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Fusing Plastic Bags with the Etsy Labs

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This tutorial on fusing plastic bags was originally published on the now-retired Etsy Labs blog in May of 2007. Due to popular demand, we are reposting it in The Storque. Enjoy!


I realized this afternoon that I basically explain this technique to an Etsy Labs visitor at least once a day, but had never put the instructions online. So, here it is. Fusing! Plastic! Bags!

Do you have one zillion plastic drugstore and grocery bags under your sink, or perhaps smushed into a drawer? Ever wanted a cheap and easy use for them? One that leaves you with an intriguing and useful homemade craft supply? Do you have an iron? Why don’t you fuse them together?

What you’ll need
Plastic bags (thin, flimsy ones work best)
Parchment paper, freezer paper or plain old copier paper
Iron (and your favorite ironing surface)
Scissors

Making it
Please do this in a well-ventilated area. 


Flatten out the bag and trim the bottom seam and handles off. This allows the bag to be opened up into a larger rectangle of plastic.


Turn the bag inside-out if it has printing on it. Once the ink heats up, it comes off the bag and makes a huge mess. If the bag has an interesting design that you’d like to preserve, try using a clear plastic bag layered on top of the printed one.

We find that between 6-8 layers of plastic gives the best results. So, you can either fold your bag twice until it is 8 ply thick, or use three or more bags layered on top of one another. Trying to fuse less than 6 layers often results in little holes forming in the finished piece and a generally weaker material.

Sandwich your plastic bags between the parchment paper


Next, run a hot iron (we set ours to "rayon," but you will need to experiment a little to see what works for you) and keep the iron moving constantly. Make sure to get the edges, and after about 15 seconds, flip it over and iron the opposite side for a few seconds.


Peel a corner of the paper back to see if the plastic is fused together. It should be fairly smooth and "one sheet" to the touch (watch out, its a little hot). If the layers are not all melted together, iron it some more.

 


Peel the parchment paper away from the finished plastic sheet. Voila! Now, you can use this stuff to make a million things. We’ve made re-usable grocery totes, wallets, and floor cushions; I think its an inexpensive way to make waterproof linings for beach bags and make-up clutches.

Fused plastic makes fun and easy-to-clean bibs! Download this pattern and cut out two pieces (one from the plastic and another from a pretty cotton fabric), pin together with 1/4" bias tape (you’ll need about 48") and run a zip-zag stitch around the edges with your sewing machine. 

 

  • GreenSpaceGoods

    GreenSpaceGoods says:

    That is so awesome! I'd been trying to figure out what to do with bags (since I can't crochet for the life of me). Thanks very much :)

    6 years ago

  • tuftyhedgehog

    tuftyhedgehog says:

    Brilliant - just brilliant!

    6 years ago

  • abitabite

    abitabite says:

    I used this technique, as taught by Anda, to make a dress for costumecon http://images.etsy.com/all_images/0/0de/1c6/il_430xN.13170262.jpg

    6 years ago

  • bemyshark

    bemyshark says:

    i also have to explain this to someone probably once a week. people LOVE it, and are so excited to try it. it's a great activity to do with kids--i went into a 5th grade classroom to talk to them about making recycled crafts, and with one class we just spent about an hour fusing plastic bags [which they made the coolest things out of] because they could NOT get enough of it. i cannot endorse this process enough!

    6 years ago

  • yumiyumi

    yumiyumi says:

    this is fantastic! this will help me with my "be as green as possible" new year's resolution.

    6 years ago

  • AnneHolman

    AnneHolman says:

    so glad to find instructions on how to do this! i had seen a tote bag and a quilt made this way a while ago and didn't know how it was done. thanks... have a stash of bags i need to repurpose!

    6 years ago

  • pookeh

    pookeh says:

    i think i enjoy the fumes a tad too much.

    6 years ago

  • bemyshark

    bemyshark says:

    p.s. turning the iron up way high and allowing those "little holes" to form yields interesting results, too: http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=7972492

    6 years ago

  • qwynwyn

    qwynwyn says:

    Aha! That's pretty cool, and it seems doable!

    6 years ago

  • vanillalotus

    vanillalotus says:

    Wow this is cool. Is it sturdy enough to sew through?

    6 years ago

  • bigbluebed

    bigbluebed says:

    What a brilliant idea. I cannot wait to try it.

    6 years ago

  • tinarice

    tinarice says:

    great article! thanks! i love the 'related items' too! and bemyshark's necklace. now i'm feeling all inspired!

    6 years ago

  • happydaystudio

    happydaystudio says:

    Wow interesting!! I have a MILLION of those plastic bags hanging around. Thanks, I think I'll try this idea :)

    6 years ago

  • kibblesnknits

    kibblesnknits says:

    Thank you! I put all my items in plastic baggies when I mail them out. I think this would be better packaging!

    6 years ago

  • Meowstro

    Meowstro says:

    so neat! and waterproof too, I imagine. Nice Ikea ironing board by the way - I have the same one. On a side note, I found it nice to lay a tea towel underneath the cover(which slips right off) to make a cushier surface, since otherwise I was getting grill/mesh imprints when I ironed delicate things.

    6 years ago

  • hobbledehoy

    hobbledehoy says:

    great tutorial! I think I'll sew "fused" patches together to create an emergency blanket for the trunk of my crappy old car.

    6 years ago

  • yaelfran

    yaelfran says:

    love sooooo much the tutorial and Inbalimor too!!!!!

    6 years ago

  • eclipse

    eclipse says:

    vaniallalotus- yes you can sew through it! It sews up great, I just use a longer stitch length because a short stitch makes a perforated line and could be prone to tearing. I don't use any special needle or presser foot. On smaller items it can be easier to have the seams on the outside (sew wrong sides together) because the "fabric" is stiff and hard to turn inside out. It won't fray, so exposed seams aren't a big problem.

    6 years ago

  • katelynjane

    katelynjane says:

    Seriously love this idea! I'm going to have to try it this weekend!

    6 years ago

  • zebby

    zebby says:

    I am so, so happy I found Etsy, for these kinds of invaluable information..Thank you so much!!!All those bags I have to now save in all those colours.

    6 years ago

  • Luceee

    Luceee says:

    This is a great idea, but does anyone know if the plastic bags release icky vapors when heated? I tried it tonight, and I felt a little dizzy afterwards...

    6 years ago

  • eclipse

    eclipse says:

    I fuse plastic all the time and never smell anything chemical and have never gotten dizzy. I don't get the plastic hot enough to smell, but I think if you burn it, then it will efinitely smell and give off fumes! Well actually sometimes I smell the food item that was inside the bag, for example I smelled cinnamon when I fused bags from red hots candies. And then I was sad the bag was empty! Even when you wash the bags before fusing, I think plastic is slightly porous and can absorb strong food aromas.

    6 years ago

  • anda Admin

    anda says:

    I get a headache sometimes but I always do it somewhere with good airflow. There was a forum thread that I can no longer find where someone's husband who works with plastics said there should not be any toxic fumes.

    6 years ago

  • anda Admin

    anda says:

    I just found this (wow, the old blog made AskMetafilter! Fame!) http://ask.metafilter.com/78080/Ironing-plastic-bags-togetheris-this-toxic

    6 years ago

  • SusyJack

    SusyJack says:

    This is so cool. I thank you. And my Duane Reade bags thank you. :)

    6 years ago

  • OhSewHannah

    OhSewHannah says:

    WOW! This is so awesome. Thanks-I can't wait to try it.

    6 years ago

  • Luceee

    Luceee says:

    Thanks for the responses eclipse and anda!!

    6 years ago

  • iworkartwork

    iworkartwork says:

    Brilliant! I want to try it now!!

    6 years ago

  • TiffanyTeske

    TiffanyTeske says:

    This is awesome! Thanks, Anda!

    6 years ago

  • bungaloe

    bungaloe says:

    i cannot wait to get home and try this! i have a HUGE plastic bag collection because i HATE throwing them away, very exciting!

    5 years ago

  • SteppingStones

    SteppingStones says:

    This is a great article, but... the name Slutbag for a business is the most amazingly brilliant thing I have ever seen!!!!

    5 years ago

  • pillowhead

    pillowhead says:

    wow it is so easy! why did I not do this before? Thanks for posting this tutorial! :)

    5 years ago

  • PopTopLady

    PopTopLady says:

    I love this! Can't wait to try. Just be very careful with the Target bags (read this: http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/05/13/trashy.fashion/index.html) that a friend shared) It talks about how Target is giving people a hard time when they upcycle their bags and show their TM bullseye

    5 years ago

  • birdsandswings

    birdsandswings says:

    this is great!! thanks so much!

    5 years ago

  • cocoondesigns

    cocoondesigns says:

    great ideas

    5 years ago

  • pinkshowercurtain

    pinkshowercurtain says:

    that is so cool! thanks for sharing. i'm totally going to try that today. :)

    5 years ago

  • raghousenternational

    raghousenternational says:

    This is so cool. I am gonna try it!

    5 years ago

  • patricewright

    patricewright says:

    so cool

    5 years ago

  • CopperFrogStudio

    CopperFrogStudio says:

    I love this and can't wait to try it!

    5 years ago

  • KMCdesigns

    KMCdesigns says:

    If only I had an iron!

    5 years ago

  • PamperMePlease

    PamperMePlease says:

    hum, what shall i create?

    5 years ago

  • LagunaLane

    LagunaLane says:

    I can't wait to try this! thank you for the tutorial!

    5 years ago

  • anda Admin

    anda says:

    Wow...I was 8 months pregnant in that how-to video up there...

    5 years ago

  • themefragrance

    themefragrance says:

    so much fun!

    5 years ago

  • pompompurses

    pompompurses says:

    can you use bread bags and used ziplocks also?

    5 years ago

  • leoneill

    leoneill says:

    can you use produce bags from the grocery store in this technique?

    5 years ago

  • polar8888

    polar8888 says:

    is it better to use parchment paper or regular printer paper

    5 years ago

  • warmhart

    warmhart says:

    WOW! I had made crocheted shopping bags from plastic bags now I have another way to recylce those plastic bags into something re-usable. THANKS!

    5 years ago

  • ImogensGarden

    ImogensGarden says:

    this is fantastic! note worthy tidbit...waxed paper does NOT work. stick with freezer, parchment, or copier.

    5 years ago

  • Simplybotanical

    Simplybotanical says:

    What a great green idea.

    5 years ago

  • Sanguinaria

    Sanguinaria says:

    QUESTION: can you fuse number 2 plastic with number 4 and so on or do you have to keep within the same plastic recycling family?

    5 years ago

  • fernfiddlehead

    fernfiddlehead says:

    Did I already comment here? That was fun.

    5 years ago

  • galinav

    galinav says:

    How interesting!!! I always am very enthusiastic about new technologies and new crafts. I certainly will try to make fuse plastic. The more we recycle the greener we are. THANK YOU!

    5 years ago

  • DebiDesigns

    DebiDesigns says:

    wow, I have to make some for my customers who purchase from me at the Arts festival this weekend! I was gonna buy some clear ones from a plastic bag store. Thanks so much for explaining this for us, oldies but goodies!

    5 years ago

  • greenriverstudio

    greenriverstudio says:

    Cool! Loving the bags.

    4 years ago

  • littlegemcrafts

    littlegemcrafts says:

    IVE BEEN LOOKING FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT TO TRY, GREAT IDEA! I LIKE EVERY WOMEN HERE HAS A MILLION AND ONE PLASTIC BAGS IN MY CUPBOARD IM GONNA TRY IT. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!! BECKIE X

    4 years ago

  • lovebugstudios

    lovebugstudios says:

    Ok, eliminate freezer paper for this too - at least check if your freezer paper is coated. Mine is coated with a thin layer of... I guess PLASTIC so now the bags are fused to the freezer paper & now are a complete mess....

    4 years ago

  • clothpaperstitches

    clothpaperstitches says:

    I'm so glad I found this article!! I have been wondering how to do this for a while. Thanks for sharing.

    4 years ago

  • JadeRoseBoutique

    JadeRoseBoutique says:

    What a great idea! Can't wait to start playing - thanks.

    4 years ago

  • squeeky001

    squeeky001 says:

    that is a good idea.I will try it when I get time.

    4 years ago

  • TurnitoverTreasures

    TurnitoverTreasures says:

    Very cool (hot) idea! I will try it! Thanks for being so detailed in your description!

    4 years ago

  • myJellyBean

    myJellyBean says:

    LOVE, LOVE, this idea!! I have been looking for this to try, have ALOT of bags and ideas! Thanks so much!

    4 years ago

  • tootsweethandbags

    tootsweethandbags says:

    love this!

    4 years ago

  • Trio

    Trio says:

    I did this about twelve years ago for a university project. I put those tiny glitter stars between the layers and made some really decent tealight candle holders and low wattage globe lamp shade boxes. I also incorporated some photo transparencies into the boxes so the light shone through those too. It was a lot of fun!

    4 years ago

  • CCAZ

    CCAZ says:

    Silicon-coated paper sheets used for baking works very well and doesn't stick like wax paper does. Ask your local bakery if they have any. Two sheets is enough and can be reused over and over again.

    4 years ago

  • CCAZ

    CCAZ says:

    Pressing the sewn seams until they melt together will assure you a stronger seam.

    4 years ago

  • OrangeFire

    OrangeFire says:

    Really cool How-To!

    4 years ago

  • Kosmika

    Kosmika says:

    Brilliant! :) I still have to find the right paper, but it is a great idea! :)

    4 years ago

  • UccelliJewellery

    UccelliJewellery says:

    Excellent.. I've wanted to recycle my plastic bags for ages, this is a great technique.. thankyou!

    4 years ago

  • SwingStationStudio

    SwingStationStudio says:

    Yay! New project and materials for my stuff! I love recycling :)

    4 years ago

  • ZZsROCKnRECYCLABLES

    ZZsROCKnRECYCLABLES says:

    this is AWESOME!!!!!! I recycle plastic shoping bags by making tutu's, please check out my shop!!!, I also recycle kids jeans which I handpaint/heat transfer/tyedye-i JUST AM CRAZY ABOUT RECYCLING!!!!!

    4 years ago

  • BunniesandAvacado

    BunniesandAvacado says:

    Oooh this is pretty shiny! I think that I want to try this! Great plan. Ten points for.. whoever made this!

    3 years ago

  • lisudesigns

    lisudesigns says:

    It is amazing!!!! Usually I recycle my grocery bags at the supermarket, hum, now I am going to keep it and give it a try. what a great idea, thanks.

    3 years ago

  • immortalfashions

    immortalfashions says:

    I love this idea!Going to see if I can find a way to dye the plastic. I saw someone who sewed the fused bags into a raincoat.thank you for the tutorial.

    3 years ago

  • BlessedRepublic

    BlessedRepublic says:

    Brilliant! Can't wait to try it out. Thanks for sharing.

    3 years ago

  • naturalblendings

    naturalblendings says:

    Great info, can't wait to try this. Its the ultimate in recycling. Thanks!!!

    3 years ago

  • urbanartifaks

    urbanartifaks says:

    This is awesome!!! my mind is reeling with ideas...but for sure i want to use this for pouches to mail my recycled liquor bottle jewelry-its perfect!!!!

    3 years ago

  • bethsCraftroom

    bethsCraftroom says:

    excellent, excellent article!

    3 years ago

  • ourchildrensearth

    ourchildrensearth says:

    Love this...I have been meaning to make these forever and am so happy for the reminder

    3 years ago

  • BactrianBazaar

    BactrianBazaar says:

    Fantastic, thanx for sharing! Rain Ponchos, repairing tarps, ripped tent fabric, etc, etc,, as the King of Siam once said......

    2 years ago

  • maxpak

    maxpak says:

    Nice blog ! I like your article and i will really read it again. It will be beneficial Specially for young graduates as well as for fresher. I am in favor of paper bags but there are more demerits available in it. I just want some more information on the qualities of bags. Many paper bags are often not very reusable, so even when they are compostable or biodegradable, they are considered single use. Also keep in mind that compost able bags are really only viable for the handful of cities that have municipal composting plants.. The author makes good points but this argument is often over-simplified. cleaning wipes

    2 years ago

  • simplewhimsey

    simplewhimsey says:

    so cool! trying that! ♥

    2 years ago

  • NeedleBreaker

    NeedleBreaker says:

    Yours look so nice :) All mine are turning out way more wrinkled. What am I doing wrong?

    2 years ago

  • debbieschuessler

    Debbie Schuessler from DebbiesDenimDesigns says:

    Wow - I never heard of this before ... can't wait to tyr it out!

    346 days ago

  • debbieschuessler

    Debbie Schuessler from DebbiesDenimDesigns says:

    Wow - never heard of this before ... can't wait to try it out!

    346 days ago

  • DixieDinah says:

    Awesome! Far out! Amazing! And all those other Facebook words. I will be trying this one. I've thought of about ten things to do with them.

    44 days ago

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