100 Day Project Day 22
Day 22/100 of The 100 Day Project: Well, it’s the middle of the night as I’m writing this but it’s better late than never.
This week, I had an inquiry from a woman on Instagram who is doing missionary work in Uganda. She saw some of my other posts about experimenting with plarn (which I did on days 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19) and she wants to show the locals she’s working with how to upcycle plastic bags into beautiful and useable plarn. It’s the perfect reason not to procrastinate on making an all-in-one tutorial, so that’s what I put together today.
Back to regularly scheduled DIY project updates tomorrow, but for now let’s talk about plarn, baby…
**Pro Tip: Store your plastic bags rolled up into little balls. This way, when you go to make plarn out of them they’re already softened up and easy to work with. A way to soften plarn after you’ve already cut it is to pull it through the hole of a key or between the tines of a fork, but if you paint the plarn I’m not sure if you’d risk losing some color if you do it that way. You can also spin plarn with a spindle the same way you’d spin other fibers if you’re so inclined.
Step one (optional): remove ink from plastic bags to make them blank
**Note: red ink is the hardest to get off and I’d recommend just trying to use those bags for something else or working the red into your design somehow. The effort just isn’t really worth it in my opinion.
Here’s a quick guide for what applications remove each color of ink most effectively:
Red = doesn’t work
Yellow = works but with a little effort
Green = best method(s)
To remove the ink, I found it easiest to do it in a sink and using a spray bottle + something to scrub with. That way you can rinse the bags off after you’ve applied whatever removal application you choose (you definitely want to rinse this stuff off and not just wipe it, otherwise you’ll have bleach and stuff sneaking onto your pretty skin and roughing you up).
Of course you don’t have to use a spray bottle and you can use anything to scrub the ink. I do recommend gloves.
To avoid getting my kitchen all wet I just put the bags into another plastic bag as I rinsed them off.
After I was done I went and hung them outside to dry, turning them inside out after a little while to dry the inside as well.
Step two (optional): add color to the plastic bags using spray paint
I found that spray paint works fine on the bags and doesn’t peel off. If you’re uncertain about the paint that you’re using then I’d suggest doing a little test of your own, but you’ll probably be safe as long as the paint says it adheres to plastic. Here are the paints that I tried:
I haven’t tried other methods of coloring/dying the bags but I would love to see anything that anyone else comes up with! Maybe you could reverse tie dye them and let them fade in the sun? Maybe use permanent marker to add pattern? Or maybe soak them in a permanent dye solution… It’s definitely something I’m interested in revisiting in the future.
You can use your imagination with this part. Here are two different quick and dirty methods I did for adding a splash of color to the bags using spray paint:
Method 1: Crumple and spray
Method 2: Twist and spray
Step three: cut bags into plarn
This one step is all there actually is to making a basic plarn. Removing the ink and adding paint is completely optional!
To start, lay the plastic bag out flat (tip: it’s easier to flatten if it’s inside out) and then cut off the fused bottom part as well as the handles. What you’ll be left with is a plastic “tube”.
Next, you’ll start in on one edge of the tube and started cutting the plastic into one long strip about an inch wide. You can make it bigger if you want, too. It’s so thin that it crumples up to be a pretty small strand when you’re actually using it. You can also make it smaller if you want, but it becomes pretty delicate.
Honestly I’m all over the place width-wise when I’m cutting the plarn and I haven’t noticed much of a difference, so don’t worry about it being perfect by any means.
Here’s what some of the painted plastic looks like after it’s cut into plarn. This was the one I made using the “twist and spray” method:
A little bit of paint did come off onto my hands while cutting the plarn, but it washed off very easily. You can barely tell in this pic though because I’m practically pink already with my pasty skin lol.
Once you’re done, just wrap it up and store it!
Here’s a finished product I made using painted plarn to create a small coiled mat for my bedside table. It’s about 8” in diameter.
I also used plastic bags for the core to create this mat (a good way to use those bags with red ink, yeah?).
To make the core, I trimmed off the fused bottom and handles, creating a “tube” shape the same as if you were about to cut a bag into plarn, but instead of cutting a long strip I just cut the tube open to make one long rectangle and gathered it together to form a “rope” shape. Then I wrapped the plarn around that.
For this mat, the wrap is made up of five plastic bags worth of plarn and the core is made up of six.
I hope this was helpful, and please share anything you’re working with me on Instagram @leslietyger!! I’d love to see it.
And before I forget, here is the new morning practice I pivoted into today… I’m channeling some of my favorite themes: torn paper edges, abstract collage, and color crushes <3
Are you doing The 100 Day Project? Connect with me on Instagram and let me know!