What do you do with mountains of spare plastic shopping bags? Recycle them, of course. Simply collect the bags, cut them into strips and knit. This knitted carryall is an easy project once you're used to working with the different textures of plastic. The simple handle is made from leather thong — looped through the plastic and knotted — to give some needed contrast to the disposable plastic. Use the bag for storage just about anywhere in the home or garden (even in the kitchen as a container for collecting other plastic bags). Experiment with different colors, try regular or random stripes or use just a single color for a chic monochromatic look.
Materials and Tools
Assorted plastic shopping bags, cut into 1/2"-wide strips (see below)
Multipurpose polypropylene string (available from hardware stores)
3-1/2 yards leather thong, cut into two equal lengths of 1-3/4 yards
1 pair size 10-1/2 (6.5 or 7mm) knitting needles
Large sewing needle
One size (15" high by 12-1/2" wide by 7" deep)
14 stitches and 20 rows = 4"/10cm in garter stitch using size 10-1/2
Always work a gauge swatch and change needles accordingly, if necessary.
Cutting the Bags into Strips
1. Cut off the top section of each plastic bag to remove the handles.
2. Starting at the open top edge and cutting through one side at a time, cut a narrow strip in a spiral all the way down the bag (a little like peeling an orange) to make one continuous length. If the strips are too wide, simply cut those in half again; if they're too narrow, simply knit with two strips together.
3. Knot different color lengths together as desired and wind the strips into balls.
Knitting the Back
With size 10-1/2 needles, cast on 44 stitches.
Continue in garter stitch (in other words, knit every row) until piece measures 15", ending with a wrong side row. Bind off.
Knitting the Front
Work as for back.
Knitting the Gusset
With size 10-1/2 needles, cast on 20 stitches.
Continue in garter stitch as on back until piece measures 42", ending with a wrong side row. Bind off.
Making Up the Bag
Starting at one end of gusset, pin or baste to the back around three edges, easing and straightening to ensure the corners are square.
Repeat with the front to form the other side of the bag.
Using polypropylene string and a large sewing needle, stitch all the way around the edges with tiny running stitches. (Do not use backstitch as this will distort the knitted plastic.)
Making the Handles
Across the back, mark the position of the handles with a colored thread (approximately 4" in from each side of the bag and 1-1/4" from the top edge).
Thread the leather thong from the inside through to the outside of the knitted bag at one marked point and then back through at the other marked point.
Thread the thong through twice more and knot on the inside of the bag.
Repeat for the front.
Knit Bit: When reaching for a soap to wash your natural fibers, treat it like you would your own hair. You wouldn't wash your locks in dish soap, would you? What a mess! Try using a pH-balanced shampoo instead.