Monday, September 26, 2016

Making Plarn

  Since I've been cutting bags again and making plastic yarn using the loop method, I figured I'd share another plarn-making tutorial. I just did a quick example of how it was made for the Giant Plarn Rug, and the photos didn't come out the best. I'm still experimenting with my new tripod and an auto function on the camera, so I figured it couldn't hurt to try again.

  After many years of making plarn, I've learned a few tricks. Although I still prefer cutting it in one continuous strip, this "loop method" is so much faster. When you first start out making plarn, you might find it fun, interesting, and occupying. After your first project requiring 500 bags, you'll realize how occupying the creation of the material can be. The tricks I'll teach you in this tutorial will show you the best way to hold the loops to join them the fastest, and how to make those knots a little prettier.

plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet

Here are a few points I think we should cover first:
- My goal (this time) is to make mats for the homeless, so I'm trying to find the perfect width that makes a squishy material, but not so thick to make the mat difficult to transport. My project is still in the experimental stage. The width of your material will depend on what you will be making and your hook size.

- I've found I can crochet with plarn faster using finger crochet, so I need thick material to fit the larger gauge of my finger. If you want to work up your plarn using a smaller hook, then you should definitely cut your material thinner than what you'll see here.

- And for those who are here for the Giant Plarn Rug, the material for that was created by making only two loops from each bag; I'll be making three loops in this tutorial.

plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet

  And there's what I made with my 4"-wide loops: A two-round granny square that measures 10" (25 cm) across. The material for that square feels perfect, but the corner holes of the granny are too big for a sleeping mat, so you can see I have more experimenting to do. Now that you know the madness behind my method, you can judge the width to cut your own loops... I'll leave that up to you. But to learn one of the best ways to join those loops, follow me:

plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 It doesn't matter whether you're cutting your plarn with scissors, a rotary cutter, or a paper cutter like what I'll be using this time. If you don't feel comfortable cutting more than one bag at a time, then don't. I might cut through 20 bags at a time with my rotary cutter, but it gets wobbly and I go through blades like crazy. Do whatever is the safest for you.
 I'm cutting 5-6 bags at a time with this paper cutter. However, stacking bags can make them shift while cutting, resulting in sloppy, jagged cuts and the need to cut again. If you're completely new to making plarn, then start with one bag. If you're just new to cutting more than one bag at a time, try starting out with 2 or 3. Folding the stack of bags in half (like you'll see next) helps to hold them together.

plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 Begin by cutting off the tops and bottoms of the bags. You'll need to cut about 1" (2.5 cm) from the bottom to avoid the seam. Once the tops and bottoms of the bags have been removed, the remainder of the bag will form a tube. Cut parallel to the top and bottom cuts to create "loops" from the tube.

plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 Remember, I'm creating super-thick plarn! I'm only cutting three loops from a tube - each loop is about 4" (10 cm) wide. You could get about twelve 1"-wide loops from each bag.

  Whether you join the loops as you cut the bags or wait to join them all at once is your decision. Either way, let's learn a few tricks for how to join those loops with a nice, smooth knot...

**From here, I'm going to refer to the loops as "strips", because I have to show and tell you how to "open up a loop in the loop"... You can see how that would get confusing. So now the loops are strips, and any loops you see are created in them. Get it?**
plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 Open up the end of one strip to form a loop. Run the end of a second strip through this loop, just far enough to fit your fingers inside the new strip. Don't pull it any farther through than you need, and you'll save time.

plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 Holding the first strip firmly, insert your finger and thumb to create a loop in the new strip.
 Try keeping your fingers spread in this loop while you pull the strip through in the next step, as you see in this photo. This will allow you to keep the loop open as you pull the strip. Otherwise, the loop begins to tighten and a knot can form too soon.

 Unfortunately, I couldn't hold the plarn that way for the next photo, because you couldn't see what I was doing - It just looked like a mess.
plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 Pull the tail of the second strip through the loop (in the second strip). Continue pulling the whole strip through until a knot begins to form close to the first strip. Don't pull it tight yet! Check out the next tips...

plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 Okay, so if you just pull your strips gently until firm, you'll most likely get a knot like the one you see above. Sometimes, the strips don't pull evenly, and you'll have a big loop in the knot, or it just won't tighten up as much as the rest. Let's fix that! Making plarn doesn't always go smoothly. The next step shows you how to make it look nicer:

plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 Insert your fingers and thumbs inside each strip, close to the knot. Spread the strips open, slowly tightening the knot. If it won't tighten, then you probably have slack inside the knot, which is easier to fix before you tighten it too much. Pull the knot loose just a little, and re-tighten as shown above.

plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 Repeat, repeat, repeat! Keep adding new strips to the end of your plastic yarn until you're swimming in a tangle of it, or add a few at a time while you work your project up.

  I sure hope my tips can help you make plarn easier and faster! I've learned that plastic grocery bags have to be purchased, or are banned altogether, in many places across the world. But as you can see by all my grey bags, the local Walmart doesn't hesitate to bag (and double bag) my items. It has led to an unbelievable stash in my house. Some people say they'd rather work with yarn (me, too), or others think creating plarn is too time-consuming (it is), but there's much more to it than that...

  When I see the amount of space my year's worth of shopping bags can take up, I imagine it going into a landfill. Then, I wonder how much space it would take up if every person in my neighborhood were to throw away the same amount... Wow. Yes, they could be recycled, but where to take them around here? I don't know, and I bet a lot of other people don't, either. The county is more enthusiastic about advertising the next cattle auction than a recycling program. So, I make plarn and crochet it into useful items. But when I'm done with a project, I can't wait to get back to my yarn.  

Happy Crocheting!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much forma this useful tutorial. I'm gonna try to make some plarn.


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