Friday, June 04, 2010

Plastic bag bag

Plastic bag bagI was poking around the Internet on the subject of plastic and found videos on how to make sturdy, reusable bags out of plastic grocery bags. I decided to give it a try. That picture is what I made.

We used to have a cupboard overflowing with bags but The Man recently cleaned it out. I do not know where all the bags went. I searched around in closets and found enough to make a bag of bags.

Basically the tutorials I found online, including this one, tell you to follow the following simple steps:
  1. Cut the bottoms and handles off plastic bags.
  2. Turn the bags inside out so the ink is on the inside, otherwise it will melt on the paper and make a mess.
  3. Between sheets of wax paper, iron 8 layers of bags until they fuse together. Set the iron on something between polyester and rayon.
  4. When the plastic is fused, you will have a strong material much like tyvek. Check the fabric for places that did not get fused and try not to over-do the fusing because that will make the material lumpy and hard to work with.
  5. With the fused fabric, sew whatever you like out of it.
My iron did not have a setting for rayon so I set it on polyester. That seemed to be slightly too hot, so I set it lower. But even at a lower setting, the wax paper melted so I switched to newspaper. This caused the newsprint to get all over the plastic. In the future I think I should use paper bags for the fusing process.

The resulting material is smaller than the original plastic bags and it is stiff. It turned out a bit lumpy and I think there are a few places where the plastic didn't fuse. I figure that for a small shopping bag, this isn't a big deal since the original material was only 1 layer thick and worked just fine for shopping.

To make a bigger bag I would have to sew several fused pieces together. It would be nice to have a full-size bag. Of course this means that I will have to find a way to collect plastic shopping bags. We've already made the switch to reusable bags. It's easy to find plastic shopping bags, though.

It seems to me I could fuse long strips and then weave with it like a basket. Or create very thin strips and twist them to make a sort of twine and weave that. If I had a collection of nicely colored bags instead of the rag-tag bunch of white ones I had with logos on them, I could create nice bags that even my fashion-plate sister would like. If I could get the fusing process down so that it didn't come out so lumpy.

But, best of all, though, since the material created by fusing is so much like tyvek, I could make hiking gear. Perhaps a hydration pack or fanny pack, maybe a dry bag or camera bag, or really funny would be a rain jacket. I ordered a bunch of mosquito netting so that I could sew my own mosquito tent so maybe I can use fused plastic bags for parts of my tent.

Doesn't solve the plastic problem on the Earth, but I feel better about it knowing I can turn something that might otherwise choke and kill birds and turtles into something useful.


  1. I met a woman that crochet plastic bags. She made bags out of them.

    I thought a crochet plastic vest would be cool because it would be warm, and would shed water and wind.

  2. I'm sure plastic would be really warm. The only problem with the plastic bags is you don't get a really big piece. I can see myself in patchwork plastic rain chaps or a patchwork jacket, but I'd have to use so much seam sealer I think it would be really heavy. I think I might try to make a daypack first, though.