Introduction: Plastic Bag Bag

Picture of Plastic Bag Bag

There are at least a couple of other instructables for similar projects already, including this one, showing a similar crocheted tote, and this one, showing a knitted plastic handbag.

I use this as a motivation to never forget my reusable bags. Every time I forget them and end up bringing a plastic bag home from the store, I have to save it and eventually crochet it into a reusable bag. This has worked on me. I am getting really tired of crocheting plastic.

My stupidity and lack of discipline has paid off, though, in that I think I've nailed down the elements that make up a good, sturdy plastic bag bag. The flat, structured bottom lets you set your bags on the counter for easy packing and unpacking, and the attached handles are strong enough even when the bag is loaded down.

I am way too stupid and lazy to count stitches and come up with an actual stitch-by-stitch pattern, so you will have to eyeball things a little as you go along to get it the size and shape you like.

What you'll need:
A whole lot of plastic shopping bags
Crochet hook, size N

Step 1: Make Plastic Bags Into Yarn

Picture of Make Plastic Bags Into Yarn

Note: I make yarn as I go along, so I only cut up one bag at a time. I find this is a little easier for me, as I don't have to keep track of a whole bunch of yarn at once, and it's slightly less tedious when you switch between cutting yarn and crocheting.

First, flatten your plastic bag as neatly as you can.

Keeping the bottom seam as flat, fold the bag vertically until it's maybe an inch wide, as shown in the second photo.

Snip off the bottom seam.

Cut the bag into strips anywhere from about .5 to 1 inch wide. This doesn't have to be perfect, and it doesnt' have to be consistent, so as long as the strips are thick enough to stay intact, and thin enough to work with, as in the third photo here.

Unfold the loops and connect them by using a girth hitch, described here. Pull the previous loop taut before attaching the next, so the loops are evenly spaced.

Step 2: Make the Bottom of the Bag

Picture of Make the Bottom of the Bag

The bottom of the bag is a simple rectangle shape, for stability.

In this case,I've crocheted about 30 rows of 12 single stitches to form the bottom. You can vary the size, of course. I've found that a size N crochet hook is ideal for this.

Note that this made a humungous bag, and the bottoms always seem deceptively small to me.

If you want a more traditionally sized grocery bag, you'll want to make it more like 10 stitches across, maybe 20-24 rows.

Step 3: Finish the Body of the Bag

Picture of Finish the Body of the Bag

Once you've completed the bottom of the bag, you'll crochet in the round to complete the body. On the first body row, crochet two single stitches into each corner stitch, and crochet the rest normally.

Continue crocheting in the round, using single stitches, until the body is about the size you want.

Step 4: Add Handles

Picture of Add Handles

Note: If you prefer, you can count stitches to place the handles, but I've found that it's hard to accurately pinpoint the edge of the bag, and I get better results just eyeballing the bag and starting the handles where it looks right. Also note again that I am lazy and not particularly fussy.

Once the body of the bag is complete, you'll add the handles. Integrated handles work best for grocery bags, because they're more secure and less likely to unravel when you're carrying heavy loads.

To start the handles, flatten the bag, then measure equal distances from each edge to indicate where to start the handles. Place four markers at the positions where the handles begin. The handles will work outward, so you may want to make the openings slightly smaller than you picture the finished product. See the second photo for an illustration.

Continue crocheting the next round as usual, but when you reach the first marker, crochet a chain stitch, slightly longer than the gap between the first and second marker. See the third photo for this.

Attach the chain to the second marker, then continue crocheting until you reach the next marker, then chain stitch as with the previous, and attach again at the final marker. Do not make the handles too long, as they're pretty stretchy.

Crochet two to three more rounds, until the bag handles are the desired thickness, making sure you have the same number of rows in each handle.

Once the handles are complete, continue crocheting to the edge of the bag, then finish off, and you're done.

Now keep making these until you run out of disposable bags.

Step 5: Astonish Passersby With Feats of Strength

Picture of Astonish Passersby With Feats of Strength

To demonstrate the capacity and stretchiness of these bags, here is one I've been using for over a year, filled to the bag's volume capacity with cans and jars.

The bag does stretch to accommodate what you put in it; and the handle stretches as well.

The final picture is the bag after I emptied it again. As you can see, the handle has stretched over time, which is why it's important not to make the handle too long in the first place. The handle is still very sturdy, though, and the body of the bag has no permanent stretching or breakage.


kaldirris (author)2010-11-22

I saw a post elsewhere that suggested laying out a few plastic bags (folded to the desired size) between two old towels, and ironing them on medium-ish heat - it fuses the plastic together, thus making a strong piece of plastic. I bet that would work very well as a bottom support for these bags. In fact, when I finally get around to using the 3 - 8" diameter plarn balls I already have, I'll let you all know how it turns out! LOL

marthazim (author)kaldirris2014-09-07

When I was young, and we needed to fuse something that would melt easily, we used newspapers to enclose the material to be used. Be quick about pealing off the paper, though.

marthazim (author)2014-09-07

A paper cutter is wonderful for making uniform cuts in the bags to be recycled. Also, I have a lot of short ends of regular yarn that can be crocheted around to strengthen the handle, or to be crocheted with the plarn (making a 2-ply type plarn/yarn combo) in the top of the bag and handle to keep it from stretching too much. This can also be done for the bottom to strengthen it. Just an idea, as I have not tried it out yet.

chocolatechip (author)2013-05-21

Bag bag?

Kimmy13 (author)2012-12-09

Thank you for sharing :) Your instructions are wonderful.

darrenchittick (author)2010-12-22

Is that guy actually wearing one of your plastic bags on his "area?" ;)

I just made a small one of these a couple weeks ago on my knifty knitter to see how it went. Super easy project with a great outcome! Thanks for doing this instructable! It helps reuse plastic bags without making us all look like plastic bag users. Very important for the rep!

It is fun to knit plarn on a loom. See my comment.

Mauigerbil (author)2011-07-29

I once knitted a cosy with a loom for a water bottle with two colors of plarn: white with a grey stripe at the top. I would just wash it with soap and water if it got dirty

desya (author)2010-08-07

you can use the plarn and a knitting loom ...... I made this hanging planter

Loamette (author)2010-04-30


Mistress_Ariana (author)2010-02-19

I've been making things out of these plastic bags for a while now, and one thing the beige ones come in handy for is the mat you park outside your front door! It looks like a straw mat, the crochet leaves it bumpy enough to clean a lot of the debris off of your feet before you come in the house, they stand up to wet conditions, they can be laundered in the washing machine on the gentle cycle when they are dirty (just DON'T dry them in the dryer!), and when they finally wear out (the hot Florida sunshine does a number on them over time) it's relatively cheap and easy to just whip up another one! The bags also make excellent pool/beach bags, as the plastic will hold up--even if you stuff wet items into it!  I can't praise them enough!  Have fun with your new-found "yarn".  One word of caution: it can become addictive! LOL

zimitt (author)2009-08-05

I have noticed that plastic bags have a grain (for lack of a better term). If you try to tear a bag in the up and down direction it will follow the tear in the same up down direction and tear quite easily. If you try to tear it from side to side it will not tear and will usually change to a up and down direction. Cut a long strip of bag 2" wide out of plastic from both directions. Do a test. It is much easier to break the one cut from the horizontal. Just think how strong the handles of a shopping bag are. Your handles should not be breaking when they are many times as thick as the original bag. I know it wont be so easy to make loops that join together but if you change the direction of your strips you will have a much stronger bag. Maybe you could just change the direction for the handle part. Just my 2 cents.

kdom22 (author)2009-05-20

LOVE this use for old bags - plus, I can crochet without ending up with a big bulky blanket that we'll never use (we have about 3 at this point - as do all my relatives!). I just started mine, but realized that I made my bottom in a series of about 15 long rows, as opposed to your 20x10. I hope this doesn't make my bag any weaker, bit I fear it will. This plastic is hard to unravel! Also, I'm using an "I" size hook, and it seems to be working well enough. I wish I could find my "K" - would make for easier going! Thanks for the great instructable!

erosser (author)2009-02-26

A great idea! You even got some color-coordination, it looks like.

jazzcat22 (author)2009-02-25

Great instructable! I have crocheted two plarn bags, but I'm going to try this one because I like the idea of the flat bottom. One tip I can add is that I discovered that some plastic bags have a sticky spot at the top between the handles (on both sides) where the bags were stuck together in the dispenser at the checkout. My crochet needle was continually getting gunked up (a little WD40 took it off) until I figured out what was going on. I make sure to cut that part off the bag before I even start folding it to cut into rings. Hope this helps someone.

StarrsWife (author)2009-01-23

I am new to this site so please excuse my naivety, but since I have become obsessed with upcycling my plastic bags I'm reading ALOT! Is it possible to a plastic bag version of classic crochet "felting" buwith plastic? How about combineing the crochet & fusing technique for strenth? Crochet the bag "really big" then iron it? It was just a thought! :)

lisarea (author)StarrsWife2009-01-23

I don't think the felting would work because it works by tangling up and shrinking the yarn fibers, and plastic doesn't work that way. The fusing might be interesting, though. I'd really like to see that. It would make the bag less flexible and expandable, but I don't think you'd have to make the bag too big. Maybe you could even just try to fuse the bottom so it's more rigid, and leave the sides and handles unfused so those would still stretch and fold up. Hmmm. I have to make some new bags like this right now because I keep giving them away, but maybe after I do that, I'll start experimenting with your fusing idea if that's OK. If you try it, let me know so we don't duplicate any efforts.

StarrsWife (author)lisarea2009-01-24

Yes....definently try & let me know

Jonny 5 (author)2009-01-14

Really cool idea.

WhateverNotListening (author)2008-10-14

Now I have my motivation to really learn/apply basic crochet. And, this'll use up the 5 billion bags we have stuffed in a sack "to recycle", which hasn't happened yet.And, NICE vintage photo...where's that time machine, again?

Isn't he awesome? That's turn of the century "strongman" Eugen Sandow. They have lots of high resolution pictures and even old film of him at the Library of Congress' website. And thank you! Feel free to let me know if you have any questions or if anything needs clarification.

Toffy (author)2008-10-11

Love your bag and this bag seems to hold a good load. Nice instructable too. Well Done.

tea_lover (author)2008-08-30

Only problem with these bags is that the plastic stretches if you put anything remotely heavy in them, and the handles tend to snap too. But thank you for putting up this instructable. Do you know you can use old VCR tapes to make bags too?

lisarea (author)tea_lover2008-08-30

Thanks for the input. Yeah, those really are issues, and I tried to address both of these. I probably didn't emphasize that well in the instructions, so I'll go look over it and see if I can clarify better. The handles are a big stress point, and they did start to break when I used different handle styles. That's why I make the integrated handles, which distribute the weight better. As far as stretching goes, they stretch quite a bit, but that really has only caused a problem when the stitches are too big--pretty much anything bigger than a single stitch--and when the handles are too long, which can make them drag on the ground when you're carrying them. As I said, I've made quite a few of these and I've tried to address these and other problems I've had with the earlier ones. I've been using these ones for a while, and so far, they've held up without problems even hauling big loads of cans and things like that.

jeff-o (author)lisarea2008-09-01

Could you stitch around some sort of stronger supporting structure, like a coat hanger or something? That might help distribute the weight of the bag across the entire body of the bag, instead of just the handles. It would be like an underwire on a bra.

lisarea (author)jeff-o2008-09-01

Maybe I didn't do a good job of explaining this, but while those are common problems with plastic bag bags in general, this design is made specifically to address those issues. It's the whole point of the instructable.

I've made probably 20-odd bags, and tried a bunch of different things, and this incorporates all of the little tweaks I've found that make for a strong, durable bag.

The major elements are the yarn width and stitching (the width of the strips, hook size, and single stitching only); the structured bottom to distribute the weight; and the short, integrated handle, rather than one that's made separately and then attached.

One of the bags in the final picture has been in very heavy use for about a year or so, and it's carried loads of cans and bottles that were almost too heavy for me to carry.

So, see, if you make the bags any stronger, you're going to have to hire people to help you carry them. And nobody wants to see that.

jeff-o (author)lisarea2008-09-01

I suppose you're right, if the bag is stretching too much then you're trying to carry too much! A coat hanger was just an example though, you could re-use any stronger material that's lying around: a piece of extra twine, some binding straps, pieces of packaging, whatever. I also should have mentioned, this is an excellent use for old plastic bags!

lisarea (author)jeff-o2008-09-01

I just added a new step at the end to illustrate what these bags can hold, and how much stretching to expect with use.

Yellow84 (author)tea_lover2008-08-30

Wouldn't the bag become stronger? It looks like she twisted the plastic when she crocheted it.

tea_lover (author)Yellow842008-08-30

It does make it slightly stronger, but the plarn still stretches. I have a friend who makes these bags a lot (I have made one but did not like the way it stretched, I just use my plarn to make scourer pads now) and the way she got round this was making the plarn wider (so 2-3 inch wide strips) as well as twisting, AND lining the bag with fabric (calico is her fabric of choice, though she does use scraps such as old jeans and duvet covers).

billien (author)2008-08-29

very cool

mossDboss (author)2008-08-29

Awesome instructable. We have tons and tons of plastic bags at my place. Now I know what we can do with them. Thanks for sharing.

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