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.
- 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
- Start by cutting off any handles and discarding any printed sections. You just want the thin plastic sheet.
- Cut the plastic sheets into strips that are 2-3 inches wide. Cut in straight lines for even strips.
- Measure and cut strips to about 18-20 inches long. The exact length isn’t crucial.
- 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
- Take 3-4 strips and line up the ends. Make sure they are roughly the same length.
- Attach the ends together by tying a simple knot. You now have your first piece of plarn.
- Braid the strands together by alternating which strand goes over the middle. Keep the braid tight.
- When you reach the end, tie another knot to hold the braid together.
- 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:
- Make a slip knot on your crochet hook to start your first chain.
- Crochet a starting chain that is 30-50 chains long, depending on how wide you want your tote.
- In the second row, crochet single crochet stitches across the entire row.
- Continue crocheting rows of single crochet stitches until the piece is nearly a square.
- To make the bag deeper, switch to double crochet stitches for the next 10-20 rows.
- Finish by crocheting a row of single crochet stitches for the rim of the bag.
- Add handles using more plarn or decorative cording.
- 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!