Crafty Blogs

Friday, 27 March 2009

Beautiful Baskets

Over the past few weeks me and my friend Carolyn have been trying our best to find a way to recycle all the carrier bags we've collected by weaving them into baskets. With no prior weaving experience I got some inspiration from fellow blogger Michelle of Conserve Plastic Bags. In one of her posts she suggested coiling the plastic bags and provided a link to, a fantastic website with detailed instructions on Native American weaving techniques. This is how I transferred those techniques for use with plastic bags. It was great fun and I hope you enjoy the tutorial.

To make a recycled plastic bag basket you will need scissors, a bodkin or large tapestry needle, plenty of clear tape, around forty carrier bags (depending on the size of the basket) and garden twine. While looking for garden twine I found a fantastic product called DYNA-TIE which i think is only available in the UK. It's a strong plastic strip that comes in lengths of a hundred meters for only 50p, and the colour is pretty too!

To start the basket you first need to prepare the carrier bags so that they take the place of a bundle of pine needles. Begin by laying the bag on a flat surface and smoothing out. If the bag has handles which extend upwards carefully cut these off to create an even rectangular shape. Keep these as they will turn out to be useful later. Before you start rolling the bag I've found it helps a lot to cut a few strips of tape so they are to hand.

Roll the bag from the closed end as tightly and evenly as possible. Once you reach the top quickly tape the roll in place, first securing the middle and both ends and then adding tape to smooth out ragged edges. You should be left with a long thin bundle perfect for weaving with.

Now I think it's probably best I hand you over to the capable hands at to explain the first stages of weaving. These diagrams are beautifully clear and explain the process so much better than my blurry photography ever could!

Unwind a length of garden twine to begin work. At first it won't be necessary to thread the twine onto a needle. Leave a small gap at the top of the plastic-bag-bundle and as shown wind the garden twine around the bundle to create a section around 2" long which is entirely covered in twine (steps 2 and 3). Carefully fold this section in half to form a loop and with help from a little more tape seal the loop (step 4). Now you can begin the first 'round'. Fold the carrier-bag-bundle around the central loop so that you begin to create the spiral shape. Passing the twine around the outside and through the centre you will create a strong central ring.

You should continue to bind the central ring in this way for one full rotation, and then you can begin to work the second round. For this round, and all the rest that were to follow I found that the interlocking stitch was the best option. If you are using garden twine which is more fibrous then you might find that the split stitch is stronger.

To form the second round continue to wrap the plastic bag around the central ring in a spiral, but instead of passing the twine through the centre thread the twine onto your needle and use the interlocking stitch. Thread the twine through the loop of each stitch in the foundation ring, passing the needle from front to back. The stitches should be even and close. In this way the whole basket is made up. To insert a new plastic bag simply roll and tape as before and tape to the previous bundle with an overlap of around half an inch for extra security.

As you work round you'll find the basket grows quickly! At this stage you could also easily use your spiral as a colourful place-mat.

Once you feel the base is large enough you just need to begin working upwards. This is a lot easier than it sounds! Simply lay the next round on top of the previous one and, still using the interlocking stitch, pass the twine from the inside of the basket to the outside.

Once your basket is of a height you like the only thing to add are the handles. For mine I decided that the best thing to use would be the leftover handles from all the bags I'd been using! To do this flatten out the handle and roll, as with the bags, to form a miniature bundle. Create nine of these in a variety of colours and set them out int groups of three. Tape each group of three end-to-end to create three long thin bundles and then plait them together. This plaited length should be long enough to make a good handle.

Pass each end of the handle through the basket, two rounds below the top layer, and then tape the loose ends together. Make this connection nice and secure. To finish lift up the loops of handle inside and outside the basket and hold them together. Bind them in this position, as close as possible to the top of the basket, with more twine.

The great thing about baskets made in this way is that they are waterproof and very flexible. When I first started weaving my basket I was worried about the base holding its shape, but now it's finished I've found that the flexibility means that the base bows beautifully, creating a lovely pear-shape. Here are some more pictures of the finished result, which I'm intending to use as a laundry basket.

Once Carolyn has finished weaving hers I might include some pictures of hers too. As well as weaving more closely than I have she's been very creative in working an oval shape into the base of the basket, giving it a very different style.

I hope you've enjoyed the tutorial. If you have any questions about how the basket was made please let me know.

Stay lucky,

x x x

Friday, 6 March 2009

Beginning with baggins.

This is the first craft commission I've taken in a while, and it came from a course-mate of mine. She'd heard about my previous work making sushi bags (something I'll talk about in another post) and wanted to know if I could make a bag for her that she'd already designed. She'd been inspired by the mini cube pandas available at shanalogic, but wanted something a bit different. I've never been sent design sketches from a commissionee before, but I might now consider asking for them in future. It was so fantastic to be shown exactly what she wanted and to have something to refer to without the need for constant correspondence.

At first she send me this annotated design:

When I had a few questions about the size of the bag she also sent me another sketch:

I'm so glad she sent me this picture, not only because it features an awesome eyepatch and an incidental duck, but also because I'd been picturing a larger messenger bag when she had said she'd wanted it to have a long strap.

To cut down costs I decided to base the panda body on a basic bag, but finding a small rounded-square bag took longer than I'd thought. Only when I realised that a lot of washbags are square did I have any luck. I chose I set of three clear-plastic washbags from Boots that were only £7 in total and after a bit of consideration I chose the smallest of the three to transform. I covered the bag in white fleece, embroidering on a mouth and sewing on round buttons for eyes. Before finishing this stage I also put in a layer of stuffing, front and back, so that baggins has a rounded shape. The arms and legs were made from black fleece and stuffing, stitched simply onto the body. The triangular ears were made in the same way, but as requested I appliqued on a little flowery fabric for a girly touch.

The washbag didn't come with a handle of any kind, so I bought 2 metres of strap from a local craft shop and created an across-the-body strap for baggins sewing through fleece and plastic alike to make sure it was secure. That might have been the end of the project, but because I'd chosen a clear plastic base it was obvious that baggins needed some kind of lining, otherwise opening the bag revealed all the stuffing and stitching! More flowing fabric to the rescue, this time the off-cuts of a flowery fabric that I bought to make a dress from last year.

Now baggins is finished, and here in his finished form:

As you can see the finished thing unzips all the was around, unlike the original design, but otherwise I was as faithful as I could be to the sketches I was given. Because I already had many of the materials needed he was also quite cheap and easy to make. I still have the two slightly larger washbags to hand for future projects. If I can find a way to incorporate this shape of bag into any future projects then I certainly will, and I'll put them up for sale on etsy if possible.
Be lucky everyone
x x x