Conditioning Plarn (Plastic Bag Yarn) for Crochet

"Softened" Plarn
"Softened" Plarn


Crocheting with plastic bag yarn (plarn) presents a different challenge than crocheting traditional yarn. The most obvious reason is that plarn is flat while traditional yarn is tubular. To remedy this, the plarn must be “conditioned” for crocheting/knitting. This article seeks to present ways to “condition” plarn for needlework.

Click here to learn the methods of making plarn.

Spun Mesh Onion Bags from ChasingMyself (Catherine) - Ravelry member
Spun Mesh Onion Bags from ChasingMyself (Catherine) - Ravelry member | Source
DIY Navajo Spindle made from a piece of dowel sanded to a point at both ends and a CD fixed on at the appropriate place with a very large lump of Blu Tack on either side
DIY Navajo Spindle made from a piece of dowel sanded to a point at both ends and a CD fixed on at the appropriate place with a very large lump of Blu Tack on either side | Source

Spinning Plarn

The most used conditioning technique for plarn is spinning. According to Wikepedia, "spinning is an ancient textile art in which plant, animal or synthetic fibers are twisted together to form yarn. ".

Essentially, spinning plarn means twisting it a million times to convert a flat plarn into tubular form. I have not tried spinning because I don’t know how to spin, don’t have the tools necessary for it, or the patience to keep twisting, keep twisting, keep twisting. From what I discern from forums and threads discussing plarn, most spin it for the following reasons:

  • Plarn is flat, which makes it difficult to crochet, especially when it is thick. Spinning plarn softens and makes it tubular like regular yarn.
  • Spinning plarn allows it to be combined with other regular or traditional fibers and yarns creating an endless array of effects.
  • Crocheting with spun plarn creates a crisp and strong finished item.

VIDEOS

I searched YouTube and the videos by Kristy Medina are the easiest to understand for a novice like myself.

The first video shows how to spin VHS tape using a top-whirl drop spindle.

The second video shows how to spin plarn on a Navajo spindle, which to me is similar to a bottom-whirl drop spindle, except that it's a lot bigger.

The third video shows how to spin yarn on a spinning wheel and to ply/combine plarn.

Freshly cut plarn
Freshly cut plarn
"Softened" Plarn
"Softened" Plarn
HOW TO SOFTEN PLARN
HOW TO SOFTEN PLARN

Do you condition your plarn?

Do you condition your plarn?

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If You Can't Spin, "SOFTEN"

As I have said earlier, I don’t know how to spin. I’ve only crocheted plarn for almost a year now and in my early projects, I crocheted “unconditioned “ or flat plarn. This was just fine if you use plarn from thin and soft plastic bags. All you have to do is to make sure you crush the plarn in the nip of the hook as you crochet it.

But as the days go by, I encountered plastic bags that are not soft. When I crocheted them, the resulting item had rough edges where the plarn was folded by crocheting. That was the cause of itch in plarn when it comes in contact with the skin.

Just recently I had this wonderful idea of crushing/crumpling the plarn before crocheting. I realized this after I had to untangle an almost-finished crocheted item because I ran out of plarn. I noticed how soft it was when I crocheted it again and there were less rough edges. However, crocheting-and-untangling-plarn technique for conditioning plarn screams TEDIOUS to me. So I thought that if I pass the plarn in a narrow hole, that should crumple it enough to make it more pliable for crochet.

My first try was with the hole in my key. It works fine but I lost the key. So I had to find other alternatives. I tried a hairpin. It was great but the hairpin is bit wobbly. It’s difficult to keep it steady as you pass the plarn in it. I saw this plastic fork from a fast food chain and thought “Hmmmmm… why not?” And that was it! I can form a narrow hole with it using my fingers and it’s big enough for me to hold steady as I pass the plarn.

See the picture HOW TO SOFTEN PLARN. how I position my finger and the plarn on the fork. The middle and index finger on the front side of the fork, the thumb at the back of the fork and acts as a guide for the plarn that is inserted on one of the gaps in fork. The other hand pulls the plarn away AND downward from the front side of the fork.

I’m not sure if I’m the first one to share this technique or if others have already discovered it before me. So I just named it “softening” plarn.


Conclusion

Although I have not tried spinning, I believe that spun plarn is better than "softened" plarn. However, "softened" plarn is better than flat plarn. So if you run low on the virtue of patience (like myself), "softening" plarn is the way to go.

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Comments Make ME Happy! 17 comments

MoiraCrochets profile image

MoiraCrochets 3 years ago from Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines Author

Hello Ana! Your blog is really unique! I really like your sailboat and roman helmet.

Thanks for leaving a comment!


Ana 3 years ago

This is very useful. I love to crochet with plarn and have made many unusual items such as a space shuttle, sailboat and various creations with plarn. http://plarncreations.blogspot.com/


MoiraCrochets profile image

MoiraCrochets 4 years ago from Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines Author

Go for it Bheng!

Soon, plastic bags will be history and all we'll have to show for it are the bags we crocheted. ",)


handmadebybheng profile image

handmadebybheng 4 years ago from Cubao , Quezon City

Here in Manila, after the recent storms, the local government implement a no plastic policies when buying in stores.. so using them as plarn is a very clever idea to make better use of plastic. Although I still believe that we can't totally eradicate the use of plastic. I'd like to see you make a crochet bag out of plarn :)


MoiraCrochets profile image

MoiraCrochets 4 years ago from Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines Author

Thanks Melanie. I'll check it out.


Melanie 4 years ago

Hey there, We just posted something on the Facebook Fan page called Plarn about this article. xoxox. Sending good Plarn energy. -Melanie


MoiraCrochets profile image

MoiraCrochets 5 years ago from Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines Author

I can understand why you haven't heard of softening yet because I just made it up. There are times when I don't soften too when the plastic bag is pliable enough for crochet. Maybe you should share your crunching method. I am interested to learn it.


Teresa 5 years ago

I have been spinning plarn for about 4 yrs now and have crocheted/knitted with plarn for over 15 yrs and never heard of softening. Honestly, I haven't seen a reason to soften it. In my opinion, it's perfect the way it is. However, I will use my own crunching method when I crochet/knit with vhs tape.


MoiraCrochets profile image

MoiraCrochets 5 years ago from Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines Author

Yes SIMONE SMITH, it is really fascinating. I hope you can try it sometime.

Hey SHAUN MUSCOLO! Where can I see your evening dresses? It will be great to post a link here. Spiral-scissor cut method? That must be synonymous with single-strand method. I wrote about that too here: http://hubpages.com/art/Crochet-Plastic-Bags-1...


Shaun Muscolo 5 years ago

I make mostly evening dresses from plarn. I use 15mm knitting needles and do not knit too densely, so the garment feels soft and wearable on the model. I like the plarn a bit fluffy for this reason. I sqeeze it a little with my fingers every stitch to soften. I will not be spinning it. I make plarn using the spiral siccor-cut method on an ironing table.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

I've never heard of plarn before. This is fascinating!


MoiraCrochets profile image

MoiraCrochets 5 years ago from Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines Author

Yeah, I love the videos too. Kristy was really good at pointing out what a beginner should know about spinning plarn.


PWalker281 5 years ago

I never knew that plarn was spun! This is a very informative hub, Moira. The videos are great. Rated up and useful!


MoiraCrochets profile image

MoiraCrochets 5 years ago from Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines Author

Thanks for the comment. I added a link in my intro to my other hub about making plarn.


Joe Macho profile image

Joe Macho 5 years ago from Colorado

Interesting article. I'm not the least bit familiar with plarn, but how is it cut and made into its rough stage before you spin it? Thanks for the hub, I learned a lot of new info.


MoiraCrochets profile image

MoiraCrochets 5 years ago from Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines Author

Yes, I agree with you on that. But the results with spinning is just so tempting!


nikki_m profile image

nikki_m 5 years ago from Kansas City, Missouri

Interesting! I've only dabbled with using plarn and softening it is probably the way I'll go in future projects. Not only am I short on patience, but I hate hate HATE buying stuff for something that can be so cheap!

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