Archive for October, 2012

A productive year

I had to finally `give up’ all the mats and bags I’d been crocheting for the past year — taking up too much space … and it was time. So I took ’em all outside a couple of weekends ago, to take a few photos of such a gaudy display in the fall garden ๐Ÿ™‚ย  My tally: 2 sleeping mats, 17 sitting mats, and 14 shoulder bags … no wonder they weren’t able to hide anymore behind my wingback chair! I’ve kept a few bags back as they’re just too handy for storing supplies and teaching materials. It’s easier to see the different patterns in the mats, which were also laid out in a swirl pattern.

I’ve had fun, that’s for sure. And it’s still fun — my latest bag’s going to have a red base, some other colour for the main part, and I think red again for the top rows and shoulder straps. So, keep crocheting, play with colours, and and pass the pleasure along.

A pinwheel of shoulder bags.

Turns out my bags are larger than the recommended 16 x 16 inches … oh well!

My `bag-instructions.pdf’ file (v.3.1) starts with a chain of 24; I’m now trying a chain of 22, to see how wide that’ll make the bag. Stay posted!

A pinwheel of sitting mats.

Some mats are all in one colour, some are a grab bag. A few, I put a broad central stripe of one colour, and then another for the rest. For example, the pink bags make a really striking contrast with the dark blue ones on either side. The sitting mats are generally 40 rows — so make the colours change every 8 rows or 5 rows … as I said — just play and see how it turns out.

Eco-Fair 2012 was fun — and busy!

There were dozens of vendors’ tables at the Eco-Fair yesterday … but I never had a chance to go around and see many — too busy with the milkbags!

The Milkbags into Bedmats display took up a whole corner of the room, and had lots of bags and mats on display, hanging from chairs and room dividers, which served as a backdrop.

Milkbags to Bedmats display at Eco-Fair 2012

The 3-panel poster board was also there, updated with new info about where the mats and bags now go.* Answers to many questions people had can be found on it — we just need to add a text about the history of this whole project to make it complete!

*Bureaucratic hassles in Haiti have made it necessary to redirect mats and bags to the Canadian Food For Children (CFFC) organisation for now. Two shipments have already been taken to Toronto, the latest just this past Wednesday (the 17th) with 380 mats!

380 mats at Bell’s Corners United Church, just before shipment

There was a steady stream of adults and children all day, ranging from those who were completely unaware of the project and surprised at what you can make with milkbags, to people who knew this step or that and wanted to learn more.

Many people are already aware ofย  it, even if only about the front end: collecting bags and taking them somewhere, often their child’s school. For them, the surprise was seeing what happened to those plastic bags when they became mats and shoulder bags.

Another surprise for many was that plastic bags (not just the milkbags) can be recycled at local grocery stores. So this was good information to pass along — esp. as city garbage collection will be changing soon.

I spent the day showing all the stages: flattening bags, cutting them into strips, making a chain to start a sitting mat, how to start crocheting, and — talking a lot!. Some people stopped to get tips — seeing is so much easier than reading — such aspects as keeping the stitches loose (for mats), lapping the ends rather than making knots when joining strips, playing with colour to make things more interesting, how to place markers for the straps when making the shoulder bags (this last one showed up a lapse in my bag-instructions-3— now fixed).

A number of children stopped by — some stayed to learn the whole process, from flattening to crocheting — wow1 — while another began working on my sitting mat in progress and has taken it home to finish — another wow!

All in all, a busy and rewarding day, with many words of encouragement and support. And good stories to bring back to the student milkbag group at school!

I’d like to say thank you to Barbara Eade, one of the main organisers of the Fair, and also to the church members who prepared a lovely lunch — delicious! Thank you, too, to the fellow from `Kitchen Cones’, who happily offered to fold bags into sets of 25 — very kind! And a special thank you to Janet, who came in from Aylmer and stayed for much of the afternoon — nice to spend some time with another teacher of this very worthwhile activity.

… now to finish off the handles on another bag … !

Shoulder bag instructions — v.3.1

I’ve finally gone through the v.2 instructions and updated them in several places. I’m going to remove the earlier files, so that only v.3 will be available.

Here you go!


Have fun making the bag! Just remember to make the stitches a lot tighter than for the sitting or sleeping mats.

UPDATE: At today’s Eco-Fair, someone pointed out that the instructions for Round 1, 2nd para., were unclear. I’ve updated the file (it’s now v.3.1, with today’s date, 20 Oct. 2012):

old: Make 2 dc in the end st and then into each st on the other side …

new: Make 2dc in the end st and then 1 dc into each st on the other side …

Weekly milkbag club starting back up!

Every Friday at 2nd recess, we’ll be meeting in Rm.112.

Learn how to prepare the bags — flattening and sorting into 25-bag sets, and the various cutting stages to get to that single, very long strip of plastic `plarn’ for the actual crochet work.

This year’s project will be sitting mats — 2 ft sq. Really pouffy stitches, and a lot of scope for mixing up colours or making stripes or making a mat all from one colour. Many ways to make it look interesting — and use up a lot of milkbags!

New for this year:

  • storing your work at school (easier than carrying around … or forgetting to bring it!)
  • tracking the number of milkbags brought in to the school, and the number used for each mat
  • using purple edging on all the mats — the LDH colour!

See you all this Friday!

Bag prep tips to make the crochet work flow better

So you’re flattening your bags and putting 24 into a 25th bag, to make sets that are easy to use or store for later (in a larger bag or even in one of those boxes that reams of paper come in — often lying around the photocopy room ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

Here are some tips on preparing them one or two or even three steps further, so you can sit down to a nice long crochet session … esp. nice if you’re watching a favourite TV show!

  1. Take the time to already snip the triangles off the bottom corners, as well as the raggedy flap at the top of the bag. Do this for all the bags, even the 25th one (since the bottom hasn’t yet been slit open, it can still hold the other 24 bags-in-waiting). I myself find it easier to do this standing at the kitchen counter. Also, I get all the cutt-off bits out of the way at the same time, tossing them into a plastic bag that’s going to the recycle bin! [Aside: Here in Ottawa, almost all the Metro stores take plastic bags for recycling — maybe all Metros everywhere do this, I don’t know. But the snippets off the milkbags are as `plastic’ as anything else so recycle when/where you can. Same goes for all the stinky sticky bags that occasionally turn up … yuck!] Yes, well … back to the bags, right? OK. So now you’ve got 25 bags that are ready for cutting into strips.
  2. Of course, you can go ahead to the next preparation step … this is where you slit the bottom of all but the 25th bag (that one still needs to hold the other 24) and then do the first cutting stage: fold lengthwise 4-5 times and make 10-11 snips (depending on your project) through the folds but NOT to the edge. Put the 24 `fringed’ bags into the 25th and set aside till you’re ready to do the next step.
  3. And the last bit of prep, before you can actually start crocheting, is the final cutting into the one long continues strip. I’ll often sit in front of the TV and do this second cutting stage on all the bags in my bag … and then I can start crocheting like the blazes ๐Ÿ™‚ Yeah!

So I guess the long and short of it is: take a set of bags and prepare them all to the same point, so that eventually you’re sitting down with 24 strips ready to crochet. Smoothing out the `bumps’, as it were, makes me more likely to crochet a lot more than if I were to do all stages to a single bag, crochet that strip, then start again from the beginning with the next milkbag.

Happy crocheting!

Eco-Fair on 20 Oct. 2012 — Bell’s Corners, 9am to 4pm

There’s going to be a big all-day Eco-Fair at the Bell’s Corners United Church (where Richmond Rd and Moodie Dr intersect). The website is

I’ll be there doing a demo and display for the Milkbag Crochet Project, with sleeping and sitting mats, as well as shoulder bags. Check it out — it’ll be quite the event, on everything from recycling to going green to collecting hard-to-dispose-of items. Check back at the website as it’s being updated quite often — and there are always new comments at the bottom!

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