How to Make and Use Plarn

Make and Use Plarn
Jennifer Walker

How to Make and Use Plarn. A combination word, or portmanteau, plarn stands for plastic yarn. Though it can mean any yarnlike material made from plastic, it's usually used to refer to materials that are created by recycling items not originally intended to be used as yarn. If you're like me, you have a healthy supply of plastic shopping bags somewhere in your home that never seem to make it to those recycling bins that many grocery stores have out front. With just a pair of scissors and a little spare time--you can turn those "trash tumbleweeds" into something useful and fun. Here is how.

How to Make Plarn

Lay the bag out as flat as possible, tucking in those gussets on the side that enable the bag to expand and hold more items. As you flatten the bag they should naturally tuck in enough that you'll see how they fit. If not, make sure your bag is turned right side out.

Fold the bag lengthwise, each side towards the middle, and then together into one long strip. Trim off the handle portion of the bag and the very bottom where the seam is and discard those pieces.

Cut across the folded bag, creating 1-inch-thick strips. Do your best to keep them uniform so that your yarn will be more consistent. Open up the strips into loops.

Knot the loops, end to end, to create your yardage and wind it into a ball. You can get over 5 yards of plarn from a single bag!

How to Tie the Knots

Working two loops at a time, place one end of the second loop under the opposite end of the first loop.

Bring the free end of the second loop over the crossed ends.

Pull the lower end of the second loop through the upper one and gently pull tight.

How to Use Plarn

Being plastic, plarn is probably not the best idea for anything that will be worn close to the skin, as it will not breathe. For warmth, though, a plarn layer can be used as insulation inside more traditional fiber layers. Here are some more ideas to get you started working with the plarn you just made.

Twist some wire coat-hangers together and then fan them out from the center to form the base and spokes for a plarn-woven basket. You can also use a variety of colored bags to create a plarn tapestry on a traditional loom.

Crochet is probably the go-to skill when it comes to plarn, creating very sturdy fabric and working up quickly in double or triple crochet. Bags are the most common item crocheted with plarn, but headbands, wrist bands, belts and other accessories can be created with ease. Even though your plarn may look bulky, when worked, the fiber is actually about the same size as regular worsted-weight yarn.

To knit with plarn, your best bet is to use wooden needles to minimize the slipperiness of the plastic fiber. Knitted plarn is a bit more flexible on average than crocheted plarn, but it doesn't bounce back the way other knits do, so beware of placing too much weight into plarn-knit bags unless they are lined for strength.


Keep your knots small so they blend in better as you work.


Avoid damaged areas within a bag. Horizontal tears can be cut around, but bags with vertical tears should be avoided.

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