How to Upcycle Used Plastic Bags into Reusable Shopping Totes

How to Upcycle Used Plastic Bags into Reusable Shopping Totes

How to Upcycle Used Plastic Bags into Reusable Shopping Totes

Reusing old plastic bags to create new reusable shopping totes is a great way to give them a second life and reduce waste. With just a few simple materials and techniques, you can upcycle leftover plastic bags into durable and stylish totes.

Gather Supplies

  • Plastic bags – clean, dry, and free of holes. Grocery bags, bread bags, newspaper bags, etc. will all work. You’ll need 10-20 bags depending on size.
  • Scissors – for cutting the plastic bags into strips.
  • Ruler – for measuring even lengths of plastic strips.
  • Needle and thread – heavyweight thread works best. You’ll also need a large-eye needle.
  • Fabric glue (optional) – can reinforce seams instead of sewing.
  • Decorative ribbon or cording (optional) – for handle accents.

Prepare the Plastic Bag Strips

  1. Start by cutting off any handles and discarding any printed sections. You just want the thin plastic sheet.
  2. Cut the plastic sheets into strips that are 2-3 inches wide. Cut in straight lines for even strips.
  3. Measure and cut strips to about 18-20 inches long. The exact length isn’t crucial.
  4. Stack 4-5 strips together, then use the ruler and rotary cutter to neatly trim the edges. This helps make straighter plarn (plastic yarn).

Braid the Plastic Bag Strips into Plarn

  1. Take 3-4 strips and line up the ends. Make sure they are roughly the same length.
  2. Attach the ends together by tying a simple knot. You now have your first piece of plarn.
  3. Braid the strands together by alternating which strand goes over the middle. Keep the braid tight.
  4. When you reach the end, tie another knot to hold the braid together.
  5. Make more plarn by repeating steps 1-4 until you have used up all your plastic strips.

Crochet the Plarn into a Reusable Tote

There are many crochet tote patterns available, but the basic technique is as follows:

  1. Make a slip knot on your crochet hook to start your first chain.
  2. Crochet a starting chain that is 30-50 chains long, depending on how wide you want your tote.
  3. In the second row, crochet single crochet stitches across the entire row.
  4. Continue crocheting rows of single crochet stitches until the piece is nearly a square.
  5. To make the bag deeper, switch to double crochet stitches for the next 10-20 rows.
  6. Finish by crocheting a row of single crochet stitches for the rim of the bag.
  7. Add handles using more plarn or decorative cording.
  8. Stitch a lining for the inside of the tote if desired.

Ideas for Customizing Your Upcycled Tote

  • Use plarn in different colors or patterns for a stripe or mosaic effect.
  • Attach pompoms, tassels, or appliques made from plarn scraps.
  • Make an extra pocket by crocheting a smaller rectangle and stitching it to the inside or outside of the tote.
  • Line the tote with a complementary fabric for structure and style.
  • Stitch your name or a fun phrase onto the side using more plarn. Get creative!

Upcycling plastic bags into a tote is an easy craft that develops your skills while doing something good for the environment. Follow these steps and soon you’ll have a durable, washable, eco-friendly bag for all your shopping needs!