Friday, 27 March 2009
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 nativetech.org, 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 nativetech.org 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.
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