Friday, June 3, 2011

Plastic Yarn?

Ok, I admit it: I am not an enthusiastic recycler.  Sometimes plastic items and cans just get tossed into the "general garbage" along with table scraps and fruit parts I'm not going to eat.  Where, you say, is my commitment to composting and reducing my carbon footprint?  Well, folks, it's been looped into plastic yarn!

I was leafing through knitting books at the Half Price Book store and saw a pattern for a shopping bag/tote bag zip by.  It looked interesting, and after a second perusal, I bought the book. Just for that one pattern, you say? Hey, it was half price. And a RECYCLING project, so it would cost nothing to make!  All I had to do was use the plastic shopping bags I already had accumulating in my kitchen closet and in a "few simple steps," recycle them to make another, larger, stronger shopping bag.  A nifty one.  Color didn't matter. Wait, yes it did.  The picture in the book looked kind of drab---mostly white with little bits of color from the writing on the bags. I decided to search my house for plastic bags of color, and found quite a few.  Some were kind of heavyweight, but that shouldn't make any difference.... 

So what was my first step?  Smooth each bag out and cut off the top, right below the handles, and then the bottom, releasing the folds on the sides to be smoothed out as well.  Fold in half, and then half again.  Cut into strips, which will fold out into loops.  Into "oops" was more like it, until I got the folding part conquered. I spent an hour or so doing the cut, cut, strip, strip, strip... Good thing I was watching tv or my mind would soon  have been snoring.

When I HAD to rest my achy breaky right hand, I realized that it was going to take a LOT of  bags, and a LOT of cutting before I was ready for the next step:  looping the loops together. And until I had enough colors to alternate the whites and browns with, it wasn't going to happen.  Enough for today.  A few days later....back I went  to the cutting and stripping. Who knew that stripping could be so boring?

When my piles of  multi-colored strips began to  reach couch height, I decided it was time to start looping. Yippee! Lovely hours of  loop de loop, alternating colors... until I had enough plastic yarn to wind into a ball!  I had arrived, after several sessions of stripping over 50 bags and ( how many?) hours of work, I was ready to begin to make a ball of the stuff that I ordinarily just pick off a shelf and start knitting. Can you sense my excitement?

Finally! The best part and the easiest part in this production line:  knitting!  Yes!  No!  The heavier bags cut into loops and then into stitches seemed  incapable of moving along the knitting needles without superhuman strength---what was this plastic made of, super glue?  Took me a few tries, but eventually I got the hang of making the stitches looser and easier to move.  Then it  took a few weeks of on and off knitting, but a flat piece of plastic knitting emerged.  It was folded in half, sewn into purse shape, tabs knitted and rolled over some recycled wooden handles and sewn to the inside and Voila!!  I had in my hands a PURSE!  A recycled  plastic purse! I was ecstatic, especially since everyone I had showed the "creation in progress" to had a hard time working up any enthusiasm or vision of  a final product that anyone could or would want to use. And yet, catching sight of  the final product hanging from a door knob evoked this comment from my husband:  "It looks MUCH better than I ever thought it would!"  Thanks, honey.

So the moral of the story is:  there are easier ways of recycling, of reducing the carbon footprint we leave behind and of enjoying the time we have left of life, and they have their places in the lives of the ordinary. But plastic yarn will proudly stand as the recycling choice of  the stout-hearted  and courageous.