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Conditioning Plarn (Plastic Bag Yarn) for Crochet

Moira has been crocheting since she was 14 years old. She loves experimenting with small crochet projects.

"Softened" plarn ready to be used.

"Softened" plarn ready to be used.

Crocheting with plastic bag yarn (plarn) presents a different challenge than crocheting with traditional yarn. The most obvious reason is that plarn is flat, while traditional, natural-fiber yarn is tubular. To remedy this, the plarn must be “conditioned” for crocheting or knitting. This can be done by either spinning or "softening" the plastic. This article presents both ways to condition plarn for needlework.

Freshly cut plarn.

Freshly cut plarn.

Why I Soften Plarn

I’ve crocheted plarn for almost a year now, and in my early projects, I crocheted unconditioned or flat plarn. Flat plarn is fine if you use plastic from thin and soft bags. All you have to do is to make sure you crush the plarn in the crook of the crochet hook as you crochet each stitch.

But as the days went by, I encountered plastic bags that were not as soft. When I crocheted them, the resulting item had rough edges where the plarn was stiffly folded by crocheting. This makes crocheted items itchy when they come into contact with skin.

After having to untangle an almost-finished crocheted item because I ran out of plarn, I noticed how soft it was when I started crocheting it again. There were fewer rough edges, and it was much less scratchy. This gave me the wonderful idea to crush or crumple the plarn before using it to crochet. However, using crocheting and then untangling plarn as a technique for conditioning screams tedious to me. So I thought that if I pass the plarn through a narrow hole, that should crumple it enough to make it more soft and pliable.

I’m not sure if I’m the first one to share this technique or if others have already discovered it before me. So I just named it “softening” plarn.

Finding the Best Softening Method

My first try was with a hole in one of my keys. That worked fine, but I lost the key. So I had to find other alternatives. I tried a hairpin. It was great, but the hairpin was a bit too wobbly. It’s difficult to keep it steady as you pass the plarn through it. I saw a plastic fork from a fast food chain and thought, “Hmmmmm…why not?” And that was it! I can form a narrow hole with it using my fingers, and it’s big enough for me to hold steady as I pull the plarn through.

How to hold the fork to soften the plarn.

How to hold the fork to soften the plarn.

How to Soften Plarn With a Plastic Fork

  1. Place your middle and index fingers on the front side of the fork.
  2. Place your thumb on the back of the fork. Your thumb acts as a guide for the plarn.
  3. Inserted the plarn into one of the gaps in the fork.
  4. Pull the plarn with the other hand downward, and away from the front side of the fork.
Plarn is colorful and can make some lovely projects.

Plarn is colorful and can make some lovely projects.

Spinning Plarn

The most used conditioning technique for plarn is spinning. According to Wikipedia, "spinning is an ancient textile art in which plant, animal, or synthetic fibers are twisted together to form yarn."

Essentially, spinning plarn means twisting it a million times to convert a flat piece of plarn into tubular form, resembling traditional yarn. I have not tried spinning because I don’t know how to spin, don’t have the tools necessary for it, or the patience to keep twisting, twisting, and twisting. From what I can discern from forums and threads discussing plarn, most spin it for the following reasons:

  • Crocheting plarn that is flat is difficult, especially when it is thick.
  • Spinning plarn allows it to be combined with other regular or traditional fibers and yarns creating an endless array of effects.
  • Crocheting with spun plarn creates a crisp and strong finished item.

YouTube videos are a great place to start when you don't know what to do.

How to Spin Plarn Using a Sewing Machine

Conclusion

Although I have not tried spinning, I believe that spun plarn is better than softened plarn. However, softened plarn is better than flat plarn. So if you run low on the virtue of patience (like myself) or don't have the equipment yet, softening plarn is the way to go.

Do You Condition Your Plarn?

How to Wind Plarn Onto a Spool

Make Your Own Plarn

  • Methods of Making Plarn
    Compare the double-strand, single-strand method, and flat-panel method of making yarn from plastic bags for crocheting or knitting.

Comments Make Me Happy!

Moira Durano-Abesmo (author) from Sagay, Camiguin, Philippines on February 05, 2013:

Hello Ana! Your blog is really unique! I really like your sailboat and roman helmet.

Thanks for leaving a comment!

Ana on February 04, 2013:

This is very useful. I love to crochet with plarn and have made many unusual items such as a space shuttle, sailboat and various creations with plarn. http://plarncreations.blogspot.com/

Moira Durano-Abesmo (author) from Sagay, Camiguin, Philippines on September 24, 2012:

Go for it Bheng!

Soon, plastic bags will be history and all we'll have to show for it are the bags we crocheted. ",)

handmadebybheng from Cubao , Quezon City on September 24, 2012:

Here in Manila, after the recent storms, the local government implement a no plastic policies when buying in stores.. so using them as plarn is a very clever idea to make better use of plastic. Although I still believe that we can't totally eradicate the use of plastic. I'd like to see you make a crochet bag out of plarn :)

Moira Durano-Abesmo (author) from Sagay, Camiguin, Philippines on July 21, 2012:

Thanks Melanie. I'll check it out.

Melanie on July 20, 2012:

Hey there, We just posted something on the Facebook Fan page called Plarn about this article. xoxox. Sending good Plarn energy. -Melanie

Moira Durano-Abesmo (author) from Sagay, Camiguin, Philippines on November 12, 2011:

I can understand why you haven't heard of softening yet because I just made it up. There are times when I don't soften too when the plastic bag is pliable enough for crochet. Maybe you should share your crunching method. I am interested to learn it.

Teresa on November 01, 2011:

I have been spinning plarn for about 4 yrs now and have crocheted/knitted with plarn for over 15 yrs and never heard of softening. Honestly, I haven't seen a reason to soften it. In my opinion, it's perfect the way it is. However, I will use my own crunching method when I crochet/knit with vhs tape.

Moira Durano-Abesmo (author) from Sagay, Camiguin, Philippines on September 14, 2011:

Yes SIMONE SMITH, it is really fascinating. I hope you can try it sometime.

Hey SHAUN MUSCOLO! Where can I see your evening dresses? It will be great to post a link here. Spiral-scissor cut method? That must be synonymous with single-strand method. I wrote about that too here: https://feltmagnet.com/textiles-sewing/Crochet-Pla...

Shaun Muscolo on September 14, 2011:

I make mostly evening dresses from plarn. I use 15mm knitting needles and do not knit too densely, so the garment feels soft and wearable on the model. I like the plarn a bit fluffy for this reason. I sqeeze it a little with my fingers every stitch to soften. I will not be spinning it. I make plarn using the spiral siccor-cut method on an ironing table.

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on September 14, 2011:

I've never heard of plarn before. This is fascinating!

Moira Durano-Abesmo (author) from Sagay, Camiguin, Philippines on September 10, 2011:

Yeah, I love the videos too. Kristy was really good at pointing out what a beginner should know about spinning plarn.

PWalker281 on September 10, 2011:

I never knew that plarn was spun! This is a very informative hub, Moira. The videos are great. Rated up and useful!

Moira Durano-Abesmo (author) from Sagay, Camiguin, Philippines on September 09, 2011:

Thanks for the comment. I added a link in my intro to my other hub about making plarn.

Zach from Colorado on September 09, 2011:

Interesting article. I'm not the least bit familiar with plarn, but how is it cut and made into its rough stage before you spin it? Thanks for the hub, I learned a lot of new info.

Moira Durano-Abesmo (author) from Sagay, Camiguin, Philippines on September 09, 2011:

Yes, I agree with you on that. But the results with spinning is just so tempting!

nikki_m from Kansas City, Missouri on September 09, 2011:

Interesting! I've only dabbled with using plarn and softening it is probably the way I'll go in future projects. Not only am I short on patience, but I hate hate HATE buying stuff for something that can be so cheap!

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