Upcycle Final Report: Plarn

I think like my brain is a bowl of spaghetti, and my design process follows suit. One tangent loops to another, and the cycle continues until it looks like linguini. Hopefully this report take a more linear path, but no guarantees.

On a totally related tangent, I really like the movie Zoolander (but not Zoolander 2). My project inspiration comes from the scene where Will Farrell’s fashion design Mugatu shows Ben Stiller’s character Derek his new avant-garde clothing line based on garbage. I wanted to make clothes from garbage too. Maybe Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum would discover me and invite me to be on Project Runway. I’m a dreamer.

For my upcycle challenge, I wanted everything to be of reclaimed materials. In the true upcycle fashion, I did not spend any money on my project. I had a clear idea what material I wanted to utilize: plastic grocery bags. I decided to cut and tie the bags together and crochet something useful and dynamic. After a few minutes on Pinterest, I found an impressive blog post from March 31, 2006 from the craftster.org member “mleak”. She crocheted simple sandals from plarn (plastic yarn). My mind was blow. I was going to crochet my own sandals.

Figure 1: Mleak’s sandals, http://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=87737.0

However, I’m a guess and check kind of lady, and I learn from my mistakes. I made a prototype plastic bag sandal that turned out super small and trashy. There was no way I could turn in these shoes for a grade. I’m not even going to show a picture of them on this blog post, that’s how messed up and deformed these little shoes turned out. But I’m way better than crappy plastic bag sandals, so I reiterated my design.

I figured out the flaw in my design: 1-ply plastic bag yarn. My plarn was too thin and weak to crochet. I needed something better than flimsy 1-ply garbage. What’s better than 1-ply? 2-ply. Boom. Problem solved. The following images show my new and improved way to make double-bagged plastic yarn.

Step 1: Lay your grocery bag on your coffee table

Step 2: Cut off the top and bottom of the bag

Step 3: Roll up the plastic bag

Step 4: Cut the rolled up bag into 1.5″ sections

Step 5: Unravel the strips and lay one on top of the other

Step 6: Fold bottom strip over the top, then under itself on the right end. Pull taught to link the two.

Step 7: Repeat steps 1-6 a billion times and then roll it all up into a nice ball like the one shown below.


I quickly realized that the problem was beyond just the durability of my material. The problem was me. As a beginner crocheter, I lacked the deftness and experience needed to execute the shoes. I threw away the failed lump of plastic bag shoes and decided to take a simpler approach. Crocheting plarn was still an interest of mine, I just needed an easier design: a hat.

I started out making a normal adult sized hat, but noticed that my plarn was running low. Buying new plastic bags seemed even more of a waste than the 50 bags I had already thrown away from previous design. Constricted by my ability and material supply, I made the final decision to crochet a baby’s hat complete with an obnoxious poof.


I’m pleased with my final creation, and more so proud of my ability to start and finish an entire crochet project. I found the act meditative and relaxing and something I’ll continue to do (maybe with real yarn though).

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13 Comments. Leave new

  • I must say! Your report was a delight to read, with a great balance of humor and information. Additionally you have totally embraced the idea of upcycling. I really appreciate the skill and patience required to make this craft. The end result is really cute! If not for safety, It would have looked great on a baby as you mentioned in the presentation. I really like the pictures that map your progress and clearly shows the amount of hard work to make the project.
    I really like the design as well. Turning something as prevalent as discarded plastic bags into the fine design is really a great idea! Your project idea has a level of versatility that is really impressive, and the possible color combinations are impressive. An instructional video with some different designs would make a great blog post on itself!
    Kudos on the Zoolander reference!

  • Nice work, I’m impressed at your ability to turn plastic into strands like yarn. Sounds like you went through about 100 bags for your project, do you know of any ways you could maybe increase volume? Wrap around string, spray the bags with something, etc. I’m not sure just brainstorming. Were there any obstacles besides amount of material that limited the size of the final product? Either wayI think the puffball is my favorite part! Was that just strips and knots? Nice work.

  • Alexandra Rivas
    February 13, 2017 12:19 pm

    This is so cuuuuute. I really like how it does look like material, like you said. It seems like it would be really simple, I would not have expected so much trail and error. Its really cool how many materials can be used to make useful things but are overlooked.
    Good job!

  • Very cool idea Morgan. I liked how you addressed the structural iterations of your material and your design iterations in your presentation. Working with plastic bags seemed like a struggle, but I appreciate your perseverance and how you improve your plarn. Again, your perseverance was illustrated with your design iterations: from sandals to adult hat to baby hat, you managed to continue working towards an end goal. Lastly, your final product was actually very aesthetically pleasing. If you used pink or light blue plastic bags, I believe you could make money selling your baby hats!! Good job 🙂

  • Your project turned out really well! I really appreciated how you presented the design iterations, each picture represented the steps of the project clearly.

  • Wow, it really doesn’t look like cut up plastic bags! What if you made a fleece liner so you could actually wear it comfortably and it is somewhat more functional then.

  • Gautham Govindarajan
    February 13, 2017 12:15 pm

    This is a really cool design with plastic bags considering all the plastic waste we are producing. Doesn’t really look like plastic at first look which is quite an achievement in itself. Do you plan on expanding your idea and make something bigger.

  • I like how you recognized your constraints and decided to make a different, more simple project. It turns out that the baby hat is a much more unique idea since you didn’t end up directly copying the design your first found on Pinterest. This is really innovative, not to mention functional! The holes are a bit larger than they would be with yarn. This could result in limited functionality. Is this something that you chose for your design?

  • I really like the intricate patterns of your project and the material you used is abundant and fully embraces the idea of upcycling. It clearly requires patience and skill to do this and I appreciate that. Some color variations would have been nice to see, even as a concept.

  • Creative! Shoes seem like they would be very hard! I think the hat is cooler than the shoes! It was a good use of iteration. I like the poof on top. You should patent it. I thought it was made out of wool when I first saw it.

  • Very interesting use of old plastic bags. I’ve heard plastic bags are very difficult to recycle so this is a great use of them! I really like that all the plastic bags were from King Soopers and had the same colors. The final brown/red aesthetic looks nice and is definitely something Mugatu would have on his fashion line.

  • Siddharth Nigam
    February 13, 2017 12:09 pm

    Great top view pictures to explain the structural process.

  • Siddharth Nigam
    February 13, 2017 12:08 pm

    Good attribution!


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