Plarn Artist – Sventlana Vishenka in Kaliningrad, Russia

Sventlana Vishenka from Kaliningrad, Russia contacted me from Ravelry. She crochets and knits with plastic bags – making creations like handbags, hats, rugs, flowers, and slippers. Check out some of these beautiful slippers she makes! She makes some amazing things that are more intricate than anything I’ve ever made from plarn. So inspiring!

You can view more of her work in these gallery links:

Hats

Bags

Slippers

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Plarn Artist – Cristina Kowarick in Cameroon

Cristina Kowarick is working with the Peace Corps and has been in rural Cameroon since the summer of 2010. Near the start of her time there, she contacted me saying she was trying to think up income generating activities for the local girls and women that would also be fun to do.

“Its always concerned me the amount of plastic bags they use here and I had the idea of using that to make things with,” Kowarick said in an e-mail. “After searching the web for the last two days I finally stumbled on your videos and then website.  I love your approach and am really inspired by the creative potential! Thanks so much for posting what you do online so others like me, even in Cameroon!, can be inspired to find use for these flimsy plastic bags that are destroying our lovely planet.”

After creating her first crocheted bag (pictured below), Kowarick was motivated to take the project to the next level and teach the handicraft to others.  Another Peace Corps volunteer, Rachael Saler, initiated a similar project in the Phillipines with great success (See: Peace Corps Volunteer in the Phillipines Turns Recycled Bags into Purses). And seeing how Saler’s project was so well received by the local community, Kowarick garnered even more inspiration to initiate something similar in Cameroon.

I enjoy getting updates from Kowarick about her projects there and am excited to hear more about her progress. She commissioned a local artist to craft large wooden hooks, started a small crochet group with some neighborhood girls near her home, and has been teaching plarn workshops at various environmental camps in the village.

More recently, she taught some kids in an orphanage how to crochet plarn into pencil holders. They loved it!

Kowarick guesses she has taught plastic bag crochet to more than 100 kids so far. Here is a photo she sent me with one of her neighbors modeling a crocheted plastic bag she made (complete with a hand-crafted plastic flower).

 

Calling All Plastic Bag Crocheters: Make Some Plastic Bag Breasts!

Fellow plastic bag crocheter Wendy Osher is working on an interesting eco-art project that involves crocheting used plastic bags into breast shapes.
The project aims to highlight our dependency on plastic bags and their contribution to the toxins in our water (that is then passed on to infants through mothers’ breast milk). This project will be displayed in an art exhibition about water on May 2011 at the American Jewish Museum in Pittsburgh, PA.

In preparation for the exhibit, Wendy is collecting crocheted plastic bag breasts! All contributions must be received by April 1 so that she can join them all together into a floating reef. Everyone who contributes will be acknowledged for their collaboration and it just sounds like a really fun project to get involved with. I plan to send her a breast. Do you crochet or know someone who does? Why not make a breast too?

You can learn more about this project, how to get involved, and specific project guidelines at Wendy’s site: Something In the Water.

*Wendy recommends using H-J sized hooks, so that the shapes are tightly crocheted and take on more sculptural forms. And her main submission guideline is that the colors the nipple strongly contrast with the rest of the breast.

To get an idea of what a crocheted breast looks like, I found a few photos on her site:

Crocheted Plastic Bag Shoulder Bag (made by Kisha of Serbia)

I recently received an e-mail from Kisha of Serbia.
She used the crochet shoulder bag instructions I provided on my site to make her very own colorful plastic bag shoulder bag.

The bag is actually the first thing she’s ever crocheted and she did a beautiful job!
Check it out:

Kisha said she was able to create the bag with my help and that of the theknitwitch (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqhaQQajt0U).
She’s a 22-year-old English student who loves reading, doing yoga, meditation, drawing, music, making things, and being creative. She’s planing to do more artistic projects (perhaps making curtains). And if she ends up making any other interesting  things from  plastic bags, I would love to follow up on her projects and post photos of them on my blog. I’m sure she can make some pretty amazing things. 🙂

Here are some blurbs from the sweet emails she sent me:

I stumbled upon your website (bagsbegone.com) recently because I was looking for useful tips on what to do with extra plastic bags.Thanks to your PDF on how to make a crocheted shoulder bag, I managed to make my own which I’m very proud at 🙂 I just wanted to say thank you for being such a nice person and spreading your knowledge to others. I highly appreciate what you are doing and I wish you all the best! In attachment I’m sending you a picture of my very first crocheted shoulder bag, not to brag, but to make you feel good for teaching the people across the world.”

“I liked doing [plastic bag crochet] and the feeling when it’s done is even better. You have something in your hands that you’ve created yourself and didn’t have to pay anything for it (except for a crochet hook, which was really cheap)! So, I appreciate the whole thing as a beautiful experience and I hope I would be able to teach someone what you’ve taught me.”

Fatima’s Bag

About a month ago, I wrote about our experience visiting Dharavi, a big slum in Mumbai. You can read that blog post here.

Well…Fatima of Dharavi recently crocheted her first full size bag!

As part of Dharavi Project’s initiative to encourage creative expression among the children, some of the kids were given cameras to document their surroundings. This photo was taken by one of these kids.

Fatima bag -2

Plastic Bag News – West Virginia Group Crochets Plastic Sleeping Mats for Homeless

Here’s an article from the Charleston Gazette about a church group in West Virginia that crochets plastic bags into sleeping mats for homeless people!

Here’s a quote I like from the article: “Once you learn one simple stitch, it’s easily done. Anyone can do it.” And as many people I’ve taught can attest, this is a true statement.

🙂

Read full article here.

 

June 2, 2010

By Veronica Nett

Staff writer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Melissa Starcher had an overflow of plastic shopping bags in her kitchen, when she heard about a way to recycle the bags for the homeless.

Starcher, a Charleston attorney, was driving to work in November when she heard a story on the radio about a group with the Lutheran Church Charities in Minneapolis who were crocheting plastic bags into large sleeping mats to donate to local charities.

The idea stuck, and Starcher took it to her mother, who heads the Coopers Creek chapter of the Community Education Outreach Service, a program affiliated with the West Virginia University Extension Service and 4-H.

The group of 26 women jumped on the idea. For more than six months, they have been collecting and crocheting plastic bags into sleeping mats.

Last month, they brought 11 mats to the Union Mission in Charleston to be distributed to those in need. Starcher expects missions across the state to see an influx of the plastic mats in coming months.

The project has been selected as the statewide Community Education Outreach Service project for next year, Starcher said. Several church organizations and women’s groups have also picked up the idea, she said.

“It’s a great stress reliever,” Starcher said. “I can knit intricate things. When it comes to crochet, I basically make a bunch of knots. With this, it’s the same thing over and over. Once you learn one simple stitch, it’s easily done. Anyone can do it.”

While crocheting the mats is fairly easy, making them from scratch is an involved process, she said.

Each mat is made from up to about 400 to 700 bags, and it can take up to 100 hours to make an average 3-foot-by-6-foot mat, she said.

The women collect the plastic shopping bags, then cut them into strips that are looped together to create “plarn.”

“Walmart, Kroger and the Purple Onion, you can see them all in [a mat],” said Andrew Beckner, director of development at the Union Mission.

On Wednesday, Beckner and a pastor with the mission drove around Charleston as part of their daily outreach effort to touch base with the homeless in the city, and to pass out the mats.

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