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Family how-to: plastic bag weaving

Published 7 July 2020

Follow these simple instructions to make a mini loom and have a go at weaving with recycled plastic bags.

  • Family how-to: plastic bag weaving

    Turning trash into treasure

    Be inspired!

    Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui Hon RA makes large cloth-like installation pieces that reference African traditional craft techniques. He is interested in what we consume day-to-day and uses recycled materials such as aluminium packaging and bottle tops, transforming them into precious artworks.

    As well as plastic bags, what other discarded materials could you use to create your weaving? Have a look around the house and get experimenting!

    Tips for parents and carers

    This activity involves knotting, threading and cutting thick cardboard. It is ideal for children aged 8+ and may require adult supervision. For younger children who are keen to have a go, it’s worth noting that the larger the loom and spaces between the warp strings, the less fiddly weaving will be for little fingers.

    • Plastic bag weaving materials

      What you need

      • Plastic bags

      • Thick cardboard

      • String

      • Strong scissors

      • Ruler

      • Pencil

      • PVA glue

      • Bulldog clips

    • Plastic bag weaving step 1

      Step 1

      Cut your cardboard into a rectangle. The larger the cardboard, the larger your weaving will be! Using a ruler (or a finger!) measure marks approximately 1 cm apart along the top and bottom. For younger ones, experiment with spacing these further apart.

    • Plastic bag weaving step 2

      Step 2

      Cut along the lines with scissors.

    • Plastic bag weaving step 3

      Step 3

      Cut two thin strips of cardboard the width of the loom and glue them down.

    • Plastic bag weaving step 4

      Step 4

      Secure the cardboard strips with bulldog or paper clips until the glue dries.

    • Plastic bag weaving step 5

      Step 5

      Unwind some string and tie a knot at one end.

    • Plastic bag weaving step 6

      Step 6

      Securing the knotted end at the back, pull the string across the front of the loom, then back behind, and so on, to make rows of string. This is called the warp.

    • Plastic bag weaving step 7

      Step 7

      Choose your plastic bags, flatten them out and cut off their handles. You could try using a mixture of bags. The heavy duty, reusable ones will be easier to thread.

    • Plastic bag weaving step 8

      Step 8

      Fold each bag into long, flat sausages.

    • Plastic bag weaving step 9

      Step 9

      Cut each one into segments, discarding the ends. The wider you cut each segment, the wider your plastic thread will be.

    • Plastic bag weaving step 10

      Step 10

      Unravel each one to make long plastic threads. You may need to trim off any extra bits and put aside threads that are not fully intact.

    • Plastic bag weaving step 11

      Step 11

      Take one of your plastic threads and tie it onto a top corner of the warp, using a single knot. Be as gentle as possible here with more lightweight bags, to make sure the plastic thread doesn’t snap.

    • Plastic bag weaving step 12

      Step 12

      Then begin to weave across the warp, holding onto the end of the thread and taking it over one string and under the next. You can weave the plastic thread all the way to the end of the loom, or turn back midway. When you turn back, take note of the thread above. If it goes over the warp, then take your thread under, if it goes under, then take yours over.

    • Plastic bag weaving step 15

      Step 13

      When you reach the end of your strip, or want to change the colour of your thread, tie the end and cut off the excess. Experiment with different colours and patterns, creating shapes with your weaving.

    • Plastic bag weaving step 13

      Step 14

      Turn your loom over, cut each string free and carefully pull your weaving away from the loom.

    • Plastic bag weaving step 14

      Step 15

      To secure the weaving, tie knots in the string at each end.

  • Admire your work!

  • Plastic bag weaving admire your work
  • Show us your results! Share a photo or video of your finished work with @royalacademy on Twitter or @royalacademyarts on Instagram, using #familyhowto.

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