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.
Starsword79 months ago


Great use for plastic bags!

muzcee7 years ago
Nice work, But you you must have too much time on your hands :)
tldudenhoeffer (author)  muzcee7 years ago
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

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.

Would this work in making 3d printing filament?

solar world5 months ago
kc8hps3 years ago
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 kc8hps7 months ago

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. :)

i wonder if i could make a hammok with this
tldudenhoeffer (author)  PieMaster7778 months ago

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

NRG4UandMe8 months ago

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 ..

vcascarano1 year ago

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!

TN7772 years ago
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.
Kimmy132 years ago
Great directions :)
pamgotcher4 years ago
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 V4 years ago
WOW! Five stars!
Saturn V4 years ago
That's pretty cool! I'll have to do this!
mcguinty5 years ago
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.
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!
Lyssterine5 years ago
BarginsTech5 years ago
You can also use the "yarn" strips to tie up plants in the garden. You can tie them tight without killing your plants :]
MaggieTCat5 years ago
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! =.=
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! :-)
there is another grocery bag pattern available here... http://www.myrecycledbags.com/2007/12/02/recycled-grocery-tote-bag/
Very nice instructions, especially the video.
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
tldudenhoeffer (author)  plzspoilme25 6 years ago
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
Ouchimoo6 years ago
That bag actually looks so great it makes me kind of wish I know how to crochet.
Sullen707 years ago
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 Sullen706 years ago
Do you know where in Africa we can send these to?
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 Sullen707 years ago
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!
Newblit6 years ago
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.
walkerpedia7 years ago
that's an awesome bag...just wish i knew how to crochet
marsuecom17 years ago
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.
tldudenhoeffer (author)  marsuecom17 years ago
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
msdrpepper7 years ago
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: http://orangeflower.typepad.com/orange_flower/2008/02/crochet-basket.html
" which was quoted up in the beginning part of the instructions.).

tldudenhoeffer (author)  msdrpepper7 years ago
I have posted an alternate link that came with the pattern. It is http://chickpeastudio.typepad.com/chickpea_sewing_studio/2008/02/the-little-croc.html

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??
tldudenhoeffer (author)  msdrpepper7 years ago
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.
casey321b7 years ago
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.
and i forgot to ask. is there anywhere that is a really good site that teaches crochet?
cooltogo7 years ago
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.
Badgergirl7 years ago
Hmm. This looks really cool. Is there a way I could do it without crocheting?
tldudenhoeffer (author)  Badgergirl7 years ago
If you wanted to, you could knit it. Another way would be to get one of those cool looking knitting boards and do it that way. I've heard a lot of people weave them, but I don't like the weaving because it's too thin. When I want something super strong, I just crochet it!!! Leigh
casey321b7 years ago
ive done this. it takes a while but i recomend weaving and not knitting or crocheting. even easier that that is plastic bag fabric http://www.instructables.com/id/Plastic-Bag-Fabric!/
elfian7 years ago
Im proud to say that the fate of even more platic bags has been altered by thie post,Im having fun with it ,its very addictive and actually comes up looking pretty good too."I cant believe its plastic!"at least its not synthetic posing as wool or cotton.Ha Ha!Thanks for the great tip on the cutting.Im thinking of crocheting a sculptural piece of a human to make a statment of some sort about the connection between the human need to create convience without concience and the possibility to transform those disasters.
tldudenhoeffer (author)  elfian7 years ago
I think that would be a very interesting project!! When you get it finished, be sure to submit it to the Makezine Blog and the Craftzine blog.
LOL Good thing I searched before I posted my instructable... i make my plastic yarn just like you do. Well, just about, but yea. Good job!
Well done!
cyberdove7 years ago
Since most plastic bags are biodegradeable, I wonder how long a finished project will last before it degrades.
I always thought plastic bags are NOT biodegradable.
Yes, since a few years ago all plastic shopping bags are biodegradeable. Same with things like rubber bands. Ever notice how modern rubber bands fall apart after a year or two?
I can not confirm this statement (...all plastic shopping bags are biodegradeable.). Would you please provide me with a lead or something that could confirm that? Many thanks, BurtVD
My bad. Not all plastic bags are specifically biodegradeable, however according to Wikipedia "Current research demonstrates that paper in today's landfills does not degrade or break down at a substantially faster rate than plastic does" Hence, plastic bags are not "forever in the landfill" but do in fact decompose. So probably making items by knitting plastic bags would not be much of a problem if the item is kept indoors. Reference link:
I have a particular aversion to those plastic grocery bags. Living on a busy roadway I have had to watch as the roadside has increasingly been "trashed" by them - with little evidence of biodegredation. I keep all my incoming bags in a large cookie jar and use them to collect the kitchen organic wastes, hoping that somehow this "waste" will elevate the breaking down of these bags at our landfill. It did surprise me reading your statement and I have read the Wikipedia coverage. In the New York area, newspaper paper has become so expensive that people "steal" bundles from the sidewalk on "trash" pickup day. And, not too long ago, there was a special enforcement group that tried to stop this from happening. I do go on, sorry. Many thanks for your reply. I love this site.
Silence BurtVD7 years ago
From what i know, biodegradable plastics break down in direct sunlight or in the harsh conditions normally atributed to composting. It takes a while but they get brittle before they break down completely. The urban tumbleweeds you see on your street unfortunately wont break down for quite some time tho.
Ockette Silence7 years ago
But what do they break down into?
Silence Ockette7 years ago
Eventually its supposed to break down to its component compounds... This article seems to cover it better than i can in few words.
Biodegradable plastic.
Only if they are made from corn oil instead of petrol. and even if they are biodegradable they will not break down uless they are burried in a compost pile or another place where they are able to be broken down. I made a vase type thing with this method about a year ago, I learned how from a show called uncommon threads on the diy channel. It came out a little warped though because of the gauge difference that happens naturally when you have no controll over the gauge. Needles to say I now keep plasic bags in it. :)
mrfoltz7 years ago
Great Job!!! My Mother used to crochet plastic bags like this until she passed away in 2000... She would give a bag to everyone, they were great for the beach or going to the swimming pool or even to the grocery store... In-fact, when I was cleaning out her apartment I found 2 huge garbage bags full of crocheted bags so I gave them to everyone I knew.... and anyone who would take one... now I wish I would have saved a bunch for myself.....
I really like this bag without using the "fuse" method. I'd been thinking of some sort of project using bag-yarn, and I like what you've worked out here. Like you, I do most of my crochet while waiting-- kids at ballet, kids at tennis, doctor, dentist...Nice Instructable!
double27 years ago
My ex's mom did this but I never knew how she did it. Supposedly her bags were water tight for her son, a river guide. I learned how to crochet a while ago and have thought of doing this but wasn't sure how to. Thanx for the info. About how many bags did you use to make this? About how many pounds can/do you carry in the bag? What size hook did you use? About how long have you been using your bag? Loved your belief on time!!!!!! toootles.emmi
tldudenhoeffer (author)  double27 years ago
It depends on the size you want to make. I used 124 bags. This bag is not water tight. It can be hosed off to clean it. It holds about 30 pounds of groceries with minimal stretching. I used a size N crochet hook.
chabias7 years ago
I love 'plarn'. The possibilities are endless! I hope to make a new patio mat for my camper.
littlecog7 years ago
Just to let you know the knot you used to tie two lengths together is referred to as a 'larks head hitch'. Used a lot in kite construction.
edenza7 years ago
Is it sized so you could put a bag inside like a liner?
billien7 years ago
cool i always wondered about the best way to cut the bags into strips and how to joining them up
edenza billien7 years ago
Same here. I thought about cutting a kind of zigzag pattern (so it would unfold kind of in one strip) but this seems sturdier for the purpose. Easy enough to alter to a knit pattern too.
msdrpepper7 years ago
OH how cute! I have scads of blue newspaper bags, already long and tubular! Now I just need to hunt for the instructable on how to crochet!! ;-)
Lintballoon7 years ago
How funny! I recently found instructions on how to do this by searching the web. Even though I bring cloth bags when I grocery shop, I still end up with tons of bags, so I decided to crochet a bag out of the bags. (I had seen these years ago at church craft sales, and also at the Plastics Museum in Fitchburg, MA, a fun place to go for geeks, by the way) It's funny to see it here. The instructions I downloaded were from a native Alaskan, and her bags were beautiful. Mine will be a, uh, conversation piece at best. I do find it soothing and satisfying to work on.
johnpr7 years ago
i love it! great work and way to help the environment, i will have to pass this on to my mom.
I have a bag my grandmother crocheted, in the '60s, from recycled bread wrappers (it was exhibited in a show at the Museum of CA in Oakland a few years back). How great that this idea is being renewed! :)
rafagama7 years ago
Mereces un premio.
T3hpw9ag3 7 years ago
This instructable should definitely be posted in the go green science fair category, I would definitely vote for it. Pretty novel idea, I would never have thought of it. Not to mention the bag is probably super strong and will last forever.
cool I'm ganna do that now while listening to music!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!by the way people go to my file and look at how to teach ur dog stay.
ohwiseone7 years ago
Great idea, dont these bags biodegrade these days?
tldudenhoeffer (author)  ohwiseone7 years ago
If the store you shop at is asking you to recycle them, provides a collection bin for them, or provides a monetary incentive for you to re-use them, then chances are they're not biodegradable.
rhubarb7 years ago
That a real labor of love. Great idea. What are you going to crochet with it next?
tldudenhoeffer (author)  rhubarb7 years ago
I'm making a striped doormat now. The ones you buy at fleetfarm always fall apart and I want to try this.
i was so impressed by the idea. gave the link to my friends and what a way to make a difference to our environment. i'm learning to knit ...if not i shall find some other means to join the yarn .
blodefood7 years ago
This is great for regular plastic bags. Beware, though. There are many shops who are switching to the biodegradeable bags for non cloth bag users and in a few months your creation will be in tatters.
Tailslvr7_77 years ago
A nice way to help the enviorment! Unfortunatally, I don't know how to knit. 10/10.
piper12347 years ago
aah that was like a mystery movie i never imagined the end that bag is super resistant and will last at least 5000 years :O ; ) u can use variety of color to have a nice combination
theslaminj7 years ago
That is sooo cool. An awesome way to create a reusable shopping bag out of 124 other bags. That bag looks really strong too and should last a really long time. Kudos!
JohnStump7 years ago
My mother makes bathroom rugs from bread sacks and knits them. They're great as they hold the water and it eventually dries. No soggy messing cloth rug in front of your shower.
tldudenhoeffer (author)  JohnStump7 years ago
That sound like an awesome idea!!! How does she cut them??? How big does she make them?
Amir7 years ago
That is so cool. Its going on my green project to do list. How long would you say that bag took you from start to finish? Thanks
tldudenhoeffer (author)  Amir7 years ago
If you do it as you go to the store, it will take you about a month for a family of 3. If you gather up all the bags from your friends & fam, it'll take you about 2 to 3 days, if you keep at it.
topazeyes7 years ago
I just use the bags as trash bags for the toilet trash can.
pb3007 years ago
Nice idea! I work at a grocery store and the reusable grocery bags are gaining a lot of popularity. while not as eco friendly as your idea its better then nothing. Shopping bag "yarn" has been around for awhile though. Its called spectra and is extremely strong. Although you really only see it used for wakeboard tow ropes.
kd1uc pb3007 years ago
Kite fliers have been using Spectra for about 20 years now. Strong, light, low stretch but low melting temp. Cotton and some Dacrons will cut you every time they cross your line and bye bye kite.
andrew_297 years ago
thats totaly fly dude thats crazy ironic
in2ws7 years ago
That is so cool! It has this African folk art feel to it. But it does kind of looks like you are playing w/ used condoms in the pics - not that there's anything wrong w/ that, if that's your thing...
Silver_Duck7 years ago
Very cool...I like the idea of making a bag into a bag...it's pretty funny but great results
thats awesome, makes me wish I could crochet
hellasman7 years ago
golics7 years ago
Thank you. This is realy nice bag. :)
Fruppi7 years ago
I've been meaning to do this for a while...thanks for the instructions!
swedo7 years ago
Vey nice instructable. Good work!
pyro137 years ago
This is such a good idea, i would recommend on getting a patent on it. It's just that good!! Think you have any ideas on how to make a grocery bag armband?
hippojoe7 years ago
Great Instructable, but I think that is called a goose head-knot.
LinuxH4x0r7 years ago
Nice! I was going to try to melt these into sheets
bgugi7 years ago
whoa... that's pretty trippy. a plastic bag made out of plastic bags... my head hurts...
this is one gnarly instructable. kudos!
Lego man7 years ago
Well, You got to it first... I made a bunch of pictures to start an instructable on this and I made one on my plastic bag knitted purse, but you did it the exact same way. Good Job +1
I guess yours is better for the environment than Plastic bag fabric I think.
blckpythn7 years ago
What a great recycling method. Nice job, that bag looks like you put a lot of work into it.
tldudenhoeffer (author)  GorillazMiko7 years ago
Yea lot of fun and very well worth doing. I stuffed it to see if it will hold the weight and it definitely holds the weight and a lot of groceries (about 25 items, including canned goods) without stretching. The nice thing is that if it gets dirty, I can just hose it out and let it air dry.