It all started when I dropped my shampoo bottle in the shower at the gym, completely shattering the lid, and rendering the bottle unusable.
I repeated the mishap two days later with a brand new bottle of shampoo.
When I dropped and broke a third bottle only a few days later, I decided that I needed to do something! The next time I went to buy a new bottle of shampoo to keep in my gym bag, I also looked for a bag that I could take into the shower with me. I wanted something that I could hang from the shower to hold my shampoo and prevent further costly mishaps.
I expected to easily find the perfect thing: a sturdy bag with a long handle to loop over the shower - one that would hold up in the repeated soakings of my daily showers while allowing the water to drain quickly, so I wouldn't have to worry about carting a dripping wet bag home with me. I was certain I'd find several options to choose from, and I decided I'd pick the least expensive bag, even if it wasn't the cutest one.
To my surprise, I couldn't find anything that fit my needs. After a few weeks of searching, I realized that I'd have to make my own bag.
The plastic "yarn" was waterproof, and the holes that naturally result from the crocheting process would allow water to drain easily. I didn't know how to crochet, but I was learning how to knit. If someone could crochet with plastic bags, surely I could knit with them! Best of all, my bag would be free! I had plenty of plastic bags lying around, and I figured I could whip something up in no time - a few days, or maybe a week. After all, I was getting quick with my knitting needles. I made a scarf for my dear husband in only two weeks, and I didn't need the bag to be anywhere near as long as a scarf!
As it turns out, knitting with plastic bags wasn't quite as easy as I'd imagined. First, I had to figure out how to turn those big, bulky (yet flimsy) grocery bags into long strands of yarn, strong enough to hold up to the abuse I knew my bag would take.
Then, I had to come up with a pattern for the bag - something big enough to hold my shampoo, conditioner and body wash, but not so big that it couldn't conveniently hang up in the shower.
After much experimentation and several failed starts, I came up with a technique and a pattern that worked. Roughly three months later, I had my bag!
The first one worked so well that I decided to make a bigger bag for my swimming suit and towel, and then I made an even bigger bag for carrying enough suits and towels for the entire family, in case we wanted to go to the pool or the beach.
By this time, people were starting to notice my unusual knitting projects. A few people asked if I had ever considered making the bags to sell. I laughed. Of course not. This is just a hobby, not a job. Besides, who would actually pay for something so simple? Something that didn't come from a professionally-developed pattern, just from the trial-and-error process of my amateur mind?
Then, in 2011, I agreed to demonstrate my plastic knitting technique at my daughters' elementary school Environmental Fair. I offered a small bag to be used as a raffle prize for the event, to help raise funds for the school. As it turned out, holding a raffle at this event was against school district policy, so one of the organizers suggested that I put prices on my sample projects. She was certain I could sell them all and make lots of money for the school that way. I agreed to do it.
To my surprise, I sold almost all of the bags I'd made for the event, and people continued to contact me about the bags even after the Environmental Fair was over. Before long, the demand for my little knitted plastic bags outgrew my supply of plastic to knit with (I can only go to the grocery store so many times in a week!) so friends started collecting bags for me.
They say necessity is the mother of invention. Who knew my clumsiness could lead to developing a talent I never realized I had?