Introduction: How to Make a Rug From Plastic Grocery Bags

In an effort to be "Green," I started saving my plastic grocery bags so that I could return them in large groups to be recycled. I had gathered quite a few bags, but kept forgetting to take them to be recycled. So I first started using them to make plastic "fabric" as seen in this instructable, Plastic Bag Fabric

I then remembered that people used to make rugs by braiding strips of fabric, and then spiraling the braid outward, but I couldn't find an example of using plastic bags to make a rug. So I decided to make my own.

Just a word to the wise, you'll need 150+ bags to make a similar rug, so don't undertake this project if you've only got a few. Also, if you want multiple colors, you must have bags of different colors, Duh!

Step 1: Tools and Materials

You will need the following tools and supplies:

  • Plastic Bags (150+)
  • Wax Paper
  • Iron
  • Scissors
  • Straight Pins

Step 2: Gathering Bags

This should be the easiest step. You simply save your plastic bags after you go shopping. If you want a multi-colored rug, you must collect bags of different colors. The easiest way to do this is to shop at different places. Sometimes a store will change the color of their bags, but this is rare.

If you use reusable shopping bags, gathering bags might be quite difficult. If you are really itching to do this project, you could ask your friends and neighbors for bags or you could "borrow" some from the recycling bin at your local grocery store, though I don't condone stealing.

The rug pictured in this isntructable is 33 inches long by 30 inches wide, and contains about 151 bags. Obviously, for a larger rug you need more bags, and for a smaller rug you need fewer bags.

Step 3: Sort Bags by Colors

Note : If you don't want your rug to follow a pattern, you can skip sorting.

To make creating the colored rings in the rug easier, I took my bags of bags and sorted the various bags into separate colors.

While the blue or yellow bags can be mostly sorted together, the white bags tend to have accent colors that can come out in the finished rug. So I have the "White with Pink accents" separate from the "White with Black accents and etc. See the image below for further explanation.

Step 4: Choosing a Pattern

If you've decided to make a rug with a pattern, having the bags sorted is a must. You have to look how many bags of each color you have. As the rug grows larger you will need more bags to go around.

In the rug pictured throughout this instructable, (besides the initial white center, and yellow ring) my pattern is Brown-Blue-White. In my case, I only had a few yellow bags, so I used them as a center accent, but I had quite a bit of every other color.

Each rug should be different, therefore, use your imagination and your knowledge of your supplies to design a pattern.

The number of bags required for each ring varies with its size, and how tightly you braid. For example, the inner brown ring has 9 bags, the middle brown ring has 29 bags, and the outer brown ring has 33 bags.

Step 5: Split and Fold Bags

To make usable strips, you must cut and fold each bag.

The bags are cut along both side seams through the handles. This is the easiest way to get the bag to lay flat, and it also requires the least amount of cuts.

Once the bags are cut, you lay the bag open with the original outside (Pretty side) of the bag down. You then fold the long cut edges inward until the whole strip is about 2 inches wide. The bags will try to unroll, but laying them on the back of chair seem to help keep them in the right shape.

If you have extra-large bags or bags that are a thicker material, you can divide those bags lengthwise (parallel to the original side seam cuts) to make extra strips.

Step 6: Begin Braiding

If you do not know how to braid, the following Instructable seems to be rather educational, How To Braid.

I first started by tying the first three strips together. I then placed a rather heavy dictionary I have onto the knot, and then started braiding. To make my rug, I braided the initial center white spot. The center is only three strips (bags) so it didn't take very long.

Be sure to leave a tail for each strip. This is where you will tie on the next bag. It is actually better if the tails are different lengths because it will force the continuing knots to be in different places. (more on this later)

As with many projects that become Intructables later on, I missed getting pictures of the very beginning, but the pictures below should explain it okay.

Step 7: Pinning the Braid

To begin forming the braided bags into a rug, you have to lay the braid in a spiral pattern. As you lay the braid down, use straight pins to temporarily hold the spiral together.

Step 8: Fuse the Backing

It may be better for you to practice this step first. I first learned this fusing technique from an instructable similar to this one, Plastic Bag Fabric.

Once you've pinned the bags into the proper spiral, you're ready to fuse the backing on. The backing is simply another plastic bag split open. You should have a large enough sheet so that there is overlap all around.

First, put the spiral pin-side down on an iron safe surface. Then lay your sheets of plastic bag(s) over the back of the spiral. Note I put the sheets ink side down so that the ink didn't have a chance to transfer to any other surface. Then lay the wax paper on top of the plastic sheet. The plastic bags will melt to the iron! Be sure to only iron on the wax paper Then iron only on the wax paper for a short time. (The time will vary depending on the thickness of each bag. i.e. thinner bags will melt faster) My times varied from a few seconds to a minute or so.

After you pull away the iron and the wax paper, give the rug a minute or so to cool and harden. If you try to move it around while the plastic is still molten, you may ruin the fusing.

Leave all of the overlap, when you continue the spiral the backing will already be partially in place.

Step 9: Continue Braiding, Pinning and Fusing

As you continue braiding, pinning, and fusing there are some things you should be aware of.

When you reach the end of a bag, tie the next bag on with a square knot (otherwise known as a reef knot), The bags will cinch up pretty tight, so most knots will work.

It is much better if the tails of each bag come at different times. When you go to tie the next bag on, your knot will make a tiny bump along the braid. This bump is pretty much invisible, unless all three knots happen at the same time. If necessary, cut the bag strips so that the tails are different lengths. After the initial cutting, the knots should fall at different times.

Step 10: Finishing

Once you reach then end of your rug, you simply tuck the last tails under the the rest of the rug and continue with the fusing process. Once you've fused the rest of the spiral, and the last tails, you can trim the excess backing off.

Step 11: Position in Your Home

While this rug should be rather durable, it is still mainly a showpiece. The best place I've found to put it is under my chair made from neck ties.