Introduction: How to Upcycle Plastic Shopping Bags Into a Braided Dog Leash

About: I love to make things & work with my hands. I mostly make stuff for dogs and sometimes I dabble with recipes, too. Right now I'm in the process of setting up a DIY blog for pet lovers.

If you're drowning in plastic bags, you can finally recycle them into something useful! This tutorial will show you how to turn plastic shopping bags into a dog leash.

The leash that I am showing you to make is suitable for a SMALL to MEDIUM sized dog ONLY!!! Don't go walking your 150 pound Bullmastiff with it because it will break when the dog strains on the leash. If you want to make a stronger dog leash, double up the braiding strands or use a thicker plastic.

Since this project is braided with all the strands being the same colour, it might be confusing to one that is just learning how to braid. I have made another four strand braid instructable where all the cords are different colours. Check it out if you need help starting or finishing your braid.

The reason that I really love Instructables is because other members are constantly giving feedback on your design and perhaps on how to make things better. jtobako queried me on the snap attachment and said it looked a little weak, which was a really good point. I haven't had a problem since my dog isn't really a "puller", but it did get me thinking. I did come up with a sturdier way to attach the snap to the braid, which you can seen in steps 20 to 23.

I have just started up my new blog Bloggie Stylish where you can find all kinds of neat tutorials, like this one.

Step 1: Tools You Will Need

To sucessfully make this leash you will need tin foil, an iron, a C-clamp, scissors, a flexible measuring tape, a lighter, some small rubber bands, two hemostat clamps a leash snap and plastic bags, of course. The ironing board is optional, but you will need a flat, heat resistant surface to fuse the plastic bags on.

Step 2: Cutting the Plastic Bags

To make the strips to braid the leash, you will need to cut the plastic bags into strips. Cut the bags into approximately three inch wide, length wise strips in whichever way that gets you the most strips out of your bag.

Step 3: Making the Tin Foil Sleeve

You will need to make a tin foil sleeve to protect the bags from melting onto the iron while you are fusing them. Break off a piece of foil from the roll about two feet long and fold it in half, just like a file folder.

Step 4: Preparing the Strips for Fusing

To prepare the strips for fusing, lay them on the tin foil and overlap them by about half an inch. I pointed out where the strips have been placed together with the screw driver. Now, close the tin foil sleeve, remembering approximately where the seam is.

Step 5: Fusing the Plastic Strips

This part needs a soft touch and is a delicate step. Gently and lightly run the iron back and forth ONE TIME, in the general area of where the seam is. Do this quickly, it literally only takes a second to fuse the bags together. If you press too hard, there is a possibility that you can tear holes in the plastic. Now gently peel back the foil sleeve, not too quickly or you might damage the seam.

TIP- open the window and work with a fan when fusing the strips because the plastic can generate vapors that are unhealthy to breathe.

Step 6: A Proper Seam

This is what the fused plastic strips will look like. Don't get too upset if the bags don't match up perfectly.

Step 7: The Finished Giant Strip

You now have one long strip. To determine how long your braiding strips need to be, break your project into inches and multiply by four. I am making a four foot leash with an extra allowance of five inches for the handle loop, so the total inches of the project is 53 X 4 = 212. Therefore I will need two strands of plastic bag strips that are EACH 212 inches long.

Step 8: Arranging the Strips for Braiding.

Thread the strips through the loop of the snap into two even lengths. Use the C-clamp to secure the snap to a table. Doing this makes the work stable and prevents the snap from twisting while you are braiding.

Step 9: Braiding Move One

A and B are the first strip, while C and D are the second strip. Now take A and cross over B. D lies to the left of B while C lies to the right of C. Keep a constant, light tension on the strands.

Step 10: Braiding Move Two

Now cross D behind B and cross over A.

Step 11: Braiding Move Three

Now take C and cross behind B and over D. To continue making your leash, cross B behind D and over C. Remember that the new strand that you will use to keep making the braid will always be the topmost strand.

Step 12: Wrapping Up the Strands Into Braiding Bundles

Now that you have started the braid, you need to wrap up your strands to keep them from getting tangled and slowing down the braiding process. Starting from the END of the braid, wind each strand seperately around your pinky finger and thumb until you are about four to five inches away from the braid.

Step 13: Securing the Strip Bundles

Remove the little bundle from your hand and loosley secure it with a small rubber band.

Step 14: Clamping Off the Braid

Continue braiding until the length of the braid reaches 53 inches. You can measure it with the flexible measuring tape. When you have reached the required length, use one of the hemostat clamps to clamp off the braid. I have intentionally not clamped of the top most strand, or the strand that you would have used to continue braiding. Using scissors, trim the strands to a length of approximately five inches.

Step 15: Making the Handle Loop

From the END of the braid, measure five inches and fold the cord over. Take a hemostat clamp and insert it underand through one of the strands of the finished braid. Open the clamp, grip the strand that is not clamped and pull it through until the end of the cord touches the other cord, making the handle loop.

Step 16: Backbraiding Move Two

Unclamp the hemostat the is securing the end of the braid. Go the the next free strand that is close to the strand that you just pulled the last cord under. Insert the hemostat under this strand, open the hemostat, clamp the next free strand and pull it through. Repeat this proceedure with the remaining free strands until all the strands have been secured to the cord.

I know that these pictures look very confusing because all the strands are the same colour. I have made another instructable Braiding a Four Strand Dog Leash With Paracord where the back braid process is illustrated with differently coloured cords. Check it out if you need help with the back braiding process.

Continue the back braiding process for two or three inches

Step 17: Finishing the Back Braid

Now that you have finished your back braiding, trim the ends of the strands very close the the cord.

Step 18: Fusing the Ends of the Back Braid

Now to fuse the ends of the back braid to the dog leash. This step will keep the strands from coming unravelled. Two of the trimmed strands will be on either side of the braid. Place one side of the braid face up, close the tinfoil sleeve and gently rub the tip of the iron over it for 30 seconds of so. Repeat with the other side of the braid where the cords are trimmed. To make the handle loop really nice, I take a lighter and place the flame about an inch away from the trimmed ends and melt them really well. Once the plastic gets liquid, I roll the melted piece back and forth to make the area smooth.

Step 19: The Finished Product

You now have made something useful for your pet that is ecofriendly.

Step 20: Alternate Snap Attachment

This section of the tutorial is for a sturdier way to attach the snap to the leash via the back braiding technique. Since you will be starting the braid without attaching it to the snap, gather all your strips together and securely tie them together. You will need a place to attach your braid to. I have clamped a block of wood with an awl stuck into it, but table leg or door knob will do.

Step 21: Alternate Snap Attachment Part Two

You will cross A over B, with D lying to the left of B and C lying to the right of C.

Step 22: Alternate Snap Attachment Part Three

Cross C behind B and over D. You next move to continue braiding will be to cross B under A and over C. Remember that the braid that will always be next to be braided the the uppermost strand. COntinue braiding for five or six inches.

Step 23: Alternate Snap Attachment Part Four

Now wrap a rubber band around the end of the top the braid, run the cord through the loop of the snap and start the backbraiding process described in steps 15 to 18. When you have fused and melted your backbraid, you can clamp the snap to the table and braid the remainder of your leash.