Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How to make a plastic bag tote


posted by angsty mom


One paper bag

Plastic bags

Plastic hardware cloth ½ mesh (available at home improvement stores)

Metal scissors or tin snips

Crochet hook small

Craft wire (any wire that is pliable)

Magnetic snap optional (you will need pliers to install the snap)

this messenger bag (above right) was made by Roz!

We are going to demonstrate how to make a messenger bag. First, make a simple pattern or template for your purse out of a paper bag.Decide what size you would like, then cut a rectangle that when folded in thirds, will make the front, back and bottom of the messenger bag. Then cut one for the handle and sides. Keep all your angles 90 degrees. Play around with it until it has the dimensions that you like.

Now lay your pattern over the plastic mesh and cut the mesh to match your pattern. To cut the mesh you will need strong metal scissors (plastic handle scissors might break) or tin snips. Remember to trim off all the pointy nubs on your mesh pieces or else carrying this purse could be a painful experience! You'll see below that we changed our minds on the dimensions of the purse- It's called artistic license!

here the pieces have been cut

Here the big rectangle has been folded to make the body and the flap of the messenger bag.

We temporarily put it together with a little wire just to see if we liked the shape. If we put all the pieces together now for real it would be very hard to weave the plastic bags through the mesh. We found this out the hard way!

Prepare your plastic bags! Smooth them out on a flat surface, fold the bag on the vertical into thirds. Cut off the bottom of the bag close to the seam and then snip off the top of the plastic bag if it has handles. Next cut across the folded bags about every three inches. This creates loops that you will connect to each other with a slip- knot. The loops that you slip- knot together are your “plastic yarn” that you will weave with.

Flatten the bag then fold it in thirds vertically, cut off the seam at the bottom and cut the handles off. Cut what's left into 2-3"wide strips

Now you have created loops, next step connect them to each other with a slip knot.

To start weaving, take a plastic bag loop and slip- knot it to the top left of your larger mesh piece. Begin your weaving! Keep adding on loops with a slip knot. If you are intimidated remember there is no need to get fancy, a simple over and under weave looks great. The weaving part takes some time so be patient and enjoy the process.

here's the starting slip knot, next is the first row of weaving with a simple over and under weave

Keep adding loops as you go. Invent your own stitch if you are feeling creative! When you get to the end cut your plastic yarn and leave a few inches remaining. You will weave the remaining end back into the weave with the help of the small crochet hook. Next, work on your plastic mesh handle the same way.

Here's what it looks like as you add rows. Use a crochet hook to tuck in the ends of the plastic bags.

Now that your two pieces are woven, you need to connect them. You will “sew” them together with a simple over-hand stitch using the craft wire. Sew them together tightly so that your bag doesn’t fall apart.

We used florist wire from the craft store to sew the bag parts together.

Next you will bind the edges with a strip of plastic bag. To do this cut one of your bag loops open so that it becomes a single strand. Thread the plastic strand through the upholstery needle. Now you are ready to bind the edges with plastic bags strips.

We used a blunt upholstery needle to bind the edges

Why am I telling you to bind this again? It’s worth the extra effort- it will add to the structural strength of your bag and give it a great finished look. For this final binding use the overhand stitch again. When you are done, tie a knot and tuck the end into the binding so that it doesn’t show.

Tying the knot at the end of the binding using the blunt upholstery needle

Sometimes we add a magnetic snap for a closure. You will need pliers to install the magnetic snap. You could also invent your own closure. Admire your bag! Guess what you are almost done!

Sydne is happy about her new bag! Circe's bag on the top right.

Here’s the last part, and it is REALLY important- make up a bunch of information cards with some fast facts about plastic bag pollution on them, put them in your bag and pass them out to people that comment on your one of a kind plastic bag creation.

Find out the facts! Here are some really good websites that contain a lot of information about plastic bag pollution.

Here’s what we put on our card:

We use over one million bags per minute world wide.

Each year an estimated 4 billion of those plastic bags end up as litter. Tied end to end that’s enough to circle the earth 63 times.

Plastic bags choked drainage systems in India during monsoon rains and lead to loss of human life and outbreaks of water borne disease.

Mountains of plastic bags in Africa's slums are a major health hazard. They collect water and become breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

There is an area in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, estimated to be a thousand miles wide, that is covered in floating plastic trash!

We hope that these instructions are enough to get you started. You can start with a small purse and work you way up to a larger tote that you can bring to the supermarket! Show us your plastic bag bags! Send us pictures of plastic bag totes that you have created and we’ll post them here on our blog.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post. I'd like permission to use one of your photos in an online article. Please get back to me.