The creative process has always been an important part of my life. Here I share some basics to help you along the road to creativity.
Making Something Out of Nothing Much
Crocheting something useful and attractive from recycled materials is a great way to "go green" and satisfy your thrifty nature. These tote bags are all made from plastic bags—the kind you get from grocery stores, drug stores, or numerous other retailers.
Even if you use reusable grocery bags (and you should!), this kind of plastic bag is easily collected from friends. Don't tell, but I've even been known to raid the recycle containers at the grocery store to pick out a few of the colors I like. My one rule is never to buy a plastic bag!
I have pictured several different totes that were made from recycled bags.
The Crochet Beach Bag
The largest, and my favorite, is the white bag in the back with blue stripes. It's done in double crochet, making the weave rather loose, but it's just perfect for taking to the beach. You can stuff it with towels, books, sunblock to your heart's content; the sand will fall right out, and if it gets wet, it won't hurt a thing. This was made with white plastic grocery bags with contrasting stripes made from some of the older blue Walmart bags that I still had around the house.
Crochet Medium Sized Tote Bag (Tan)
This tote bag is the right size to use as a purse, but I use it as a tote when I want to carry an extra pair of shoes with me. I liked using the tan grocery bags for this as I think it looks more like straw. This was done in a single crochet. It took longer to do, but the weave is tighter and small items are less likely to work their way through it.
Crochet Medium Sized White and Black Beach Bag
This bag was my very first project and has lots of mistakes. I don't care because I love the way it came out and it's perfect for carrying my current crochet project. Again, it's done in double crochet. The white plastic bags are easy to find. The contrasting black trim was made from strips of black trash bags.
Crochet Water Bottle Holders From Recycled Plastic Bags
These were done in brown or white with contrasting colors. They are a great 1st project because they only take 5 or 6 bags and are quick and easy in double crochet. I like them with a shoulder-length strap that's easy to sling over my shoulder when walking.
An added benefit is that the crochet bag keeps watercooler longer. These little bags are also neat for toting small objects. Take them along beach combing for collecting small shells and sea glass.
Continuous Strip Method of Cutting Bags
By cutting the bags in the continuous strip method, you will have one long strip of plastic "yarn" to crochet. This method is very similar to the method I used to cut T-shirts for the T-shirt Rug project.
Step 1: Prepare the Bag
- Smooth out the bag
- Fanfold the bag several times and smooth it out.
- Cut off the handles at the top and the seam at the bottom.
Step 2: Fold the Bag
- Open up the folds and smooth out the bag, which is now a tube.
- Fold the bag so that the top half is within one and a half inches of the bottom half.
- Fold up from the bottom, but leave the top one and a half inches sticking out.
Step 3: Cut the Bag
- Cut the bag as if you were cutting a fringe through the folds and to within a half-inch of the top.
- Unfold the folds, and you will have a fringe that is still connected to the top.
- Open the tube slightly at the top and slide your hand into it, separating the front and back portions of the bag and letting the strips hang free.
Step 4: Make a Continuous Strip
- Slide hand through the tube to separate the front of the tube from the back.
- Begin cutting from the outside right edge to the first cut strip.
- Continue cutting from the outside edge to the next cut until done. The last cut will go through to the left outside edge.
- If cutting is done properly, you will have one long continuous strip of plastic "yarn."
- Wind into a ball.
- Ends can be knotted to the next section of yarn as the plastic knots compress and will not be obvious when the project is finished. Loose ends can be worked in when crocheting is completed.
Basic Instructions for Crochet Plastic Beach Bags
The method described does not require gauge. Bags are different thickness and will work up into different sizes by the way you cut them or the tension of you crochet stitch.
A good tip: Measure in inches the length you wish to achieve, then measure the width. Subtract the width from the length. The measurement is your starting chain length.
For instance, if you wish to have a 30" long and 20" wide oval, your starting chain will be 10". All measurements are approximate due to differences in bag thickness, stiffness, etc.
- ch = chain
- sc = single crochet
- dc = double crochet
- sl st = slip stitch
- rnd = round
- inc = increase
Instructions for Crocheted Beach Bag
Prepare bags by cutting into 1 1/4 inch to 1 1/2 inch strips using the continuous strip method above. Use size H hook. Change colors as you wish. Because I only had a few of the dark blue bags, I used white for the main color and saved the blue for trim and a few accent stripes. I did alternate double crochet rows with some single crochet rows.
Rnd 1: Chain 10 (or desired length). 3 sc in 2nd ch from hook, sc in each ch down the side, 3 sc in end ch and sc up the other side. I skip the join at the end of each round and keep working in a spiral, but it might be helpful to mark the end of the round with a piece of contrasting yarn or plastic. (Alternate to spiral: join with a slip stitch at the end of each round. Chain 1, work as below.)
Rnd 2: 2 sc in each of the 3 end sc. Sc in each sc down the side. 2 sc in each of 3 end sc, sc in each sc up the other side.
Rnd 3: sc around increasing approximately 3 evenly spaced sc at each "end". When you come to the place where you have 2 sc in each stitch, do 2 sc, 1 sc, 2 sc, 1 sc, 2 sc, 1 sc.
Rnd 4-6: Repeat rnd 3 until desired size for bottom of the bag. Work as many or few increases needed to keep work flat. Usually, 3 inc on each end will be sufficient.
Rnd 7: Working in back loop only, sc in each sc around. Do not increase at the ends.
Rnd 8: dc in each chain around. You may alternate rows of single crochet to give a more closed look and switch colors if you wish.
Rnd 8 to end: Repeat rounds as in round 8 until desired height is reached.
Top round: Finish off by sc around the top edge. Weave in loose ends.
Handles: Join at one end of the oval shape on the last dc round to make approximately 5 dc evenly spaced. Work back and forth until half the total length of the handle is finished. Finish off. Repeat at other end. Stitch center of the handle together. Work one round of slip stitch or single crochet around each side of handle to finish. Weave in any loose ends.
Do enjoy your crocheted projects. You will truly be making something from nothing, and, as you finish one project, I'm sure you'll think of other useful items you can make using those plastic bags.
Some of the things I've made are clothespin holders, small doormats for our motorhome or the back door, and water bottle holders for hiking. Just remember to recycle the scraps that you cut off your bags and to recycle your projects when you no longer want them!
I'd love to hear your comments on this project! Happy crocheting!
© 2011 Stephanie Henkel
I'd love to hear your comments on this project
Fran Pedersen on August 07, 2019:
Love these projects ....Where can we find the patterns
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on April 10, 2015:
Besarien - I use my crocheted tote bags for all kinds of things, including reusable shopping bags. Their usefulness is endless, and they are lots of fun to make. Thanks for stopping in to comment...have fun with your project!
Besarien from South Florida on April 09, 2015:
Great way to reuse plastic bags. These would be to shop with too and I'm sure they hold up better than the source material! This is a useful and fun hub. Voted up!
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on February 07, 2014:
Hi Kathryn Stratford - I had a lot of fun making these beach bags and shopping bags from recycled grocery bags, and use them often. I taught a class to my craft club on how to do them, and there were several beginner crocheters who made out just fine. Perhaps this will inspire you to give crocheting a try? Thanks for stopping by to read and comment!
Kathryn from Windsor, Connecticut on February 07, 2014:
Wow, those don't look like they're made out of plastic bags! Amazing. Thanks for sharing this with us. I don't crochet, but seeing projects like this makes me think about starting!
Have a great weekend.
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on January 09, 2014:
Sherry Hewins - I really like the idea of recycling these plastic grocery bags and have made some large beach bags that I use for just about everything. They are surprisingly durable and pretty, too! Thanks for stopping in to read and thanks for the pin!
Sherry Hewins from Sierra Foothills, CA on January 09, 2014:
It's a really green idea, and I'm surprised how pretty they look. I'm pinning this one.
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on August 14, 2013:
Barbara Kay - Glad you liked my crocheted beach bags from recycled plastic bags. I've made several of them that I use for the beach, for shopping or just as handy tote bags to carry my books or shoes. I hope your crochet group likes them... thanks for sharing!
Barbara Badder from USA on August 14, 2013:
I shared the link with my crochet group and will pin it.
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on August 20, 2012:
Joaniebaby - Recycling items that might otherwise end up in the trash is a great way to "go green" and I do love the usefulness of these bags made from recycled plastic grocery bags. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment!
joaniebaby on August 20, 2012:
Another great idea for recycling. Thanks so much.
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on August 20, 2012:
Lupine - The thing I love best about the bags is that they cost nothing! I use my beach bag frequently and it's easy to keep clean as well as stretchy enough to carry all my beach essentials. If you like working with the plastic "yarn", you can even make a door mat out of it. Have fun!
lupine from Southern California (USA) on August 19, 2012:
Great crochet ideas...no need to buy yarn, will try the rug and beach bag, thanks.
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on May 24, 2012:
Barbara Kay - Thanks for sharing this hub, Barbara! Hope your crochet group enjoys it!
Barbara Badder from USA on May 24, 2012:
I shared it. It is a nice patterns.
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on January 12, 2012:
K9- Thanks so much! Those plastic bags are sure not good for our environment, but making crochet beach bags from them is a good way to recycle them for a while. Of course, when the craft project has outlived its usefulness, we will recycle the bags!
Thanks for the link - love that HubLove! :)
India Arnold from Northern, California on January 12, 2012:
A-Maze-ing! Fantastic use for those dang plastic bags! Linking for some HubLove Steph!
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on August 29, 2011:
HI Mepperly, Thanks for stopping by to check out my hub. I looked at your hub on using strips of fabric, and that seems like a great idea, too!
Shelly Epperly from Vancouver,WA on August 29, 2011:
Great idea! I have a similar hub about using fabric strips. Making something useful out of something that is otherwise pollution or waste is wonderful.
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on August 23, 2011:
Hi Cherrylehoughton, I think these would make great gifts, especially if you start now to collect some colorful bags for accent colors. Have a great time with it!
cherryllehoughton from Northamptonshire, England on August 23, 2011:
I'm alittle short for cash for this christmas and have been looking how to make presents for family and friends! This article is fantasic and I will be using your design (hopefully) thanx xx
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on August 21, 2011:
Femmeflashpoint - Thanks so much for your nice comments! The bags are useful and fun to make - maybe you'll try them one day. :)
femmeflashpoint on August 20, 2011:
Stephanie - this is a wonderful article! I don't crochet, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the process. The finished bags look wonderful, and I love it that they're water-worthy and sand-proof, lol.
Great job and very useful information! Thank you for sharing!
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on August 19, 2011:
JamaGenee - I use these bags for lugging all kinds of things around as they are quite sturdy. The plastic bag rugs are great outdoor mats. Many RVers make them to use at the bottom of their stairs to keep dirt for being tracked into the rig. They're easy to make and easy to keep clean just by hosing them off. Your idea of putting an absorbent rug underneath is a great idea for snowy areas. I remember the puddles of melting snow from boots and gloves when my kids and grandkids were young! Thanks again for your comments!
Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on August 19, 2011:
I never go to a beach or pool, but can think of many other uses for these bags. Years ago, I made rugs out of plastic bags for just inside the back door for kids to wipe muddy shoes and boots on. With a regular washable throw rug underneath to catch melting snow or water from puddles, this combination worked as well as (or better than) store-bought "mud mats" that couldn't be thrown in the washer!
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on May 04, 2011:
Hi WeddingPlanner, If you take a look at my hub: Make Something for Nothing~ How to Make T-shirt rugs, you'll find a good video on how to crochet for beginners. It's easy, give it a try! Thanks for stopping by to read and comment on my hub!
DIYweddingplanner from South Carolina, USA on May 04, 2011:
Stephanie, I love these! Now I wish I had listened more when my mom tried to teach me how to crochet years ago. A great green craft and very cool looking as well!
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on April 24, 2011:
Fetty, thanks for reading and commenting on my hub. One of the reasons I like these plastic bag projects is that they are such a great way to recycle while enjoying a fun hobby. And, it doesn't cost anything! Glad you found it helpful.
fetty from South Jersey on April 24, 2011:
Beautiful work and very appropriate for Earth Day and the month of April. Your photos are very clear and helpful,too. Great hub!
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on April 22, 2011:
Ashantina, Thanks! :) I'm sure you'll love your beach bag. I also use mine for knitting, shopping and just carrying stuff. Have fun with the project and thanks for stopping by!
Ashantina on April 22, 2011:
You're a gem Stephanie! I'm so loving this beach bag. Bookmarked yet again, UP :)
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on April 21, 2011:
E.A.Wright, Glad you liked the color combination in my crochet project. Pretty colors are not always easy to find, so I save any special colors to use as accents. Right now, I'm saving some purple bags to combine with white for a new beach bag. Thanks for visiting and commenting on my hub!
E. A. Wright from New York City on April 21, 2011:
Great idea, and I love that white/teal/beige color palette.
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on April 19, 2011:
Thanks for stopping by and reading my hub, Tina.
Tina Julich from Pink on April 18, 2011:
Great hub. Thanks for the inspiration.
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on April 18, 2011:
Hi Barbara Kay, I'm glad you liked my patterns. My craft group did water bottle holders together a couple of years ago and loved it. I'm sure your crochet group will have lots of creative ideas for other projects. Thanks for stopping by my hub and commenting.
Barbara Badder from USA on April 17, 2011:
Great patterns. I'll share this page with my crochet group.