Craftivism in Action: Upcycled Sleeping Mats for Chicago’s Homeless


Craftivism: Plarn

The craftivism group New Life for Old Bags transforms plarn into sleeping mats for the homeless in Chicago.

When my friend Gwynedd shared this article that she wrote for Chicago Reader, I knew that you guys needed to hear about this ongoing craftivism project. Ruth Werstler at New Life for Old Bags works with Chicago-area volunteers to crochet sleeping mats for the homeless out of plarn.

What I love about this project is that it hits every aspect of craftivism for me: using reclaimed materials to make a difference and raise awareness. The mats provide a clean, dry, soft sleeping surface for people who would otherwise be sleeping on the ground or maybe a salvaged piece of cardboard.

Related Reading: Recycled Hawtness: Buses Converted into Mobile Showers for Homeless

Each mat uses 500-700 reclaimed plastic shopping bags. That is a lot of waste diverted from the landfill, y’all! Werstler got the idea when her father sent her an article about a group in Palatine, Illinois that was turning plastic bags into sleeping mats. That group – The Bag Mat Project – has created a video about how to make the mats:

Since their start in 2009 New Life for Old Bags has created over 1000 sleeping mats (as of November 9th). Each mat takes about 80 hours to make, including the time required to convert those plastic bags to plarn. According to Gwynedd’s story at The Reader:

Besides having helped almost 1,000 homeless people be more comfortable and recycled tens of thousands of plastic bags, Werstler loves that the project has brought people together. “This is good for the homeless and it’s green but it’s also a thing anyone can participate in,” she says. “The program works for two-year-olds and 107-year-olds.”

If you’re in the Chicago area and want to get involved, they work out of the United in Faith Lutheran Church and meet the first Saturday of each month from 10am to 1pm.

Image Credit: Creative Commons Plarn photo by EraPhernalia Vintage

2 thoughts on “Craftivism in Action: Upcycled Sleeping Mats for Chicago’s Homeless”

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