How to Plarn

By | July 31, 2012 at 9:53 am | 2 comments

Photo by copabanannas via flickr

What exactly is “plarn”?

I’d actually been doing this craft long before ever hearing the word, which evolved in the crafty ecosphere that creates lots of cute words for things. If you’re like me, you don’t always remember your reusable shopping tote at the grocery store. Like, I’m really bad about it. I’m scatterbrained and forgetful so I usually end up stuffing my groceries into my gigantic purse and begrudgingly plastic-bagging the rest. Still, I don’t like to throw them away because of sea turtles and everything, so I keep them stuffed under my kitchen sink hoping to come up with a use for them later. Thankfully, I found one.

Plarn is a material made by cutting the plastic bags into strips, creating a yarn-like string out of them, and using it to create cool new stuff. You can make rugs, totes, purses, plant holders, even sandals if you get really into it (I haven’t – I stick with totes so I have an excuse to fill them up at the library).


Photo by napiobai via flickr

1. Get a bag without holes or tears in it. Lay it flat on the ground and smooth it out, so that its handles are on the right and left sides (no wonky angles). Fold it in half, lengthwise, so the handles are on top of each other.

2. Fold it in half again so the entire thing is a straight up and down line.

3. Starting at the bottom of the handles (or uppermost part of the bag, same thing), cut horizontally across the folded bag in one-inch strips all the way down the bag until you reach the bottom. Throw away (or find another ingenious use for) the handles and the very bottom of the bag that’s been sealed together. Now you’ll have roughly 9 one-inch thick solid loops the size of the bag.

4. This part is tricky to describe but easy to do – I do this all the time while fiddling with my hair ties. All you’re doing is knotting one loop onto another to create a continuous line. To do that, take Loop 1 and Loop 2. Overlap Loops 1 and 2 slightly, then take the other end of Loop 2 and pull it through the part overlapping Loop 1. Pull it taut and they’ll be knotted together where they had been overlapping. Get it? It’s easy! Do this over and over until you have a line long enough to work with, then roll the length in your hands to make it more string-like. That helps keep gaps from forming and makes it easier to handle.

A big tote or a reasonably sized rug takes about 150 bags, so make sure you’re as lazy as I am or round some up from your friends. There is a wealth of information on the specifics of plarn – color patterns, ironing it into place, the textures of biodegradable bags vs. regular old plastic – you could (and I have) read about it for hours. Go crazy!


  1. Sophia (5 years ago)

    Step 4 desperately needs photos.

  2. Molly (5 years ago)

    Here, I made a really terrible cellphone video of what I’m talking about.

    1. Overlap the loops together (Loop 1 on the left, Loop 2 on the right).

    2. Take the rightmost end of Loop 2 and pull it through the circle made by overlapping the two loops (think of the loops as a Venn diagram – you’re pulling the right side of Loop 2 through the middle of the Venn diagram!).

    3. Thread Loop 2’s right end through the center created by overlapping them and pull it tight, securing the two loops together. Continue to make the line longer.

    It’s super easy, just hard to describe!


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