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Making the Most of Plarn

written by: •edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 2/11/2011

Learn an alternate way of making plastic yarn from plastic grocery bags, and as a bonus, get hints on how to make the most out of your plarn crafts. If you are looking for plarn patterns, be sure to check out the resource section at the end.

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    How Do I Get Started Turning Plastic Bags Into Plarn Crafts?

    Is the cabinet under your kitchen sink full of plastic grocery bags? Or maybe you’ve been collecting them for a special craft all this time and just didn’t know what to do with them? Even if you're not up to cutting the bags into plarn and turning them into something new, perhaps you have a crafty friend who is ready and willing to take them off your hands.

    However, should you decide to craft with them, first sort the bags by color to make patterning easy. You may rarely encounter bags made of such notably different material from other bags that they must be set aside and combined with other bags from the same source or saved for use as accent material.

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    Another Way of Making Plarn

    There’s more than one way of upcycling plastic bags into plarn (also known as plastic yarn). The most common method involves flattening the bag out, folding one side to the other side one inch at a time, then clipping off the top and bottom of the bag so that you’re left with a cylinder shape (still folded up). Then you clip the cylinder into 1/2-inch-wide loops. Finally, each loop is tied on to the next, which effectively turns the bag into a double string of plastic yarn with frequent knots in it.

    If you’d like your plarn to turn out a little smoother, shake the cylinder open instead of clipping it into strips. Starting at a random point on one of the open sides, cut the cylinder into one long, continuous inch-wide spiral strip. Knot the strip cut from one bag to the strip from the next bag, and so on. You get a single strip that’s about equal in thickness to the one generated by the method above, and the knots are much less frequent.

    Although the number of knots in your plarn creation will affect the look of the finished product somewhat, you can use either type of plarn for any plarn pattern. We've supplied a link to one of the best repositories for plarn patterns at the bottom of this article, but your own collection of knitting and crochet patterns is the best place to start looking. In general, patterns written for worsted weight yarn can be knit or crocheted with a single strand of plarn.

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    Tips for Knitting and Crocheting With Plarn

    So you've got your knitting needles or crochet hook, a plarn pattern and a pile of plastic yarn. What now?

    Start just as you'd begin any other pattern and make a gauge swatch and adjust hook or needle size as necessary to reach the desired gauge. Not only will your plarn have its own unique consistency, depending on the plastic bags you made it from and how wide you cut the strips, your own unique knitting style will affect your gauge with plarn, just as it does with yarn.

    Once you get started working with your plarn, make sure to keep constant tension on it. The plastic is going to stretch and thin out a bit as you apply tension, so keeping the tension constant doesn’t just keep your stitches even; it also keeps the consistency of your “yarn" even and reduces your chance of accidentally breaking through it.

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    Some of the Best Plarn Pattern Databases

    Plarn may be best-known as a way of recycling plastic shopping bags into... shopping bags. Although reusable plarn bags are definitely chic, there’s a lot more you can do with this versatile material. and Plastic Bag Crafts are two of the best sources of creative plarn patterns and project ideas. Other useful websites include the crochet plarn pattern sections of and Crochet Pattern Central, and you'll find free plarn knitting and crochet patterns on many craft blogs. Two favorites with most crafters are the plarn coasters from Plastic Bag Crafts and a crocheted plarn soap dish from Crochet Spot.