Friday, January 7, 2011

Plarn Purses - Using Plastic Bags as Yarn

Interview with a fascinating lady with a fabulous green craft. 

I met Pat at the One of a Kind Show last November. She was perusing the aisles carrying a bag with a story. Keep reading to find out about up-cycling, plastic bags, plastic soup, plarn, Pat's recipe for greener living and some pretty darn good looking Plarn Purses.

How did you get into up-cycling? 
Well, necessity is the mother of invention, My grandma who was a single mother who had to raise her children during the great depression taught me be thrifty and to use any resources I could.I watched (and helped) her cut up old clothing to make patchwork quilts.She said that wasting usable things is sinful. I can remember how she would take old greeting cards and cut them up to make gift tags for presents, She even let me use her pinking shears to make them look prettier.
 She also taught me  how to knit and crochet. She was real good at it, She made those colorful  fancy doilies. My mom still has some of them in her tables.
 For Christmas one year I got one of those looms to make pot holders, Grandma suggested I use loops from cutting up old shirt sleeves to weave into pot holders.
 So for years everyone got woven pot holders as gifts from me.
  My older cousin lived on a farm. She would unravel the string that is sewn across the feed  and flour bags, tie them together and crochet them into dish towels.I thought that was a great idea . henceforth, a monster was born. I kept an eye out for anything that could be used as thread to be either knitted or crocheted.
 Years later I  also found myself  a single mother. So I had to become creative and make do, I can remember cutting up old jeans, to make covers for my daughters diapers. No pampers here , She wore cloth diapers, rubber pants, with fancy embroidered  denim covers, She was called a baby hippie. I still have the denim skirt that I made for myself. I opened the leg seams up and put in a patchwork panel and had myself a "maxi" skirt.

Why Plastic Bags?
 Not to give away my age but I can remember the line in Dustin Hoffman's, The Graduate, where his uncle put his finger in the air and said "Plastics" I was wondering what's up with Plastic? Little did I know that it could become such a hazard to the planet.
The grocery stores started to use plastic bags. They held up so much better than the paper ones especially where I live and have to haul groceries in the snow. I live at 9,352 feet above seal level in the Rocky Mountains. We see a lot of snow! Plastic held up so much better. I always found other uses for the bags. We even used them  on our feet under our boots to keep our feet dry in the snow.There were always plenty of reuse for those bags.

The idea hit, loop them together to make a carryall bag that will hold up with heavy use. I toyed with lots of different styles ( and still am). The handle has to be sturdy with not too much stretching. 

How do people react to your work?
When people first see my purses they don't realize that they are made from recycled plastic bags. They don't look like plastic bags after they are cut, spun onto "plarn" then knitted or crocheted into sturdy carryalls and sometimes elegant purses. So far everyone who has seen them are delighted and have to hear all about the Pacific Garbage patch and the poor marine life.

Where do you get your materials?
After  I used up my personal stash of plastic bags, I put ads on Craigslist asking for people's colorful bags that the newspaper comes in. Sometimes I find a "bag of bags" on my car seat or front door. Needless to say I have an unlimited supply of free plastic bags.

How did you first hear about the "Plastic Soup", the floating waste of the Pacific Ocean?
One Earth day I was watching Oprah. She had people on talking about the "great Pacific Swirl"  I researched and found  out more about the "plastic soup"in the ocean. I was disgusted with what I was seeing and hearing, Oh!, those poor marine animals. They don't know what plastic is and think it is food, eat it  then have it bind up their guts so they die a painful death. Once they die they fall to the bottom of the sea another fish will come along, eat the dead animal, get their guts bound up with the same piece of plastic and also die. How many sea animals can be killed by the same piece of plastic?

Why should people be concerned?
I read research that was done by Greenpeace about this problem. They say that 20 billion tons of trash in dumped into the oceans each year.There is no safe place to dump plastic.  This problem is threatening the food chain because a large amount of the of the food we eat comes from the sea. Another frightening fact is that the oceans produce 70% oxygen on this planet... need I say more?

What steps have you taken to reduce your contribution to the "Plastic Soup"?
I always tried to keep my carbon footprint small as possible. Almost every thing I own was bought on the used market and very little of it is made of plastic.

What green steps do you suggest to people that are concerned about waste?
People need to become conscious of this problem and think twice before buying disposable products. As well as buying in bulk where you could provide your own container to avoid having to throw away packaging. There are many ways each person can be conscious of  their carbon footprint, their own health as well as the health of this beautiful planet.
You can read more about the Pacific Swirl by visiting Pat's website Be sure to stay tuned because new designs will be posted soon.

This concludes our Plastic Week on Purple Carrots and Fairy Smoke I hope you had a great week. Have a wonderful weekend, see you on Monday!

Take care!


  1. Seriously? This is one of the coolest things I've ever seen! Glad you stopped by from LBS, and I wanted to return the favor (hi!).

    Next Saturday, I'm going to include this in my Monster Likes lists all my favorite posts I find throughout the week. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks Natalie! I really enjoyed your blog too! :)

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