Conditioning Plarn (Plastic Bag Yarn) for Crochet
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.
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 Soften Plarn With a Plastic Fork
- Place your middle and index fingers on the front side of the fork.
- Place your thumb on the back of the fork. Your thumb acts as a guide for the plarn.
- Inserted the plarn into one of the gaps in the fork.
- Pull the plarn with the other hand downward, and away from the front side of the fork.
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
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?
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.