It’s been 12 months since I first sat down with a pile of plastic bags, some scissors, and determined to figure out a way to make a sleeping mat without using crochet. I’ve done crochet plarn projects in the past, but they make my hands hurt and I knew crocheting a 3’ X 6’ sleeping mat would take me months, if not a whole year!
I also wanted to contribute to a very special Kisses For Claudie project. In celebration of Claudie’s 3rd birthday, her parents were gathering supplies to hand out to those in need around our city. I made a goal of finishing a mat in time for their big give away.
First, I would need a way to join the bags together. The handles make one great point. Playing around with a few bags, I figured out I could punch or cut holes near the bottom of the bags, then loop tie the handles of one bag through the bottom of another. This allowed me to create my jumbo “plarn” without all the cutting and waste of traditional plarn.
Now that I had my long strands I needed to find a way to weave them together. Crochet was out; I didn’t have a hook big enough anyway. A loom sounded fun but I didn’t have one handy. Then I remembered a fairly simple technique I stumbled across while researching rag rugs on Pinterest. I wondered if I could braid the strands together in similar fashion.
The first length of mat was easy to braid. Now came the next puzzle: how would I attach the braids? I decided to turn the braid back on itself and interlock the next row with the first. After the first two rows I knew I had it!
And so I began braiding rows and adding on plastic bags. The mat started taking shape as the rows stacked up.
Though this new technique was certainly genius, it didn’t come without any snags. This new method was working, but I quickly ran right out of bags! It’s hard to picture how much 1,000 plastic bags actually is and I had seriously underestimated my stash. I put out a plea to our neighborhood and many generously donated. A quick trip around the ‘hood’ to load up and I was back at it. I even raided the recycle bin at HyVee while I was out. Even with all that, I barely had enough.
By the end of the long weekend it was finished. My first sleeping mat! It was rolled, tied, and delivered just in time for the Kisses for Claudie give away.
My goal was accomplished and I was ready to move on to the next project. But then this came my way:
And that’s when I knew. I couldn’t stop at just one mat. Seeing the recipient of the first mat – looking at his eyes – this couldn’t be the end. There are so many more just like this man who need a warm barrier against the cold hard ground each night.
And so, Bed Of Bags was born. In the past year I’ve made 25 mats and donated them to different ministries across the city. The mat has evolved a bit since the first one: I now include a pillow pocket at the top, fleece blankets rolled up inside, and crochet carrying straps to secure and transport each mat easily. I’ve held 4 classes at local churches and community groups to show others how to make mats as well. And the cherry on top? We’ve saved approximately 25,000 plastic bags from the landfills!
If you want to start your own mat check out our “how to” video here!