How to Make Plarn (Plastic Bag Yarn) for Charity Sleep Mats

How to make plastic bag yarn (aka plarn) for charity sleep mats. | Vickie Howell #recycle #charity #knitting #crochet #tutorial #plarn

How to Make Plarn (Plastic Bag Yarn)

The first time I learned about plarn (yarn created by cutting and tying together strips of plastic grocery bags), was in 2005 when British designer, Erika Knight was a guest on a TV show I used to host called, Knitty Gritty. She showed it made using a rainbow variety of bags, an array of which I have yet to come across here in the states, and knitted into a garden mat. At the time, it was revolutionary. Side note: Erika is my knitting spirit animal. But, I digress.

Years later, I applied her method to create a crocheted lunch bag for the book, AwareKnits (Knit, Purl, Save the World in the UK), which I co-wrote with Adrienne Armstrong.

More recently, however a childhood friend told me about how her mom’s church group was using plarn to crochet sleep mats for the homeless. Since plastic bags have now been banned in my home city of Austin, TX, to be honest, I’d completely abandoned plarn-crafts. Most seemed more novelty than not, anyway. This, though … THIS is a fantastic project with a worthwhile enough result to seek out other cities’ sack stashes!

This week on Ask Me Monday, I talk through making plarn, give the scoop on yardage, tips for working with it, and basic recipes for both knitting and crocheting these mats. Watch live on Facebook at 12pmCT, or here afterwards. Then, use the information below to start your own mat-making!

But first…

How to make plarn with Vickie Howell #recycle #sleepmats #charity #homeless #crochet #knitting #tutorial

Basic Crochet Sleep Mat Recipe (Recommended)


Approx 58 plastic bags or 504 yards of plarn
Size 12 mm crochet hook

How to:

  1. Make plarn using the above episode of Ask Me Monday as a guide.
  2. Crochet a 24″/61 cm chain, plus 2.
  3. Hdc (half double crochet) in 3rd chain from hook and to end. Turn.
  4.  Chain 2, hdc in next stitch and to end.

Repeat Step 4, until mat measures 72″/183 cm from edge. Fasten off. Weave in ends.

Basic Knit Sleep Mat Recipe


Approx 140 plastic bags or 1260 yds of plarn
Size US 11/8mm

12 sts x 24 rows = 4″/10 cm in Garter Stitch

How to:

  1. Make plarn using the above episode of Ask Me Monday as a guide.
  2. Cast on 72 stitches.
  3. Knit every row.

Repeat Step 3 until mat measures 72″/183 cm from edge. Bind off. Weave in ends.

Tune in every Monday at 12pmCT for Ask Me Monday, live on Facebook!

5 Responses to “How to Make Plarn (Plastic Bag Yarn) for Charity Sleep Mats”

  1. Lorrita Morgan

    We use a rotary cutter and mat to make plarn. 1. flatten out bags, tucking in pleats 2 carefully stack 6 bags use clothes pins to keep them aligned until ready to cut. 3. using a quilting ruler or other straight edge that is wider than the bags, first trim the bottom seam off the bags then cut strips approximately 1/2 inch (1 cm) wide across the width of the stacked bags forming loops. 4. join the loops like making a rubber band chain and loosely roll into a ball. save the seams and handles to use as stuffing for plarn toys.

    Daughter-the-teacher makes plarn balls for her school. No real pattern they’re just a crocheted sphere stuffed with the trimmings from making plarn and bags that were too damaged to use for plarn. She makes mostly softball size balls, but she has made a “soccer” ball and “baseballs”. Her students love them.

  2. Sherry

    How do you clean the plastic bags to make plarn? Do you do anything special or just use hot water? I want to know so I can make sure everything is nice and clean before I use it to make anything.

    • Vickie Howell

      Soap and water or any household cleaner should work. 🙂