Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Avoiding the Owie with Plarn

Working with plarn (PLastic yARN made from cut-up plastic bags) can be very hard on your hands and arms. I once thought I was getting arthritis in my elbow, but it turned out to be the plarn projects I was working on every day.

Here are some tips for saving your hands and arms from the pain that can go along with plarn work. You can use these with The Ultimate Recycled Market Bag pattern.

1. Work loosely. It’s the pulling that makes plarn hard on your muscles and joints.

2. Stick with crochet. I love knitting, but for plarn, knitting causes the strands to “grab” the needles, causing a lot of pushing and pulling to get each stitch made. Crochet can be done loosely enough to minimize the grabbiness.

3. Mesh crochet is best. When you work with chained loops instead of inserting the hook into actual stitches, the pushing and pulling is reduced even more.

4. Cut your plarn only one bag at at time. When you make a bag’s worth of plarn, work it up, and then stop to cut the next bag, you’ll be giving your hands and arms a much-needed rest.

5. Use the crinkly type of plastic bags, like you get from the grocery store. This plastic slides easily, and it’s less grabby than softer plastic from bread bags, ziplocs, etc.

6. Cut your plarn thin, but not too thin. When you use the strung-together-loops method for making plarn, the strands are doubled, so you can cut the plarn loops 1/2” or 1 cm wide and still have plenty of strength. Anything wider than 1/2” will be hard on your hands.

7. If you must use soft plastic bags, cut the loops 1/4” or .5 cm wide. Bread bag-type plastic is strong, so the thinner loops work up with plenty of strength.

8. Avoid using a plastic hook. Metal or a very smooth hardwood work better for reducing drag on the plarn.

You can find more crochet tips and variations for The Ultimate Recycled Market Bag pattern in the following posts:
How to Make Plarn
My Old Crochet Hook
Cotton Yarn Market Bag
T-Shirt Yarn Market Bag


  1. Wonderful tips! I agree with them all. Using a larger, wood hook, helps quite a bit with this technique. :)

  2. I disagree with not knitting plarn. I've done it just fine and have very little problems making nice stuff with single strand plarn that has been lightly spun on a drop spindle/spinning wheel on a loose/thick setting. I dislike using double layer plarn because of the knots. I don't have any problems with my wrists hurting, no more than with yarn anyways. Just use big metal needles (no smaller than US size 10). Also cut the plarn no wider than 1 inch and no thinner than 1/2 inch. I do agree not using plastic ones, because it does grab.

  3. Plastic hooks kill my hands when working with plarn. And they have a tendency to break too easily when making plarn items.

  4. It also helps if you rub a drop of tissue oil into your hands then it sort of reduces the drag of tougher plastic tipes