Recycle Knitting

It's amazing what you can do with plastic grocery bags, knitting needles, and a little creativity!

What is Recycle Knitting?

hands with knitting needles, knitting yarn made out of black and blue plastic bags

I love to knit, but I don't often use yarn. Instead, I like to knit things out of recycled plastic bags, discarded VHS video tapes, and even scraps of worn-out t-shirts and jeans.


Reasons for Recycle Knitting:

  • Environmental Awareness (To make one tote bag, I use around 50 grocery bags. Or one discaded VHS tape. Or several old t-shirts. The more I knit, the less I send to the landfill.)
  • Budget Consciousness (Plastic bags I save from the grocery store are cheaper than a ball of yarn. )
  • Thrill of a Challenge (I wanted to see if I could do it--and I can!)


multicolored entrelac pattern knit out of various colors of plastic bags

Recycle Knitting: the story

Way back in 2010-ish, I dropped my shampoo bottle in the shower at the gym and shattered it. Then, two days later, I did it again with a brand new bottle. When it happened a third time, I went looking for something to hold that slippery bottle. Surprisingly, I couldn't find anything that worked for what I needed. So I decided to make my own.

Plastic Grocery and Newspaper Bags

I heard that you could crochet with plastic bags. And I had a lot of those stuffed in my pantry. A perfect solution! Except I didn't know how to crochet.

But I was learning to knit. I had successfully finished a whole scarf that was only a little lopsided. A bag is shorter than a scarf. Easy, right? I figured it would take less than a week.

A little more than three months (& many broken bottles) later... I had my bag!

striped bag knit from recycled tan, white, red, and blue plastic grocery bags

What you don't know... might be a good thing

When I started knitting with plastic bags, I expected it to be easy.

It wasn't.

I expected the project to go quickly.

It didn't.

Luckily, I didn't know what I didn't know, or I might not have discovered this talent!

white tote bag with a pink flower, knit out of recycled plastic bags

I could have stopped there. I had reached my goal. But that first bag was like a rough draft. And just like a manuscript can't become a great book until it's revised and polished, my recycle knitting skills still needed work.

white and blue striped purse, knit out of recycled t-shirts

Since then, I've discovered new recyclable materials to knit. (VHS tapes are great ... plain t-shirts often work better than the kind with pictures on the front ... newspaper looked cool but it fell apart really fast.) But my favorite material to recycle knit with is still plastic bags.

Water Bottle Carriers

Staying hydrated is important. These water bottle carriers make it easy for me to carry my reusable water bottles with me everywhere I go. And they stretch easily, so they fit a variety of different sizes!

blue and tan checkerboard patterned bag for carrying a water bottle
multicolored water bottle carrier knit from plastic bags
black water bottle carrier, knit from recycled VHS video tape

tote bags

Plastic grocery bags are flimsy and tear easily. But when you spin the plastic into yarn and knit with it, the resulting bags are strong enough to carry a LOT of things, and they stretch to fit a lot more than you would expect.

large, multi-colored beach bag, knit out of recycled plastic bags

Sometimes, it's too much. A bag full of books might stretch until it's dragging on the ground. Not a good look! A lightweight lining fabric keeps it in shape (but it won't hold as much).

tote bag knit from brown and tan plastic bags, lined with a green polka-dot fabric
white tote bag with tan, pink, and blue stripes, knit out of recycled plastic bags and lined with white fabric

Don't ever put plastic bags on your head!

Of course I had to make a hat so I could proudly (but safely!) wear a plastic bag (or several) on my head. The beach hat made from tan plastic bags looks a lot like a straw hat, but it's much more flexible!

beach hat knit from tan plastic bags, to resemble a straw hat

**note: As with the toys, I wouldn't give these hats to children young enough that they still chew on things.

This newsboy cap didn't work quite as well as the floppy beach hat, but it's still kind of cute.

white cap knit from recycled plastic bags


If you don't want to wear a whole hat knit from plastic bags, this flower headband is cute too.

orange and white checkerboard knit from recycled plastic bags, with buttons as checkers

This bag is not a toy! ... Or is it?

Every plastic grocery bag warns "this bag is not a toy." So of course, I had to test the theory.

COULD it be a toy? Yes!

stuffed monster toy knit from brown plastic bags and stuffed with plastic bag scraps--not suitable for children

I wouldn't give these toys to small children who are still prone to put things in their mouths, but for slightly older children (and adults who aren't ready to grow up &stop playing), these bags can definitely be fun toys!

tic tac toe game knit from plastic bags
orange and white checkerboard knit from recycled plastic bags, with buttons as checkers

That's plastic?

Some of the things I've made out of recycled plastic bags are intricate enough that people are surprised to learn they started out as grocery bags.

Entrelac Purse

tan and white entrelac knit purse, made with recycled plastic bags

Entrelac is a really fun knitting technique that produces a finished product that looks like it was woven together. I made these small purses using this technique.


beaded bracelet made from tan plastic bags and blue glass beads
beaded bracelet made from tan plastic bags and blue and green beads with frogs