Introduction: Useful & Durable 7 Strand Rope (cord) From Plastic Shopping Bags

Picture of Useful & Durable 7 Strand Rope (cord) From Plastic Shopping Bags

I basically combined two other instructables that I've read in the past. One was making plastic "yarn" out of plastic shopping bags.  I guess people here are calling it "plarn" now.   The other was braiding cordage/rope from smaller strands of string/thread/cord/rope. Both techniques I've found highly useful with a lot of my projects.

With this one I combined both and made a very useful cord/rope out of mere shopping bags that were going into the recycling bin anyway. The end product is pretty handy. It's very strong, it's waterproof, and it's practically free.

I'd be willing to bet that if I took 7 of these ropes (that I made here) and wove them into a larger rope, I could easily use it to tow a car!  No seriously.

Now a few people have made ropes from plastic bags here on instructables, but they twisted them.  This project makes a much more aesthetically pleasing braided 7 part rope. 

You could use it for pet leashes, fishing stringers, shoelaces, camping gear, jumping ropes, or even a rock sling.  The limits are practically endless. It would make a great boy-scout/girl-scout or school project too. For ideas with what you can do with the rope just search here at Instructables for "knot" or "decorative knot". My personal favorite is "Monkey Fist"... look it up!

So make your own and please let everyone know what you used yours for!  If you send me a picture I'll post it on this instructable!

Step 1: Materials List

Picture of Materials List

1 or more plastic shopping bags
1 small piece of cardboard
1 pair of scissors

Step 2: Science (Math) Content

Picture of Science (Math) Content

Ok, I have to admit that I'm really bad about converting the stupid English measurement system to the much easier to use Metric system.  So if you are reading ANY of my instructables and I forgot to convert, PLEASE DO NOT hesitate to point it out!

I want to give everyone an idea on what they can expect.  Your project will differ a bit depending upon how thick you cut your loops, how wide your bag is (which effects how long the loops are), and how many strands you decide to use in your braid.  So keep that in mind.

I wish more people who write instructables did this kind of thing!

So on to the Science/Math!! Or MATHS for you English people!  Let's run some numbers!

I cut my loops with a width of roughly 3/4 inch (roughly 20mm).  The length of the loops were roughly 18-19 inches long (45cm-48cm).  Using 7 strands (of 18-19 inches, 45-48 cm) in my weave I got approximately 8 inches of weaved rope (20cm), but this was un-stretched.  When I stretched it, it lengthened out to 13 inches (33cm).   In other words each set of 7 loops I get 70% of that length in weaved rope.

I am getting about about 20-22 loops per plastic shopping bag.  Divide that by the number of strands in your weave (in my case that is 7), and I get just about 3 sets of 7 per bag.   Now I multiply that by 13 inches (33cm) of weaved rope per set of 7 loops and I get 39 inches (3.25 feet or 99 cm, so approximately 1 meter) of rope per plastic bag.

Now you should have an estimate of how many plastic bags you will need for your project.

Step 3: Cut Your Plastic Loops From the Plastic Shopping Bag.

Picture of Cut Your Plastic Loops From the Plastic Shopping Bag.

Start by taking a plastic shopping bag, flatten it, and fold in the sides (pic 1).  Then fold one side over (about 3 inches worth) toward the other side (pic 2).  Continue doing this until you have a plastic bag strip (pic 3 & 4).  

Starting from the bottom of the bag, cut a strip about an inch thick, discard this piece because it's the sealed bottom part of the bag.  What we want is loops so the next strips will be loops.  Now cut strips, I cut strips about 3/4 of an inch thick (about 20mm).  Continue cutting strips until you reach the top of the bag.  I got about 20-24 strips out of a bag.

Step 4: Expand Your Loops and Connect Them.

Picture of Expand Your Loops and Connect Them.

If you take your cut strips and expand them out, they should make a bunch of plastic loops.  Mine were about 18-19 inches long when expanded (or 45-49cm).

Take two loops and connect them together, as shown in the pictures.  Then pull the two loops tight and you've got a plastic "sring" which is roughly two loops long.

Now you need to make 7 more of these "strings".

Step 5: Tie Your Plastic Bag "strings" Together.

Picture of Tie Your Plastic Bag "strings" Together.

Take all the 7 ends of your 7 strings and tie them together in a simple half hitch knot as shown in the pictures.

Step 6: Make Your Circle Loom.

Picture of Make Your Circle Loom.

I cut one of the top panels of a cardboard box off with my scissors.  Then cut it in half to make a square.  Then I cut the corners of the square to make an octogon.   Cut slits into the flat size of the octogon about a half inch toward the center.  Then cut little triangles off the openings of these slits to make threading your strings easier into these slots.  Next using the point of the scissors poke a hole large enough for your seven strings to fit through.

Step 7: Set Up Your Circle Loom.

Picture of Set Up Your Circle Loom.

Now taking each seperate string, thread them each into one slot.  Notice you will have 1 slot empty, this is needed in order for us to begin weaving the braid.  If things look a little messy to start with, don't worry about it.  Once we start weaving the braid it will look better.

Step 8: Weave Your Strings Into a Rope or Cord.

Picture of Weave Your Strings Into a Rope or Cord.

Hold your circle loom as shown in the first picture, with the unused slit towards the top (but actually just a bit to the right.  Now clockwise from this open slit, skip 2 strings then pick up the third one, pull it out of it's slit, move it up to the open slit and secure it.

Now you just repeat this process over and over again to weave your rope.  Every so often slightly pull on the end of the weaved rope from the bottom.

Twisting the strings while doing this produces a neater final rope.

When you get low on what is left of your strings, add another loop worth of length to all 7 strings. Don't worry about all seven lengths ending up being the same when you add loops. The longer you do this the more off they will get.

Experiment with changing the color of plastic bags you are using.  Generally just having one of the 7 strings a different color, won't really produce a noticeable change.  So I'd suggest changing the color of 2-4 of the 7 strings.

Step 9: Advanced Weaving With the Circle Loom.

Picture of Advanced Weaving With the Circle Loom.

Now I found a slightly faster way to do this weaving.  Once you've got the simple method down (step 8), then you can try a slightly more advanced method.

Holding the open slit in the upper right.  Weave up (the 3rd string clockwise) with your right hand.  Then turn slightly clockwise so the open slit is in the lower left hand, and weave DOWN (the third string clockwise from the open slit) with the left hand.

Once you've got this down, it goes fairly quickly.  In an hour I was able weave 3 plastic loops worth of length.

Again when you get low on what is left of your strings, add another loop worth of length to all 7 strings.  Don't worry about all seven lengths ending up being the same when you add loops.  The longer you do this the more off they will get.

Step 10: Plastic Rope!

Picture of Plastic Rope!

When your rope is long enough tie off the ends the same way we did when we first started.  Step 4.  

I'm still working on mine, because I'm thinking of weaving a belt out of it.  Which will be another instructable entirely.

Update:  I've got about 15 feet to date (4.5 meters) (10/20/2010)

Step 11: Things Made With This Plastic Rope (STAY TUNED)

Ok, I have a problem in that I get so excited in making things, that I don't take pictures while I'm making it.  So I have to make a second one to take pictures of the various steps from which I can write an Instructable on.  

ROCK SLING:

Well it happened to me again!  I got inspired by this Instructable  and used my method of making plastic rope to make a rock sling.  I spent an entire weekend weaving the darn thing because the following weekend we were going camping and I'd have an opportunity to test it out.  I just wish I would have snapped a picture of it before we did.  

The sling worked great and looked pretty darn cool, if I do say so myself!  It just so happened that one of the people that we went camping with (and I didn't know that until we got there) was an experienced rock sling guy.  I had tried it myself (I've never used a rock sling before) and quickly realized that there was a skill that I'd need to develop in order to get any good at it.  Well the one gentleman that we went camping with asked to try it out and boy can I tell you he could whip those rocks further and faster than I could.  He could even hit near targets with it.  Unfortunately he was so good with it that one of the other guys that went camping with us wanted to try it out and learn it too.  Well we were near a lake and he was practicing slinging rocks out into the lake.   Quite to my disappointment he let go of both ends and I just got to see my nice new sling fly out into the lake and sink.  We even took the boat out to see if it might have floated but we were unable to recover it.

I knew I would have to make a second one in order to show here and to write another, separate instructable on.  So stay tuned and I'll have pictures of my second version of rock sling in another couple of weeks.

UPDATE:  I have about 1/2 of the Mark II done.  I should have the rest of it done in the next 2 weeks.

BELT:

I'm also still working on weaving a belt out of my plastic braided rope as well, but it's just taking me a while to get enough of the rope made to weave the belt with!  I've got about 8 feet of it made so far.

BELT UPDATE :  As of 10/19/2010 I've got just over 15 feet of rope made.  Instead of watching the insipidly stupid reality television shows that my wife INSISTS on watching.  I just sit there and weave my rope.  All the while uttering a mechanical; "yeah", "oh", "ok", or "hmmm" so that she actually believes that I'm listening to the mindless drivel, even though I have my mp3 player playing an audio book to my earbuds.

If this Instructable inspires you to make something, please take a picture of it so that I can post it here!

BELT UPDATE 2: I have about 25 feet of this rope made

Comments

wimwright made it! (author)2016-03-23

I tried using the cardboard loom, but it got flimsy pretty quick on me, probably from a combination of making it too small and putting too much tension on the strands. Instead, I started using the top cut off a plastic bottle, and that's been working great.

MistyW (author)2015-08-15

How many feet can you make in an hour?

DrPeper (author)MistyW2015-08-20

I think you could do about 4 feet in an hour.

MistyW (author)2015-08-15

eyeintheskyism made it! (author)2015-07-04

made about 10 feet of rope so far. ive even tryed other materials such as yarn and ribbon. the loom is the best.

natelea (author)2014-11-28

I haven't finished reading, but thanks for putting this part in! It's really helpful to know approximately how many bag I'll be needing!

ajones97 (author)2013-11-06

I spooled the core n it went fast. I also made a 32 slot loom to make bags. It made the bottom a breeze then I macramed the top.

ajones97 (author)2013-11-05

Have you used this to sheath another cord. I've been using it to sheath my reverse twist and it solves the unraveling problem .(BTW you free hang your spool for the inherent twist and the tightness of the twist is the strength. I use 1/3bag strands and tie down comercial loads with them.)

DrPeper (author)ajones972013-11-05

I actually have used it to sheathe other items, but it's difficult to do by hand. I'm hoping that once I make a mechanical braiding machine, this will make it easier.

ajones97 (author)2013-11-04

Try the reverse twist method. It is faster and the tensile strength is much higher.

DrPeper (author)ajones972013-11-04

Hello! Thank you for your comment. I personally don't find the reverse twist method to be of much value, particularly with this material. It produces an inherent twist into the cord, and braided offers much more flexibility. I've never found reverse twisting to be anywhere near the tensile strength of braided, but maybe that's just me?

psycophonic (author)2013-10-31

As already said.. great use for your old bags. On your next rope sling why not put a loop at the 1 end to make it numpty proof as 1 end will always stay with the slinger.

DrPeper (author)psycophonic2013-10-31

I actually did do that, the numpty didn't use it!

bcavaciuti (author)2013-10-30

cool ible and i will probably try this some time its a good skill to know...just saying us english dont use the imperial system anymore except for miles which are slowly leaving. we use metric for the majority of things including measurements.

DrPeper (author)bcavaciuti2013-10-31

Yep, I was aware of that, that's why I wrote all the measurements with Metric as well. Personally I'd love to see the Imperial system be phased out in the US, but it doesn't look like it's happening any time soon.

ezbuzzit (author)2013-10-30

great use for old shopping bags. :)

DrPeper (author)ezbuzzit2013-10-31

Yeah, I get a kick out of finding new ways to utilize them.

Doohickey (author)2013-02-06

I made a 'stretched' version of the loom, which has a slit rather than a round hole in the middle and I plan on using it on the seatbelts of our car to stop them from digging into my neck. I wonder if it will work on 'flat' surfaces as well? We will see! ;)

P.S. My mother made a small, wooden version of the loom with pins in the middle so you can put them together and take them apart without wrecking it. She uses it to 'color code' her USB cables :D

DrPeper (author)Doohickey2013-10-31

Wow! That seatbelt idea sounds interesting.

Your Mothers idea sounds interesting as well. Love to see pictures of both.

Housedog (author)2013-10-29

Great ible!
Can't wait to do something with it.


Nice dig at your wife for her time wasting habits! lol

DrPeper (author)Housedog2013-10-31

Hope to have inspired you. And for a time there I was so sick to death of watching "America's Next Top Bimbo".

freeman.matt (author)2012-12-01

Thanks for this walkthrough. I used it to make a twine overbraid on an electrical cord... worked great.

http://imgur.com/a/ELRXF

DrPeper (author)freeman.matt2012-12-01

That is AWESOME!! Great work!

Boppylop (author)2012-08-29

Awesome! Ive been looking for a rope or cord just like this, and this is free and a good pastime! THANKS SO MUCH!!!

DrPeper (author)Boppylop2012-08-29

I'm glad you found it. I'd love to see pictures of your final project?

Boppylop (author)DrPeper2012-10-23

I wish. Between school, homework, and the surprisingly large stack of books im currently reading, i dont have the time right now.

doxiemama (author)2012-06-21

I love this. I've made cord like this with yarn but plarn never occurred to me. So, do you just tuck the ends in as you go?

doxiemama (author)doxiemama2012-06-21

Oh never mind.....I read again....there are NOT knots because you are working with LOOPS. Thanks.

mole1 (author)2011-11-16

Wow! This is a great ible!
Braiding cord is a life skill useful to anyone anywhere. I especially like the cardboard loom - light weight, free, and easy to make. Thanks for sharing this!

DrPeper (author)mole12011-11-17

Thank you. I just used this technique to weave 7 strands of white 100lb dyneema (think spectra, the stuff they make bullet proof vests out of) fishing line. To make a super strong and smooth cord. I wanted a cool lanyard for my leatherman, but I think I'm going to try weaving a bow string for my long bow the same way.

geckotui (author)2011-09-28

forgot to tell you that since I am quite hard on things I figured I would wreck the cardboard quite quickly so I used the lid from a 2 L plastic ice cream container to make my circle loom

DrPeper (author)geckotui2011-09-29

Brilliant! I like it. Capital thinking. Truth be told the corrugated cardboard that I use does wear down a bit during the braiding. But it also doesn't harm the Plarn either. But I will definitely expand my material source options on my next project.

geckotui (author)2011-09-10

Amazing !! I gave it a whirl and at first I thought it would taker forever then couldn't stop making the plastic yarn ! The "rope" is growing and growing as you can't wait to see what the next lot of plastic bags color looks like - I plan on using this for a clothes line on the deck but it could well turn up in arty gift wrap ties, decorations for a yurt or whatever else takes my fancy. Thanks for this and I have a use for all those bags and a talking point for our visitors who are all whizzing off to try it themselves !

DrPeper (author)geckotui2011-09-12

I'm happy to have inspired you! I've actually woven a bag out of them too using a circle loom. But I just haven't had the time to finish the Instructable on it.

I'd love to see pictures of your rope so that I could post them on the project page?

geckotui (author)DrPeper2011-09-28

Hi again
here is the first section of the rope I made from your instructable :) I am wrapped with it - learnt that I should have looped the joins but went for a textured look at the beginning and it came out too thick where the joins were so quickly learnt to leave out the knots ! I have used cornflake bags, bread bags and a red shopping bag that gave neat colors - then added frozen bean wrappers, frozen pea wrappers and whatever else came to hand !
Here's the photo so you can see it and feel free to use it wherever you want.
Thanks again and you have inspired the ladies at my craft group as well !

geckotui (author)geckotui2011-09-28

A close up of my rope for you to see
thank you !

DrPeper (author)geckotui2011-09-28

Wow this is great! I hadn't thought of doing one so colorful. The most that I've done is to keep them all the same colors then abruptly changing the color to brown bags, which makes bands in the length of different colors.

Glad to have inspired you!

ShirCraftalot (author)2010-12-11

wow, a great instructable !!!
I really want to try it out sometimes, it looks a great "on the go or in the row" project too. I wonder how it feels working with a cardboard loom, I think it's a pleasant feeling, and along with the sound of ristling plarn ...
O my, I HAVE to finish my christmas cards first, and a present for my pregnant friend ...
Succes with the belt and the sling shot, a great pitty it got lost, but mostly a second time makes it better ;-)

DrPeper (author)ShirCraftalot2010-12-17

Thank you! The Sling is almost done. All that is left is the knot at the top and to finish weaving the projectile basket. But I'm sitting on publishing this one until there's a good contest to enter it into. The belt I'm still working on from time to time. I'm still trying to get enough length for the final weave. Plus I have to start thinking about a buckle. I need to find someone with a piece of ruined luggage or backpack to harvest parts off of.

rimar2000 (author)2010-09-22

Great work, thanks!

DrPeper (author)rimar20002010-09-28

DrPeper (author) says: Gracias, señor! Me gustan tus proyectos también. En concreto;

Torno del pobre (poor man's lathe)
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