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Basket Weaving with Plastic Bags: Instructions

Here’s how to make a basket out of plastic bags. It’s a basket weaving tutorial for beginners. It’s also my first try making a basket with plastic bags from potato chips, foil coffee bags, and the like. Some helpful videos I found from others is at the end.

The process in a nutshell: Cut clean plastic bags into rectangles, roll the rectangles into narrow tubes, and weave those into a basket.

It’s amazing how quickly you can collect enough plastic wrappers for a basket. I collected them from many types of food items:

  • potato chip bags
  • foil coffee bags
  • tortilla chips bags
  • ramen noodle packages
  • bags for small candy bars
  • dog treat bags
  • deluxe ice cream bar wrappers

The result is a useful basket with hints of color from the foil coffee bags, chip bags, pretzels and candy eaten over a few weeks. We need to do more than recycle chip bags to move toward a zero-waste lifestyle. But, it’s a step. This basket has kept about 50 snack bags out of the trash.

plastic bag weaving instructions
Reusing plastic bags to make baskets is fun.
basket made from plastic snack bags
Learn how to make a basket out of plastic bags

There were a few challenges to weaving with potato chip bags and the like. I think the material is mainly polypropylene, which can be slippery, unlike newspaper or reed. First each bag must be washed and dried, to remove the oils and aromas from the snacks. Then once the bags are trimmed into rectangles (about 4 x 6 inches), they needed to be rolled into tubes.

Gluing the plastic to hold the tube rolled up can be tricky. The thin plastic material is more slippery than newspaper, and not absorbent. To keep it from unrolling I tried contact cement, non-toxic craft glue, cellophane tape and even melting it with heat to try to fuse the open edge closed.

The best results came from contact cement. I’m not happy to use because it gums up my fingers and his hard to clean off. Plus, contact cement (aka rubber cement) is toxic, and I’m trying to get toxic materials out of my life. Another downside, the contact cement becomes thick and unusable the more you open the jar to use it.

Nontoxic cement (like white school glue) took too long to dry, and didn’t hold well once dried. Tape just let go after a few hours.

I may try wrapping the tube with thread to hold it shut in the future. Let me know if you have a non-toxic glue for plastic that you like.

Here are the steps for those who’d like to try it.

Preparing the Plastic for Basket Weaving

40-50 plastic bags from snack foods, dog treats, coffee, etc.

A wooden dowel or knitting needle, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch in diameter and about 14 inches long.

Glue or thread to hold the tubes closed.

  1. Open the plastic bags into a single layer. Remove any thick seams from the plastic bags. Remove or cut off re-sealable closure parts, or anything that won’t roll up smoothly. Wash and dry the plastic. It’s okay if there are small tears or nicks in the edges. They’ll get rolled up and won’t be visible.
  2. Cut the bag – now a sheet – into equal rectangles. You don’t have to be mathematically precise. A minimum of 4 inches wide by 6 inches long is a good guideline. A plastic coffee bag creates 4 rectangles, about 4 inches by 12 inches, for example.
  3. Lay the plastic with the side you want showing facing down, and the best (most intact) edge facing away from you.
  4. Lay the dowel or knitting needle diagonally across the corner closest to you, wrap the corner around the dowel, and keep rolling the sheet into a tight tube around the dowel.
  5. Glue the free corner of the plastic so it sticks to the rest of the tube and holds it rolled up. You may need to use a rubber band or clothespin to hold it until the glue dries.
  6. Slip the tube off the dowel.
  7. Repeat making tubes until all the bags are rolled up.
Plastic bag tube for basket
A tube in the making.

Weaving the Basket

Because the tubes are made from rectangles rolled up diagonally, one end of the tube will have a slightly bigger opening than the other.

This allows you to connect the tubes into long pieces by putting the small end of one into the larger end of the other.

  1. Connect short tubes until you have 8 long tubes about 28 inches long. I find foil coffee bags good for these tubes

2. Mark the centers of your 8 28-inch tubes and divide them into 4 pairs of 2.

3. Lay a pair on the table and put the second pair at a right angle to the first pair, aligning the centers. Place the next pair on top of the second pair at a right angle. Place the last pair over the previous pair and under the first pair. Now all 8 tubes should interweave in pairs like this:

Start the basket with 8 tubes.

4. Snug up your tubes so they are as close together as possible. These are your spokes.

5. Take another tube and fold it near the middle, so one end is about an inch longer than the other. Wrap this around the first pair. This is your first weaver.

Starting the first weaver (the folded tube on the left)

6. Cross the ends of the weaver and bend them over and under the second pair.

7. Cross the ends of the weaver and weave them over and under the third pair.

8. Cross the ends of the weaver again and weave them over and under the fourth pair. Crossing and passing the weavers around the spokes is called twining.

9. Make your weavers longer as you need to by inserting tubes onto the ends (gluing them is recommended).

10. After twining around 4 times, split the pairs of tubes so you have 8 single spokes coming from the center of your work.

11. Continue twining until you have a disk about 6 or 7 inches in diameter

12. Bend the end of your spokes upward to form the sides of your basket. Continue twining until your basket is as tall as desired. 5 inches tall is a good guideline.

How to make a basket out of plastic bags

13. Keep packing your weavers together tightly as you go.

14. Finish the basket by bending a spoke to the right and putting it to the inside of the next spoke and the outside of the next spoke over. Do this for all 16 spokes.

15. Snug up your spokes against the weavers and continue weaving them in and out around the top until all the ends are secured. Trim any protruding ends.

Enjoy your basket.

plastic bag upcycle into basket
Recycle plastic bags into a basket

More resources:

With Newspaper: How to make a newspaper basket (video) by CreativeIdeas

Related: How to make a shopping bag from recycled materials

Free bag pattern

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