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recycling in Red & White

29 Nov

My small home town of 250 people does have a high school. The school ‘s mascot is the cardinal and school colors are red and white, so I guess I am a bit partial to those colors. I have made a number of purses and totes from white bags with red lettering as white plastic bags with red print are easily found (usually I can count on Target or JCPenny). Each time I make one, I think of my Cromwell hometown and high school and consider them my Cardinal bags.

As I was nearing completion of a Cardinal bag, I had used up my all my red and white plarn.

Sometimes when I need a certain plastic bag color that I know comes from a specific store I make a special trip to ask if they have any used bags that I can take off their hands.

It seems they typically toss them since used store bags get so wrinkled and they can’t reuse them in the store, though hopefully they recycle the plastic bags. Most stores have no problem with allowing me to take bags from their discards, though I have been told no on occasion.

Since there is a mall only 1 mile from my home, I went over to JCPenny and asked for bags that had been used for returns at the check-out counter.

They gladly gave me some of the bags and were pleased to hear that I recycle them into trendy purses, handbags, and totes

I heart JCPenny and their white with red bags!

Don’t you think these make great  bags to use at Christmas!

McDonald’s purse

22 Nov

This is one of the few purses I knit instead of crocheting (read my comparison here). Back in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, my husband and I did some volunteer work with a disaster relief organization where some of the victims were relocated. Some of the meals we served were donated by McDonald’s and they provided a box of the bags they use for their to-go salad orders. The plastic bags happened to have a lot of lime green on them and just a touch of red and black. Since the disaster relief organization had no use for them after the meals were served, I asked if I could have them to repurpose and recycle for my Bags2Bags purses.

My daughter is partial to this shade of green and requested a knit bag (sized to fit a novel in addition to the regularly carried items) to be finished with the store-bought purse handles. Working with the McDonald’s plastic bags is a little more difficult because the plastic is thicker and stiffer than the average shopping (read more here). I rose to the challenge and repurposed the McD’s plastic and knit away to create a custom lime green handbag for my girl.

FAQ :: How do you color the plastic?

15 Nov

Yes, I really have been asked that question—more than one time!

The first time was at my father-in-law’s apartment when I was showing his friend’s some colorful handbags and totes I had crocheted. One of the older gentlemen asked “How do you color the plastic?”

The other times I’ve had someone ask me how to color the plastic, the question came upon learning that the Bags2Bags purse they’re complimenting is crocheted from plastic shopping bags.

Hopefully most people know you don’t color the plastic bags. Shopping bags come in quite a variety of colors! It is a continuous treasure hunt to find great colored bags. I love it when friends hand me a stash of colorful bags they saved up for B2B. Thanks to all of you who have blessed me with color for my plarn projects.

One of the most reliable sources of color (at least, color more exciting than brown) comes from newspaper bags—I have used yellow, orange, red, blue, and lavender. Many grocery and department store bags are white with lettering in various colors that add speckles of color to an overall white finished product. Then there are the plastic bags that make me feel like I have won a prize—bags which are big and colorful—pink, purple, gray, yellow, red, blue, green. Some colors are rare making them a real treasure when I come across them.

If you come home with any colorful bags from your next trip to the mall (or any shopping trip) and you want to donate them to be recycled/repurposed into a Bags2Bags purse, leave a comment or send me an email. I welcome donations.

FAQ :: What is Plarn?

1 Nov

“Where do you get the plastic yarn?”

I have gotten this question several times. Along with many other plastic bag recyclers, I cut plastic bags into long narrow strips for my plastic yarn, which is called plarn. Think…cut a plastic bag into one long continuous spiral. That’s how I do it. There is another technique…cut the bag in strips and then knot them together. But, I prefer working without knots in my plarn.

                           Mostly, for my plarn, I use the plastic bags that grocery and department stores send your newly purchased items home in. If the bag is a thicker/stiffer plastic, I cut it in a narrower strip so it is easier to crochet.

I also use newspaper bags, bread bags, and, on occasion, I have even used recycled plastic table cloths, emergency raincoats, trash bags (unused), and caution tape!

Sugar Plum the musical purse

21 Jun

On a cross-country road trip to Minnesota last year, we had several old cassette tapes along to listen to in our 1993 van’s cassette player with the intention of discarding those we no longer liked. After discarding several tapes along the way, I remembered seeing items crocheted from cassette tapes on the web. So into the bag they went with my supply of plastic bags for plarn. I figured since I had some on hand I might as well try it out and see if it works for my crocheted plastic bags.

So the experiment began. My first thought was that they might be sharp on the edges and cut my hands since the plastic is stiffer than most grocery bags. My second thought was that plastic strips are really skinny, way skinnier than the plarn I normally crochet with. Since I don’t want to make miniature purses I decided to try adding the tape strip to a regular strip of plarn as additional accent color.

Somewhere on the long drive I tested out my new material. The pictures show the test-run bag I made adding cassette tape plastic into the mix. The combination of the two materials gave an extra shimmer to the colors of the purse.

Turns out the cassette tape strips are very easy to crochet with and even added extra shine and shimmer to the test purse. From the purple, lavender, and gray bags I imported from plastic bag paradise (Belize) I created this purse. My cousin in Texas saw this shoulder strap purse, Sugar Plum, on my Bags2Bags facebook page and purchased it for a Christmas gift for her sister-in-law.

The tapes once played some wonderful music for our ears, but now bring some shimmer to our eyes.

Note :: One thing I discovered is that some cassette tapes are a gray color and others brown, so I realized I have to have plenty on hand to make sure I have the right color for my project. Remember to check the colors if you ever decide to recycle your old cassette tapes as plarn.