When Sarah Neal says you can create bags, decorations and more by using household plastic as yarn, she is not just pulling the wool over your eyes.
Neal, who owns and operates The White Pelican, an art shop and gallery at 127 E. Main St. in Grafton, has perfected the art of creation through “plarn,” yarn recycled from trash bags, shopping bags and other plastic bag material.
The artist not only feels good about helping the environment, she also likes the idea of work using her own creativity.
“I had never done anything like this before, and you don’t see that many people who do it in this area,” Neal says.
Plarn can be made from different plastics, many of which we bring home from the grocery store every week, including bread wrappers, frozen food plastic and those notorious plastic bags we put groceries in and then are faced with what to do with them after we get home.
At first, Neal tried ironing the plastic, but she learned undetected toxins are released into the air every time the plastic melts, so she looked at a method of preparation more time-consuming but definitely more friendly for the air.
“You fold a plastic bag or wrapper, cut off the bottom part and any handles, fold it like an accordion and cut to make strips,” she says. “By following a few simple steps, you can create a long strand of plastic yarn.”
When you are ready to crochet, Neal recommends using a bamboo hook (plastic hooks can catch the plarn, and it often sticks to metal hooks).
It’s a long process at times, but the end result can be a purse, wall hanging or rug. You can even use plastic shopping bags to knit your own reusable replacement shopping bags that will make the environment smile.
While one can crochet anything with plarn, Neal has been primarily focused on making hip bags and shoulder bags, sometimes with a mix of plarn and cotton. She says a future project involves crocheting mats to give to the homeless.
“It is something I have really been wanting to start,” Neal says. “It is something that can keep them off the ground at night, it is easily portable, and making just one mat uses a lot of plastic. You are doing two great things for the world around you at the same time.”
Making the world a better place is something always in the forefront of Neal’s mind, she says.
“I like working with glass, and always use my scrap glass, but stained glass is not really sustainable, and I was looking at expanding and doing something different, using materials that are more green,” she says. “I started looking into plastics after being introduced to the idea by a customer at a vendor festival.
“There are a lot of creative ways to create and use fiber, and I would encourage other people to use household items to crochet and knit. It takes five minutes to learn; you can even drop by the shop when I am open and I can teach you.”
In no time, using different colors and textures of bags, you can be creating one-of-a-kind items that also leave the world just a little bit cleaner.
On Sept. 10, the White Pelican, which displays and sells sculptures, glasswork prints and more original artwork from 20 local artists, will host live music from Raw Earth, a mix of blues, jazz and tribal beats, from 6:30 until 9:30 p.m. For more information about the event or Neal’s plarn creations, visit the Facebook page at The White Pelican.