A fun project for adults or children is to make a rug from plastic bags that can be used indoors or outdoors.
With our so-called “national flower” still making its way into the sea and onto our beaches, finding a way to repurpose plastic shopping bags is a great community project that can help incentivise beach and river clean-ups.
Remember to use gloves when collecting plastic bags on beaches and rivers. The bags should be rinsed and dried before being used to make a rug.
How to make a rug from plastic bags
Rugs are made by weaving together fibres or threads. This method works the same way using repurposed plastic bags.
Step 1: Gather the supplies
The first step is to find enough plastic bags to create a small rug. You’ll need about 150. This is a great way to repurpose lots of plastic bags. This is what you need:
- 150+ plastic bags
- wax paper
- an iron
- straight pins.
Step 2: Sort the bags
If you want to create a colourful pattern, sort the bags into different colour piles. If you don’t want a pattern, use bags at random for a unique look.
Step 3: Split the bags
To create “fibres” to work with, cut the handles at the top and cut the bags down each side, leaving the base intact to create a long strip.
Spread the bags out and fold them lengthwise from one of the cut edges to form a long strip about 5 cm wide. Keep the print on the outside.
If children are helping, use bluntnose scissors.
Step 4: Start braiding the bags together
The rug you’ll be making is circular, so you’ll start with a centre braid that will spiral out as you add more bags. If you don’t know how to braid or plait, check out this tutorial for a basic three-strand braid.
Start with three bags. Knot them together at the end. Place a heavy item on the knot or hold it with your toes so you can start braiding. When you reach the end of the first strips, leave a tail so you can knot the next strips on and continue braiding.
Once you have a decent length, start laying the braid into a spiral shape. You’ll get an idea of how far you have to go. The size of the rug is up to you, but it will depend on how many bags you have.
Step 5: Pin the braids in place
As you start forming the spiral, use straight pins to keep the braids in place. The pins with the round plastic heads work well because they’re easy to see and don’t pull loose easily.
Be careful how you handle the rug once it’s full of pins. Make sure children are supervised.
Step 6: Fusing the back of the rug
To keep the rug from unravelling once the pins are removed, the back is fused or melted to a plastic backing sheet using a hot iron. If you’re a little nervous of this step, practise first with some spare bags.
Use more plastics bags, cut open and flattened, to create the sheet that forms the backing of the rug. Put the spiral pin-side down on an iron-safe surface. Lay your sheet of plastic bags over the back of the spiral.
Cover it with a layer of wax paper. Run the hot iron over the wax paper to melt the back of the spiral and fuse the braid to the backing bags.
Only iron on the wax paper or the melted plastic bags will stick to your iron. This step should only be done by an adult.
When you reach the end of the spiral, tuck the tail end of the braid under the rug and fuse it in place. You can then remove the wax paper and pins to reveal your finished rug.