Cutting the bags for plarn. Some helpers use scissors, but some like to use rotary cutters on a cutting mat.

Cut off the handles approximately 1" below the curve. Folding the bag in half makes them easier to cut.

Cutting the bags for plarn. Some helpers use scissors, but some like to use rotary cutters on a cutting mat.

Cut off the bottom approximately 1" from the bottom seam.

How We Make Our "Plarn" Sleeping Mats

Step 1 - Preparing the bags

Because they are plentiful for us, we use the typical plastic grocery store bags made in the United States. This has expanded to use just about any plastic bag as we discovered the joy of using different colors to make a kaleidoscope of colored mats. We found that different stores carry different color bags. Even newspaper bags, which are usually bright colors, work well. 

Presently we have bags of the following colors - White, black, brown, yellow, blue, pink, red, green, and clear. We even have used pallet wrap in thousand foot rolls for the warp. The cheaper rolls work better because the more expensive wrap is stronger and stiffer, making them more difficult to work with.

We sort the bags by colors into boxes so we can make interesting patterned mats and have more fun.

Terminology -

     The longitudinal threads are called the warp and

     The lateral threads are the weft or filling.

     (Weft is an old English word meaning "that which is woven or weft".)

A trick to remembering the terms, as in Star Trek:
       When you go on a long trip, you string the loom at WARP speed.
       Then you weave the WEFT with what you have left. 

To prepare the bags, they are:

  1. Laid flat as originally, straightened, and stacked 4 - 6 in a pile.
  2. It is important to return the pleat to the original shape.
  3. The stack is then folded in half lengthwise with the handles all on the same end.
  4. The handles are cut off about 1" from where they attach so you have a straight cut.
  5. The bottom of the bag is then cut about 1" from the bottom seam.
  6. If you are using bags without handles, prepare them the same way and only cut off the bottom if the top edge is straight. 
  7. The bags are then opened up to create a tube and are chained together.
  8. Pull the loops snug, but not tight. We want to leave the knots larger, looser, and softer so the mat does not feel like is if filled with stones.
  9. Some chains are lengthened and rolled into a ball, about the size of a basketball, 12" (30 cm) and will be used for the warp, or long threads in the mat.
  10. The rest are chained in pairs and set aside, sorted by color. The paired plarn will be used for the weft or woven threads. 
  11. It is important to remove any bags with holes, tears, and other damage as they will rip apart during weaving. You should save them, as well as all scraps, for making pillows later. 
  12. It is very important that the cut edges are straight and smooth, if not, it creates a weak spot that tears easier or tails that hang out and hang up in the weaving process.

A ball of plarn for the warp, approximately 12" (30 cm) in diameter.

A properly cut bag. The scrap can be used as stuffing for the pillows.

Bags are flattened along the original folds. Note the pleats are back in place.

Two plarn pieces joined into pairs for weaving the weft.