Okay, so it’s not exactly what you think. I collect plastic grocery store bags and use them to make sleeping mats. These mats are taken downtown by a ministry group at my school to be given to the homeless. They serve to provide a little bit of padding on the hard ground. The mats also make it easier to keep blankets dry and are easy to rinse clean.
It all started when I was asked to learn how to make these mats. They're made of crocheted plastic yarn, and while I have always loved to knit, crocheting is new territory for me. I set out to find a crochet hook and wrangle up some bags. I quickly ran through the 20 or so bags that my roommate and I had saved up from Target runs and trips to the grocery store. It didn't take long to realize that the bags I had at hand were not going to cut it. I had to find a place to get more bags, and a whole lot of them.
My friend and I drove to the nearby grocery store on a hunch that they may have a plastic bag recycling initiative. We were in luck - they did! The store manager was more than happy to let us raid the bins for as many bags as we could cram in an oversized garbage bag. We drove back to school with a giant bag of bags filling my backseat. It was settled then. I had become a crazy bag lady.
It takes a lot of bags to make a single ball of yarn and hundreds to complete a mat. I realized that the stash I had gotten would not last for long, so I asked a couple friends to pass on any spare bags when they had them. I asked my parents to bring all our empty bags from home when the visited me, as well. Soon I had stacks of plastic taking over my room and I would often come back in the evening to find new bags sitting on my desk waiting for me.
Now that it is break and I have had time to focus more on hobbies and less on obligations and commitments, I’ve thrown myself into this crazy world of plastic bags with renewed fervor. I have spent much of my break laying them out flat, cutting the bags into strips, and linking those strips together to make balls of plastic yarn. Eventually that yarn gets crocheted into mats:
My first effort did not look great. I mean, it serves its purpose, but as it is my first attempt at crocheting, it's a little on the small side and fairly misshapen. However, I now have many balls of plastic yarn assembled and nothing but time for the next week. I hope to get better at this so that I can continue to serve others in this way. These mats may not look like much, but they can be tremendous blessings for those who receive them.
Want to start making these in your community? Check out the links below to learn how to make the yarn and create awesome mats for those in need:
A simple illustration for how to make plastic yarn, or "plarn."
-Turn Your Plastic Bags into Sleeping Mats
Step by step instructions for crocheting (or knitting!) your own plastic sleeping mats.
-DIY Crochet Plastic Bags into Sleeping Mats for the Homeless
Don't have a downtown area near you? This article includes a list of several organizations that are always looking for donations of plastic sleeping mats, as well as instructions for how to make your own.