How to make ‘yarn” (plarn) out of plastic bags

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

GREENSBORO, NC -- A collaboration in Greensboro is aiming to keep plastic bags out of landfills and help homeless people all at the same time. Operation Bed Roll is aimed at helping some of the city’s neediest residents to have a safe place to sleep and it all begins with plastic grocery bags.

Plastic bags from grocery stores are as much a part of our daily lives sunshine on a nice day. A trip to the grocery store guarantees you add bags to your collection. But since the bags are not recyclable, they end up in your trash bin, headed out to take up space in the landfill.

Greensboro's Field Operations and Police Departments are teaming up to transform thousands of plastic grocery bags into “plarn” - plastic bag yarn. The plarn will be used to create a bed roll that can be handed out to the homeless. The bed roll provides a cushioned, insulated barrier between the ground and the person sleeping on it.

Greensboro Recycling Educator Tori Carle trains residents on how to make plarn and plarn bed rolls. Greensboro Police officers will distribute the bed rolls to the homeless throughout the winter. The goal is to collect 100 plarn mats by October 1.

Carle recently got together with FOX8 to create a how-to video about making plarn and plarn mats. The city is also holding several free workshops where you can learn to create plarn. Go to for more information.

Below is a step-by-step written guide on how to make plarn and a bed roll.

How To Make Plarn and a Bed Roll


1. Flatten and fold the bags into a 2 inch wide strip.
2. Cut off the handles and the bottom of the bag.
3. Cut into 4 pieces which will create the loop.

With a ROTARY CUTTER stack up to 10 bags to cut.
1. Line up the bottom seams.
2. Cut off the Ends
3. Slice into 4 pieces.

Connect Plarn Segments
- Loop the bags together with a T-knot to begin a string of plarn.
- Make lots of plarn before beginning to crochet.
- 500-700 Bags will make 1 bed roll
- store the plarn in bags, it will not tangle like conventional yarn.
- get helpers to make plarn


Create Mat
1. Get a “Q” sized 16mm crochet hook.
2. make a slip knot over the crochet hook with the end of a plarn string
3. create a chain about 2 and a half feet long
4. single crochet stitch back up that first row
5. crochet new rows back and forth across the width until you have about a 6 to 7 foot long mat.
6. single crochet an edging all the way around the mat.

Create Carrying Strap (this is a continuous crochet without breaking the plarn)
1. Choose 2 attachment points across width of the mat folded in half.
2. Single Chain about a 3 foot length.
3. Single Crochet a second row down that length.
4. Attach to mat from the end of that second row at 1 attachment point.
5. Single crochet a 3rd row
6. Attach to mat at 2nd attachment point at the end of the 3rd row

Create 2 attached tying straps
1. Choose 2 attachment points opposite the carrying strap on the folded mat.
2. Attach the end of the plarn to the attachment point with a slip stitch.
3. single chain a length that will wrap around the rolled up mat and also have enough extra for tying the strap.
4. single crochet back down the length to the attachment point.
5. attach to the mat and tie off the strap.
6. make a second strap.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.