Sep 24, 2013

Using What's Around You

I have always been a fan of crafts that do not take a lot of money or space, for the fairly obvious reason that I have usually had a limited amount of both.  Knitting, for example, takes up a whole lot less space than a wood working shop. And when you don't have to pay for materials, even better! My newspaper route provided me with a ton of plastic straps that I tried doing stuff with as a kid, with little success.  Then, I was a bit weird.  Who am I kidding, I still am.  But! That behavior now is actually somewhat trendy, as I'm just "up-cycling".

I also have a bad habit of looking at a project, seeing the basic structure of how it works, and assuming that I can just do it.  Sometimes it works beautifully.  Sometimes it leads to disaster.  On the good side, at the beginning of the hackey sack craze in the 90's, I saw one and thought "You paid how much for this?  I can make these!"  Several hundred dollars and a case of carpal tunnel syndrome later, I still considered that a win.  On the other hand, sometimes I just end up with a house full of reeds, and a bunch of splinters (just don't ask.)

Which brings us to today's project/materials.  In my small attempt to make my tiny apartment not look like a disaster area, I've been trying to get organized.  One of the easiest ways that I've found to do that is to just have lots of baskets to just throw things into, to hide the mess.  It's less organization and more "out of sight, out of mind", but hey, baby steps, right?  So I've been scouring places like Marshalls and TJ Maxx and anywhere else I can find cheap, but nice stuff, and I had that thought.  "That's how much?  I could make something like this."

Before I go into details about the whats and hows, take a look at the finished product.

Can you tell what the materials were?  I'll give you a hint, it was completely free.

If you guessed plastic bags, you're correct! So I'm going to show you how I transformed some old shopping bags into a basket. For this week, it's all about turning the plastic bags into cording that you can use for this, or any other project (Knitting, crocheting, whatever).  The next post will go into how I turned that cord into a basket. 

The materials that you will need:
  • Plastic shopping bags 
  • Scissors
Additional item that can be helpful:
  • Drop Spindle

Creating Cords

No matter how you decide to do a basket, or what you decide to do with your plastic bags, it helps to first have them in a workable format. First, only use bags that are clean and dry. That should be obvious.  Are any ripped?  Depending on how you're going to use them, they could be just fine. In this case, everything is taking the form of a cord (yes, I know that there is a portmanteau for plastic yarn, but I think that it's stupid, and refuse to use it). This means that I will have to join multiple strips of plastic together. For the white plastic bags, as I want that rope to have a small gauge, the strips will be about one inch wide.  I would recommend not going narrower than that.  In my experience, when I was spinning it that way it started to lose structural integrity, and snap. 

Cut a small hole in each end of the strip.
Cut a small slit in each end of the strip
The pieces will be woven together, so cut a small slit near each end of the piece. To connect the pieces, interweave the two pieces like in the photo to the right, and gently pull tight. The two different colors in the photo are shown for the purpose of demonstration.  Unless you want your rope to change colors, both pieces would normally be the same color. 

Thin Cord

The hardest part of this: keeping the cat from attacking the plastic.
For the thin white cord, I opted to do all of it at once, using my drop spindle.  If you don't know what a drop spindle is, it's a very simple tool used for spinning wool into yarn. While I was making the basket, I would just break off pieces about the length of my arm to work with. If you don't have a drop spindle, you can either twist it manually, or attach each piece to a wrench, pen, pair of scissors.  Pretty much just something that you can twist, but won't break your plastic.  As you can see in the photo, the drop spindle just looks like an elongated top, with a hook at the top. The basic way to use it is just to spin it, allowing the length of cord you're working with to twist itself. Then, once a section is done, wrap the cord around the base and start on the next section.  Before you run out and spend any money on something that you're making because it's free, can you think of something that you have lying around that can help you do the same thing?

The Thick Cord

The brown plastic bags will be playing the role of the pine needles in my basket.  I want the cord that they become to be much thicker, so I am not going to be cutting them into strips.

Lay the bag out flat on the table

Fold one third of the bag in towards the center.
Fold the bottom one third up to the top, so the bag has a folded edge on both the top and the bottom. This will leave you with a long rectangle, the handles of the bag at one end.

Fold the bag in half one more time.

Make a slit in the end that was the bottom of the bag. Repeat these steps for each bag that will be used.
With the two bags that you want to connect, slip the handles of bag 1 through the slit in bag 2.

Then slip the handles from bag 2 through the handles in bag 1 (see now why we only needed to make one cut?)
Gently pull the two bags taut.
Twist to form a cord (for this one, I did not use the drop spindle, and just did it with my hands).

The bags from my local supermarket make a cord that is about 1/4 of an inch diameter.  Depending on the bags that you use, it could be rather different.
While it may look a little uneven at the moment, we will continue to adjust it while we make the basket.

Next: Turning your cord into a pine needle basket.

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