Stories of Plarn

An experiment with plarn began sometime back in December 2018 and it’s only just occurred to me to write about it here. With supermarkets having recently changed over to the heavier plastic bags for delivering groceries (I order online and delivery is to the door, not the bench for me ), I wanted to see what the bags might be useful for in the longer term.

I gathered them, washed and left them to air dry, then cut them into strips after first checking the breaking point of a couple of widths. If I’m going to go to the effort (and it IS effort) of crocheting this stuff into carry bags, then they had better not fail on their first outing! Strips ended up approximately 3.5cm wide. The biggest crochet hook I have is a 19/15mm, so I wouldn’t be able to wrangle anything wider, considering the strips are doubled.

balls of wound plarn
Wound plarn.

Looping the strips together happened while watching television. It is necessary to pay attention to getting both sides of the loop the same length before tightening the slip knot though or the plarn just ends up messy and really hard to crochet with. With practice it was easier and faster.

I first tried weaving a flat piece on my little seldom used weaving loom, but made some catastrophic mistakes and decided to undo it to add to the blossoming bag crocheting project. I think looming would work, but stuff got in the way of trying it again.

With all the strips looped into one great length snaking across the floor, it was time to wind it into balls. One of the ball winders cooperated with me and the plarn to wind a couple of enormous ‘cakes’ which are now kept tidy in some bags. All in all, by the time the gathering, washing, cutting, looping and winding was done, about 200 shopping bags have been used.

Image crocheted plarn carry bag.
1st carry bag.

The first lot, the experimental ‘what useful thing can this be worked into’ 50 bags or so, I crocheted (single crochet in the round) into an oval shaped, flat bottomed carry bag with reinforced handles for better strength. I mostly use it for the special treat bakery trip I reward myself with every now and then.

It’s a perfect size, and strength for 2 single litres of milk and a loaf of bread, with a couple of treaty things sitting on top. It’s a bit stretchy, but holds very well. I can’t imagine using thinner strips and getting the same ‘hold-ability’ from the finished item.

The experimental larger carry bag is still a work in progress as my hands are too painful to wrangle with the harsh plarn for very long. The plastic drags against the crochet hook making nearly every stitch hard work.

This one is being crocheted in Tunisian Lock Stitch, using a size 19/15mm hook, for greater durability. I made each of the others using Single Crochet with the same hook.

Plarn tunisian crochet in progress
Large bag wip (folded in half).

While it’s not fun anymore, I will finish the project because I want to see just what the end product will be useful for; and because I don’t like abandoning something just because it’s a little bit difficult.

I’ve learned some things by doing this little experiment too. I tried spinning the strips to make crocheting them easier, and it did, but, it compromised the strength, surprisingly. But first I had to obtain a spindle. After reading about the differences in the types of spindles, and moving onto some ‘How To’s, I decided I’d have a go at making one myself!

image of drop spindle made from everyday stuff

My own drop spindle! Made from a piece of dowel that was lying around, a wee curtain wire hook from my bottle of ‘things that will be useful’, a large tablet bottle lid (you never know when those empty tablet bottles might come in handy) and some Spakfilla that was also in the craft cupboard! Learning a new skill is always rewarding for me; as is making what I have on hand work effectively.

I’ve wondered for quite a while how valuable the crocheted plarn blankets and sleeping bags some charities were working on might actually be. My thoughts were that the biodegradable bags would have disintegrated too quickly for them to be useful for any worthwhile period of time. These newer bags are simply too difficult to work into anything like a blanket size that would be strong and durable enough for there to be value in the end product. Maybe I’m missing something, however, I think sewing a warm, comfortable fabric would produce a much more useful product for the end user.

Single crocheted bread bag plarn.

The other experimental plastic bag use, the one using bread bags is still underway though, and coming along reasonably well. The strength of the end product is in doubt, so I’m trying to figure out a few things, end use being one of those things. Saving enough bags to keep working on it is taking time too.

Update: 21 February 2019the Plarn Bag has been completed! It is ugly, heavy, impractical and ugly. Did I say how ugly it is!

Crocheted in Tunisian Simple Stitch, folded in half to form the large sides. I then single crocheted the end sections onto the bottom, sewing them to the larger sides of the bag (with plarn) to form a gusset at the bottom. The handle is a continuation of the sides. It’s large enough to hold a few things, but the weight of the bag itself at 510gms is heavier, and bulkier, than any of the shoppers I’ve sewn in other recycling and upcycling projects.

Finally, because I had the ball of plarn that had been spun and thus was much thinner and easier to use (but also much weaker), I crocheted around the top edge to try to even out the stitching.

The bread bag plarn project has reached it’s conclusion too, the crocheted end product is too weak to hold anything worthwhile, will disintegrate in the sun so can’t be repurposed for the garden, and, simply, as with the other plastic, isn’t viable for the work put in.
Having completed this experiment, I will not be making plarn ever again.

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