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Yeah, there are some crazy creative people out there. With sewing skills. (Which I lack.)
Anyways... inspired by the inventiveness of fused plastic and my own desire to do it myself, I did a little research. Turns out, it’s super easy to make! Best of all, it’s super cheap (darn close to free), it’s a quick process, and it’s upcycling a resource that’s often fated to a landfill: plastic bags.
I’m sure a lot of you go the reuseable-bag route (I try to remember them, but I actually use the grocery bags as trash can liners, so I sometimes end up with a few extra ones, i.e., craft supplies!). However, even if you opt out of the grocery bags, you probably still encounter other kinds of plastic bags from time to time (think of packaging for a loaf of bread, especially those retro-fabulous Wonder Bread bags).
For this particular project, I used black bodega bags. These are especially fun because they have gold and silver metallic striping on one side, which I used to cut out a C and J (for Courtney and Josh… not K-Ci and Jo Jo… but good guess).
Then I took about 4 bags and cut off the handles and the bottom:
With the handles and bottom cut off, the bag can have a larger surface area to work with. Open up bag, unfolding the sides, and lay flat.
See the difference in workable surface area?
After four bags are cut, opened, and layered, you should have a stack that is 8-ply (4 X 2 = 8). I wouldn’t recommend anything thinner, otherwise you’ll end up with holes and the final material will not have as much structural integrity (yeah, that’s right: structural integrity).
And I tried a mere 6-ply, by the way: lots of holes…
Yeah, that’s no fun.
Then I placed the layered bags (with the cut out C and J on top) in between two layers of parchment paper, then placed this parchment-plastic “sandwich” on an ironing board.
In a well-ventilated area, e.g., the fire escape, I ironed on high until plastic was fused. Don’t let the brevity of that statement mislead you into thinking that this is a fast, fool-proof process. It does take a little time, a little patience, and a lot of ironing. You iron directly onto the parchment, making sure to never let the hot iron touch the actual plastic (or you’ll have gelatinous plastic goo… which is nearly impossible to clean up).
Iron all over the paper, never keeping the iron in one place for too long (this is how you get holes). Occasionally peel back paper to see the plastic’s progress. Remember, bubbly is bad:
Fused plastic with a lot of air bubbles will not be as durable, so if this is how your plastic is looking, replace the parchment and continue ironing. The ideal texture should be something like raw silk or crepe.
After you’ve achieved the necessary texture, remove from parchment and allow to cool. Then, you can cut it, sew it, glue it, love it, whatever your crafty heart desires! As showcased in my Pinterest finds, this material can absolutely go through a sewing machine, and can be treated just like any kind of vinyl or thick crepe.
All “that’s what she said” jokes aside, see how thick and hard it is? (I know, I know…)
And here are both of the finished products:
See? This method doesn’t alter text or melt the ink, so bags with fun logos or messages can definitely be used for this project.
As you can see, I haven’t quite figured out what to do with this material yet (nor have I come up with a plan for the other 5 zillion plastic bags I’ve saved over the past few months, including ones with Target bullseyes, Wonder Bread logos, smiley faces, trees, kitschy phrases and… the list goes on).
Maybe I should take a sewing class…
So, in summary:
How about you fine folks? Have you recently tried your hand at an upcycling project? Or a sewing project? Or both?! Share below in comment form, or e-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other upcycling ideas…