Crafty Crafty: Plastic Bag Placemat

What to do with all those pesky plastic grocery bags? We’ve switched over most of the way to reusable bags, but sometimes we just plain forget to bring them or don’t have enough, or we decide to get a few plastic bags to put to other uses. If you didn’t know, plastic bags are made out of oil, making them a hugely wasteful product, and several other countries have outlawed them all together, for oil usage reasons and pollution reasons.

So, what to do? I’m taking a creativity and higher-level thinking class as part of my master’s program, and we were challenged to create something from a household item. I wanted to find a common object that no one had yet explored uses for, so I looked at plastic bags. Hobby Lobby has some great recycling ideas, but they almost all require interfacing and I wanted to limit my creation to just items I could already find in my house. So, I broke out my elementary school weaving skills and made a placemat.

The first thing I did was to create a loom and spool to use to make the weave job easier. I just found an old cardboard box and cut off a side, using a smaller piece for the spool. Make sure you wind your “thread” around the spool short-wise, because long-wise will not unravel while you are weaving.

Next, prepare your plastic bags. This is where things can get really creative if you wish. I used one large Kohl’s bag and three small Kroger bags. I cut off the handles and bottom seam so I was left with a circle of “fabric”, then cut the circle so it lay as one flat piece.

(PS – There apparently is a much easier way of making your plastic bags into weaving material – it’s called plarn! Check out my friend Valerie’s post on Brushes and Thread for better directions!)

The way bags are designed with logos in only specific sections means that if you want, you could only use solid color pieces from the bags. I cut the “thread” into small strips and tied it together, but if you wanted a more seamless look, you could leave the bag as a circle and cut it in a giant spiral, meaning there would only be two connections, which can be woven to face the back side of the placemat. Needless to say, I thought of this AFTER having already cut and tied all my bags. Wind the “thread” around the spool to make your job easier.

You’ll need to cut strips approximately 1-1.5 inches wide and several inches longer than your loom for the cross strings. Make sure to leave just a bit of slack when you string your loom so that your spool will fit between the strings fairly easily.

Next, begin weaving in an over/under fashion, back and forth across the loom, until you have filled as much of the loom as possible (you will not be able to go to the end of the loom since the spool will not fit).

Then, pull the weaving (carefully!) off the loom, and tie the ends together. Tip: If you put your finger next to the knot as you are pulling it tight, it won’t pull too much on the weaving and distort it.

Trim the ends and fan them out, and trim the connections. Make sure to leave a millimeter at the end so the connections don’t pull apart.

And finally, enjoy your finished product! Not bad for some plastic bags, eh?

Inspiration: Dining Duds Part 1

We have a small house right now, so it’s hard to find furniture that is adequate for our needs yet small enough to fit in our house. I’ve been looking for some time for a dining room sideboard to help store my table linens, appliances we don’t use very often, and other items. I would also like the ability to have a place to set out my antique record player to use for dinner parties and get-togethers.

I’ve been searching for possibilities for quite some time: new, old, pieces that would need a lot of work, pieces that would just need to be moved in. I’ve found through this research the type of sideboard that I like, and the types that I don’t. I don’t want a glass front or something with no doors, because I don’t want to have to keep everything looking perfect all the time in my storage space. I don’t want something higher than countertop height because I want to use the piece for my record player and occasionally for laying out food such as appetizers.

Here are some of the sideboards I’ve liked:This one is nice because I like the unique use of aluminum ceiling tiles to hide the spaces on an old bookcase. It is a little narrow and tall, however, and would need a fresh coat of paint as well as some new drawer pulls.

I’d love something like this piece from Pottery Barn, but it is way out of my price range.

This piece from Target is much more affordable (albeit still expensive at $299) and is very close to the size that I would want. I don’t particularly care for the color (everything in our house is dark wood, so I’d probably distress it and stain those parts a bit lighter or repaint it).

Overall, I think that I am going to either build a piece myself or repurpose something from Craigslist since I can’t find anything that fits my tastes and budget. With no pantry, I need something to store all the things that can’t fit into the kitchen cabinets.