Creating with Rags (2)

Plastic grocery bags are excess baggage for the earth!

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Explore our reliance as consumers on plastic grocery bags and the harmful environmental implications of this dependency. Use a braided plastic bag rug as a medium for discussion of Re-cycle/Re-use strategies and the ecological footprints resulting from our consumption habits.

General Learning Outcomes

Patterns & Relations
Shape & Space

  • Use direct or indirect measurement; identify transformations
  • Explore 3-D objects, 2-D shapes

Statistics & Probability

  • Problem solving, visualization, mental mathematics and estimation

English Language Arts
Explore ideas, feelings and experiences
Comprehend and respond to text
Manage ideas and information
Enhance the clarity and artistry of communication

Social Studies
Being together

  • Explore basic needs
  • Communication, time, work and resources

Connecting & Belonging

  • Explore personal identity
  • Diversity, rights and responsibilities, interdependence

Communities in Canada

  • Community groups, heritage and culture
  • Past and present stories of local community

Communities of the World

  • Rights and responsibilities
  • Connections

Living in Manitoba

  • Artistic and cultural achievements
  • Stories from Manitoba's past
  • Environmental stewardship and sustainability


What is a Braided Rug?

Braided, or "plaited", rugs are made by braiding together strips of material, either fabric or plastic. Strips of equal width are straight cut, along the lengthwise grain of fabric, or bias cut, on the diagonal, which contributes elasticity to the fabric strip and to the braid.


Creating a small grocery bag mat or coaster


  • Plastic grocery bags cut lengthwise into strips of equal width.
  • Masking tape to anchor the braid while braiding.
  • Strong thread for connecting the braids together.
  • A large darning needle.

1) Cut plastic grocery bags into strips of equal width. Using masking tape, secure three plastic strips together at one end. Make a 3-strand braid until you run out of material, and then sew on more strips to continue braiding.

2) Secure the end of the braid by turning under the ends. Use a slip stitch to anchor the strips together.

3) Coil the braid into a flat, tight spiral. With a darning needle and strong thread, use a lacing stitch to connect and hold the spiral together. Finish off the end with a strip of bias tape to prevent unraveling of the braid.

4) To make the mat or coaster larger, simply continue adding to the strips to be braided, continue braiding and coiling into a spiral until the desired size is reached.


Image of Braided Rug, Using Plastic Safeway Grocery Bags

"Braided Rug, Using Plastic Safeway Grocery Bags"

Why braid a rug?

Braiding with plastic bags is constructing floor coverings using strips of braided grocery shopping bags in place of fabric or rags.

Why construct with plastic grocery bags?

One possibility is to raise consumer awareness about the environmental implications of the vast quantities, discarding, recycling, and reuse of plastic grocery bags. Or, in the tradition of many craft innovations, one might simply substitute plastic grocery bags for fabric or rags because you can!

The use of braided rags to construct various items such as rugs, cushion covers, and mats was a response to the need for economy and thrift, as well as to aesthetics. Now such a craft could be inspired through a sense of environmental responsibility.

Activity: (Grades 4-8)

Reflect & Discuss:

One of the principle reasons to rethink our usage and dependency on plastic grocery bags is to reduce waste, litter, needless resource use, and the nuisance factor and proliferation in the environment.

What's the problem with plastic bags?

An estimate of the average per capita plastic bag use is 208 bags per year. Based on that figure and Statistics Canada population data, the total number of plastic bags supplied in Manitoba each year might be around 247,603,200! That's a huge amount of material devoted to a single use.

The production of disposable plastic grocery bags consumes petroleum resources. US data suggests that it takes 12 million barrels of oil to produce the 100-billion plastic bags, which are used annually. That amount of oil could otherwise produce 240 million gallons of gasoline.

It is known that less than 4 percent of used plastic bags are recycled. And it can take up to 1,000 years or more for these plastic bags to decompose in the landfill.

Reflect on how much your personal use of plastic bags has impacted the environment.

Examine the response from the plastics industry to the movement to reduce and phase out the single use of plastic grocery bags versus that from the environmental stakeholders.

Investigate current government and municipal policies surrounding this theme.

Discuss the many ways in which artists and craftspeople can communicate important issues through their craft. What sorts of important issues or environmental concerns might you want to communicate, and how might you do this visually?

Brainstorm about more ways that you can turn a single-use, plastic disposable grocery bag into an object of secondary or tertiary usage.

Create group project ideas to re-use plastic grocery bags. Inspired by the re-use theme, create a craft show or sale which focuses on "crafts of recycling".

In the spring of 2007, Leaf Rapids Manitoba became the first municipality in Canada to ban single-use plastic shopping bags. The City of Toronto approved legislation that required consumers pay five cents for each disposable shopping bag in June 2009. There is now a general consensus and movement to phase out the single use of plastic grocery bags. As part of this movement, retailers offer incentives to consumers who use reusable bags as well as provide consumers with ample opportunities to purchase reusable bags for a minimal cost. It's time to employ two more of the "R-words" of conservation, to "Rethink" disposables, and "Replace" them with something more sustainable. This makes great sense for the environment and for us.

Additional Web Resources

Recycled Plastic Bag Crafts for Grades K-3 (1)

Recycled Plastic Bag Crafts for Grades K-3 (2)

Sorting through Plastic Bags (1)

Sorting through Plastic Bags (2)

Plastic Bag Industry

Canadian Government Initiatives

Braiding with Rags (1)

Braiding with Rags (2)

Braiding with Rags (3)

Recycling your denim to make a rug

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