Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Plarn Mat for the Homeless

Plarn Yarn Mat for the Homeless

My sister mentioned investigating knitting instructions using cut up plastic shopping bags to make a mat as a project.  The plastic bags would not go directly to a land fill and the homeless would not be sleeping directly on a floor in a shelter, or ground outside.

At first glance it seemed like a wonderful project to investigate and participate in so I began looking on line to see what others have been doing.  There are many, many postings on line with instructions to crochet and frame loom these mats.  I found none for knitting.   

Below is the result of weaving a plarn mat on a floor loom.  The first photo is the daisy chained plarn in the basket with the mat in progress on the loom in the background.  The second photo is the finished mat.

Around thanksgiving I began taking control of the plastic Pick & Save bags brought into my home and stuffed into the 'bag of bags' in my pantry.  All the beige and half the white plarn in the finished mat came from Pick & Save bags.  The balance of the plarn was made from Piggly Wiggly and Woodman's bags.

As great minds would have it, the craft group at church decided (independent of my project) to collect shopping bags to be made into mats and donated.  One of the local shelters would take whatever they gave.

Inspiration to execution showed the flaws in the project I did not see mentioned in the you-tube instruction videos. 

The plarn compressed.  It flattening out to paper thin when weight was applied.  Not much protection from the cold ground.  A thick mat was needed.  The plarn was cut wider.  The mat got thicker.  The mat got heavier.  The mat got harder to pull the crochet hook through.  The mat required more material than I had access to.

I was in the planning stages of my next set of woven rugs for the weekend house so I factored in extra warp.  The crocheted project was pulled apart and I commandeered the church collection of plastic bags to have sufficient material to complete the mat. 

The plarn daisy chain was ~ 3" wide.  4 daisy chains of plarn were bundled together to get a thick mat. 

This extra thick plarn distorted the warp on the ends.  I was not able to get nice straight edges.

The final factor that convinced me to never, ever work with plarn again was the allergic reaction I had in the form of dermatitis.  Now, I am hypersensitive to allergens much like the canary in the mine shaft.  I wove wearing a lab jacket to add a layer of protection.  The HEPA air cleaner had to be on.  I showered and changed clothes after I worked with the plarn.

My final perspective on this project comes from living through the transition from paper grocery sacks to plastic.  We were sold a bill of goods.  The argument in the late 60's - early 70's was focused on the non sustainable forests being flattened for paper bags.  Yes, the same non-sustainable forests that to date provide paper goods from diapers to printer paper to Amazon boxes.  We were told plastic was a much better product and the transition was made. 

There is a place for the sterility of plastic.  Plastic bags do not have a valid purpose double bagging 2 liter bottles of soda. 

Here comes the old mantra that I still believe: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  My household is going to continue to focus on Reduce and Reuse.  Recycle needs to be investigated more fully.  Are the plastic bags put in the recycling containers actually being recycled? 

If you still want to provide more comfortable sleeping for the homeless, used yoga mats can be had at local resale shops for ~ $5 each.  They are lightweight and provide protection from the ground.

My time is better spent in other ways for mission work.

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