Weaving with milkbags

[under construction … ]

NEW: April 2016 display/demo at Shaw Centre; see entry below for links to updated documents.

Weaving milkbags into mats is a new activity for me. I’ve decided to create an specific `page’ for all materials related to the subject, starting with the first workshop we’ve held here in Barrhaven. So — come back, from time to time, to see what’s new 🙂



28 Feb., 2015 (Barrhaven)Workshop at Longfields-Davidson Heights Secondary School. Led by Danielle Duval-Conway.

Tip-sheet: handy tips and strategies which arose from the workshop. Updated periodically.

lemon-squares: the recipe for the lemon squares served at the workshop.

Useful links:

  • http://milkbagsunlimited.ca/how-to/ : This link leads to the Milkbags Unlimited `How to’ page, and includes the original full-sized 6-ft weaving frame.
  • Small-frame weaving: a different kind of weaving frame — 2ft x 2ft (or whatever dimens. you’d like for a much smaller mat). Document by the City of Markham.


2017 Demonstrations/Displays:

24 March (St. Rita’s Elementary School, Ottawa): Invitation to have a demonstration table at the school’s Eco-Fair. Students had an opportunity to weave part of a row, as well as sit on finished mats. By the end of the day, almost half the frame had been filled — very productive, as well as informative.

2016 Demonstrations/Displays:

7 April, 2016 (Shaw Centre, Ottawa): Annual OCDSB Staff Leadership Conference. Display and demo of all stages in the process, from collecting and storing milkbags to final crocheted and woven items. Highlighting work done by the Longfields-Davidson Heights intermediate students’ Milkbag Club, as well as weaving frames produced by the gr.12 Fine Woodworking students. Two documents have been updated from last year’s event:



2015 Demonstrations/Displays:

30 April, 2015 (Barrhaven): Grade 7 Information Night (Longfields-Davidson Heights). An evening for students coming to Longfields for grade 7, and their parents. Before and after formal staff presentations in the Auditorium, displays and information on the many school subjects, clubs, sports, and so on were available in the Atrium. The Milkbag Club display was much the same as for the OCDSB Leadership Conference on 17 April (see entry above), including most of the same handouts. Finished student sitting mats, weaving demonstration, demos of how to store and cut milkbags, several information posters — all provided an insight into what happens after bags have been collected. As well, parents were encouraged to drop off their bags (folded rather than crumpled) at the office; as weaving consumes about 550 milkbags or so, the students’ adult-sized mat will need many.

17 April, 2015 (Shaw Centre, Ottawa): OCDSB Staff Leadership Conference. Display and demo of all stages in the process, from collecting milkbags to final crocheted and woven items. Highlighting work done by the Longfields-Davidson Heights intermediate students’ Milkbag Club, as well as weaving frames produced by the gr.12 Fine Woodworking students. Documentation used for the display will eventually be posted here.

  • milkbag-prep-flatten-and-store: 2-pg .pdf showing how to store milkbags efficiently, using a box from photocopy paper. Another option is to use a box large enough to lay flattened UNfolded milkbags into. The downside: it can get very heavy; upside: if the box has a lid, it can be closed. Downside to closed boxes: slightly smelly bags can quickly affect many surrounding bags and render the whole box un-usable.
  • milkbag-preparations: 7-pg .pdf showing entire preparation process (for crocheting), from storage to final long strip cut from a single milkbag (includes the above 2-pg content).
  • Milkbag Crochet Instructions Flyer: 4-panel folder with tips and instructions on preparing sleeping and sitting mats, and shoulder bags.
  • mats-n-bags-to-CFFC: photo-story (4-pg .pdf), “Who receives the mats and bags?” (Canadian Food for Children (CFFC)

Thank you to everyone who stopped by to chat with us and ask questions of the students from the Milkbag Club, as they crocheted and wove with milkbags. We hope you were able to learn more about how your school might participate in some of the many stages that take a clean milkbag (outer wrapper) all the way to an end-product — crocheted sitting and sleeping mats, crocheted shoulder bags, and woven sleeping mats. And thank you too for the kind words of appreciation for the weaving frames made by the gr12 Fine Woodworking students.

The blog portion of this website, the `Home’ page, has many more entries about crocheting, some which might be of interest:

  • Weaving Workshop in Barrhaven  — 28 Feb. 2015: pictures of the A-frame option for the weaving frames: these are 2 frames, lashed back to back, with legs extended. This allows for one or two students to work on each side, with additional students cutting bags and making the 7-loop chains.
  • Sitting Mat Slide Show: samples of sitting mats (roughly 2ft square) I’ve done, showing the many colour combinations that are possible, given the wide variety of milkbags available.


A personal perspective …

I’d like to mention the following about the whole milkbags-are-good-raw-materials idea in our province.

Over the course of my own involvement, I’ve come to realise that there is no single formal agency for this volunteer activity. We each find our contact(s), who in turn has/have found the means, the channels to get these items to those who need them. Informally, I call the whole thing `The Milkbag Project’. A google search on `milkbag crochet’ will yield thousands of links, built up over the years, showing the many, many efforts by individuals and groups. There is no one `best’ way to do any of this! We learn from one another, from what we google (!), from what we see at demonstrations and conferences such as this one.

Here in the Ottawa area, the mats and bags are produced by people who work with or without ties to church groups, schools, charities, women’s associations, and so on. They are then handled by various existing charities and benefactors, again all volunteers, and distributed to many countries — there is no one single organising entity or distribution network. My contact has established a connection with Canadian Food for Children, based in Toronto. Volunteers (never enough, though!) help getting the items to the CFFC warehouse in Mississaugua, with an Ottawa-Peterborough leg, and then one from Peterborough to Mississaugua. Even just 5 rolled-up sleeping mats or a stack of 10 sitting mats taken along on a personal trip can help keep these items moving, from our hands to those who will take them further.

There are so many good things that come out of this project, even just at this end of the story:: recycling and keeping plastic out of the dumps, involving students (from basic sorting by colour and counting out sets of 25, to learning how to crochet or weave — or build a frame!), making something well that will be valued by someone far away from our own lives and community. Viewed from afar, I guess that could sound a bit maudlin; viewed up close, I think it’s easy to find some part of the process that speaks to us and that we can find time to do.

So thank you again for having stopped by. And it goes without saying that these views are purely my own … one of the benefits of having a blog/website.

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