Single-use plastic, like plastic grocery bags, is a scourge on our environment. It pollutes our oceans, it’s often not recyclable, and when it does make it to the landfill, it takes hundreds of years to break down. Obviously, avoiding this stuff in the first place is the best option, but when single-use plastic does make it into our lives, the best thing we can do is find ways to divert it from the landfill. One great way you can upcycle plastic is to make fabric from old plastic grocery bags!
I’m sure that most of you bring your own bags when you hit the grocery store, but even with the best of intentions sometimes we forget to bring a bag. Or maybe a friend comes over for supper and brings her contribution in a plastic bag. If you’ve been saving up old plastic grocery bags and weren’t sure how to use them, now’s the time to pull them out and get crafty!
Fusing Plastic – Disclaimer
Fusing plastic bags into fabric is awesome for keeping waste out of the landfill, but it’s not the healthiest craft for your body. Any time you heat plastic, it can off-gas, meaning that it releases harmful chemicals into the air. Protect yourself by doing this project in a well-ventilated area and wearing a paper face mask, if you have one. I actually brought my ironing board and iron outside to do this project, which is ideal if the weather permits.
You’ll also want to let the fabric rest for a few minutes before you close the windows or bring it inside, to give it a chance to finish off-gassing.
Fused plastic also is not self-healing like natural fabrics are. That means that if you pin it, that pin hole is going to be there forever. Instead of pinning your fused plastic when you’re sewing with it, use clothespins or miniature binder clips.
How to Make Plastic Bag Fabric
- 4 plastic grocery bags
- iron and ironing board
- two large pieces of paper – I used packing paper left over from an Amazon shipment, but you can use craft paper or wax paper, too.
- face mask, optional
1. Cut the bottoms and straps off of the bag and set these aside. These work great as stuffing for homemade crinkle toys, so don’t toss them! The babies and new moms in your life will love you for it.
2. Sandwich the 4 cut bags between two large pieces of paper – large enough to totally cover the plastic. You want to protect your iron and your ironing board, so plastic doesn’t fuse to them!
3. Set your iron on the “polyester” or “rayon” setting, and iron your bags for about 30 seconds, then flip and iron for 20-30 seconds on the other side. Stop, pull the paper aside, and check for bubbles and loose spots on both sides of your fabric. If you have any spots like this, iron for a few more seconds to fully fuse those areas.
4. Trim off any excess plastic, and add that to your stash for stuffing crinkle toys, so you’re left with a nice rectangle of fabric.
Fused Plastic Crafts
That’s it! You’re ready to craft. Need some ideas on how to use your fused plastic fabric? Here are some fun project ideas:
- Cut the fabric into shapes and string it into a pretty garland.
- Make a fused plastic bag tote.
- Sew it into a durable wallet.
- Cut them up into coasters.
- Make a fused plastic place mat.
Of course, these are just a few ideas to get you going! Depending on the size of your finished fabric – which really depends on the size of the bags you start with – you can use the fused plastic to make all kinds of fun crafts!
Images: Becky Striepe