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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.
Join The Conversation
the-make-lounge the-make-lounge 9 years
If you're in London, we offer a hands-on workshop on how to make these!
vrosapastel89 vrosapastel89 9 years
veronicaraye veronicaraye 9 years
thats really cool!
enfusraye enfusraye 9 years
I tired this and I couldn't get the right result.. the fabric was too shrinked and puckered. Maybe a different iron?
amers230 amers230 10 years
i just spent a few hours this afternoon doing this. it worked for me, but here are a few tips: -i actually thought the thicker bags worked better than the thinner ones. my target bags turned out the best, while my joanne's, michael's, and meijer bags all shrivelled up. (target bags are thicker than the others) i did use the rayon setting, so maybe the thinner bags would turn out better using a cooler setting? not sure. -after you're done ironing it, leave the paper over it for a few seconds before you peel it off. i peeled a few of mine off too soon and it ended up making the bags pucker and stuff. -i used ordinary printer paper and it worked fine, but i think parchment paper would be easier cuz it's more transparent. i had a hard time seeing where the edges of the bags were through the computer paper. it took a few bags to get the hang of it, but the last half of them that i did turned out well. it did take longer than the 15 seconds of ironing that the etsy site said, but it def. only took a minute or two per bag once i got the hang of it. i'm excited to make something out of them now!!!
lintacious lintacious 10 years
THIS DOES NOT WORK!!!!! or at least it takes over 15 minutes of gently ironing plastic bags. and if you get impatient or leave the iron over one spot for longer than 2 seconds, the bag will melt too fast and shrink and become pretty much unusable. i took a bunch of pics of me trying this. basically, it takes waaaaay too long and my attempts did not come out anything CLOSE to the tutorial. if you read through the crafster link, others have had trouble too.
emmalee emmalee 10 years
looks good
shoshie shoshie 10 years
I don't know about knitting, but I've crocheted with plastic bags to make a junky rug, y'know to wipe your feet in the garage. You just use a big hook. I would love to make one of these bags with less logos except for an I *heart* NY in the center.
Linny Linny 10 years
YumSugar... how do you knit with plastic bags?
poisonivy poisonivy 10 years
I recycle my plastic bags. The grocery store nearby has a big bin for recycling plastic bags.
JaimeLeah526 JaimeLeah526 10 years
I don't think I'd be patient enough to do it. It would be better if they were all label-less.
TexasTwinkle TexasTwinkle 10 years
would make really nice reusable grocery tote.
milo milo 10 years
lol relly funny i would like to try this
Food Food 10 years
love the idea! Thanks, I knit with them, and this will make a great addition to some of my projects!
karisaamy karisaamy 10 years
cool idea, but I know I would never actually do it. I will just stick to buying them at Fred Meyer
LaPerla2 LaPerla2 10 years
LOVE IT! I have drawers filled with bags! I'm on it!!!
kstraw23 kstraw23 10 years
ooh i might have to try this!
ElleJay ElleJay 10 years
so cool! i want to try it
lintacious lintacious 10 years
Here's a link from Craftster
lintacious lintacious 10 years
preppy: basically you're just making home-made Tyvek (you know, like the fed ex envelopes). Here's some information on sewing with Tyvek. "Tyvek is slippery and doesn't get pulled through under the needle by the jaws on the sewing machine very well so I helped feed it through by hand. Being stiff and slick the Tyvek went through fast and clean. Very easy to sew."
lintacious lintacious 10 years
awesome!!! plus that's my ironing board from ikea! a sign that i must go home and do this!
millarci millarci 10 years
What a very creative idea. I'm not crazy about the one pictured, but I will have to try this. :)
bizzybee bizzybee 10 years
Wow. What a fun idea. I love the bag pictured. I will have to try this. The plastic bag totes would make great gifts.
PreppyDot PreppyDot 10 years
Sounds really interesting. I take it that it will sew together pretty easily. Any suggestions on a particular thread to use, or will regular work okay? Also any particular neddle for the machine? I would worry about tearing through it with the machine.
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