When a person checks out at the grocery store most likely their groceries will be bagged in a plastic bag. Not just one, but several – sometimes one item in a bag. By the time check-out is complete, it is easy to end up with 20 bags of groceries. After arriving home and unpacking the groceries, consumers have found several reuses for their bags but many end up in the dump. One Chester retiree has found a reuse for the bags that is environmentally friendly and brings warmth and shelter for the homeless – creating plarn (plastic yarn) to make plastic blankets. It may be difficult to imagine a blanket made from plastic, but for the homeless, the blankets are lightweight, bugs don’t like plastic, it is water-resistant and they can be used as a mat, a blanket or as rain protection.
Retiree Jo Fredericks crocheted 83 six- by eight-foot blankets in 2013 for the homeless in Monroe Park in Richmond. Fredericks crochets six to eight blankets a month and over the last two years she and her family, along with members of their church have delivered the blankets, as well as other necessities such as food and clothing during their visits each month to the park. “Usually everything is taken during a visit,” she said. “I am just glad that they want it [the blanket] and they will accept it. That makes me happy and in the long run - it helps them out.”
Fredericks saw the project for the homeless on TV and said, “Why not. I need to do something constructive.” Fredericks likes to keep her hands busy and will spend eight to nine hours a day preparing and crocheting the blankets. She says it doesn’t take much concentration but she will count each stitch to keep the blanket square at each end. The result is quite colorful by using grocery bags of blue, yellow, white, red and green. There is no plan to the pattern; she just collects the bags and makes the plarn which is crocheted into a blanket.
Neighbors and members of her church have come to know her mission and bags continue to arrive. “As long as I can find plastic bags, I am OK,” she said.
Fredericks resides with her family in Chester and is an active member of Southside Nazarene Church. She also enjoys walking and crossword puzzles.
Fredericks has taught a few individuals how to make the blankets. If readers of this story are interested, the steps are as follows:
- Take a plastic grocery bag and flatten it.
- Cut the bottom and top handles off with scissors.
- Fold the bag into a two-inch strip.
- Cut strip into four to six pieces.
- You are left with four to six loops that can be tied together to form a long piece. Eventually this piece will be tied with others to become what looks like a ball of plastic yarn - plarn.
- Crochet as you would an afghan. A 10 millimeter crochet hook seems to work the best.
The only cost to making the blanket is the $2.50 crochet hook and time.