"" Writer's Wanderings: The Project

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Project

Embarkation does not always mean you are getting on a ship and setting off on a cruise. This journey that I've started is quite different. Somewhere in my web surfing or social media, I'm not sure which, I saw a posting about making sleeping mats for the homeless from plastic grocery bags. The idea nagged at me for a while and then took hold. So here I am on another adventure.

I started with trying to get people to collect bags for me and then enlisted as many ladies from my church as I could to join in the project. It has created a new exciting journey. Our local grocery store (Heinen's) which has a recycling program agreed to donate their collected bags to us. Online, I found several postings on instructions for making the mats which are really quite simple if you know how to crochet. So here's how it goes if you might be interested in your own project:

Grocery bags work best because they are not so thick as some plastic bags are. You flatten the bag, fold it over several times lengthwise, cut off the sealed end and then the handles and then cut 1 inch strips to make what is called "plarn." The video from Craft For Humanity shows the whole process quite well. She makes her strips a little wider but I found that it is much more difficult to crochet that way.

Take the loops and tie one inside the other to make your chain of plarn. Roll it in a ball and you are ready to crochet. A size P hook (10mm) works best. Chain about 42-44 stiches (it should measure 2 1/2 feet) and turn. Single crochet back and forth until you have a mat measuring 6 feet. The carry strap is a chain 6 feet long with a row of single crochet on it. Join the two ends to make a loop and wrap it around your rolled mat, looping one end into the other.

This project took on a life of its own as the grocery store employees became excited as well and have really given me more bags that I can keep up with. Now I need to schedule more work nights to share the load. The cutting and making the plarn takes the longest. If you embark on a similar journey and want to involve others, you can find people who would like to help but don't know how to crochet to cut bags and make plarn.

The only danger in this whole project is becoming known as the bag lady. In this case though, I'll wear the title proudly as we make the mats that will be distributed sometime in the fall or early winter when our church collects gloves and blankets and coats and takes them into downtown Cleveland to hand out.

I'm thinking this may also be a good project to send to churches in other countries who sit on bare floors--sometimes just the earth--to worship as we saw in Papua New Guinea. I'm sure there are lots more applications but one thing at a time.

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