside because the plastic was a bit thinner and more flexible than it usually is. I could tell that turning the bag right side out wouldn't be a problem.
However you can also do this with the seams on the OUTside, which I recommend if you are making a smaller bag (like with a 7 inch zipper) or if you have thicker finished plastic.

The only difference in the directions is that if you are sewing right sides together (to make the seams end up inside), make SURE TO OPEN YOUR ZIPPER before you sew up the side seams. Otherwise the zipper pull will be sealed inside and you have no way to open the bag and turn it right side out. (yeah, I have done it. DOH!)

If you sew wrong sides together, this is no worry because the zipper pull is already on the outside.

So anyway just sew your side seams, whichever way you prefer to do it. Easy peasy.

Step 10: OPTIONAL- Make a Flat Bottom for the Bag

Picture of OPTIONAL- Make a Flat Bottom for the Bag

This step is optional.
I make two types of zippered bags: some are flat like an envelope, and others have a flat bottom so they can stand up and hold more stuff.
For pencil cases I usually leave the bag flat like an envelope. If that's the type of bag you want, skip this step. All of my halloween candy fused bags are the flat envelope type.

If you want the 3-D bag with a bottom, here is how to make it.
Fold the side seam towards the bottom fold line, until the corner of the bag makes a triangle shape like in the picture.
Now sew a straight line ACROSS the point of the triangle. (perpendicular to the side seam)
The length of this seam will be the width of the bag bottom. 2 inches is a good width.

Do this on both sides, making the seams the same length.
Now trim off the triangles leaving a small seam allowance.

Step 11: Turn Right Side Out

Picture of Turn Right Side Out

If you sewed it wrong sides together, you are already finished! Yay!

if you sewed it right sides together, then unzip the bag all the way, and gently turn it right side out, trying not to crumple it up too much in the process.
And THEN you are done. :D

Step 12: General Tips and Tricks

Picture of General Tips and Tricks

DO's and DONT'S

DO fuse both HDPE (recycle code 2) and LDPE (recycle code 4) bags (see photo)
HDPE is the crinkly plastic grocery bags, LDPE is the glossy stretchy bags like Target bags, also clear bags like dry cleaner bags.
They will both fuse, to themselves and to eachother. You may need to lower the heat just a bit for LDPE.
There are some tutorials which say you cannot use LDPE, but I have successfully fused it.

DO use all kinds of plastic, not just grocery bags. Use the bags from frozen veggies, use the bag from dried pasta, bread wrappers, etc. You can use potato chip bags inside out to get a silver metallic color. This works better for small appliques than for a large piece, because foil-lined plastic will not shrink at the same rate as normal plastic, so if you try to fuse large areas of foil lined plastic you will get bubbles and puckers..
I particularly love the bags from Ore-Idea frozen potato products. They are thick so you only need 2 layers, and they have the most glorious glossy color. Really nice quality plastic! (see photo)

DO apply the heat a little longer for thicker plastic. You also don't need to use as many layers when you use a thicker plastic.

DO put a clear plastic layer over any vivid colored design you want to show on the outside of the bag. Red ink especially seems to melt and bleed, although the red designs on Target bags do not bleed. You can also turn bags inside out if they have a tendency to bleed color, but this is not necessary on all bags.

DO reuse the parchament paper over and over, unless it gets an ink transfer from a bag. Then you will need a clean piece, because it will transfer that ink back to your next fused piece.

DON'T use waxed paper instead of parchament paper! The wax will melt and make a stinky mess. Waxed paper cannot take the heat, freezer paper is also not ideal because it's made for use with cold not with heat. Baking parchament paper is the best because it's made to withstand heat up to 420 degrees Fahrenheit.

DO use a hard ironing surface such as a wooden cutting board. A hard, smooth surface will help you get even adhesion.
DO use firm pressure when ironing, but keep the iron moving. This isn't like fusible interfacing where you have to keep the iron in place for 10 or 15 seconds- if you do that the plastic will probably burn.

DO fuse one or two new layers at a time.
DON'T try to fuse all 8 layers at once, or the middle layers will have incomplete adhesion.

To see some of my fused plastic finished projects, check out my slideshows on Instructables.


eka1 made it! (author)2015-04-18

Thank you so much for your amazing in-depth tutorial I made one tonight and it came out perfect!!

PiperE (author)2015-01-07

Does it matter whether it's a steam iron or not?

CreativeChloe (author)2014-03-02

Hi there, great tutorial! I'm just wondering... What size needle do you use for sewing fused plastic bags?

JensonBut (author)2013-01-25

Thank you for this. It made my first attempt at this project a breeze and slightly impressed the wife! hehe

michelleisswell (author)2012-12-09

so, what do i do about the logo and design already on the bag? i dont want it showing through and looking tacky....

pippi46 (author)2012-10-09

Hi very nice job, compliments.
I would like to customized with my brand and put it on my website with your name, link. I am Italian and I live in Denver, Colorado.
Would you contact me at

Chrick (author)2012-10-08

Eco-friendly, good looking and uploaded to instructable, what else do you want? ;)

container_gardener (author)2012-08-26

Thank you for recommending bags with recycle codes 2 and 4. That will be very helpful!

marcellahella (author)2012-08-06

thanks a lot! I want to try too! but I m just wanted to ask you if they are hard-wearing (for example to carry groceries) and if they last long time.
but sure they look too cool!

lyecats (author)2012-07-07

Darling idea! Can't wait to try it!

janeycat57 (author)2012-03-11

I love this... I cant wait to make my first shoulder purse with this process.. Do you think the thicker white or black trash bags will work for this ? I would love to have a black shinny purse with my own design in red and white on it... What about grommets , Do you think they would tear the plastic and not stay in ?
You do such a wonder job with this fusing process .. It's different ... you do a wonderful job and all the different things you create are great... keep up the tutorials and your tips are so helpful , thank you for sharing ... Janey

panks (author)2012-02-25

Absolutely, positively brilliant!!! thanks so much :)

BarginsTech (author)2012-02-21

Never thought to describe cutting hearts as you did. An ice cream cone. Love it :] Great 'idble! going to make some myself. Im tired of bringing the bags back to the recycle box at the supermarket lol :]

prickly vegan (author)2011-03-28

These bags look great. Very finished looking, with creative designs.

I love your suggestion of using french fry bags and such, but I have to say I'm a little disappointed to see so many of these fused bag instructables suggesting the use of plastic shopping bags. Reusing plastic that is harder to avoid, such as chip bags, seems like a great way to not send more trash to the landfill or recycling center. Shopping bags and produce bags can be used again though, or just not taken in the first place. I'm not knocking your i'ble here at all, I just hope it doesn't encourage people to go out and take more plastic bags than they normally would, just so they get fun patterns or whatever for their recycled, earth-happy bags.

jonestoy (author)2010-12-14

Very Cool!

Puzzledd (author)2010-11-06

Excellent 'ible, thanks! Very clear instructions and inspiring results - definitely a favourite :)

moona (author)2010-04-01

hi can i use butter paper instead of parchment baking paper

moona (author)2010-04-01

hi can i use butter paper

sunshiine (author)2010-03-09

This looks like a very fun project!  Thanks for sharing!

thisisnotlighter (author)2010-02-07

Does anyone know if this works with Ziplock Baggies? I have zillions of these and wash and reuse them to death... but would be great to put them to rest in something pretty!

longcesttoi (author)2010-02-02

I wish to thanks people publishing instructables about this plastic bags reusing methods as my organisation is setting workshops about it in Nairobi slums... In the name of NGO ni Wewe and the benefitor of those workshops, thank you.

cdawisconsin (author)2009-12-10

After reading your instructable, I added this project to a Go Green Art Camp for five to ten year olds.  They thought it was amazing.  I agree.  Worked great. Thanks.

missmed (author)2009-10-23
Atbirthday parties kids use thee little thin plastic bags to pick up the candy h
like this, would that work ok for the top layer for decoration on the outside of the purse?
meowzebub (author)2009-09-26

does this also work with stiffer &/or thicker bags? I eat a lot of "pre-washed" produce (cut up broccoli/cauliflower/carrot mix, e.g.) & always feel a little ashamed at the non-recyclable bags (6-7 a month of the 2 lb size). Also, frozen foods come in thicker bags (like peas & spinach, I mean). Kind of scared of the fumes so I'd rather not experiment if you already know they won't fuse properly. thanks for the great pix!

eclipsed (author)meowzebub2009-10-12

Yes it works with thicker bags, you just use fewer layers. I have used the bags from Ore Ida frozen potatoes and they work very well. You only need 2 layers for that and it fuses up really nicely.

meowzebub (author)eclipsed2009-10-12

thanks eclipsed! for the info without the value judgements.
I have lots of graphics of fruits & veg that I hope will make a groooovy market tote.

actorintraining6 (author)2009-07-20

i really want to make one of these on this boring summer day.
but, i dont have parchment paper. i tried to use wax paper but it didnt make the two layers stick.....

any suggestions

I suggest to go and get some parchament paper. It makes the project much easier.

JolieK (author)2009-07-24

This is the most thorough tutorial I have seen on fusing plastic bags. Thank you for all the experimenting you've done. Invaluable.

rpaxton (author)2009-05-23

I wish I had seen your tut first! I just made a makeup pouch out of (what I thought was) fused plastic...followed another set of directions that said to stack at least 6 layers all at once. I didn't realize until over halfway through hand-stitching some cut strips together that the middle of my layers fused very little if at all and started coming apart in my hands. I'll be sure next time to do only a couple of layers at a time! Thanks for the tips!

eclipsed (author)rpaxton2009-07-18

That is what happens to me too, if I try to do all the layers at once. A lot of directions say that but it's never worked for me. The heat just doesn't penetrate that deep. Doing 2 layers at a time takes a bit longer but you get a better result, IMO.

ruthy nov (author)2009-05-05

Hi! I'm new here. Why zipper? try stick-velcro. Much easier. Thanks for your tutorial.

eclipsed (author)ruthy nov2009-07-18

I like zippers better for several reasons. They look nicer, close more securely, don't make that ripping noise, and don't get all kinds of fuzz stuck to them like velcro.

olichno (author)2009-06-26

Definitely beautiful and inspiring! Made my first one last week :-)

crak-a-bottle (author)2009-03-24

hey nice tutorial, we hav a plastic bag art comp at skl n I was strugglin 4 ideas. quick question: cud u fuse the seams? I know there is a danger of the bag stickin together but if u put somthin inside (like a piece of metal covered in baking paper) then do u reckon of wud work? cheerz for the great ible xxx

kaylagrl13 (author)2009-03-16

I made one. Mine didn't turn out very well. I had trouble with the zipper, so the top looks funny. It also stinks really bad so i sprayed perfume inside it and zipped it up. Otherwise this is a fun easy and useful project!! =]

mg0930mg (author)2009-03-12

You use a polyester setting on the iron, that would make the plastic fuse...

eclipsed (author)mg0930mg2009-03-12

That s the first thing in step 3: "1. Set the iron between polyester and rayon, that is setting 3 on my iron but yours may vary." However this has no connection to T-shirts, this is fusing plastic to plastic.

mg0930mg (author)eclipsed2009-03-14

I burned through 3 plastic bags then stopped. I FAILED MISERABLY! D=

mg0930mg (author)eclipsed2009-03-12

I realize this. However, he thought you were fusing it to shirts, which I don' t know why. I myself am trying to make a pencil case now. Wish me luck!

goatgirly (author)2009-03-13


arentnancy (author)2009-02-05

As I read about lengthening the stitch to prevent perforating a "tear line" in your project, I wondered if after stitching a seam, could you fuse a piece of plastic over it to seal the seam ?

eclipsed (author)arentnancy2009-03-12

Yes you could do that and it would make the seam waterproof as well. Depending on the complexity of the item though, and the placement of seams, it might be difficult to iron on every seam.

becker (author)2009-03-12

Your bags are beautiful. Very inspiring, I can't wait to try this out. For the clear plastic overlay, could you use the plastic veggie bags from the produce section? Thanks for the instructable.

eclipsed (author)becker2009-03-12

Yes! Those thin plastic produce bags are a good choice, they don't obscure any of the colors or design.

eclipsed (author)2009-03-12

What T-shirt? There isn't any T-shirt involved in this project. It is fusing plastic to plastic.

frogangel (author)2009-02-05

Thanks for the instructions, I've been wanting to do this for awhile, I'll have to give it a try with your detailed instructions.

Bobblob (author)2009-02-02

I was convinced to (successfully) try plastic bag fusing reading another instructable but your instructions and photos on fusing are excellent and can only help improve my technique, thank you. My 1st and only attempt thus far was to cut open a thin grocery bag and fold it over on itself. This allowed me to have 5 layers of plastic bag vs the usual number of even layers of “4 or 6” layers used.

I used the cheapest computer printer I had instead of the "cooking parchment paper" above and below the the plastic sheets and I also placed several layers of newspaper between my bottom sheet of computer printer and the ironing board for better thermal insulation. I didn't want to lose heat to the cloth covered metal ironing board.

These 20 or so sheets of newspaper made for a “soft” surface to fuse the plastic bag sheets and worked well as an experiment to learn the fusing technique.

I'm amazed at how thin, strong and flexible the 5 thin sheets of plastic now into one sheet of plastic bag has become after fusing! I wonder what the different results would be ( if any) using your idea of a stiff thick wooden cutting board and no newspaper insulation? I will try that and give the results here.

Bobblob (author)Bobblob2009-02-03

2nd Try: Setting the iron to the “silk” setting, using NO newspaper or computer paper under the plastic bags as they rested on the plywood sheet made it difficult to get the temp right .. No fusing at all or melting holes in the plastic sheets.

3rd Try: Same 1/4” plywood sheet PLUS 10 layers of newsprint PLUS 2 large sheets of computer paper (Top and bottom).

The computer paper sheets were taped together with Scotch Brand tape at a few places to minimize their relative motion to each other. These two larger sheets of computer paper ( each made of 4 sheets taped together) “sandwiched” the 4 layers of plastic bags between the newspaper and the iron. See photo for details.

Adding the newsprint and the computer paper “sandwiched” made fusing easier and gave more control ( no holes this time).

eclipsed (author)Bobblob2009-02-04

I think the silk setting is too cold, I would recommend the polyester setting, it should be like one notch higher than silk. And always use paper below and above the plastic. If you don't use paper below then the plastic may stick to your board. I also would not iron directly on scotch tape. Tape is made of plastic with a layer of glue, and the hot iron can melt the plastic or make the glue get gooey. If either of these get on your iron, it's difficult to clean off.

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