Conditioning Plarn (Plastic Bag Yarn) for Crochet
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.
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.
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.
Do you condition your plarn?
Do you condition your plarn?
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.
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.
- Moira Crochets Plarn: Transforming plastic bags into crocheted treasures
This is my personal blog about my adventures in crocheting plarn
- Plarn 101: Methods of Making Plarn
Compare double-strand and single-strand method of making yarn from plastic bags for crochet or knit
- Moira Crochets Plarn: Why do I Crochet with Plarn?
Why should you? The advantages and disadvantages of crocheting plarn is discussed in this article.
Kristy Medina's blog, I follow this blog too.
- Ravelry - a knit and crochet community
The Facebook of knitters, crocheters, and spinners - I'm a proud member.
- From Trash to Treasure
This Ravelry group is for anyone who is into saving the earth by taking things usually thrown in the trash and making them into something practical or out of the ordinary. Me and Kristy Medina belongs to this group, too.
- Alternative Yarn Ravelry Group
A group of knitters, crocheters, and spinners who loves alternative yarn such as plarn, raffia, nylon rope, hemp, etc. I'm a member too.
- Ideas for Plarn
This is a thread in the Ravelry group Alternative yarn that discusses what members have done with plarn