How to Make Plarn, Plastic Bag Yarn Knit Tote Pattern
Our knitting group was asked to try to think of a creative “green” use for plastic grocery bags; thus, 'Plarn” was born. Plarn, plastic yarn, is strips of plastic bags half-hitched together to form knitable or crochetable material. I like to use knitting worsted weight yarn to knit or crochet with the plarn for color and stability. I have used plarn for several projects, such as,tote bags, shopping bags, plant pot covers and coasters.
- Several grocery bags (15-20)
- Size 15 knitting needles
- Large yarn needle
Are you a visual learner? Watch our How to Make Plarn Video.
Instructions for Plarn
On a flat surface, lay a plastic bag flat, tucking in both of the side seams as flat as possible, Fold the bag in half lengthwise. Both handles will be together. Cut off the handles, making sure you have a straight edge across the top. Cut off the bottom seam, making sure none of the seam is left. Fold the flattened bag in half two more times. Now cut the bag in ½ inch to ¾ inch size pieces.
To put the bags together to make plarn, open each piece you cut. The pieces will be a ring or circle of plastic. Halfhitch these pieces together. To halfhitch, place one ring into the second and pull the part of the ring hanging out, up through the piece you put into the ring. Pull to make a small knot. Continue with this method until you have a long strand of plastic. I wind it into a ball to keep it manageable. Put a rubber band around the plarn ball when not working with it.
Check out the steps! Download our How to Make Plarn Infographic PDF.
Instructions for a grocery shopping bag:
With size 15 knitting needles, cast on 12 stitches. Knitting every row, garter stitch, work until piece measures 40 inches. This is the side and bottom of the bag. Bind off. To make front of bag cast on 32 sts. Work until piece measures 14 inches. Bind off. (make two)
To put together, sew the front to the side piece. Sew 14 inches down, 12 inches across the bottom and 14 inches up the other side, stretching where needed. Then repeat to sew back piece in place.
For handles: Pick up and knit the first 5 sts from the left side of front. Knit these 5 sts for 24 inches, bind off and sew to last 5 sts of front piece. Repeat for back handle.
Have leftover plastic bags? Check this out!
Read Next1000+ Recycled Crafts
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Aug 08, 2021
Been crocheting these since 2006 after I kept forgetting to take the bags back for recycling. Made up my own pattern added yarn. Made well over 200, sold a few but have given most away.
May 03, 2018
What. Plastic shopping bags to make plarn to make shpping totes,pocketbooks or other crafts. What a great green idea to recycle those bags. I love it. So very creative and the cost is nothing to make these. What great gifts you can give. I like that the colors of the bags will determine color of the project you are doing. a great way to teach kids to recycle. Thanks.
debbiebrown667 110 5210
May 02, 2018
We used this method to make bed mats for families in Guatemala!
Feb 26, 2013
this better than themgoing to the landfields, soon as i get some large knitting needles i wil try it with my grandhdaughter . great idea
Feb 18, 2013
My sister's in-laws were doing this back in the '60's
Feb 18, 2013
After reading this, I cut one bag and made a length of plarn from that bag. Then using a size N crochet hook I crocheted a chain from that length. One grocery bag made a 46 inch of chained plarn. My plan is to make chains of plarn and then using them to macrame with. I am anxious to see how this turns out.
uribedaniella 7732 381
Apr 17, 2012
I really do like it and plan to start collecting the bags to cut up and make plarn. This is a knitted version, do you have any crocheted versions??? It would be nice to have both!!
Mar 10, 2012
i have started doing this and just started running with it..what else can i use?? wood pellet bags..the only problem is they are much thicker ive had to cut them into single thick strips and tie them..any ideas on an easier way to conect the pieces?...maybe melting somehow..
Feb 19, 2013
There is a method of easily making a continuous strip of single layer plarn on youtube. You cut off the top and bottom of the bags as mentioned here then roll the bag from one side seam toward the other side seam stopping 2 inches short of that seam. Cut through the rolled up portion of the bag but not the still unrolled portion. Carefully cut from the send of the bottom slit to the end of the next slit up on the other side of the uncut side seam creating a spiral of the whole bag. To join the pieces cut a slit in both of the ends to be joined, pull the end of the piece you are currently working with through the slit in the new piece, pull the tail end of the new piece through the end of the piece you are currently working. It works great.
Feb 19, 2013
I use the thicker bags for door mats. they flatten out perfect after a short time. when they get dirty, just hose off & hang to dry. I have one I made 2 years ago with no signs of wear. knit or crochet whatever size you like., there are no rules
Jul 08, 2011
My grandmothers older sister made a rug out of plastic bags and she passed away in the 1980's at over 80 years old so I know that plarn has been around for a very long time. Perhaps it has just been named recently.
Jul 08, 2011
Would I be able to use these instructions using film from old VHS video tapes? I have over a hundred of them, and couldn't even give them away. I hate the thought of just dumping them at the recycling center. Or if anyone has any great ideas to re-purpose both the actual Video cases, as well as the film inside, I'd be glad to hear them. Thanks.
Apr 18, 2012
I am not sure where you live, and what access you have to the Refugee population, but here in Durham, NC. we volunteer with many Refugees, and they come with one bag and nothing else. We search out for old TV's and VHS players, and tapes, so that they can have something to watch. So if you have these items they are treasures for others.
Jun 26, 2011
I actually saw this "plarn" demonstrated on the Carol Duvall show quite a number of years ago. I believe a guest crafter or maybe is was Carol that showed how to use the plastic to make Totes, etc. As to where it first originated -- I do not know. This will be my next project. I like the idea of using yarn for color and strength.
Jun 17, 2011
when i first starting learning about plarn i saw a video that said plarn started in Africa the women there would go through the trash dumped there by other countries including America find the bags clean them dry them and plarn They make many useful things for their own families to use I don't know if that is where plarn originated but it sounds more plausable than what this article says i plan to make a back pack purse but i am going to crochet plarn and yarn together so as to reduce stretch plarn doesn't exactly bounce back as well as yarn does also i've seen soda can cozies with handles and welcome mats I've made one with the word welcome written in the middle lol I just love the whole idea of plarn it helps the environment one household at a time and makes something useful too thanks to…Read More all those who plarn
Jun 11, 2011
I have a friend that has been crocheting with plarn for over 20 years. I doubt this knitting group came up with the idea. Either way it is a great way to use bags :) "Our knitting group was asked to try to think of a creative green use for plastic grocery bags; thus, 'Plarn was born."
Jun 10, 2011
Hi Grandmother in Midvale, Yes you can crochet plarn too! We have some crochet plarn projects available on our sister site, AllFreeCrochet. Here are some you might enjoy: http://www.allfreecrochet.com/?task=search&search_term=plarn -The editors of FaveCrafts
Grandmother in Mid vale
Jun 09, 2011
I can imagine one could crochet instead of knit. Is that right?
Jun 07, 2011
I hadn't thought of using a cutting board to create plarn. This is a great suggestion. I also have a pointer from my sister on storing plastic bags. Fold them up in the same way you fold them to create plarn the more traditional way, with folds parallel to the sides. Once you're at a good width for storage (around 1" or so), fold up the strip to the handles, roll/fold the handles towards the body of the bag, and tuck the handles underneath. Place the folded bag in a small plastic zip-top bag. My sister keeps plastic bags for picking up after her dog, and I keep bags sorted by design for future plarning.
May 31, 2011
Thanks everyone for the great stories and suggestions. Keep those comments coming! We love hearing from you. -The editors of FaveCrafts
May 30, 2011
You can line the tote bags, putting various sizes pockets in, so it makes a handy diaper bag. You can knit or crochet the tote in one piece, by working the bottom of the tote into an oval or rectangular shape, then building up the sides. Can be as wide and tall as you prefer. You can also attach pockets to the outside. Add handles to top. Plarn can be used for toaster covers, canisters, can/bottle cozies, placemats and napkins, golf club covers, rain hats, sleeve covers, totes for day camp supplies, etc. Use your imagination.
May 30, 2011
Te descriptiobn of the half-hitch also sounds like the way to do a "ark's head" knot in macrame. Great idea for using those plastic bags
May 30, 2011
Thanks for publishing this! I've been wanting to make mats to use outside for the kids to sit on and also for the outdoor chairs. Everything I had seen on-line was for crochet.
May 30, 2011
My grandma, used to make rugs out of the plastic bread bags (this was before plastic grocery bags were manufactured). She used the rugs by the front door for visitors to wipe there shoes on. I used the plastic grocery bags several years ago to make large granny squares that I tied to the seats of my folding chairs. I was tired of sitting on cold chairs. They worked great, and like grandma's, you simply tossed them into the washing machine and dried them on a cool setting. I saved the different colors from the different stores and made my granny squares yellow, blue and white. They lasted for years.
Jun 13, 2010
I have made several bags and other things with plastic bag strips. But....a much easier and faster way to make the strips is to use a cutting board and a cutting wheel. Just stack up about 20 bags (new ones are best if you can get them). Use a good thick ruler (mine is an "O'lipfa mini ruler 14" X 5" angled on one end to 9". It's 1/8" thick. You need to press very hard both on the ruler and the cutting wheel to cut the plastic, but it works just great. Just line everything up on the board. I make my stips 1" to 2" wide. My last project I made a purse using both the 1" and 2" strips. I staggered the knots when starting so they wouldn't be worked at the same time. I used a size 13 wooden crochet hook. Happy crochetting.
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