I was looking at the grocery bags filled with more grocery bags for recycling in my kitchen (My husband and I have been recyclers for close to 20 years now.), and I had this sudden urge to try a project made with PLARN (= yarn made out of strips of plastic bags). I did some searches on Etsy to see what other people have done with this concept. Saw some cute things and got the general idea for about how many bags it will take to make a bag/purse. Since this was the first time making plarn, I had to look up a tutorial video on YouTube and found a very easy and quick one (There are other videos and methods. But I did not want watch or try anything that were over-complicated and lengthy.). And this is exactly how I made my plarn for my project.
You only need to watch the first minute or so to get enough of the idea to get rolling. Since it's a tedious but mindless process, I'd recommend doing this part of the project while watching your TV or otherwise multi-tasking with something else. ^^;
Now for the project! I would think that a lot of kids out there would love something like this, but I'd also think that I can't be the only grown-up who'd go squee-ing over this with equal enthusiasm. Anime fan, Miyazaki fan, Totoro fan, Weeaboos, ... the list goes on and on. It's a fun project to make and would make a delightful gift. And best of all, it's a responsible and creative recycling of resources which often find their way into landfill. By the way, these bags are recycle code number 2 (HDPE), which is a commonly recycled and highly recyclable type of plastic. Even if you don't recycle, you can return them to the grocery store. Most places have a bin just for this purpose. :)
I'm assuming that you have a basic knowledge of crochet stitches. (And if not, you can look up any of the stitches used in this pattern by going to YouTube. There are many excellent video tutorials. ^_^ ) The following uses a standard abbreviation found in most patterns.
CROCHETED TRASHION TOTORO TOTE BAG
*Disclaimer: Please understand that I am not a "professional" crochet project designer. I cannot guarantee the accuracy and precision of this pattern. Some adjusting may (and most likely) be necessary. :)
Supplies You Need: Plarn in two colors A & B (I used brown and white bags from two different stores, but you can use whatever you have on hand. I estimate about 25 to 30 bags for A and 3 to 4 for B.) Two 5/8" or 16 mmm diameter buttons (For the eyes, so dark colors work well.) One 7/16" or 12mm button (for nose). Crochet hooks size US J-10 and US H-8. Yarn needle.
Gauge: 12 rounds= 4"; 12 stitches = 4" approx. (The type of plastic used in grocery bag varies as well as plastic strip-width when making plarn, so this is a rough guide.) Bag measures 8" x 8" approx.
Round 1: With color A, and larger hook, ch 12; sc in 2nd ch from hook and in next 9 ch, 3 sc in last ch, working in remaining loops on opposite side of ch, sc in next 9 loops, 2 sc in last loop; do not join but work in continuous rounds - 24 sc.
Round 2: 2 sc in first sc, sc in next 9 sc, [2 sc in next sc] 3 times, sc in next 9 sc, [2 sc in next sc] twice - 30 sc.
Round 3: [Sc in next 4 sc, 2 sc in next sc] 6 times - 36 sc.
Round 4: [Sc in next 5 sc, 2 sc in next sc] 6 times - 42 sc.
Rounds 5 through 20: Sc in each sc around. Fasten off.
With color A and larger hook, chain to make a strap of desired length + 4 extra inches (for attaching to the inside of the bag on both ends).
Row 1: Sc in 2nd ch from hook and each ch across; turn
Row 2: Ch 1, sc in each sc across. Fasten off.
Eye (Make 2)
Round 1: With color B and smaller hook, ch 4, sl st in first ch to make a loop; ch 1; 11 sc in the loop made with the chains - 12 sc.
Round 2: [Sc in next sc, 2 sc in next sc] 6 times - 18 sc. Fasten off.
Round 1: With color B and smaller hook, ch 13; sc in 2nd ch from hook and in next 10 ch; turn - 12 sc.
Round 2: Ch 1, sc in 11 sc across, 2 sc in last sc; turn - 13 sc.
Round 3: Ch 1, sc in 12 sc across, 2 sc in last sc; turn - 14 sc.
Round 4: Repeat Round 3
Round 5: Repeat Round 4
Round 6: Ch1, sc in 12 sc across, dec (decrease = draw up a loop in next 2 sts, yarn over and draw through all 3 loops on hook); turn - 13 sc.
Round 7: Ch1, sl st in first sc, sc in 9 sc across, dec; turn - 11 sc.
Round 8: Ch1, sl st in first sc, sc in 7sc across, dec; turn - 9 sc.
Round 9: Ch1, sl st in first sc, sc in 5 sc across, dec. - 7 sc. Fasten off.
With color A and yarn needle, stitch on top row of 3 arcs and a second row of 4 arcs.
Ears (Make 2)
Round 1: With color A and smaller hook, ch 6; sc in 2nd ch from hook and in next 4 ch; turn - 5sc.
Round 2: Ch 1, 2 sc in first sc, sc in next 3 sc, 2 sc in last sc; turn - 7 sc.
Round 3: Ch 1, 2 sc in first sc, sc in next 5 sc, 2 sc in last sc; turn - 9 sc.
Round 4: Ch 1, sc in 7 sc, dec; turn - 8 sc.
Round 5: Ch 1, sc in 6 sc, dec; turn - 7 sc.
Round 6: Ch 1, sc in 5 sc, dec; turn - 6 sc.
Round 7: Ch 1, sc in 4 sc, dec; turn - 5 sc.
Round 8: Ch 1, sc in 3 sc, dec; turn - 4 sc.
Round 9: Ch 2, skip first sc, dec over next 3 sc with dc. Fasten off.
Place the eye circle and tummy pieces on the front of the bag to your desired position. Stitch on with matching color plarn to secure in place. Attach 2 larger buttons in eye circles (I used regular sewing thread with matching colors rather than try to locate black bags to make plarn just for stitching on the eyes and nose.). Attach the small button for nose.
Attach the strap to inside of the bag. I overlapped about 2 inches and securely stitched with the plarn since these are weight-bearing areas of the project.
Finally attach the ears in place. Because they are flappy, and may not stand overtime after the wear and tear of everyday use, I secured the 1 1/2" or so of lower outside edge to the strap as well.
Options: There is a small white totoro in the movie that does not have the tummy or the nose. It would be an even simpler variation on this project. You could easily attach felt "feet", smiling mouth, whiskers, or a single leaf on the head as well. Arms would be a simple addition, too. And of course, you can vary the colors of the plastic to come up with any number of variations on Totoro, depending on your access to your local grocery and retail stores' bags.
Hope this gives you an idea for your own recycling project! Happy crafting~!