Plastic flowers

At the moment I’m going through a plastics phase.

My interest in plastic was piqued when my tutor at Morley College asked us to bring in old newspapers (for working with paste grain papers) and plastic bags (for turning into yarn to knit with). I’d just discovered knitting with paper string to make a page for my sample album (see previous post), so I thought I’d experiment with knitting plastic myself.

So I cut up a couple of Wallis bags into strips and knitted them up in garter stitch and stocking stitch (4.5mm needles and 20 stitches in a row). The result, below, was a stretchy rectangle in black, white and grey, with lots of knots on one side where I had joined the strips of plastic together.

Knitted plastic sample
Knitted sample from Wallis plastic bags - the knots are all on the other side!

I rather liked the texture and stretchiness of the sample, but wasn’t sure what I could do with it. There are lots of online articles about knitting plastic shopping bags, but I think the stretchiness of the material could be a disadvantage here –  the finished bag could distort and stretch out of shape very quickly if you carry anything heavy. Plus all the knots are a bit unsightly.

I solved the knotty problem by discovering a new way of making plarn, by cutting the bag in loops instead. I also experimented with knitting – and crocheting – with different types of plastic, turning them into flowers. For the record, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s bags are quite difficult to work with – they don’t slide across steel or plastic needles very well (I’ve read that bamboo needles are better for this). The easiest bags for knitting are the cheap, thin ones – pedal bin liners and the cheap bags from market stalls.

Knitted flower
Flower (unfinished) knitted from Marks & Spencer bags (centre) and cheap market bags (petals)
Crocheted flower
Chrysanthemum crocheted from Sainsbury's bags

Then I thought of a way to use the stretchiness of knitted plastic to advantage – as an iPhone cover. When it’s empty, the cover is smaller than the phone, but it stretches to ensure a snug fit. In the cover in the photo below, I combined plarn made from lilac pedal bin liners with novelty ‘eyelash’ yarn (10 stitches per row, 100 rows in stocking stitch).

Handknitted iPhone cover
The plarn iPhone cover stretches to ensure a snug fit
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2 thoughts on “Plastic flowers”

  1. I know how to make plarn and have practiced with it a bit but have not made anything yet. I tie the bags together by using the method of cutting the bags in loops and tying them together by inserting one loop into another loop and putting the two together. I like this method, because it is fast. However, sometimes one side of the loop becomes long than than the other side as I crochet. I don’t know what I am doing wrong. I am open for suggestions

  2. Wanda – Nice to hear from another plarn fan!

    I think there may be a couple of things you can try. First, when you are tying the loops together, make sure that the new ‘knot’ is exactly opposite the previous ‘knot’ so that both sides of the loop are even. I do this by holding on to the previous knot as I pull the new loop through, so the new knot automatically ends up opposite the previous knot. There’s a video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdTm2V4ssvY showing this.

    Second, your knots need to be fairly tight so that they don’t slip (this also means they don’t cause large bumps in your finished crochet).

    Finally, if a loop does become uneven, simply undo your work back to the previous loop, untie the knot and retie it.

    Good luck!

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