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Fusing Plastic Bags with the Etsy Labs

Jan 25, 2008

by Anda Corrie

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. 

 

Recycled Journal, notepad, sketchbook keychain w\/ fused plastic bags cover
Recycled Journal, notepad, sketchbook keychain w\/ fused plastic bags cover
Sold
Circles Brooch
Circles Brooch
Sold

90 comments

  • GreenSpaceGoods

    GreenSpaceGoods said 8 years ago

    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 :)

  • tuftyhedgehog

    tuftyhedgehog said 8 years ago

    Brilliant - just brilliant!

  • abitabite

    abitabite said 8 years ago

    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

  • bemyshark

    bemyshark said 8 years ago

    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!

  • yumiyumi

    yumiyumi said 8 years ago

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

  • AnneHolman

    AnneHolman said 8 years ago

    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!

  • pookeh

    pookeh said 8 years ago

    i think i enjoy the fumes a tad too much.

  • bemyshark

    bemyshark said 8 years ago

    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

  • qwynwyn

    qwynwyn said 8 years ago

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

  • vanillalotus

    vanillalotus said 8 years ago

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

  • bigbluebed

    bigbluebed said 8 years ago

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

  • tinarice

    tinarice said 8 years ago

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

  • happydaystudio

    happydaystudio said 8 years ago

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

  • kibblesnknits

    kibblesnknits said 8 years ago

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

  • Meowstro

    Meowstro said 8 years ago

    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.

  • hobbledehoy

    hobbledehoy said 8 years ago

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

  • yaelfran

    yaelfran said 8 years ago

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

  • eclipse

    eclipse said 8 years ago

    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.

  • katelynjane

    katelynjane said 8 years ago

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

  • zebby

    zebby said 8 years ago

    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.

  • Luceee

    Luceee said 8 years ago

    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...

  • eclipse

    eclipse said 8 years ago

    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.

  • anda Admin

    anda said 8 years ago

    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.

  • anda Admin

    anda said 8 years ago

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

  • SusyJack

    SusyJack said 8 years ago

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

  • OhSewHannah

    OhSewHannah said 8 years ago

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

  • Luceee

    Luceee said 8 years ago

    Thanks for the responses eclipse and anda!!

  • iworkartwork

    iworkartwork said 8 years ago

    Brilliant! I want to try it now!!

  • TiffanyTeske

    TiffanyTeske said 8 years ago

    This is awesome! Thanks, Anda!

  • bungaloe

    bungaloe said 8 years ago

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

  • SteppingStones

    SteppingStones said 8 years ago

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

  • pillowhead

    pillowhead said 8 years ago

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

  • PopTopLady

    PopTopLady said 8 years ago

    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

  • birdsandswings

    birdsandswings said 8 years ago

    this is great!! thanks so much!

  • cocoondesigns

    cocoondesigns said 8 years ago

    great ideas

  • pinkshowercurtain

    pinkshowercurtain said 8 years ago

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

  • raghousenternational

    raghousenternational said 8 years ago

    This is so cool. I am gonna try it!

  • patricewright

    patricewright said 8 years ago

    so cool

  • CopperFrogStudio

    CopperFrogStudio said 8 years ago

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

  • KMCdesigns

    KMCdesigns said 8 years ago

    If only I had an iron!

  • PamperMePlease

    PamperMePlease said 8 years ago

    hum, what shall i create?

  • LagunaLane

    LagunaLane said 8 years ago

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

  • anda Admin

    anda said 8 years ago

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

  • themefragrance

    themefragrance said 8 years ago

    so much fun!

  • pompompurses

    pompompurses said 8 years ago

    can you use bread bags and used ziplocks also?

  • leoneill

    leoneill said 8 years ago

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

  • polar8888

    polar8888 said 8 years ago

    is it better to use parchment paper or regular printer paper

  • warmhart

    warmhart said 7 years ago

    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!

  • ImogensGarden

    ImogensGarden said 7 years ago

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

  • Simplybotanical

    Simplybotanical said 7 years ago

    What a great green idea.

  • Sanguinaria

    Sanguinaria said 7 years ago

    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?

  • fernfiddlehead

    fernfiddlehead said 7 years ago

    Did I already comment here? That was fun.

  • galinav

    galinav said 7 years ago

    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!

  • DebiDesigns

    DebiDesigns said 7 years ago

    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!

  • greenriverstudio

    greenriverstudio said 7 years ago

    Cool! Loving the bags.

  • littlegemcrafts

    littlegemcrafts said 7 years ago

    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

  • lovebugstudios

    lovebugstudios said 7 years ago

    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....

  • clothpaperstitches

    clothpaperstitches said 7 years ago

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

  • JadeRoseBoutique

    JadeRoseBoutique said 7 years ago

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

  • squeeky001

    squeeky001 said 7 years ago

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

  • TurnitoverTreasures

    TurnitoverTreasures said 7 years ago

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

  • myJellyBean

    myJellyBean said 7 years ago

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

  • tootsweethandbags

    tootsweethandbags said 7 years ago

    love this!

  • Trio

    Trio said 7 years ago

    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!

  • CCAZ

    CCAZ said 7 years ago

    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.

  • CCAZ

    CCAZ said 7 years ago

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

  • OrangeFire

    OrangeFire said 6 years ago

    Really cool How-To!

  • Kosmika

    Kosmika said 6 years ago

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

  • UccelliJewellery

    UccelliJewellery said 6 years ago

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

  • SwingStationStudio

    SwingStationStudio said 6 years ago

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

  • ZZsROCKnRECYCLABLES

    ZZsROCKnRECYCLABLES said 6 years ago

    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!!!!!

  • BunniesandAvacado

    BunniesandAvacado said 6 years ago

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

  • lisudesigns

    lisudesigns said 6 years ago

    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.

  • immortalfashions

    immortalfashions said 6 years ago

    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.

  • BlessedRepublic

    BlessedRepublic said 5 years ago

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

  • naturalblendings

    naturalblendings said 5 years ago

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

  • urbanartifaks

    urbanartifaks said 5 years ago

    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!!!!

  • bethsCraftroom

    bethsCraftroom said 5 years ago

    excellent, excellent article!

  • ourchildrensearth

    ourchildrensearth said 5 years ago

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

  • BactrianBazaar

    BactrianBazaar said 5 years ago

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

  • maxpak

    maxpak said 4 years ago

    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

  • simplewhimsey

    simplewhimsey said 4 years ago

    so cool! trying that! ♥

  • NeedleBreaker

    NeedleBreaker said 4 years ago

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

  • debbieschuessler

    Debbie Schuessler from DebbiesDenimDesigns said 3 years ago

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

  • debbieschuessler

    Debbie Schuessler from DebbiesDenimDesigns said 3 years ago

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

  • DixieDinah said 2 years ago

    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.

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  • DIY Reusable Fabric Snack Bags | Live With Abandon said 1 year ago

    […] and it shrinks into a dense, crinkly state. The goal here is to slightly melt the plastic or ‘fuse it’ so it sticks […]

  • chabbaperle

    Grit Heid said 302 days ago

    That's awesome. I was looking for a good lunch bag lining. There are just rarely plastic bags for free anymore in Germany. Which still is a really good thing. ^^b

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