Of all the items that I have worked with while recycling, the one that has offered me the greatest versatility without requiring additional cosmetic or support materials is definitely the lowly plastic shopping bag. Fused together with other bags and sewn into shapes, or cut into strips and crocheted, the finished product is always remarkable! One of the most useful home applications I have made with these bags is in forming baskets. Whether the need is for bins in a home office, a laundry basket, or even a bed for a newborn, this article will demonstrate how to meet that need for free.

small basketMy basic method of creating with the plastic bags is to make “plarn,” or plastic yarn, which I then crochet into the shape I desire. Instructions on how to do this can be found here. This basic method is how my small  and large baskets were created. If you have never learned to crochet, it is a fairly simple skill, and there are some great tutorials on YouTube. I recommend starting out with yarn at first since it is a little easier to work with than the plastic if you are learning to crochet for the first time. For those who have some experience with crochet, go ahead and work with the plarn. Pick a crocheted basket pattern that you like and work it in plarn instead of yarn. Better yet, make up your own! The Internet has many good instructional sites for crochet.

Baskets made by the methods described in the paragraph above are generally flexible and, to some degree, will conform to the shape of what is placed into them. To form a stiffer basket that is sturdy enough for carrying garden vegetables or a load of laundry, another method is required which employs crocheting over a core material, typically something like rope or cord. In this case, I was able to come up with a way of making the core material out of more bags. This method does require a large number of bags. Fortunately, these things seem to multiply in the back of the cabinet or drawer in which they are stored, so having a number of them is not normally a problem! All the same, you may want to have some friends saving their bags for you. I recommend that the bags you use for the core material and the bags you use for your plarn be the same color. The core material can be seen in places through the outside covering.

To make the plastic “rope” for the core I had to find a way to join the bags. As with making basic plarn, I flattened the bags out and folded them over lengthwise, but this time I only folded them over once. Starting on the folded center about two inches from the bottom of the bag, I made a cut parallel to the bottom seam straight across to just past where I could see the edge of the pleats inside the bag. Being sure to cut the pleated section as well, I turned the scissors and made a perpendicular cut down through the bottom seam. I discarded the rectangular-shaped piece that I had removed. In essence, I had created a second set of smaller “handles” at the bottom of the bag which could be interlocked in the same way as the loops I had created earlier. When the core bags are connected together, they create much bigger knots than the plarn loops do. To keep them from showing up in the finished product, and to make a nice-sized rope, I began by joining three bags together. I folded them over about two-thirds of the way down the middle bag  in such as way as to have the knots offset. The point of this was to bury the knot and handle portion of two joined bags in the fullness of plastic in the center of the bag next to it.

Instead of working in rows, this kind of basket requires that it be worked in a spiral, which can be started as a circle or an oval. Since I needed to make another laundry basket, I chose to begin with a circle. Starting with my ball of plarn and a size K hook, I crocheted a chain of about five stitches.




Then I put one single crochet stitch into the second chain from the hook and into the next two chains. I crocheted three single crochets into the last chain. This turned the work so that the next several stitches would be worked into the bottom of my foundational chain stitches. It was here that I joined the bags that formed the core.

To connect the core bags, I pulled the loop left on my hook up a little to lengthen it and wrapped the joined section of the bags (with the knot offset) around it as shown in the photo at left. (To make the next several steps easier to see, I have used contrasting color core bags.)

                                                                                                  I twisted the core material into a rope. The following single crochet stitches were stitched over this core rope. I added stitches as needed to accommodate the increased size of the circle as it spiraled around and added bags to the core rope as I came to the handle sections of the bags. I was not overly concerned with the number of stitches I used as long as the shape continued in the direction I wanted it to go.


In the photo to the left, I am beginning to make another curve.



I used a laundry basket that I liked to guide the shape of the one that I was making. After the base of the new basket fit just inside my guide basket, I allowed the core material to run out and tapered the stitches down to complete the circle shape. Then, without cutting the plarn and stitching in the top loops only (see photo for clarification), I made four single crochet stitches and reattached the core rope material. (The photo shows the core material wrapped around the post of the single crochet to the left of the small hole.) Continuing to work in the top loop only, I made one single crochet over the core material into every stitch all the way around the base until I came back to my first stitch along the side. Here I began stitching into the top of my previous stitches, once again working through both loops of the stitch instead of one.

The sides of the basket were simply a matter of increasing to match the sides of my guide basket. To keep the increases evenly spaced, I added an extra stitch about every five or six stitches every couple of rows. I tried to crochet to the outside of the previous row somewhat so that the core material would be slightly longer each round. When I reached the place where one more round would reach the top of my guide basket, I noted where the basket would need to end and marked it with a twist tie. Then I decided where to form the handles. Handles can be made in numerous ways, but I find that the simplest is to make a series of single crochets over the core material only until the desired size is reached, then to rejoin to the basket so that the handle sits up in the air. I generally put three or four stitches in on both sides of where the handle joins to the basket to reinforce those areas. When I approached the place I had marked to end the spiral, I stopped adding in bags for the core rope. This allowed the core material to gradually reduce down to the handles of a single bag until I ran out of core material and made a couple of single crochets with just the plarn. To finish my basket off, I also worked a crab stitch along the top edge, but this was decorative and not necessary to the functioning of the basket.

My finished basket is a very serviceable laundry basket which stacks neatly inside the store-bought one. This same basket could also serve very well for collecting produce from the garden. The natural holes provided by the stitches would allow for the vegetables to be sprayed off with the hose, and the dirt and water to drain away before being transferred to the kitchen. To further demonstrate the uses of this material I have also successfully used this method of crochet to produce a very sturdy Moses basket out of plastic shopping bags. This is a little heavier (and possibly more sturdy) than Moses baskets made out of grasses and with the sides covered in a cloth lining, the baby need never come into contact with the plastic.

The thought that stayed with me while I worked on this project is that baskets and bins are visible demonstrations of the blessings of God. Baskets are not needed unless there is something to put into them! We only need baskets when God has blessed us in a material way. I am reminded of the incident recorded in all four gospels where Christ fed over five thousand people from five loaves and two fish. John’s gospel records that, “when they were filled, he [Christ] said unto his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost’. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments…” John 6:12-13b. After everyone had stuffed himself full and could not eat anything else, there remained enough food to fill twelve whole baskets! In the same way, our need for baskets, storage units, and organizers is a tangible testimony to God’s blessing in our lives. It is required so that the overflow of His bounty to us will not “be lost”! As you look around your home today and notice all the baskets and bins filled with His “good gifts” to you, pause to remember the Giver and offer Him your praise and thanks.

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  1. Nisha Brinda says:

    These are so amazing! You are so creative! Hats off to you and your creativity!

  2. I have made a ton of market bags out of plarn, but not the baskets…. love love love these. Keep up the great work. and your instruction is very clear

    • Thank you. I am glad that you like them! 🙂

      • Do you sell your work? There might be a market for Upcycle out there.

      • I have not sold my work so far, though I have had others ask! 🙂 The problem is it takes me so long to do some of these projects that I don’t think I could recoup in sales the value of the time I would have to spend on making them. Mass producing things would also mean less time for creating, and since most of the things I make are a response to the needs of my family, I need to be able to continue to create as needed.

  3. wow, I LOVE that laundry basket! So clever. I also love your reflection on what needing baskets means. . .

    • Margo,
      I wanted to reply to your compliments, but in the middle of summer rush, this is my first opportunity to do so. First of all, thank you for your words of encouragement! If I can get through all the traveling and company that summer brings, I will probably try to make a second basket -the first one stays in constant use. 🙂 And it is a wonderful truth that where a basket is needed for storing things, it is evidence of the increase that God has given!

  4. Lisa says:

    These projects are just wonderful. The recycling, the functionality, the thoughtful way you construct them are all quite impressive. I appreciate you sharing them!

  5. Sarah says:

    I am definitely going to make one of these! Could you estimate how many plastic bags it took to make it? I can definitely get started with what I have, but want to try to gauge how many family members and friends to approach to relieve them of their bags!
    Thank you also for the reminder about God’s bounty, blessings and good gifts in our lives!

    • Sarah, I really don’t even know how to estimate the number of bags needed to make one of these, but it is a lot. I can say without hesitation that if you have a leaf bag stuffed full of them, between the ones that you cut up to make your plarn and the ones used in the center core, you may still find you need more! Fortunately, bags are not hard to come by. 🙂 The basket will take some patience and determination, but the end result is really neat. I hope you have great success!

  6. Cathy M. says:

    I’m new to upcycling my plastic bags. I love this basket, but I can not figure out how to get it started. I wish you would post pictures or a video of the very beginning…. if you have time.😊

    • Hi Cathy,
      Sorry to be so long in replying. We have had company for a week and are in recovery mode! 🙂 I may not be able to get to it in the next couple of days, but I will see if I can start another basket and take more photos of the beginning stages.

    • Cathy, I have taken and added several more photos of the starting point of this project. I loaded them directly into the article. Sorry it took me so long to get to it this week. If you need more clarification, please let me know.

  7. Mzwandile says:

    Hi! Cathy, i own an NGO in South Africa where we teach unemployed and abused women hand crafts to make a living. how long can it take a skilled individual to make these? I’m thinking of introducing them to our project (with your guidance), this can go a long way in alleviating poverty in our community.

    • Mzwandile, I am sorry to be so long in responding to your question! Somehow I missed the comment when it came in.
      This basket was something that I worked on in between other chores so I can’t give an exact amount of time, but it was considerable. A basket this size could take days if you include the amount of time it takes to make the plarn. However, I think smaller baskets might prove profitable

  8. Ramona Mittlestadt says:

    Omg!!! I am sooo extremely excited to start this project! Thank you thank you for all your work and sharing this beautiful idea. I made some plarn today, looking for ward to starting my project tomorrow? My only question is, are the ” core” bags throughout the whole bag or just the bottom and sides of the bottom? Please? And again, thanks so much for sharing with us :).

    • Ramona Mittlestadt says:

      Okay, actually READ the directions without my toddler needing anything and I do see you need the core material throughout. I’m going to need some more bags for sure… 👌

      • Yes, the core material is used throughout the basket,, so a great number of bags are required. However, it takes so long to do this project that you can get started on it with the bags you have on hand and add bags to the work as you collect them. I am glad that you like the project. Let me know if you have other questions.

  9. MamaV says:

    I am so glad I found your write-up before I started my basket! If I understand correctly, the way you used the bags for the core rope make it so the thickness of the rope would be like 2 bags? (Since you looped it over the stitch in the beginning, you were using it double-thickness, I think.)

    I have a couple questions, if you don’t mind…you said you added 3-4 extra stitches to reinforce the handles, but even in the zoomed-in pic, I can’t really tell where you put them. Perhaps once I get to making the thing and I’m at that spot, it’ll become clear what to do?

    Re design, the only time I’ve worked with plarn, I had no hook or needles, so I was braiding and knotting. How stiff is the fabric? The plarn purses (from January of this year) look like they stand up well. I need baskets to harvest small vegetables/fruits, but I’m thinking I need to design something with a few ventilation holes, in case I can’t unload them immediately. Do you think it’s possible, as long as I avoid a mesh-type stitch? (My baskets will be much smaller than yours.) Do your handles tend to stretch?

    You do really nice work, btw, and your creativity is impressive. I’m so glad I found your blog, it’s soothing reading for me, and I’ve already learned a few things that will solve some minor frustrations in the future. Thank you!

    • I am so glad that you have found this helpful! You are correct about the core rope. By looping the joined handle section of the bags over a stitch to hold them in place, the effect is to have a two-bag thickness to the core. The reinforced section of the handles was done by putting three or four stitches into the same (final) hole on the row beneath just before forming the handle and into the first hole where the handle joins the basket again.
      Plarn tends to be a fairly structured material once it has been crocheted; doubly so when it has been crocheted over a core material. This basket stands on its own and the handles have not stretched at all. The crochet already has some holes in it. (Water would easily drain from this basket.) However, I don’t see any reason why you could not add additional holes to the pattern without impacting its sturdiness. If this is not clear, please feel free to ask more questions. Thanks for you interest.

  10. I am so glad I found this post! What a great idea this is ✌ ♥

  11. Natacha says:

    Just wondering? How heavy is the laundry basket?

  12. Anonymous says:

    Very nice work!! Love the laundry basket!!

  13. Pingback: 26 Projects to Make with Plarn - Crafting a Green World

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  15. I love this and your site is simply beautiful! Thank you for sharing. I do have a question about how heavy duty it is though. Will I be able to make this for my kiddos in their toy room without it getting squashed or without the weight bringing it down? I think I’m going to start on it either way…. Too many grocery sacks piling up!

    • Hi! Thank you for your kind comments. In answer to your question, the sturdiness of this basket will depend on how tightly you wind the center “core” rope and how wide you cut the strips of plarn that you crochet with.The more bags that you use, the sturdier and heavier it will be. There is some flexibility in the sides of my basket, but the only thing that has damaged mine so far is clawing from my cats. They want to sharpen their claws on it and it does not stand up to that well at all! 🙂

  16. Sue says:

    Awesome instructions and beautiful baskets. I also like the bit you’ve put in about blessings filling baskets. Struck a chord with me as I lie awake at night listening to my husband snore and I think ‘ thank God I can hear this awful noise as it means I am blessed with a husband’ albeit a noisy one at times!

  17. Silure Dumnonii says:

    Excellent instructions, easy to follow. Thanks!

  18. Do you have any suggestion about how to make a “square”/”rectangle” bin? I loved this post. So functional, practical and useful. I particularly liked the tie in to how we’re so blessed that we may need a basket. Thank you for such a great, useful article and the spiritual reminder. 🙂

    • Thank you, Paula for your encouraging words! I have not tried to make a rectangle-shaped bin using this method, but I believe any of crochet-over-r0pe style patterns that are on the Internet should work. I hope you have great success. 🙂

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