Introduction: Recycle Plastic Shopping Bags Into 'Yarn'

Picture of Recycle Plastic Shopping Bags Into 'Yarn'

Recycling plastic grocery bags and plastic shopping bags is nothing really new, but I like to do my recycling without smelling up my environment. If you merely return your bags to your local grocer for recycling, they will melt them down to make new bags. This emits more pollution into the air. I have also discovered that fusing plastic bags with an iron releases noxious fumes into your home and I don't think that's any better. So, in come the scissors.

Step 1: Lay Out a Plastic Bag.

Picture of Lay Out a Plastic Bag.

The best bags for this are the really thin ones you get from the chain grocers and places like Walmart. The thicker ones are more difficult to work with.

Lay out a plastic bag, tucking in the side seams and smoothing the bag flat. It doesn't have to be perfect.

Step 2: Cut Off Very Bottom of Bag With Scissors.

Picture of Cut Off Very Bottom of Bag With Scissors.

Cut off the bottom edge of the plastic bag with scissors. Make sure your scissors are sharp as dull scissors will not work very well to cut plastic bags.

Step 3: Fold Bag.

Picture of Fold Bag.

Fold bag lengthwise, as pictured.

Step 4: Cut Folded Bag Into Strips.

Picture of Cut Folded Bag Into Strips.

Now, cut the folded bag into strips that are about 1 and 1/2 inches wide. You don't have to be perfect on this either. It's just a guideline, so there's no need to haul out that nasty, little ruler.

Keep it simple.

Step 5: Unfold One of the Cut Strips and Begin Joining.

Picture of Unfold One of the Cut Strips and Begin Joining.

Unfold one of the cut strips. You need to be careful here because they will sometimes tear on the fused seam.

Grab a second cut strip and unfold it. Loop it around your thumb and index finger and hold the rest of it in your fist.

Step 6: Continued Bag Joining.

Picture of Continued Bag Joining.

Bring the loop in your right hand over the loop strip in your left hand.(The 1st pic in this step.)

While maintaining the loop in your right hand, grasp the strip from your left hand and pull it partially through the loop in your right hand. (The 2nd & 3rd pics in this step.)

Step 7: Finish the Bag Joining & Snug the Knot.

Picture of Finish the Bag Joining & Snug the Knot.
Put your left hand through the left most part of the strip you just passed through the loop in your right hand and let it rest on your left wrist. (1st pic in this step)

Grasp the other end of the strip that was passed through the loop in your right hand with your left thumb and index finger. (2nd & 3rd pics in this step)

Draw the part you've pinched in your left hand through the loop on your left wrist. Continue pulling the knot tight. (4th, 5th, & 6th pics in this step)

Here is a short video of how it works:

Step 8: Finish Joining Bag Loops & Begin Crocheting.

Picture of Finish Joining Bag Loops & Begin Crocheting.

Continue joining bag loops until you've used up all your bags.

The resulting yarn is best crocheted with a size K crochet hook (or larger). See the pics in this step to see how I started crocheting a door mat and then continued adding strips to the end of the 'yarn' to continue crocheting.

Step 9: Finished Crocheted Shopping Bag.

Picture of Finished Crocheted Shopping Bag.

These are pics of a shopping bag made from 124 recycled grocery bags, all from the same store.

The pattern for this bag can be found at: <>

I have been informed that the afore mentioned link is no longer valid. Please try this one:

I crocheted my round until it had 64 stitches around. I then kept crocheting those 64 stitches in the round until I wanted to do my handles.

When you get to the point where you want the handles: Place marker and single crochet 7 sts, chain 18, count 18sts from where you did the 7th single crochet and slip stitch to here. Single crochet 14 stitches. Chain 18. Count 18sts from where you stopped the 14th single crochet and slip stitch to here. Single crochet 7sts. Join with a slip stitch to Beginning Single crochet (by marker). Chain 1 and turn. Do at three more rounds like this for strong bag handles.

Remember you're carrying groceries in this.


Starsword7 (author)2014-11-19


Great use for plastic bags!

ConnieW9 (author)2017-07-07

I also do a couple of rounds inside the handle "loops" for additional handle strength.

Nasleelisa (author)2016-08-05

I made a bag of shopping bags some years ago... i really would have shared the pictures if i still had it...

muzcee (author)2008-04-08

Nice work, But you you must have too much time on your hands :)

tldudenhoeffer (author)muzcee2008-04-08

Quite frankly, I tell everyone that time is the only thing we have more than enough of. You have to decide what you want to do with it. Knitting & crocheting are things that can be done while walking, watching tele, riding the bus, waiting for an appointment. So, it's not a matter of too much time, but a matter of how to allocate the free time God has given you while you're waiting for the rest of your life to get moving. ;)

I crochet in waiting rooms much more than I would like to admit... XD

Lyndamo (author)tldudenhoeffer2012-11-09

What a Perfect Response. We all have these pockets of time that are .. stagnant, for lack of a better word, some read, some think, some listen to talk radio, some just veg out... We get to pick what to fill these unavoidable times with. I, too, crochet while stuck anywhere or riding in car while Husband drives. I wish I had Too Much Time but I don't. I fill what extra time I have with what I love to do and from it emerges fun and usable objects/items.

Thank you for this tute. I have not seen it and I love reusable bags so this one will be on my to-make list. I just got a huge hook--maybe an S or so and I think that's the one for this job. See you with a pic of the finish someday soon. Thanks again.

ben.hollingbery (author)2015-03-25

Would this work in making 3d printing filament?

solar world (author)2015-03-19


kc8hps (author)2011-11-30

This brings back memories. My grandmother 40 years ago did this. she would crochet the bags and make oval rugs out of them. they were strudy and thick, she used them as entry mats at the doors of her home. being water proof they lasted a long time.

kbp555 (author)kc8hps2015-01-18

Your comment reminded me of my grandmother. She made rugs from dry cleaner bags, which you'd think would be flimsy, but actually made very durable rugs. :)

PieMaster777 (author)2009-08-30

i wonder if i could make a hammok with this

Yes, you could make a hammock with this. I would double up the strips and use a hook 2 sizes larger for it.

NRG4UandMe (author)2014-12-26

its true, u heat to melt these and fumes are given off ... if u do it in a garage or with an adequate fan/filter to pull the fumes out of the area ... at least u dont contaminate the house ..

vcascarano (author)2014-08-09

i am on my 5 th bag these r great it takes me about 2 months to 2 weeks depending on the size i have made a diaper bag for my neice actually these r great for the victims of purse snatcher's so shame on u that steal peoples's purses! i make them nice and thick great for going to the beach! i am a professional crocher's so there!

TN777 (author)2012-12-30

I came up with a a way to weave it to make a yarn for use later.
Fold it in half and braid it. tie the bottom part from step two to tie the weak areas. Tape the tops and bottoms if needed.

Kimmy13 (author)2012-12-09

Great directions :)

pamgotcher (author)2010-11-19

Boy, I was just saying to myself as I read the previous step that this is one of the few times I really wished I could see a video - and there it is! Thanks

Saturn V (author)2010-10-02

WOW! Five stars!

Saturn V (author)2010-10-02

That's pretty cool! I'll have to do this!

mcguinty (author)2010-02-21

This would be perfect for nalbinding. It's a cloth making method that requires you to pass the length of thread through each knot and connect more thread as you go. This results in a significantly stronger cloth and is not as hard as it seems. Here are some links on how to do a few of the variations Nalbinding workshop, Viking History:Nalbinding, and Connecting wool thread. I recommend starting with the Oslo stitch video from the second link.

Mistress_Ariana (author)2010-02-19

I also use this method to make the mat I park outside my front door!  It looks pretty good when done with the beige bags--kind of like a straw mat.  It has enough texture to remove the debris from your feet before you come into the house, it can be tossed into the washing machine on gentle when it becomes dirty (but DON'T dry it in the dryer!), and when the hot Florida sunshine finally makes it give up the ghost, it is cost-effective and easy to just whip up a new one!  Woo  hoo!

Lyssterine (author)2009-11-30


BarginsTech (author)2009-10-16

You can also use the "yarn" strips to tie up plants in the garden. You can tie them tight without killing your plants :]

MaggieTCat (author)2009-09-10

A group here in New Orleans made plastic yarn blankets for homeless people since they were lightweight and pretty water-proof. I've been looking for the directions since, so thanks! =.=

MissPennyFarthing (author)2008-08-02

Cool! Nice instructable! :-) How much weight can the finished bag carry?

We tested it and so far it can carry 70lbs of groceries with minimal stretching. It's super strong! Leigh

How did you fit 70lbs in there? It looks pretty small... Great instructable - I'll have to try it sometime

Wow! That is a LOT of groceries!! Thanks for letting me know! And thanks for the Instructable! :-)

Kalispelldude (author)2009-03-17

there is another grocery bag pattern available here...

weezie putman (author)2009-03-15

Very nice instructions, especially the video.

plzspoilme25 (author)2009-02-27

so has anyone come up with a way to do something similar without crochet? seems alot of us like this but dont know how to crochet

Yes. You can take a box about the size of a Priority mail flat rate box and use it as a box loom and weave the bag. If you decide to weave the bag on a box loom, I'd like to see it.

Here are some links that can help get you started:

Any questions?? Feel free to ask!! Leigh MacD

ah of course.....that would work i'm looking for more of an 'airy' look like the crochet bag, and of course i've done that type of weaving b4 i never get it finished quite right, course having a.d.d. i'm good to get anything finished, at all. i think i'll try the finger weaving method maybe i wont mess it up since the plastic bags will be a wider width. tnx for the advice

Ouchimoo (author)2009-02-11

That bag actually looks so great it makes me kind of wish I know how to crochet.

Sullen70 (author)2008-04-10

I was hoping someone would put up this instructable. Thanks! Our church did a humanitarian project last year, collecting bags and cutting them into strips which we then sent to a group in Africa. The women in this group would make the bags and sell them to tourists. They could feed their family for a month with the revenue from selling one bag.

tachu (author)Sullen702009-01-17

Do you know where in Africa we can send these to?

msdrpepper (author)Sullen702008-07-27

OH what a neat idea! What part of Africa? I could share this with my pastor - he's off to Ghana later in the summer. I really don't know the situation there, how many tourists actually visit the areas where his congregations are, other then the ones that might live near the larger cities like Accra ?

katz (author)Sullen702008-06-13

This is a great! I have come up with some really cool things made by recycling very common things, like plastic bags or beer caps that people in very poor countries can make without spending money on materials and earn themselves a living (like jewellery etc). But I have not found a way of contacting with someone "on the other side" and interested if you can give me contact details or info on how you found where to send it in Africa. Thanks!

Newblit (author)2008-11-24

You should make this into a back pack so you can carry more groceries in it if you ever get a instructable on that I would surely make it.

walkerpedia (author)2008-08-15

that's an awesome bag...just wish i knew how to crochet

marsuecom1 (author)2008-07-30

I really like this idea, will have to try it for sure. Have you ever made it with different colored bags? Seems all I ever get are white ones.

I've done it with all types of colors. We get all the wierd colors for bags and promos all the time. I would have to say that white plastic bags make up about 80% of all the bags out there. At least in the U.S., anyway. Leigh

msdrpepper (author)2008-06-12

I love this idea and want to share it with my grandma who always liked to knit and crochet but nowadays price of yarn is more expensive then she can afford - and we got so many plastic bags, you'd think they were breeding in the dark!

BTW, I wanted to refer her to the link but I got a 404 Link Not found error - is there a better URL address for the pattern? (as in "...The pattern for this bag can be found at:
" which was quoted up in the beginning part of the instructions.).


I have posted an alternate link that came with the pattern. It is

I have also updated the instructable so it is current. Thank you for letting me know!!!! Leigh

cool!! Thanks! so this one is shown in yarn but it makes up okay using the plastic bags as well??

The pic in step 9 is the one made from plastic bags with the modifications for the handles. I included the original pattern with the mods because it's much stronger with grocery bag type handles. If you make straps or just one, long strap, it's not as strong.

casey321b (author)2008-07-10

this is cool. i saw a video in the make magazine podcast. WHEN BRE WAS STILL DOING IT!!!! (sorry just needed to bring that up here) and made the yarn but i found it was very fragile and would rip. is There any way to strengthen it? I think I already have an idea but still i would like more.

casey321b (author)casey321b2008-07-10

and i forgot to ask. is there anywhere that is a really good site that teaches crochet?

cooltogo (author)2008-06-11

This is really cool! My grandma used to make rugs out of discarded stockings. I was too little to understand the mechanics, and your instructions on tying strips together would work for old nylons, too. I think a plastic bag or nylon mat would be great for getting out of the shower and not get cold feet on the tile.

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More by tldudenhoeffer:How to make home made sheep milk or goat milk cheese!Card weaving - how to make your own cards from recycled materialsKool-Aid wool batt dyeing
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