The last time I wrote about crocheting with plarn was nearly 7 years ago. I had made the basket pictured above using the green bags that our local newspaper was delivered in. That was my first experiment with working with Plarn. Then life got busy with designing crochet patterns for magazines, books and yarn companies and I didn’t re-visit the Plarn experiments I had hoped to do.
For those of you that may not have ever heard of Plarn, it is yarn that is created by using loops or strips from plastic shopping bags. But it can be created or upcycled from other plastic materials.
This past weekend was super busy at my house. My youngest son was celebrating his birthday by having a bunch of his friends come up for a Nerf Gun Battle on our property. For those of you that are visiting my blog for the first time, I live in the mountains of Colorado and our property is about 2.5 acres of vertical land with lots of Lodge-pole and Ponderosa pine trees. A great place for a bunch of 11 year olds to romp and play.
Our property is bounded on 3 sides by the county road, but our wooded boundary is a little less defined. As a courtesy to our neighbors in that direction we put up a “Caution” tape barrier to remind the kiddos not to pass that. The birthday boy and I spent the morning putting up the tape. After the party I went out to take down the tape.
As I began walking along unwrapping it from trees and winding it into a big ball, I found myself looking at it and thinking, “This would be interesting to crochet with.” I also hated the idea of putting it in the trash to be more plastic in the landfill.
Part of the party set-up was that my husband purchased a bunch of the Nerf “Elite” darts for everyone to use. We now have a LOT of darts at our house. During the party I had tossed all of them into a 5 gallon bucket from a construction supply store. Frankly it’s a lot more container than is really needed. Lightbulb moment… I could crochet an awesome container for them from the used “Caution” tape. You saw that coming, didn’t you?
The tape is 3 inches wide and very thin, just like most of the plastic shopping bags out there. I have 2 pieces of it. One from the long stretch in the woods and a much shorter strip that was used for marking off a hazard area on the property that we wanted the kids to steer clear of.
I’m planning on working with the shorter strip first to see if I want to split the tape lengthwise. It will add a lot more work to the project, but may save my hands in the long run. In my first experiment with plarn I found the thicker strips to be more challenging to crochet, partly because of the larger hook size needed. I also discovered that I did better with a wooden hook, as the metal or plastic hooks I had tended to “grab” the plarn.
Looks like I’ll be doing some “swatching” with my plarn before I am neck deep in this experiment. I want to create a wide bottomed tote with large handles integrated into the top edge. The kids can then carry it easily, or even hang it up by one handle as a “target”. The best bit about that? They will be putting the darts away when they hit the target. Maybe that will make them want to clean-up more? Well, a mom can dream.
Experimental Swatch #1
I worked with the tape 3 inches wide, the size it comes off the roll, and crocheted with a 10mm size wooden hook (Uncle Cy’s Woodshop hook). I loved how cushy and thick this fabric came out, but I really felt like I was fighting with the plarn and the hook. I was only working 3 rounds for these swatches and by the time I had 3 finished for this one I was wiped out.
Experimental Swatch #2
I split the tape to 1.5 inches wide and used my size 6mm metal hook (Clover Amour). This hook worked great with the plarn and cutting the tape to half its original width definitely made it easier to crochet. The metal Clover Amour hook is so smooth it was like Teflon, it slid thru the plarn with ease. But…I felt like the fabric was too thin for what I want the tote to be. It was also really tedious to cut it in half.
I used scissors to cut the bit I used for the swatch.
I also experimented with the idea of cutting the tape while it was on the cardboard roll that it came on when I purchased it. There was some left-over on the roll. I used a utility knife to cut thru it. That worked okay, but re-winding all the tape in the big ball did not hold a lot of attraction for me. I might play around a bit more with the left-over tape to crochet a wearable pouch that the kiddos can use to carry extra darts in when they are running around.
Experimental Swatch #3
Went back to the wider tape again. This time I used a 10 mm plastic hook (Clover Amour). I was hoping the larger Clover Amour hooks in plastic might have a similar smoothness to the smaller metal ones. The hook was much less “grabby” than some of the acrylic hooks I had worked with in my first plarn experiment. Unfortunately it was still a bit of a fight. I really felt I was having the best result with the metal hooks or maybe it was the smaller sized hook?
The photo above is Swatch #3 and Swatch #2. You can see the difference in size for these 2 swatches. I really wanted to work with the tape at it’s original size. For one thing, it would mean fewer rows to crochet the size of tote I had in mind. The thicker fabric would also be more durable with the amount of use I’m figuring this tote will get.
I messed around with trying to crochet with my J/6mm metal hook and the wider tape. It was a lot of work and I had to keep reminding myself to pull all my loops out bigger than the hook shaft size. I tend to be more of a “rider” style crocheter so I keep my loops pretty close to the size of the hook shaft and it’s a hard habit to break. I really needed a metal hook in the larger sizes, like 9mm or 10mm. This is when it comes in handy to be an avid collector of crochet hooks.
Back in 2014 I took a trip to visit Jan and the 2 of us met up with a bunch of friends at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio in NYC. Both of us purchased sets of the Hiya Hiya crochet hooks there. The majority of the hooks in the set are metal including the larger sizes: 8mm, 9mm and 10mm. I dug this set out of my “hook drawer” and decided to give the 8mm and 9mm a try. Metal and smaller, but not so small it would be a fight.
Experimental Swatch #4
Well the 9mm size hook was good, but the hook shape was still a bit of a fight. The bulb like point and tapered throat of the Hiya Hiya hooks is very similar to the Boye hooks, but not ideal for this project. I did like the size of my stitches and the metal was definitely easier with this plarn.
Experimental Swatch #5
Time for a bit more digging in my hook drawer. Ah ha! I found I had some of the larger metal hooks in the Bates Bamboo handled style. I even had a 9mm one. We have a winner! This hook worked the best with the plarn and gave me the size stitches I wanted without fighting.
It’s still a bit tiring to my hands to crochet with the plarn, even with the best hook for the job, so I’ll be working on this project a little bit each day to save my hands (and my sanity). Once I get it further along I’ll show you what I came up with. I’m just hoping I’ll have enough plarn to finish the job. I do have a back up plan if I run out though.