Winnipeg crafters came together Sunday to crochet cozy sleeping mats for homeless people using plastic shopping bags.

"You get a group of amazing people together and amazing things will happen," said Ray Eskritt, communications and development officer for West Broadway Community Ministry, who organized the event.

A team of crocheters and bag-pilers filled a room in Augustine United Church in Osborne Village Sunday afternoon after Eskritt issued a call for crafters last month.

Ray Eskritt

Ray Eskritt, communications and development officer for West Broadway Community Ministry, helped coordinate the event Sunday. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

The mats are made of plarn, or plastic yarn, crafted out of bags that are sliced into pieces and looped into a long chain. It takes about 500 bags to make a two-and-a-half feet by six foot mat.

They'll be offered to people who sleep in the church when the temperature falls below -10 C. The church opened its doors to homeless people last year, but only had 15 sleeping mats, Eskritt said, so when more people show up, they have to sleep on the floor.

Eskritt hoped to get 10 or 20 mats made Sunday to fix that.

Crocheting plarn

Crafters crocheted sleeping mats out of plastic bags after the bags were turned into plarn, or plastic yarn. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

"If they're coming in and they need a place to sleep, they need a good sleep," she said.

She said the plarn creations are a comfortable and free alternative to sleeping mats that range from $50 to $70.

"For our brothers and sisters who are living outside during a cold Winnipeg winter, it's a really good insulator," she said.


Plastic bags are piled on top of each other, sliced into pieces and looped into a chain to create plarn, which can then be used to crochet. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

The campaign is part of 1JustCity, which fundraises for church outreach programs in the city.

The group helped Augustine Church open to people for sleeping last year, after a woman froze to death in Winnipeg.

"Last year we had a couple of tragedies due to cold weather," Eskritt said.

"We had a woman pass away, she froze to death on the streets, and we as a community decided that that's not acceptable."


The finished mats will be offered to people who sleep in the Augustine United Church when the temperature falls below -10 C. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Eskritt said the event was "bittersweet."

"It's wonderful to see so many beautiful souls out and helping each other and thinking about the people," she said.

"But at the same time, it's heartbreaking, because it's required, because our government is not able to meet the needs of its population or isn't willing to meet the needs of its population."

West Broadway Community Ministry plarn crochet sleeping mat

Volunteer crocheters stitched up sleeping mats for the homeless using plarn, or plastic yarn, with the West Broadway Community Ministry on Sunday. (Trevor Brine/CBC)


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