Nfld. & Labrador

Knitting with plarn: Keeping plastic bags out of landfills with art

Plarn, or plastic yarn, is made by folding and cutting strips of plastic bags. The strips are then combined together to make a ball similar to yarn.

Plarn is made from strips of plastic bags, and is a creative way to keep them out of landfills

Jessica McDonald, a textile artist from St. John's, recently started using plarn, a yarn made out of plastic bags, in her crafts. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

With Newfoundland and Labrador's plastic bag ban coming into effect this July, people are trying to find different ways to reuse their bags and keep them out of landfills.

"I'm sure we [all] have those, cause I know in my nan's cupboard we do," Jessica McDonald, a textile artist from St. John's, told CBC Radio's Weekend AM.

After working with different mediums, one of McDonald's clients asked her if she knew anything about plarn, and the different things it could be used for.

"It was funny.… Someone asked me if I knew anything about plarn, and I thought, 'What the heck is plarn?'" McDonald said. "You know, what an interesting word."

Plarn, or plastic yarn, is made by folding and cutting strips of plastic bags. The strips are then combined together to make a ball similar to yarn. After doing some research, McDonald decided to try it for herself.

"I started cutting it up and kind of knitting with it to see if I could make some scrubbies or, you know, something with it," McDonald said. "So It's definitely new to me."

Plarn is made by folding and cutting plastic bags. After they are cut, the strips are combined to make a ball similar to a spool of yarn. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

After the plastic bags are flattened, McDonald cuts horizontal strips, working between the bag's bottom seam and handles. She said the majority of the bag can be used when making plarn, with the handles being the only real waste.

After the strips are cut, McDonald combines the strips to make a spool of plarn. She compares putting the ball together to making a ball out of rubber bands.

"It gives you quite a distance," McDonald said. "As you get so many, you start to wind them in a ball and then it becomes this usable yarn that you can use."

McDonald said different kinds of plastics can be combined to make plarn. But be careful, as not all plastic is made the same.

McDonald says it's important to not pull the plastic too hard when making a ball of plarn, as it could rip apart. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

"It's just when you're joining you want to make sure you don't pull to hard," McDonald said. "It's all in there, all different kinds."

When she started working with plarn, McDonald said, she was surprised at how strong the plastic could be.

"It's very sturdy, which I was kind of surprised by," McDonald said. "'Cause you start with this flimsy bag and it turns into this very sturdy structure."

McDonald is now showing others how to make and use plarn, with a lot of different plastic bag ideas coming through the door. She said the main use of plarn is for reusable plastic grocery bags, but she's seen people make things like handbags and doormats.

"I would use it a lot as making like grocery bags, 'cause it's very sturdy," McDonald said. "It's actually so simple."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Weekend AM


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