How to Make Plarn

learn how to make plastic yarn from shopping bags.

Sarah E. White

Overview
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Making plarn (or plastic yarn) from old plastic shopping bags is an easy process that can be done in a multitude of ways. In this tutorial you'll learn how to prepare the bag, and two ways to cut it up into strips, the spiral and the "slit skirt" method (that's the same one you use to make T-shirt yarn).

You can follow any pattern that calls for yarn with plarn instead. Craft a coupon pouch, braid a bracelet, crochet a bowl, even knit a bag for holding plastic bags. And if you have more bags than you have ideas for using plastic yarn, check out other ideas for reusing plastic bags.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Scissors

Materials

  • Plastic bags

Instructions

  1. Preparing the Bag

    The bag is prepared the same way for both methods of cutting.

    Flatten the bag so that the side gussets are folded out and the sides are straight, forming a rectangle. Trim the bag, removing the top of the bag where the handles are, and the bottom above the seam.

    Tip

    Work on a surface won't get scratched as you cut up the bag. Place a craft cutting mat, old tablecloth, child's playmat, or even a flattened piece of cardboard on top of your table to protect it.

  2. Slit Skirt Method: Cutting Slits

    Leaving the bag in two layers, turn it so the closed ends are at the top and bottom and the open ends are to each side.

    Cut the bag into 1/2 to 1-inch wide strips, working from the bottom fold to 1 inch short of the other fold. When the cutting is done, you'll have something that looks like a hula skirt, but with the top edge closed.

    The cuts may not be perfectly straight, but there's no need to fret about that. You're making yarn, not a kitchen cabinet.

    Plastic bag cut into strips but the top of the bag is still secured.
  3. Slit Skirt: Making Strips

    Open up the bag to a single layer with the uncut section in front of you. You will be cutting from the end of one slit to the start of another, working diagonally across the uncut space.

    Start by cutting across the space the lower first slit and the second top slit at an angle. Leave the top first slit for now. Continue cutting diagonally from lower slit to upper slit all the way across the bag. After the first few cuts, the strip will start to unwind and the process will become clearer!

    Scissors cutting the plastic bag into strips.
  4. Slit Skirt: Final Cuts

    At the beginning bag you will have an additional loop hanging off the strand where the first slit is. Cut it at an angle to open it up. Trim any odd extra bits of plastic off the plarn to smooth the edge.

    If you accidentally cut the piece in two, just hang on to both pieces. They can be joined once you start crafting in the same way you join regular yarn together.

    Plastic bag in one long strip.
  5. Spiral Method: Cutting Strips

    This method of cutting has fewer steps than the other one but can be a little harder to control.

    Turn the bag so one of the open sides is on top, and the other below. Pick a starting point at one of the side seams, and cut diagonally in a single layer of the bag to a depth of 1/2 to 1-inch (or to desired strip width).

    Continue cutting around the bag, moving in a spiral, taking care to keep the strip the same width.

    With this method, it is easy to accidentally veer off the bag, detaching your strip, so pay attention as you cut. If you do accidentally cut the bag in two—strip and bag—no worries. You'll just have some shorter lengths rather than one long strand of yarn. Restart cutting as necessary just as you did in the beginning.

    Tip

    While cutting the bag in this manner, you may find it easier to work with the bag over your knee, or with a piece of cardboard between the bag layers. This trick will help assure you're only cutting through one layer at a time.

    Strip coming off the top of a plastic bag.
  6. Finishing the Plarn

    When you've got your continuous strip cut, whichever way you used to make it, wind your new plastic yarn into a ball, and you'll be ready to knit, crochet, or otherwise craft with it!