Wednesday, February 4, 2009

trade recycled plastic for leather...

As you know we love textiles and reusing anything we can, so when a friend suggested that we try substituting leather with recycled fused plastic we were intrigued.  We then learned that this "substitution" was a textile fabric you could easily make at home and we just fell in love!!

This fabric you can create is extremely versatile, being relatively strong (dependent on the # of plastic layers you fuse) and weather resistant.  You can take a sewing machine to it with no problem and we have even been contemplating making a full blow rain coat!  So in the true spirit of how we learned, here are the how tos to make this fantastically versatile homemade fabric...

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="483" caption="here is a sweet 100% recycled envelope we created with this lovely fabric!"]here is a sweet 100% recycled envelope we created with this lovely fabric![/caption]

tutorial after the jump...

Step 1:  gather supplies

No need to start planning a big store run, as you can find most of the need supplies around the house.  All you will need are a bunch of plastic shopping bags, an iron and ironing board, and two large sheets of butcher paper/wax paper/freezer paper.

Step 2: prep the plastic

Next you need to prep the plastic bags by laying them out neatly and cutting off the handles and the very bottom.  This should give you a tube shape of plastic to work with.  Repeat process until you have 3 to 4 bags prepared.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="336" caption="lay bag flat..."][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="336" caption="...and cut!"]...and cut![/caption]

Step 3:  fuse the plastic

After you have 3 to 4 bags prepared, set 1 sheet of the butcher paper (or other option chosen) on you ironing board.  Next place the plastic bags stacked flat on the paper and then place the 2nd sheet of paper on top of the plastic (making a sandwich!).

Then, on high heat, iron the paper with the plastic inside for about 6 mins on each side (for best results flip sides and separate plastic from paper every 3 mins, 4 times total).  Once done peel back the paper and viola!  You have a sweet new piece of fabric to craft with!  The fabric should be wrinkly but free of air bubbles.  It will retain the heat of the iron for a min or two so beware!

Helpful Hint: Let the paper and plastic cool before separating each and every time.  This will keep the paper from sticking to the plastic.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="384" caption="finished product!! (top piece is done with a thick clear plastic bag like you get at a little boutique!!)"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="384" caption="as you can see it is a thicker stiffer material when finished..."][/caption]

Show us your fused plastic creations!  Send us pictures and we'll post them!


Craft us some love! « benny & kelly said...

[...] For this project we used a homemade fused recycled plastic fabric (check out last weeks tutorial to create your [...]

Jules said...

Is there a commercial supplier for fused plastic bag textiles?

bennykelly said...

There is no commercial supplier that I know of that producing this exact material, but you can get a fiber called Eco-Fi (also known as EcoSpun. The Eco-Fi fiber is spun into a fleece like material when used alone but can also be combined with wool, cotton, and tensil. Eco-Fi is made from the plastic of recycled bottles and is actually really durable.

The company that produced this textile is called Wellman Inc. (based in US!!) I am not sure exactly where you can find it wholesale but below is the info i have been able to find. I also included information the manufacturer of EcoSpun, Foss Manufacturing, because you can probably contact them to inquire about where to buy wholesale if you cannot from them.

organicculture (may carry ecospun?)
2223 s fountain st
allentown, Pennsylvania
United States 18103
Tel : 1-610-798-9180

Kunin Group
They deal primarily in EcoSpun felt textiles and have three locations in the states.

Foss Manufacturing

This textile was only created in 2007 so it man not be as widely available as other organic textiles. Hope this helps!!

Jules said...

wow! Thanks for your help.
That's a huge business opportunity for a textile "mill"
to create the fused plastic bag "textiles" designers can buy by the yard. I wonder why nobody has jumped on that yet.
There are small product companies all over the world making this fused plastic "fabric" in garages on their own.

Is any commercial supplier listening???

Jules said...

I just called foss and they are sending me samples of textiles created from PET chips. They had no idea who might commercially sell plastic bag fused material.

Anyone out there who would like to make me 3-6 yards?

bennykelly said...

do you use etsy at all? you can post up a request and designers in their community can respond with their services! Its a great system...just go to and find the link for alchemy. There you should be able to make your request. Good luck!

Jules said...

Yes, that is a good idea.

I will go ahead and post an ad for some yardage. I want to sew some jackets/wind-breakers out of the fabric. I actually have an etsy store!


Jules said...

I found an Etsian that will be making me my 4 yards of recycled plastic bag fabric. I'll let you know what I create with it!

bennykelly said...

i can't wait to see!! If you send us pictures we would love to do a little post on our blog about your etsy store! -kelly

Jules said...

Dear Kelly,
My Etsy store is for my silk scarf designs.
This project using plastic bags is something I
am just making for myself. I want to make a
"swing-style" rain coat with it. I'll see if I can succeed without
some sewing construction help! I won't be selling the creations I make with it anytime soon...but if you want to post something about my silk scarves give me your regular e-mail address and I will send you photos.

bennykelly said...

my email is