Sandy Subert first became inspired to help the homeless in her community after watching a video on Facebook. The video, produced by David Wolfe, shows several grandmothers refashioning plastic grocery sacks into sleeping mats for the homeless.
Subert couldn’t find a group in the area doing it, so she decided to start her own. “I watched the video and it’s really easy to do,” she said. “I started experimenting with it.”
Subert’s group, dubbed the Duvall Bag Ladies, meets every Tuesday at Quintessential Knits. The Duvall shop is owned by Judy Quinton. “She is very, very much supporting of us,” Subert said of Quinton. “She’s the best.”
Currently the completed sleeping mats are being donated to two different organizations that assist the homeless: Facing Homelessness, a Seattle nonprofit, and Camp Unity, an Eastside homeless shelter.
“I feel really good about supporting these two groups,” Subert said.
Nearly every morning, Subert visits her local grocery stores and collects used plastic sacks. For crocheting purposes, the standard grocery sack works best. She returns all other plastic bags to the stores’ recycling bins.
“Nothing goes in the landfill,” she said.
First, the bags are sorted. Safeway bags go with other Safeway bags, for example, because the consistency makes the material easier to crochet. The plastic bags are then cut into strips, which are rolled into yarn-like balls called “plarn” (plastic yarn). The Bag Ladies then crochet the balls of plarn into large sleeping mats.
“The nice thing about these mats is that they don’t have to be perfect,” Subert said. The finished product offers a little bit of comfort and warmth and keeps its owner from having to sleep directly on the hard ground.
Subert said she is by no means a crocheting master. At least, not like her fellow Bag Ladies. “They are experts,” she said.
The first time Subert dropped off mats at the Facing Homelessness office, she was able to give one to someone in need right when she walked in the door.
“Before we even really unpacked our mats they were already in use,” she said. “They absolutely want them, as many as we can put together.”
But the Bag Ladies can only crochet as many mats as they have plastic yarn for. It takes approximately 500 to 600 grocery sacks to make each mat.
In order to help keep production levels up, Subert organizes what she calls “plarn production parties.” At these events, community volunteers help sort, cut and roll plastic sacks.
There are currently two upcoming plarn production parties. The next one is on February 15 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Rose Room at the Duvall Visitor Center. On March 22 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., the Duvall Bag Ladies will hold another event in partnership with Northwest Art Center in Duvall. Volunteers are needed for both events.
“We saw the need for people out there on the street,” Subert said. “We’re helping however we can.”
For more information and to watch the video that inspired the project, visit www.facebook.com/DuvallBagLadies.