Monday, June 2, 2014

Make a Fabulous Tote Bag for FREE!

That's right, make it for free! NO material costs! The only cost you may have is to purchase a crochet hook (If you don't already have one). I first saw this on The Shooter's Blog by the company Cheaper Than Dirt. It is made with plastic bags you get at the stores!

After I saw this bag, I had to research more on my own. Anything you can crochet with yarn can be made with plastic bags. People are making rugs, flip flops, Christmas decorations and a lot more! Here is a Pinterest link that has lots of other ideas on what you can make with plastic bags. 

What a great frugal idea this is! Besides, it is a great way to recycle all those plastic bags. For my first project, I wanted to make a tote bag. I watched this video before I started mine.

I didn't find any pattern instructions that I liked, so I didn't use any. I made up my pattern as I went along. I really like the shape of my bag, but next time I will move the bottom white stripe up a bit so it is closer to the top stripe. I think it will look better if both the strips are centered in the middle of the bag. (If you are making up the design as you go, these things happen!) 

As Sarah Beth instructed (the girl in the YouTube video), I made some 'yarn' to start (in all the videos I watched, I heard it called 'plarn'). I wasn't sure how much I would need so I ended up making new plarn as I went along. My bag has a round bottom that is 12 inches in diameter. It is also 12 inches tall. It took approximately 60 gray bags and 15 white bags to make it. I used a size J crochet hook. In my opinion, the size of the crochet hook isn't critical. If your hook is a bit smaller or a bit larger than mine, it really doesn't matter.

To make the plarn, cut up the bags as instructed in the video. I cut mine while I was sitting on the floor (hence, the blue rug in the background).

When I finished my first round of plarn making, I had two balls of it. At this point I had cut up 35 bags, so I thought it was plenty to start.

I chained 5, and joined them together. Then, I put two single crochet stitches in each chain.

I watched quite a few different YouTube videos on how to crochet with plastic bags before I started. On one of them, the woman suggested that you use single crochet stitches instead of double. She said that she found the double crochet stitch to be a bit weak. She thought the single crochet stitch made for a more sturdy bag. (My apologies to the maker of that video, I didn't bookmark it and I could not find it again to post here!) With that bit of advice, I decided to use the single crochet stitch to make my bag. 

For the first few rows, each stitch received two new stitches so the base would lay flat. 

Then, I only added two stitches when it needed it. My goal was to ensure it continued to lay flat.  In general, I think I added two stitches about every other stitch or so. I continued in this manner until I achieved a 12 inch diameter. I had a total of 98 stitches.

At that point, I stopped increasing the stitch count and kept it to 98. This forced the ends to curl up and create 'sides'.  I didn't have structured rows, I had a continuous loop. When I got tired of crocheting in gray plarn, I switched to white. When I switched colors, I had to create structured rows so the ends of the colors would match up.

I got tired of the white color really fast and decided to switch back to gray.

I kept going until it was time to make the 'handles'. I measured off where I wanted the handles with some safety pins. I measured the distance so the space would fit my hands. When I hit the safety pin, I chained about 15 stitches to create the handle. Then went back to single crochet stitches to complete the row.

On the second row of the handle, I skipped a stitch directly over where the handle stitches attached to the bag- for a total of 4 stitches - one stitch on each side of both handles. That helped ease in the fullness of the extra stitches needed for the handle. I then added 2 additional rows. At the last minute, I added an extra row of white to trim it off. The last thing to do is to tie off the last piece of plarn to make a nice finish. 

I don't finish my pieces like most people do. (Even when using yarn, I finish my projects this way.) I created a slip stitch to end the project, and then weaved about 6 inches of the plarn into the finished bag. This keeps the ends from unraveling and makes for a nice finished look.

It only took a couple of weeks to make. I usually cut up five or six bags and then crocheted a few rows each night after I came back from Zumba. 

It was super fun to make! I am going to start some new plarn for my next bag today!

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