Tag Archives: plastic bags

The Lorax as Mascot and Muse


“UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.”

The Lorax has always been a story that has held a special place in my heart.  So here today I present my second attempt at bringing this scrappy character who is “shortish and oldish and brownish and mossy” to life in plarn (plastic yarn made from recycled grocery bags).

And since my first Lorax was sold at last years Last Minute Market, of course I needed a new mascot to accompany me this year as well!  Both versions are original designs, as I used no pattern for either.  The first one (below) was much larger than the second and based completely off the original illustrations by Dr Seuss.  The second one (top) was based more off of the movie version, hence the more pronounced eye brows.

The other differences between the two is that the current version is completely free-standing with its attached Truffula stump, and is also made of 100% recycled plastic bags (in the original design I used a foam material for the eyes).

the Lorax in plarn

I like how the new version shows the Lorax with his hands planted firmly on this hips, so that you can imagine him appearing before the Once-ler out of that first Truffula stump and saying “with a sawdusty sneeze, ‘I am the Lorax.  I speak for the trees[!]’ ”



Come out and see me and the Lorax at this years Last Minute Market on December 21st and I will be happy to share with you my passion for recycling single-use plastic grocery bags into high-end handbags, change purses, drinking vessel carriers, and medicine bags.  You really have to see my work to believe it.  What could have been trash or downcycled material is turned into items of beauty and functionality.

And don’t forget to like the zween Facebook Page, where I post all the latest news about what I’m up to!


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Filed under Events, Upcycled

The Plarn Project; Plastic Bags Transformed


Today I am submitting my proposal to be a part of the Akron Mini Maker Faire on November 2, 2013.

Project Summary:
By transforming the ubiquitous plastic super market sack into chic and durable handbags, Emily Lindberg is diverting hundreds of plastic bags from landfills.  The Plarn Project; Plastic Bags Transformed, showcases these creations so as to inspire others to see the potential in what can be made out of trash.  In addition to inspiration, the project educates the public about the stress that plastic bags place on our ecosystem, and Emily will be instructing willing participants how to create their own plastic yarn (plarn) out of 100% recycled material.


(Plarn medicine bag)


(Plarn belt pouch for cell phone)

plarn owl wristlet

(Plarn owl wristlet purse)


(Plarn shoulder bag)

Along with actual examples of my most recent plarn creations, I will be providing key statistics and facts about the effect that plastic bags have had on our environment since their introduction in 1977.

I will also be conducting ongoing demonstrations of plarn making for anyone who is interested and will have plenty of plastic bags on hand so that participants can make as much as they’d like!

I hope that my proposal is accepted, and if it is, I hope that you can make it out to see me!


Looks like I’ll be going to be a maker in the faire!!!  So come on out to see me and all the other makers!  Also, be sure to like my facebook page for updates on all things zween as well as reminders about the faire.  See you soon!


Filed under Upcycled

Plarn; a labor of love?


I am making new, durable objects out of something we think of as worthless trash while transforming it in such a way that most people I have come across don’t even know that these were once plastic bags.  But, reflecting back over my long history with plarn, I sometimes wonder, “is it worth it?”

To say that crocheting with plastic bags is labor intensive is an understatement quite frankly.  If you are unfamiliar with the process allow me to break it down for you.

First, I collect the plastic grocery sacks.  Simple right?

That is step one, and already I have hit my first obstacle because I do not have the opportunity to procure bags in the normal fashion.  I’m not saying that I don’t accumulate plastic bags because I am a canvas-bag-toting-saint.  I am saying that my husband works at a Trader Joe’s and does all of our grocery shopping.  He should use reusable bags exclusively but he doesn’t.  Instead he usually uses the paper bags that Trader Joe’s give out (and reuses them over and over until they wear out).  In fact, I didn’t know that TJs even had a plastic bag option until Jon prof read this post.  But I digress.

crocheting with plarn

So where do I get all my plastic bags you wonder?  A couple of places.  First, I have a number of friends and family members who save up their bags and give them to me.  This is how I get the majority of my bags.  But since most of my closest friends and family members try to use reusable market bags whenever possible (which is a good thing!) it can take quite a long time to accumulate the quantity of bags that is necessary to create the products that I make.

chevron in plarn

The other way that I obtain bags is a little more tricky.  I go to super markets and take the bags that other people bring for recycling.  Yes, you heard me correctly; I steal plastic bags.  Now here I will rant a bit because this bothers me.  Why should I be made to feel like a criminal for taking something that nobody wants (plastic bags) and recycling it?  Once, I went to a local grocery store (the Giant Eagle on W 117th, Cleveland) and I wanted some used bags.  My husband was with me and for some reason he decided that he wanted to actually ask the manager if it would be all right if I take the bags.  To our surprise his answer was NO, it was not all right!  At this point I told him why I wanted the bags and his response was, “well how am I to know for sure what you will do with the bags?  For all I know you could take them and throw them in the lake!”  I kid you not, that is what he said.  Then I went to another local super market (Marc’s in Lakewood, OH).  The first time I went I asked the person at the customer service counter if I could take their recycled bags and was relieved when the man said “of course.”  I did this on a couple of occasions until one day I went in and the bin where the bag are returned was bolted shut!  I now only resort to “stealing” bags when I am particularly desperate for a certain color, or my supply is non-existent.


The next step is sorting the bags.  Above is a particularly good haul of plastic bags that my mom and brother collected over several months and gave to me all at one time.  Each bag is checked for cleanness and sorted by color.  Below I have made small bundles of like-colored bags, which breaks them into more manageable amounts when I go to make them into plarn.



After I have at least 30 or so bags of one color I’m ready to make a ball of plarn, which involves cutting each bag, one at a time, and looping the individual pieces together, as shown below.  For a more detailed explanation of this process you may want to read my tutorial on how to make plarn.



ball of plarn from kroger bags

Wow, that was a lot of work!  But wait, I haven’t even “made” anything yet!

Next comes the fun part, crocheting the ubiquitous grocery bags into handbags, durable messenger bags, baskets, and cute little owls that sit in your home and make you happy.  This is the part that reminds me of the classic children’s story, Rumplestiltskin.  Instead of turning straw into gold I am transforming trash into…




some lovely purses…

plarn owl wristlet

owl wristlets…

plarn chevron messenger bag

a chevron messenger bag…


acorn baskets…


and cute owl decorations.

I enjoy coming up with different crocheted designs and finding old purses past their prime to take apart and use their zippers, buckles and handles.

But what about the question that I pose in the title of this post; is plarn a labor of love?

This is something that I have been thinking about more and more in the last few months following my participation in the Last Minute Market.  I had a wonderful time at the show.  It was the largest show that I have ever done to date and it was also the first time that I showcased ONLY my plarn items (as opposed to a hodge-podge of upcycled items).  The lowest price point at my table was $25.  To me this was all such a big risk.  What would people think?  Would I even sell enough to cover my table fee?  Three hours into the eight-hour show without a single sale I was beginning to have serious doubts.  But I didn’t give up.  The entire day I stood next to my table and engaged each and every person who walked by and gave my work the slightest side-ways glance.  I greeted them and asked them things like, “do you know what these are made of?” motioning toward my table.  To my surprise, most people couldn’t guess that everything on my table was made from plastic grocery bags.

That’s when I would bring them over to my table and show them the poster below as I briefly explained the process.  As I did so I could hear the excitement in my voice about how I developed my technique over the past seven and a half years, and how when I started I barely knew how to crochet at all!

plarn recycle poster

Inevitably they would come to the same conclusion and ask the same question, which were, “this must take you a long time!” and “how many bags does it take to make one of these?”

Though I do my best to estimate how much time it takes me to make one of my purses and how many bags I use, the truth is that it is impossible to calculate.  Okay, maybe it’s not technically impossible, but it’s not the way I want to spend my time, making plarn and crocheting take long enough as it is!

However, what I suspect is at the root of their questions and comments is this, “is it really worth your time to do this?”  Excellent question, and one that I’m trying to figure out for myself.  It’s a question that a lot of craftspeople face, which is, ‘can I really charge what I would need to charge to pay for my time’ (because let’s face it, in my case that is all you are really paying for since the materials are mostly free).

The answer is…

No, I could never really charge enough for the individual items that I create to make my time worth it.  Yet I still keep making them.  I make them because it really is a labor of love; it’s something that I need to do.  I need to make these things with my hands.  I need to share them with other people.  I need to photograph them and write about them and talk to other people about them.  I need them to leave my home and live their own lives with other people.  I need them to be made out of trash, because it is the act of making something out of nothing that is attractive to me.  Plarn gives me an avenue to design and invent while appealing to my sensibilities toward the environment.  And now that I’m a mother, I want to pass on the ideals about reusing, recycling and resourcefulness to my daughter.


If you have liked this article I invite you to follow zween on Facebook.  You may also like to check out these previous blog posts that I have written about plarn specifically:

Crocheting with plastic bags; a six year journey
Toot Tuesday; Making Plarn
Wise Owl Plarn Wristlets
Cheveron Ombre Messenger Bag


Filed under About, Upcycled

Messenger Bag Revisited

Last week I decided to revisit a project that I made almost 6 years ago, a messenger bag made with plarn and featuring arrow designs.  You may remember me mentioning it last month in my post crocheting with plastic bags; a six year journey.

I had a lot of fun with this project.

Before I even started, I dug out the original bag from a box in the attic.  It looked really sad. The edges are all wonky from lack of knowledge in crochet, and because I used to use it quite a bit, it was more than just a little worn looking.

Crochet Plarn Messenger Bag

crochet plarn messanger bag

The last time I went thrift store shopping I bought a bunch of old fabric strap belts with metal rings to use as bag straps.  I got the idea from my friend Chris and her mother while at the Car Kulture Show last month.

I decided that a messenger-style bag would be the perfect application for one of these belts.

The pattern of this bag is very simple and almost identical to the original, except of course for the strap and the placement of the arrows. I also decided to incorporate some pink bags to go with the strips in the strap.

So what do you think?  Do you like how my new one came out?

If you really dig this bag and you live in the Cleveland area you will be able to purchase it from the gift shop at MOCA (museum of contemporary art; Cleveland) as of this Friday, September 23rd which marks their very last opening reception at their current location at 8501 Carnegie Ave, Cleveland.

For their farewell season they’ll be showcasing the works of sculpture Ursula Van Rydingsvard who is a “distinctive and compelling voice in contemporary art” and is “best known for creating large-scale, often monumental cedar sculptures that exude great physical and psycological power.  Her sinature abstract shapes refer to things in the real world–simple vessles, bowls, tools and other obejcts–each revealing the mark of the human hand while also summoning natural forms and forces.”

After dropping off nearly all of the plarn items that I have made to date at MOCA this morning I was privalaged to a sneak peak of the exhibit and let me just say it’s very impressive!  If you are in the Cleveland area this is a must-see for sure!  The opening is free and open to the public and will start at 7pm, but come early at 6 to hear Ursula talk about her work in person.


Filed under Critique

A Natural Evolution

During the Rowdy Indie Craft Fair a couple of weeks ago a young girl, probably between five and seven years old, spotted this basket on my table and excitedly announced to her mother, “mommy, mommy LOOK!  It’s an ACORN!”  Her mother, probably realizing that I had not meant for my basket to look like an acorn, seemed a bit uncomfortable and (needlessly) embarrassed.  She was right, I hadn’t meant for it to look like an acorn, but after the girl pointed it out I thought, hmm… that’s a great idea!  And so I made an acorn, and then another.

And then there was this little guy who I started making on a whim one day.  I didn’t want him to be just a plushy (and since he’s made with plastic bags, he wouldn’t be very plush now would he).  So he became a weeble wobble.

weeble wobble owl

Today I finished this purse that incorporates the owl motif.  The shape is similar; it’s mostly just bigger and has a slightly flatter bottom.  I also added a recycled zipper and handles of course.

These projects are a microcosm of the evolution that my work (and life) have gone though.  With each new project something is learned or discovered and the road to the next project is paved.

I think about this a lot, and not just in terms of crochet.  It’s easy to feel behind in life.  Like I’m not where I should be.

When I start to feel like this I think of all the things that I’ve done that I look back on with any sort of fondness, pride, or satisfaction; trips I’ve taken, jobs I’ve had, projects I’ve finished.  Then I think about all the things that had to happen before I was able to do those things.

About six months ago I created this website as a platform to share my projects, ideas, and inspirations.  One hundred posts later, I’m still evolving.

This post was just added to Made By You Mondays on Skip to My Lou.  Click the link to check out other entries!

To keep up with zween, please become a fan on Facebook.


Filed under About

Comming up; Sandusky Art Walk

Beginning in May of this year, The Sandusky Art Walk will happen the first Thursday of each month through December and was created to bring “art and fun to downtown Sandusky [Ohio].”  The August Art Walk will take place tomorrow from 5-9 pm.

This will be my second time participating in this art walk (again set up outside of Kharma Salon & Boutique125 W. Water St., Sandusky, OH 44870) and I’m super excited about it!  It was during the July Art Walk when I had the revelation that I should focus my attention solely on making items from recycled/reclaimed/reused materials.

This will be my first craft event since that time and I’ve really put a lot of thought into using the discarded materials around me (buttons, cereal boxes, old fabric, and plastic grocery bags, just to name a few). Here’s a small preview of what you will see when you visit my table…

Handbags and baskets made from plastic grocery bags (aka plarn).

Recycled cereal box greeting cards with fun cereal puns.

Lots of new gift boxes with bows made from recycled junk mail.  And much much more!  Hope to see you there!


Filed under Events

Toot Tuesday; Making Plarn

About a week ago I wrote this post that told the story about how I came to work with plastic grocery bags turned into yarn, a material that is now know as “plarn” ([p]lastic y[arn]).  Now I’m going to share with you how plarn is made.

When I first started crocheting with the plastic bags I had never seen it done before and was therefore winging it.  In those days I would cut my bags into long flat strips and knot them together using square knots.  This plarn is okay, but not ideal in my opinion.  It’s still strong and I’ve never had a problem with the knots coming undone or anything, it’s just “messier” looking, which is fine, but I like the cleaner look better.

After spending about a year making things with the knotted plarn I learned about the looping technique that I will show you today from my Grandma Virgie.  I think she told me that she’d seen it on TV, but I’m not exactly sure.

Now, without further ado, your tutorial on making plarn:

Materials needed:
Many plastic grocery bags


First, cut the bottom seem off of your bag.

Next, flatten out the bag and cut off the handles.  Now you should have one big tube.

With the open ends of your big tube facing East and West, cut your big tube into strips North and South.  I usually get 6 or 7 strips out of each bags.  The wider your strips the thicker your plarn will be, so play around with what thickness works best for you.  These newly cut strips will now look like big loops.

Now you’re going to lock your loops together. It’s a little hard to describe with words, so I hope this next sequence of pictures illustrates the process well enough for you to understand…

Now your on your way to making some plarn!  You will need a LOT of bags to make a purse, so get to work!  Make sure that after connecting all the loops of two or three grocery bags you take the time to wind them into a ball so that they don’t become a knotted mess on your floor (because it will happen if you don’t).  A simple ball will do, but if you’re a bit on the OCD side like me you can make a center pull ball (shown at the top of this post) so that it doesn’t roll all over the place as you work.

Happy plarning!

Did you find this tutorial helpful?  Was any part confusing or unclear?  Let me know in the comments below so that I will be encouraged to continue making tutorials and making them better.

If you did find this tutorial helpful, make sure to like zween’s facebook page and you will be updated when future tutorials, stories, and events are posted on my blog.  Thank you!


Filed under Tutorials