Thursday, 8 September 2011

Up-cycling Plastic Bags

by Amanda from Amanda Brooke

I have a confession to make.

I sometimes forget to take my re-usable bags to the shops and I come home occasionally with plastic bags. I also accept plastic bags from friends and family that may contain items they are passing on/back to me. As a result of accepting plastic bags, we now have a collection housed in a purpose-made, plastic bag holder in our pantry and they are staring to overflow.

During the week I made a firm decision not to have a single plastic bag in our house and I don't want to see the ones we do have going into landfill. So what do you do with a collection of plastic bags?

Well, I've started making one of these. This is a great up-cycled plastic bag 'sheet' to keep in the boot of your car for a myriad of uses. Ultimately I will use mine if I am traveling with plants/wood kindling/straw etc but you can place damp towels on it after a trip to the beach or it makes a useful mat to sit on when traveling, especially if the ground is damp or a chair is dewy.

An Up-cycled 'Car Boot' Sheet

Firstly you will need quite a few bags. You might like to use up what you have and then ask some friends and family if they would like to join you in being 'plastic bag free' and pass on their bags to you. You could make one of these as a practical gift too.

You will need:

  • If you are using regular supermarket style bags you need 6 to 8 for each 'layer'. If using the thicker style plastic bags (department style) you will need around 4 to 6 for each 'layer'.
  • Scissors, baking paper, sewing machine (nothing fancy), an iron and a safe work surface

1. Using a pair of utility scissors, cut the handles away from each bag.

2. Cover and protect your work surface in baking paper.
Smooth each bag out and stack in a layer on your protected surface.

You can see the baking paper at the bottom of this plastic bag layer

3. Position another sheet of baking paper over the top of the stack of bags. Using a moderate (not too hot) setting on your iron, press the stack so the plastic bags melt and adhere to each other. If your iron is too hot the plastic will bubble and if not hot enough the bags won't seal. Please note: Your stack will over heat and bubble if you try to add each bag one at a you do need to do them in complete layers. I had to fiddle quite a bit with my iron settings, to get it at the best temperature and you might like to experiment with some smaller pieces first.

I worked from the inside to the outside and held the iron down for a few seconds before moving to another area

You absolutely do not want your iron to come in contact with the plastic bags or your bags with the work surface either.

4. Continue to iron each stack of bags until you have enough 'shapes' to make the size sheet you wish.

This is a sheet of bag layers after ironing

5. Cut each shape out with straight edges. Position shapes on floor and arrange so you are pleased with the layout.

Sewing the seams

6. Pin and machine sew each shape together by overlapping one bag edge over another and join using the largest zigzag setting on your sewing machine. This is supposed to look 'scrappy' so don't worry too much about perfect edges etc. The plastic sheets warp a little too, so that makes it hard to get perfect edges.

The front

The back

No more plastic bag collection guilt and you now have a practical sheet to protect your car boot. You can also make bags, like this one my mum made for my son's soccer boots. We have used this for two soccer seasons now and it is still going strong!

I understand this post might be a little hard to consider, as like many I wish that plastic bags didn't even exist. BUT if they are there (as in my case), and you obviously don't want to throw them into landfill, you can make something useful, re-usable and practical.

This idea and the sheet in the first photo came from my mum. She was inspired by a tutorial on an episode of Better Homes and Gardens. I haven't seen this tutorial, so if you have and wish to add any further suggestions or ideas please do so in the comments.

After making my 'plastic sheet' I will give my plastic bag holder another purpose, perhaps a lost sock holder.
Now I just need to think of an idea for up-cycling lost socks!

Amanda x