Members of John Knox Presbyterian Kirk wove plastic bags into beds for the homeless. Photo by Sarah Cook
Bags to Beds
By Sue Loudon
Take used plastic shopping bags out of your trash and weave them into a useful sleeping mat for a homeless person. This idea started in Salt Lake City some years ago as a way to reduce plastic in landfills and has spread to Kansas City as the “Bed of Bags” project.
Sarah Stolberg of Lee’s Summit is responsible for spreading the word in this area. She has a website with instructions for individuals and groups who are interested.
Recently members of John Knox Presbyterian Kirk at 114th Terrace and Wornall Road decided to include this idea as a part of their special service projects on Sundays after worship. All members were asked to save and bring used plastic shopping bags to church for a month before the project so there was plenty of material to work with.
Unfortunately Stolberg was not able to attend, but she sent her friend Carla Rowlett who has worked with her before. After a delicious lunch of soup and chili, Rowlett organized the volunteers. Church members gathered round as she dumped out the pile of plastic bags and showed how to tie them in chains or “plastic yarn.” Another group of volunteers “crocheted” the chains together until they took shape in the form of a mat.
Rowlett explained that the process is evolving as agencies suggest improvements. Instead of a simple flat mat, the instructions now call for folding over one end and weaving in place a sort of pillow that offers a dry pocket to put extra socks and valuables. The Kirk members followed additional suggestions to make the mats easier to carry by decreasing the width from 36 inches to 30-32, and the length from seven feet to six. Each mat also has ties made out of more bags to keep them rolled up when not in use.
In designing the mats, Stolberg first used a braiding method. “I loved how dense the mats were, but the process took awhile,” she said. She then tried single crochet before settling on easy-to-learn slip stitch crochet as the best method.
The finished mats are dropped off at places like Cross-Lines Community Outreach, City Union Mission, Cherith Brook or participating YMCAs and churches. The Kirk’s mat-making project, organized by Sarah Cook, produced an abundance of plastic bag chains that are waiting to be crocheted. These have been turned over to the church youth to continue the effort. Any middle or high school students looking for a service project for a merit badge or other credit are welcome to join in. Contact the church at 816-942-3637 or johnknoxkirk.org to find out the schedule.