Archive for the ‘crafts’ Category

1.5 bags, part II

Knitting is very conducive to thought. It is nice to knit a while, put down the needles, write a while, then take up the sock again.  ~Dorthy Day

Almost two years ago, back in February of 2008, I took a trip to visit a friend living in St. Louis.  It was wonderful to visit Carin because I got to explore a wonderful mid western city I might never have seen otherwise, but I also enjoyed it because we have such a fantastic time together.  In all honesty, we could be in the middle of nowhere just hanging out doing nothing, and it would still be a great time.

In fact, we spent a fair amount of time during my visit doing just that–hanging out doing nothing!  It was very snowy that weekend in St. Louis and so it was a perfect time for both of us to work on crafts.  At that time, I had just started knitting a new bag.  Unfortunately that bag is still unfinished, a skeleton bag, stuffed in the bottom of my craft closet.  I am about to embark on another February visit to another mid western town to visit Carin (this time Cincinnati), so I think it is time that I pull out that half a bag and dust it off for the world to see.

Alright so what exactly is this 0.5 bag I have been referencing?  It is…….the plastic bag bag!!  Yes, that’s right, it is a bag made of plastic bags (did that just blow your mind or what!?).  For those of you who hold on to oodles and oodles of bags from the grocery store, CVS, bodegas, Target, etc. etc., well this is a craft for you!!  It helps if you already have knitting experience–well actually you really must have knitting experience.  But you don’t have to be an expert knitter to make this bag…..finishing it might be another story, since I haven’t actually finished it yet!

Here are some photos of both sides of the bag (the right side and wrong side):


Ok, so there is a reason I haven’t finished the bag yet, besides the lack of motivation–I can’t decide which side I like better–the smooth side or the funky, knotted side.  I need to figure out which I was to be the inside of the bag and which to be the outside of the bag.  If you care to comment on which side of the bag you like as the outside of the bag (the part people will see) I would very much appreciate it!

Now for some basic instructions–I’m fairly certain that if you searched the internet, you’d probably get some insight into how to knit this bag, but I learned from a JVC staff member who knits these bags and other things out of recycled materials.  As I sit here thinking about how to explain making the “yarn” out of the bags, I realize some pictures might help:

First, you need to hold a bag width-wise, so that the handles are to your left and then cut a slit in the bottom, along the seam at the base of the bag.

Next, cut off the handles, you can either discard them or else save them to incorporate into the bag later on (that is how I get the knotted, chunky effect of the rough side of the bag).

 Once you do that, it is as if your bag is now just a big tube.

Holding the bag at the same orientation as before, make a cut all the way across (parallel to the base of the bag where the seam was) about 1/2 an inch up from the bottom.  Remember, you are cutting through two layers of plastic.  [I love this picture because the bag says to recycle and you are!]

Continue in this way making loops, but don’t be too cautious about the loops–you don’t have to be a perfectionist.  Just cut a bunch of loops, over time you will understand how thick or thin they have to be (a lot of it depends on the thickness of the actual plastic itself–some grocery bags are very thin so you need a thicker loop but some bags such as those from clothing stores are very thick so you need a much thinner loop).  

Keep cutting loops and then once you have a bunch, string them together by looping them through one another.


Get creative with the colors–trust me, you’ll be searching out brightly colored bags everywhere!  I’ve grabbed them from friends’ houses, from work, from people reading the New York Times!  You’ll become a little obsessed with collecting the perfect color and thickness of bag.

To start in on the actual knitting, find a pair of circular knitting needles, I think mine are about a size 6.  You want something that is big enough so that it doesn’t take forever to knit, but small enough so that little things can’t slip through the bag.  The rest is truly trial and error–I don’t remember how many stiches I cast on!  I just got going and then improvised.  It helps if you have knitted a bag on circular needles before this project, but if you haven’t, just do a bit of research (Knitting for Dummies certainly has some info!).

You have to consider trying this really fun project.  Not only is it a great way to reduce, reuse, recycle, but it is a great conversation starter!  You’ll get plenty of curious stares and people asking questions about your bag.  

I hope to finish (relatively) soon so that I can enjoy the fruits of my labor and also post some photos of the finished product.  Perhaps I’ll find some motiviation in my quickly-approaching Cincinnati trip!


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1.5 bags, part I

I love crafts!  I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to write about them.  Making bags is a relatively new endeavor of mine.  I was lucky enough to receive a lovely corduroy and suede handmade bag from my aunt for Christmas.  Right now I am in possession of 1.5 bags I made myself.  One of those I made by felting and the half-bag is an ongoing labor of love, but more on that later……

What do I love about handmade bags?  Hmmm, well, I love that they have stories.

Let’s start with Bag #1:

In November of 2007 (whew that is so long ago now!) I took a trip to Joann’s Fabrics with my mother when I was in CT for Thanksgiving.  Now, I think in previous posts I have described what happens when I am in craft stores, but just to reiterate–I go a little crazy.  I’ve chatted with other crafters about this and I find this is a common phenomenon amongst us folk.  All of the sudden, I forget all the projects I’m currently working on and pick up 10 more projects.  For some reason I believe A.) I will have the time to complete all these new projects plus my old projects, B.) I will have the motivation to work on these now thousands of projects I have at home, and C.) I’ve suddenly hit the lotto and can afford to buy all these materials.  In the midst of my frenzied buying that day, I picked up some felting wool.  This was kind of a silly thing to do–at that point I had never done a felting project, I knew nothing about felting, and I did not have a washing machine in my home (which I later found out is one of the major necessary ingredients to completing a felted piece).

I finally began the felted bag in January of 2008.  Turned out that there was a lovely pattern included with the skein of wool (thanks, Lion brand wool!).  I began in earnest in the midst of my”Re-Orientation”, a retreat all Jesuit Volunteers attend in the middle of their volunteer year.  I have very fond, warm, fuzzy memories of Re-O and included in those is the night I hung out with a large group of other knitters (including the organization’s senior director of programming) and sat around knitting and chatting about our projects.  I also knitted away much of the very long drive home (from Scranton, PA to Boston, MA!).  But, as I often do, I put the project down and did not pick it up for months.  In fact, I didn’t finish it until a few months ago when I brought the pieces to my Mom and Dad’s house in order to put them in the washing machine.

You might be asking yourself, “Why is a washing machine involved?”.  Good question.  Well, you see, “felting” is really just knitting with special yarn and then putting it in hot water in the washing machine so that it shrinks down and essentially becomes like a solid piece of felt.  This is why it is great to make pieces like bags or pouches through felting–you can be sure that nothing will fall out.  Here, you see the finished project:

Another reason I love this bag is it has some buttons I sewed on–ok so at first this doesn’t seem like anything to be too proud of, however, these buttons were from the “you never know when you will need it” bag I have.  Yes, that’s right, I am a craft-material-pack rat.  I always save the little buttons and snaps that come with new shirt or pants I buy.  I also save nice ribbons on gifts (and I save tons of plastic bags, but more on that in my next post).  I just never really know when I’ll use something in a craft project!!  Thus, I felt that my scrap material saving ways were vindicated when I added those little flourishes to my bag.

All in all, it feels so nice to finish a handmade bag, even if it takes a very long time to do so…..which is why I hope to finish my bag of plastic bags very soon.  But, like keep saying, more on that later.

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