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DIY: Fusing Plastic Bags

While we're fretting about what to do with our plastic grocery bags, I thought I'd throw out another recycling option for all of the crafty types out there. Etsy Labs has a great tutorial on how to fuse plastic bags into new "fabrics" that can be fashioned into tote bags (left), purses, and anything else you dream up.

What you'll make out of your fused bags is up to you — and better left to another post. But fusing the bags is easy and quick; just be sure to open a window so you're working in a well-ventilated space! For a list of what you'll need and step-by-step instructions on how to do it,

Fusing Plastic Bags, via Etsy Labs

What you'll need

  • Plastic bags (thin, flimsy ones work best)
  • Parchment paper, freezer paper or plain old copier paper
  • Iron (and your favorite ironing surface)

How to Make It

  1. Flatten out the bag and trim the bottom seam and handles off. This allows the bag to be opened up into a larger rectangle of plastic.
  2. Turn the bag inside-out if it has printing on it. Once the ink heats up, it comes off the bag and makes a huge mess. If the bag has an interesting design that you'd like to preserve, try using a clear plastic bag layered on top of the printed one.
  3. We find that between 6-8 layers of plastic gives the best results. So, you can either fold your bag twice until it is 8 ply thick, or use three or more bags layered on top of one another. Trying to fuse less than 6 layers often results in little holes forming in the finished piece and a generally weaker material.
  4. Sandwich your plastic bags between the parchment paper, and run a hot iron (we set ours to "Rayon", but you will need to experiment a little to see what works for you) and keep the iron moving constantly. Make sure to get the edges, and after about 15 seconds, flip it over and iron the opposite side for a few seconds.
  5. Peel a corner of the paper back to see if the plastic is fused together. It should be fairly smooth and "one sheet" to the touch (watch out, its a little hot). If the layers are not all melted together, iron it some more.
  6. Peel the parchment paper away from the finished plastic sheet. Voila. Now, you can use this stuff to make a million things. We've made re-usable grocery totes, wallets, and floor cushions; I think its an inexpensive way to make waterproof linings for beach bags and makeup clutches.
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