People make beautiful baskets from repurposed materials. Newspaper baskets inspired me to try basket weaving myself. But I wanted to do plastic bag weaving, which sparked a burning question:
Can you weave with plastic?
Yes — if you have a good way to make plastic reeds for weaving. Many kinds of food wrappers work for plastic bag weaving. You can make sturdy bags and baskets from cereal, coffee, potato chips and other snacks.
When making a basket out of plastic or newspaper, some steps are the same. You cut the material into strips. Next you roll each strip into a spiral to make a tube. You make enough tubes for your basket. Then you weave using a traditional pattern.
This basket pattern uses eight long reeds twisted together and fanned out into 16 spokes. A traditional plain weave fills in the gaps. Going over and under each spoke creates the base and sides.
But with plastic, it’s hard to make reeds long enough to weave a basket by gluing them together. Plastic snack packaging doesn’t easily stick to itself with glue.
I was fascinated to try plastic bag weaving. But since I wasn’t using newspaper, I needed a different way to make long tubes.
How do you cut plastic bags for weaving?
After some missteps, I found an easy way to make tubes from plastic bags for basket weaving.
Like the newspaper basket weavers, I cut the material into strips. I used plastic from potato chip bags, coffee bags, cereal bags — even candy bar wrappers, washed and cut up.
At first I used glue to hold the ends down and connect strips together. That was a mistake. Plastic doesn’t let craft glue soak in. It sits on the surface. When it finally did dry, the end often popped open, and the tubes wouldn’t stay stuck together.
Then I tried rubber cement. That worked better with plastic. But it smelled bad, and made a sticky buildup on my fingers. Cleaning off that glue after every weaving session was tough on my skin, and I didn’t want to work in gloves.
One simple tweak produced stronger reeds quickly and easily. Turns out, with a certain amount of heat, plastic wrappers will bind together. It’s easy to fuse strips into round or flat reed shapes with an iron. The trick is finding the temperature for a strong bond without melting the plastic. A little trial and error quickly reveals the setting works best.
Here’s a quick video to show you how to weave a basket with plastic strips you make yourself.
How to do plastic bag weaving: Just make reeds
It takes 3 simple steps to make reeds for plastic bag weaving:
- Open the seams on your plastic bags, and cut them into strips.
- Form tubes by wrapping a knitting needle or ruler with the strips.
- Press with an iron to heat seal strips together/
- Be careful with the heat. Too much will wrinkle your plastic or melt holes in it.
- Wrap away from the pointy end of the needle, to slide the tube off easily.
- Experiment with different forms to make reeds. Try a ruler, or metal strips of different widths.
Where might you look for ideas about size, shape or patterns? I’m inspired by the native people, the Patawomeck, whose name became adapted for the Potomac River. They used white oak strips for simple baskets used for gathering.
What could you weave with plastic?
You’re sure to create something different. Your surroundings, skills and experiences combine like no other mix. So your results will be one-of-a-kind.
If weaving with recycled materials inspires you, sign up for a free basket pattern and make one of your own.
Give it a try!
Related: How to make a shopping bag from recycled materials