For fans of my famous coiled plastic bag baskets this is another great recycling project to use up all your spare plastic bags. I was reading a post by One Crafty Place about sewing your own animal face placemats and it occurred to me that almost all the plastic bags we collect are orange - the perfect colour for fox fur! I am crazy about foxes at the moment and something told me that fox placemats would make the perfect addition to our kitchen table.
Before you get started I recommend you watch this instructional video from Etsy about plastic bag fusing. It sums up very well how the bags need to be heated smoothly and evenly, and also emphasises the safety aspects of the technique!
You will need:
- (Per placemat) 2 orange bags, 2 white bags and 1 black. Use the kind of thin plastic bags that supermarkets provide for free
- Iron and ironing board
- Craft glue
- Sewing machine and white and black thread
Lay each plastic bag out flat and cut off the handles. These can be thrown away. Cut along the bottom edge of the bag as well where the bag is sealed together, removing a small strip. You can now open the bag out into a wide plastic tube. If you're using a patterned bag you should now turn the tube inside-out. If you don't do this then when you start ironing you create a big mess!
Smooth the tube out flat and fold in half. Fold in half again to make a neat rectangle just smaller than the size of an A4 piece of paper.
Heat your iron to a medium-hot setting. Place your folded plastic bag on an ironing board with one piece of paper below it (to protect the board) and one piece of paper above it (to protect the iron). You can use brown paper for this or printer paper, but make sure the paper is bigger than the plastic so nothing gets messy. Open a window to keep your work area well ventilated.
Keeping the plastic safely sandwiched between the layers of paper begin to iron evenly. Iron in smooth even strokes for 15 seconds on one side, flip the whole thing over and repeat. Do this two or three times. You are aiming to fuse the plastic into a smooth sheet. When you peel back the paper you may see bubbles, which indicates that the plastic hasn't fused completely. Sandwich it in paper again and repeat until it is smooth.
You will notice that the plastic shrinks as it heats. To make the base of the placemat you will need to fuse two orange plastic bags separately and then glue them together using craft glue. Leave to dry for a couple of hours and then, using a sheet of paper as a template, trim the edges to make them straight and uniform.
|Two fused 'bags'. Glue the long edges together with an overlap of about half an inch|
|Trim to make approximately A4 in size|
Print this pattern out at A4 size:
Fuse two plain white plastic bags and, when they're cool and safe to touch, trim each bag into a curved cheek piece using the pattern above as a template. Arrange the cheek pieces on the base and glue them into place. They should overlap slightly. Allow them to dry fully, at least a couple of hours, before reinforcing with your sewing machine. Set the machine to a zig-zag stitch and, using white thread, sew just inside the edge of each cheek piece as well as down the middle where they
|Position the cheek pieces and glue into place|
|Set to zig-zag stitch|
|Sew the cheek pieces to reinforce|
Fuse one black plastic bag as before and cut two eyes and a nose from it using the template above. One black plastic bag should be more than enough to make eyes and noses for a set of four placemats. As with the cheek pieces these should be glued into position and, when dry, sewn either by hand or with a sewing machine using black thread.
Here is my kitchen table complete with fox mats, fox cushion and even a fox handbag, and so the obsession continues!
Plastic bag fusing takes quite a lot of practice, so don't lose patience if your first attempts don't work out as planned. Be careful with the iron, and make sure you ventilate your work space well. Many thanks to One Crafty Place for the inspiration. Good luck and stay crafty!