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Picture of How to Make a Rug from Plastic Grocery Bags
In an effort to be "Green," I started saving my plastic grocery bags so that I could return them in large groups to be recycled. I had gathered quite a few bags, but kept forgetting to take them to be recycled. So I first started using them to make plastic "fabric" as seen in this instructable, Plastic Bag Fabric

I then remembered that people used to make rugs by braiding strips of fabric, and then spiraling the braid outward, but I couldn't find an example of using plastic bags to make a rug. So I decided to make my own.

Just a word to the wise, you'll need 150+ bags to make a similar rug, so don't undertake this project if you've only got a few. Also, if you want multiple colors, you must have bags of different colors, Duh!
 
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Step 1: Tools and Materials

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You will need the following tools and supplies:

  • Plastic Bags (150+)
  • Wax Paper
  • Iron
  • Scissors
  • Straight Pins

Step 2: Gathering Bags

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This should be the easiest step. You simply save your plastic bags after you go shopping. If you want a multi-colored rug, you must collect bags of different colors. The easiest way to do this is to shop at different places. Sometimes a store will change the color of their bags, but this is rare.

If you use reusable shopping bags, gathering bags might be quite difficult. If you are really itching to do this project, you could ask your friends and neighbors for bags or you could "borrow" some from the recycling bin at your local grocery store, though I don't condone stealing.

The rug pictured in this isntructable is 33 inches long by 30 inches wide, and contains about 151 bags. Obviously, for a larger rug you need more bags, and for a smaller rug you need fewer bags.

Step 3: Sort Bags by Colors

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Note : If you don't want your rug to follow a pattern, you can skip sorting.

To make creating the colored rings in the rug easier, I took my bags of bags and sorted the various bags into separate colors.

While the blue or yellow bags can be mostly sorted together, the white bags tend to have accent colors that can come out in the finished rug. So I have the "White with Pink accents" separate from the "White with Black accents and etc. See the image below for further explanation.

Step 4: Choosing a Pattern

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If you've decided to make a rug with a pattern, having the bags sorted is a must. You have to look how many bags of each color you have. As the rug grows larger you will need more bags to go around.

In the rug pictured throughout this instructable, (besides the initial white center, and yellow ring) my pattern is Brown-Blue-White. In my case, I only had a few yellow bags, so I used them as a center accent, but I had quite a bit of every other color.

Each rug should be different, therefore, use your imagination and your knowledge of your supplies to design a pattern.

The number of bags required for each ring varies with its size, and how tightly you braid. For example, the inner brown ring has 9 bags, the middle brown ring has 29 bags, and the outer brown ring has 33 bags.

Step 5: Split and Fold Bags

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To make usable strips, you must cut and fold each bag.

The bags are cut along both side seams through the handles. This is the easiest way to get the bag to lay flat, and it also requires the least amount of cuts.

Once the bags are cut, you lay the bag open with the original outside (Pretty side) of the bag down. You then fold the long cut edges inward until the whole strip is about 2 inches wide. The bags will try to unroll, but laying them on the back of chair seem to help keep them in the right shape.


If you have extra-large bags or bags that are a thicker material, you can divide those bags lengthwise (parallel to the original side seam cuts) to make extra strips.

Step 6: Begin Braiding

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If you do not know how to braid, the following Instructable seems to be rather educational, How To Braid.

I first started by tying the first three strips together. I then placed a rather heavy dictionary I have onto the knot, and then started braiding. To make my rug, I braided the initial center white spot. The center is only three strips (bags) so it didn't take very long.

Be sure to leave a tail for each strip. This is where you will tie on the next bag. It is actually better if the tails are different lengths because it will force the continuing knots to be in different places. (more on this later)

As with many projects that become Intructables later on, I missed getting pictures of the very beginning, but the pictures below should explain it okay.

Step 7: Pinning the Braid

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To begin forming the braided bags into a rug, you have to lay the braid in a spiral pattern. As you lay the braid down, use straight pins to temporarily hold the spiral together.

Step 8: Fuse the Backing

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It may be better for you to practice this step first. I first learned this fusing technique from an instructable similar to this one, Plastic Bag Fabric.

Once you've pinned the bags into the proper spiral, you're ready to fuse the backing on. The backing is simply another plastic bag split open. You should have a large enough sheet so that there is overlap all around.

First, put the spiral pin-side down on an iron safe surface. Then lay your sheets of plastic bag(s) over the back of the spiral. Note I put the sheets ink side down so that the ink didn't have a chance to transfer to any other surface. Then lay the wax paper on top of the plastic sheet. The plastic bags will melt to the iron! Be sure to only iron on the wax paper Then iron only on the wax paper for a short time. (The time will vary depending on the thickness of each bag. i.e. thinner bags will melt faster) My times varied from a few seconds to a minute or so.

After you pull away the iron and the wax paper, give the rug a minute or so to cool and harden. If you try to move it around while the plastic is still molten, you may ruin the fusing.

Leave all of the overlap, when you continue the spiral the backing will already be partially in place.

Step 9: Continue Braiding, Pinning and Fusing

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As you continue braiding, pinning, and fusing there are some things you should be aware of.

When you reach the end of a bag, tie the next bag on with a square knot (otherwise known as a reef knot), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Square_knot. The bags will cinch up pretty tight, so most knots will work.

It is much better if the tails of each bag come at different times. When you go to tie the next bag on, your knot will make a tiny bump along the braid. This bump is pretty much invisible, unless all three knots happen at the same time. If necessary, cut the bag strips so that the tails are different lengths. After the initial cutting, the knots should fall at different times.

Step 10: Finishing

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Once you reach then end of your rug, you simply tuck the last tails under the the rest of the rug and continue with the fusing process. Once you've fused the rest of the spiral, and the last tails, you can trim the excess backing off.

Step 11: Position in your Home

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While this rug should be rather durable, it is still mainly a showpiece. The best place I've found to put it is under my chair made from neck ties.
21joelleh9 months ago

How did you tie the reef note? You can only tie them if you have a folded over strip

CraftyTigra2 years ago
My only caution at this point would be to suggest doing this either outside or in a VERY well-ventilated location, since plastic bags release toxic gasses when ironed. Looks great though!
styme3 years ago
small promblem with plastic rugs , once you have it down on doorway entrance , people will slip on it , doesn't matter if you have wet shoes from snow or rain
wisk7783 years ago
Walkerbarb, thanks for the inspiration. I followed these directions and made one of these back in December over Christmas break. It was such fun I decided to make another and maybe learn how to make it by lacing so it would be reversible. (http://colonialsense.com/How-To_Guides/Crafts/Braided_Rugs/Making_a_Braided_Rug.php have the easiest directions i found if you are interested) I just finished this rug today and I'm (hopefully) attaching a picture.
This instructable was very cool beans and inspired me to learn a new skill.
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ladytyty3 years ago
you are so clever! thank you for sharing
My grandmother used to make kitchen rugs out of breadbags. She grew up during the depression, so she was the original reuse/reduce/recycle. First she cleaned and dried the bags then cut them in a spiral method so that it main one long continuous strand. Then she crocheted them in a circle using a really large crochet hook (K, I think for those crocheters out there).

She had stacks of them from years of saving up breadbags. They were actually kind of pretty and VERY useful - especially in the kitchen.
GMG! My grandmother did too. Us grand kids used to cut the bags for her when we were "Big enough to be good at scissors."
The only real difference is my grandmother preferred rectangle rugs so they fit better against the counter at the sink.
All of my neighbor ladies had these in their kitchens when I was a kid
cschulz33 years ago
What if you didn't cut through the handles? if you left the handles in tact, you could then use the handles to tie them together such as what is shown on this site: http://globalflyfisher.com/fishbetter/loops2.htm
what if you braided bags that go out from the center, then you wouldnt have to melt the back, i think that would be easier.
On Family Fun's website they have a rug you make using a hula hoop to weave loops cut from T-Shirts (http://familyfun.go.com/magazine/familyfun-magazine-archive/familyfun-march-2011/hula-hoop-rug-995304/) but I just saw some tiny hula hoops at the dollar store that could probably be used to weave the plastic bags without melting.
walkerbarb (author)  rlnbkseeberger4 years ago
maybe :)
Dnamra4 years ago
Pretty cool project. Does anyone have any idea on how to color the rug so that it will stay clean and not flake off?
Maybe Plasti-Dip in the spray can might work to make these long lasting & easier to clean?
walkerbarb (author)  Dnamra4 years ago
You could try adding textile medium to the paint ... it leaves the paint flexible on fabric... might work, might not... good luck..
myhightide4 years ago
sounds neat
neffk4 years ago
neat-o
Thanks! I was JUST sitting here thinking I needed a rug for the kitchen, but I'm thin on money right now. But what do I have enough of instead? Plastic bags, because I reuse them for trash bags, lunch bags, etc. Looks like the kitchen's getting a new rug this weekend, yay!
desya5 years ago
 I have been wondering how to do since I first saw it about 10 or so years ago...
walkerbarb (author)  desya5 years ago
Now you can give it a try.. have fun
made this .. out of plarn.... and a knitting loom.....
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jeanga15 years ago
Great project... but what about fusing the strips together with the iron method.. rather than tying a knot?
walkerbarb (author)  jeanga15 years ago
That might work..
One would have to be very careful not to over melt....the least of one's problems being creating "hard"  crusty feeling spots.
 
static5 years ago
My grandma crocheted rugs from bread bags, and nylon hosiery , back in the 60's. No doubt she would be doing the same with plastic shopping bags today.
haha me and my mom crotchet plastic bag bags (bags made from plastic bags derr ) and its sooo nifty! =]]
walkerbarb (author)  static5 years ago
Your grandma sounds like a woman I would have liked. She was green before it was "cool"......
bacon lover5 years ago
I wonder if you could make a square rug
walkerbarb (author)  bacon lover5 years ago
You might be able to but it will be tricky because the bags just naturally want to curl and twist. In strep #7 I pinned it until I was able to melt the back so you'd have to pin a square shape before you melt.. Good luck..
ok thanks
This is really neat i would have never thought of this. I hope hot embers don't jump from your fireplace onto the rug in the last pic though! XD
n2gpin6 years ago
My grandmother used to make these out of breadwrappers ... 40 years ago. I guess good ideas live on! Great way to keep harmful waste from the landfill -
randofo6 years ago
This reminds me of the Wonderbread Rug they have on display at the American Folk Art Museum. It's basically a large rug woven from strips of wonderbread bag an old lady collected over many years. They found it in her home after she passed. Anyhow... very cool.
This is so sweet. I've been saving up plastic bags for years due to a hoarding complex. Now I know what to do with them.
walkerbarb (author) 6 years ago
Glad you both liked it... it was fun to make...I had all the bags ready to take to the store recycle bins when I decided to make this rug....now there are endless possibilities going through my head ... coasters??
mrbob10006 years ago
man, i have hundreds of these around my house and we always recycle them (either by putting them in the bag recycling box at the grocery store or by making things out of them.) i have got to try this!
ChrysN6 years ago
This looks great. It's a shame though, I've been using a reusable grocery bag so I don't have any more plastic bags at home.