Sunday, January 20, 2008
quilted plastic bag
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.)
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.)
and 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.)
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.