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Guild ignites local projects for homeless

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What can be done with all those plastic grocery bags almost everyone has stockpiled at home? One local group went to task to use them to help the homeless sleep a little better.  

One member of the Fleece on the Duck Fiber Guild was initially given a sleeping mat made out of plastic bags to donate to a local soup kitchen. After seeing the durability and usefulness of such a mat, the guild was asked if members would consider making a few more mats to give to the homeless. After a simple “yes” the simple request has become a county-wide project shared among guild members, many different church congregations, various other groups, and local high school student organizations.  

With temperatures starting to dip at October end, the project couldn’t have started at a better time. It is estimated that hundreds in this community alone are likely sleeping on the cold ground at night. The guild gladly shares the directions in case others want to join in this effort. 

 One note, it takes a lot of plastic grocery bags to create one mat. To create the sleeping mats, 500-700 plastic grocery bags need to be prepared. The handles and bottom seam are cut away, and the remaining portion of the body is cut into 3-inch sections. These sections are looped together into a long chain and rolled up loosely into a ball of “plastic yarn,” more commonly known as “plarn.”  

The diversity of adding loops from colored plastic bags add pops of color to the plainer brown or white grocery bags. Some bags that guild members have worked with are made from very light weight or much heavier plastic and do not work well when looped together with the more common plastic bags.  

This is not a normal project for a beginner to attempt, guild members said, because the “plarn” and large sized hook are more difficult to work with than regular sized crochet hooks and yarn. However, a few local students are attempting the task.  

Each sleep mat should be crocheted to measure 3 to 3-1/2 feet wide and 6-foot-long to comfortably accommodate sleepers. A size M (9 mm) or N (10 mm) crochet hook is used to create a tight, dense crocheted fabric that has no open holes. This affords maximum protection between the sleeping person and the ground. The durable plastic fabric reflects body warmth in the fall and winter as well as protection from wet ground, guild members said.

Each mat comes with a strap to help keep it rolled up, when not in use. If a mat becomes dirty, it can easily be rinsed clean in water and laid out to dry. Weekly since this project started, interested groups have contacted Fleece on the Duck guild members Ellen Treadway and Rebecca Baker with the Shelbyville Community Soup Kitchen to ask how they can be involved. Friends, churches and other groups are cutting bags and making “plarn,” then giving it to guild members and other crochet volunteers to stitch the mats with.  

A few groups plan to crochet sleeping mats on their own; however, the soup kitchen will be distributing all sleeping mats that are made.  

“Creating sleeping mats for the homeless has become a county wide project involving many local people and organizations. With hundreds of homeless in our county, this is a project that will make an important impact in our community,” one guild member recently said. 

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