Saturday, August 18, 2007

Hakucho's Big Bag - recycled plastic grocery bag pattern

This pattern was inspired by Maia Disco's felted bag Baby’s Got a Brand New Big Bag pattern.
I modified the pattern ever so slightly for the plastic yarn (plarn) and Maia so kindly gave me permission to post my modified directions as a free pattern.

You will need many plastic shopping bags (bags marked "recyclable" not recommended)***. I would say approximately 50-60. Here is the tutorial on How to turn plastic bags into yarn.

I have found that the process goes much faster if once the handles and bottoms are cut off, you stack the prepared bags one on top of the other (I have done up to 8 at a time) and then cut the bags as shown in the tutorial. I think the number of bags that you can cut at one time depends greatly on how sharp your scissors are. You will now have loops, which you will slip knot together to make the plastic yarn. For those who have read the Mason-Dixon Knitting book, you will recognize this technique, which is referred to “Calamari Knitting”. The French woman mentioned in the book used this type of plastic yarn to make sling seats for folding lawn chairs. This is what inspired me to try and use this material for a reusable shopping bag.

U.S. 17 circular knitting needles 29"
U.S. 15 circular knitting needles 29"
4 large stitch markers
crochet hook for weaving in ends

Gauge is really not at all important. With size 17 circular needles gauge is approximately 2.5 stitches per inch. The bag’s approximate measurements upon completion are 17” x 16”.

This bag is worked from the bottom up starting with a rectangle of garter stitch. With the size 15 needle cast on 23 stitches using the long tail cast on method. Always slip the first stitch of every row purl wise. Knit 32 rows (garter stitch).  The 32 garter stitch rows produces a chain on the short edges of your rectangle. The chain is the result of your slipped stitches at the beginning of the garter stitch rows. There are 16 slipped stitches on each side.

Please note: For the body of the bag you will need to pick up a total of 55 stitches. 16 stitches along each of the two sides picking up the whole slipped stitch and 23 along the cast on edge. When you are finished picking up all the stitches you should have a total of 78 stitches on your needle.

Round 1: Having your original 23 stitches on your needle place a marker on the needle and pick up 16 stitches, place another marker and then pick up 23 more, place another marker and pick up 16 again and then place the last marker - it is helpful if this marker is different from the rest, larger or a different color. This is now the beginning of round 2. You will have 78 stitches on your needle.

Round 2, etc:
 Continue to knit every round.

After 6 rounds switch to the size 17 needle. Continue knitting every round until the bag measures 12-13 inches or desired length. Measure only the stockinette portion of the bag.

To make the bag’s handles:
Round 1: Knit 6 stitches, bind off 11 for handle, knit 6 more, move marker, knit 16, move marker, knit 6, bind off 11 stitches. Knit 6 , move marker and knit the remaining 16 stitches.
Round 2: Knit 6 stitches, cast on 11 using backward loop cast on method, knit 6, move marker, knit 16, move marker, knit 6, cast on 11, knit 6, move marker, knit reamining16 stitches. You should now have 2 holes for the handles evenly spaced on the front and back of the bag.

Switch back to size 15 needles. Knit 5 more rounds of seed stitch
Round 1: k1, p1
Round 2: p1, k1

Bind off all stitches. Work in ends with crochet hook.

Note: The bag will stretch a little with use.

Questions, comments please visit or email me hakucho19(at)yahoo(dot)com.
If you would like this pattern in pdf format for easier printing please email me. I will be very happy to send it to you!

Edited: 9/28/2007
Click here to download pattern PDF file. Please email me with any problems or questions. Thanks!

I LOVE seeing what others have made with my patterns, so please send me your photos and I will add them to My Knitting Friend's Gallery. Thanks :)

***It has been brought to my attention that you should not use bags labeled "recyclable" because they are manufactured to break down easily and your knitted bag may break as well.
Everyone's supply of bags is different. My best advice is to use your judgment and if you think the bags will not hold up or break do not use the flimsy bags. I don't know that much about plastic bags, but I do know that over time ALL plastic tends to break down. Heat also effects plastic. I wouldn't recommend storing the knitted plastic bags in you hot car for any length of time. I have had no problems with falling apart or breaking so far with all the bags I have knitted. The first bag I made too large and it stretched (but did not break) because it was overfilled. I'm still using it :)

Edited September 3, 2007: errata in the pattern found!
I have made corrections in the pattern in black print. Sorry for any confusion or inconvenience. As always I really appreciate any and all feedback. Thankfully an anonymous reader caught
my mistake and so kindly left me a comment. Thanks :) Hopefully it is clearer now. Please email me if you have any questions or comments.


Copyright © 2007 hakucho, All Rights Reserved.


  1. ooh, Thanks to both you and Maia for sharing this pattern. Now I must start saving plastic bags....

  2. Thank you so much for offering this pattern! (and to Maia, also)

    My daughter is saving all her bags that have good color for me to make one. Can't wait to get all the bags together and get started.

    Hope your niece is faring well in our Southern is getting a bit cooler, though. :)

  3. I didn't realize you used such large needles for these. Collecting that many plastic bags is quite a challenge. Most bags I see are white, almost transparent or greyish. Walmart has blue bags, I think. Home Depot has brown. Ranch 99 has transparent with blue.

  4. Fantastic idea! Thanks to you both.

  5. Thanks for the pattern!

  6. Thanks..I had started making up my own pattern earlier this summer but got distracted...could be a fun gift to make!

  7. Great pattern! I love how your patterns are always cute AND practical!! Did you modify it from the original bag, which you said was a little too large?

    Unfortunately, I will have to start a new bag collection to make one! Since I got some great re-usable grocery bags at Trader Joe's, my plastic bag supply has dwindled down to nothing! :)

  8. Being of partial scottish decent, my family is always busting on me for my attempts to be frugal,, like in clean out the fridge soup, etc, so this will really get them when i start recycling our many, many plastic grocery bags!
    THANKS! Youer patterns are always a treat to get!

  9. Thanks for the pattern. It's great!

  10. I am going to have to make some of those thanks for sharing.

  11. I am thinking about doing this one, although my cat, Smokey loves plastic bags. I am always kicking her out of the bags of wool because she is constantly scratching at the bags. My husband, when he changes the litter always finds a bag in the box. She has even figured out how to open the cupboard under the sink where we store the bags.

    By the way she loves to chew through wool and Paton's Brilliant, go figure. (Shaking head here)I don't get my cat sometimes.


  12. Ooooo! Here in Canada, Zellers has RED plastic bags! It causes a person to look at plastic bags in a whole new way...

    ....and to think that I used to just save them for when I scoop the litterbox. Who knew? Thank you!

  13. Super excited about this pattern! Definitely on my (looong) to do list.

  14. The pattern says you will need to pick up a total of 49 stitches, 16 along each of 2 sides and 23 along the cast on edge. 16+16+23 does not add up to 49. I'm don't really understand where these stitches are suppose to come from either.

  15. Dear Anonymous,

    Thank you so much for picking up my mistake. I have corrected the pattern. The total number of stitches(78) was correct, but the number of stitches you need to pick up is 55 and not 49. Hopefully it is clearer now. Please email me if you have any more questions. Thanks again :)

  16. I had troubles with my plastic bags ripping when I tried to string them together. After much frustration, I decided to make these out of 100% cotton instead. Same idea, just more durable. I guess I'll just have to keep popping my bags in the recycle bin at the grocery store ;)

  17. Hi, I'm not a knitter, but I've crocheted several of these. I just "wing it" as far as a pattern goes. I recommend making sure that the handle areas are really strong. My son and I entered one in a county fair (where it won the blue ribbon in recycled materials category!) and it was strength-tested to carry 75 pounds! Also, a note about color: be careful of the unintentional message that your choice of bags may make. After their initial comment on how neat an idea the bag is, most people mention that they recognize the blue as being from WalMart bags. Well, I boycott WalMart! So I have to explain that my son's class collected the bags for me and that was what the majority were. Also, it's fun to make stripes from the different bags from local stores and point those out when shopping there. I've had the checker call the manager over to see! Good fun! Peace, Denelle in Montana

  18. I made this up in two basic blues from different groceries in the area, with some white and beige striping/tweed-like areas. It came out great. Today is our maiden voyage to the produce market. Now I'm on a mission to make Christmas gifts! Thank you!

  19. Very interesting topic , appreciate it for posting .

  20. With all the recycling being done now you have to make sure your bags are the recylable ones when you make your wool. It's not as strong and will break down much faster. This is a wonderful pattern, I would have tried it by now but all the stores around here use recycled bags and charge for them. Might try to make one out of cotton though. Thank you so much for the pattern.


Thank you all for your comments! I really appreciate them. I usually don't follow up with an email, but if you do have a question please make sure you include a way to reach you within your comment so I may answer your question. Thanks and happy knitting :)

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