Sunday, January 20, 2008

quilted plastic bag

quilted plastic bag, front

some time ago, etsy labs posted tutorial on making fused plastic bags. as far as i can tell, they didn't start the ensuing crafting trend, but certainly fanned the flames (fumes?). you can see examples and more examples all over the place. (and really, if it's on etsy, craftzine, and whip up, it's been covered. thoroughly.)

i loved the premise of up-cycling (yes, we get to make up whatever words we want these days) only marginally useful plastic shopping bags into something better. so, in trying my hand at this technique, i decided to juxtapose it with something that in many respects is coming from the opposite viewpoint -- traditional quilting. (i did see some examples where bags were pieced somewhat to combine logos or to get large enough sheets of material, but didn't see anything pieced in a quilt style -- but that doesn't mean it hasn't been done.)

chain piecing traditionally, back when quilting was at least in part a utilitarian undertaking, quilters used whatever fabric was available to them. it was common to repurpose old or damaged clothing, and whole styles of quilting existed for the sole purpose of finding ways to use every last scrap of fabric. nothing was wasted. plastic bags, in contrast, are used once and (often) thrown away. use and toss, use and toss (or maybe use it again once for something and then toss). they're a pretty apt symbol for our whole consumer disposable culture. (those early quilters would feel a bit disoriented my this mindset, i think.)

how my brain worksand so, i turned my horrible plastic bags into traditional quilt blocks, to sort of play with that dichotomy. i deliberately chose very familiar quilt blocks: the ohio star and shoo fly on the front, as well as the friendship star on the back. i added sashing between the blocks (to continue the whole quilt representation), then formed the whole thing into a tote bag -- coming full circle from bags to a bag. (as you can see, i behaved like a quilter and even drew out a quilt pattern -- plastic or not, you need to know sizes and where the pieces go, so that was actually helpful.)

quilted plastic bag, detail

i didn't have any trouble fusing or sewing the plastic. it was a pretty uneventful rendition of the much-described technique, so i won't elaborate on the process here (if you want to know how to do this, follow those links above to samples and tutorials galore). my only tip: if you're fusing outdoors to avoid fumes, wait for a warm day. in cold weather, the plastic cools too quickly and wrinkles more than otherwise necessary.

i'm pleased with the results, but i doubt i'll be returning to this technique unless i have a pressing need for something made out of this sort of material. should that come up (various halloween costumes come to mind), it's useful to know how to do this.

quilted plastic bag, back

19 comments:

*camerashymomma* said...

i love the level of expertise you took this too (you, always enjoying the challenge!) the quilt pieces are amazing, and i love the blocks you chose. all of it is so well thought out and planned. down to color placement... you and i share the same attention to detail!

Laura said...

I love it!

Alix said...

this is fantastic.
And yes,in the true roots of quilting, using these materials is where it's at.

Jessica said...

I came to your post from Whip-up and just wanted to say I really like your bag. I am a quilter, but when i first heard of this technique I didn't think to try it using traditional patchwork blocks. your project looks amazing.

neta said...

Wow!
I found you through whip up too, I love the beautiful bag, so simple but really sophisticated.

lori said...

I've seen pics of your bag around but somehow missed the fact that it is quilted fused plastic! So great.

kawaii crafter said...

looks amazing!

emily august said...

This is a really great application of the ubiquitous bag fusing technique! It looks really nice, and I can see it appealing to a wide audience of "consumers".

lela said...

I was wondering did you do any kind of sewing anywhere or did you just fuse all the plastic shapes together? I've never fused plastic before so that's why I might be asking an obvious question. This is a really cool bag!

Kristy said...

lela> that's a great question, i probably should have made that clear in the post! oops. all the pieces are sewn together like regular quilting. i wasn't sure if the seams would be strong enough if i just fused them; plus, i really wanted to play around with using quilting techniques.

so, every seam is sewn with standard 1/4" margins, then i just finger pressed the seams open. from the inside of the bag, you can see all the seam allowances. i thought of adding a lining, but i liked leaving the work exposed, and structurally, it didn't need it.

Marcia said...

That is so cool. Seriously. I'm sad that I start a new job on Monday, and am therefore swamped with everything (which is why I'm surfing blogs instead of cleaning my kitchen) and can't make this right now!

asabear said...

How ingenious, and it combines two of my loves - quilting and recycling. Brilliant I say, brilliant :D

SewBeeIt said...

Just hoping for some advice on this...I fused together some plastic last night. Might be my first mistake, but I used 3 plastic bags that were kind of thick-like the ones you might get at a convention to carry stuff around (hope that makes sense!). Well, I tried sewing them together and I have now broken my new Viking machine. Any experiences out there with sewing thick materials? What did I do?!?

Kristy said...

sewbeeit: oh no! i hope you mean you broke the needle rather than did some serious damage to your machine. depending on the thickness of the plastic you're describing, i guess that could be the issue. i don't think i have any tips for you, unfortunately. maybe someone else does?

blackanna said...

What a great idea!!

Lolly said...

Holy cow! That came out great!!

Mor Tosbaa Tasarım said...

This idea is really great. I love it.

Gail said...

I saw your bag on toddlebits and had to let you know how very cool it is. I'm amazed at what can be done with throw-away items. What a neat idea.

Laura said...

How awesome is this! I love it! Thanks for sharing!
Laura