Even if you’ve tried really hard not to collect those ubiquitous plastic shopping bags, somehow they tend to breed in the corners of kitchens. If you’re feeling crafty, you’ve got the option of turning those plastic shopping bags into a reusable shopping tote.

All it takes is a little crochet action. That’s right. I said crochet.

I got this tip after talking with and old friend. It had been a long time since I had spoken with my childhood friend Cara. Sometimes life happens and all of a sudden it has been 20 years… Whoa! So when I finally did catch up with her, I was happy to find out that she had been busy repurposing those ridiculous plastic shopping bags into stylish handbags. She started doing this years ago in college as an art student looking for free supplies. At the time, carrying one’s own shopping bag was pretty much unheard of, so with every trip to the grocery store, there were more free art supplies.

Cara says what makes these crocheted bags really great (aside from the obvious positive environmental impact) is that they’re surprisingly durable. She has had some of her bags for 7 years and despite regular use, they’re really no worse for the wear. “They do last forever, those darn plastic bags,” she told me with a sigh.

Crocheting Your Own Handbag

A quick Google search will yield a few great patterns for you to follow (ex: pattern 1 and pattern 2). Most patterns require an existing knowledge of crocheting. So instead of recreating that content, I wanted to share with Cara’s pro tips on how to take your handbag project up a notch with finishing touches and then get you off to a good start with her recommended method for turning your bags into yarn.

Upcycled Plastic Handbags of Cara TaylorGetting Stylish: Choose Your ColorsCara says, when it comes to design, it’s really the color that steals the show. Her experience is that her best handbags were the ones that she planned the colors for in advance. So get connected and ask the people in your community for all of their plastic bags. They’ll love that you’re handling their recycling problem and you get access to lots of different colors.
Upcycled Plastic Handbags of Cara TaylorChoose Your TextureIf you stop to pay attention, you’ll notice that certain stores use thin bags while others use thicker bags. You’ll want your project to have a consistent type of plastic the whole way through.
Upcycled Plastic Handbags of Cara TaylorAdd AccessoriesSome finishing touches that Cara really enjoyed adding were magnetic clasps and zippers. All of the bags she made came two little beads with her initials sewn in — an excellent and creative way to add a little personalization. You can also affix flowers or other little found plastic items to make your handbag even more uniquely yours.

 

Getting Started

Making Yarn from a Plastic Bag
You will need a good movie and 40-50 plastic bags. Get yourself a good stockpile before you start cutting. So why the movie? Why not. This is going to take a while. You might as well get in your pajamas too.

The standard method of making yarn is to cut the handles and the bottom seam off of each bag and then cut along the bag in a spiral creating a long strip that’s about 2” wide. But that takes a while and leaves you with thin, 1-ply yarn and bulky knots. Instead, use Cara’s pro tip method: after cutting the top and the bottom of the bag, cut horizontal strips in the bag to make loops. You then knot the two loops together.

 

1. Lay the bag out flat

1. Lay the bag out flat

2. Cut off the top and bottom edges.

2. Cut off the top and bottom edges.

3. Fold into even quarters lengthwise.

3. Fold into even quarters lengthwise.

4. Cut 1.5" - 2" strips

4. Cut 1.5″ – 2″ strips

5. Open the strips up into rings.

5. Open the strips up into rings.

6. Loop the rings together.

6. Loop the rings together.

7. Pull one end of loop 1 through the other end of loop 1 to form a knot.

7. Pull one end of loop 1 through the other end of loop 1 to form a knot.

8. Pull snugly into knots.

8. Pull snugly into knots.

9. Repeat many many times.

9. Repeat many many times.

So hopefully you’re feeling inspired and ready to set off on your own crocheting adventure! Let us know how your handbags turn out — we’d love to see what you create!

A big thanks goes to my friend Cara for sharing her insight and the images of some of her handbags. With many, many crocheted handbags under her belt, she has refocused her creative energies on ceramics. You can find her hand built one-of-a-kind porcelain wares on carataylor.com.