Midland UMC women turn scraps into sleeping mats

11/2/2014

Plastic grocery bags – the ones that are usually tossed in the trash or stuffed into a corner of a cabinet – have been given second lives by a group of women from Midland United Methodist Church.

They are putting the bags to good use, crocheting thousands into sleeping mats for Columbus-area homeless men and women.

Midland UMC member Nora Taft was intrigued when she visited a local farmer’s market and saw that a vendor had turned the thin plastic sacks into tote bags and other stylish accessories.

“When I realized what she made them out of I was totally fascinated and thought that it was really interesting,” Taft said. “I would have never thought that you could use a plastic bag for anything like that.”

After a quick Internet search she learned that the bags could also be used to make sleeping mats. Step-by-step video instructions made it seem doable. Taft shared the idea with a few friends at church, and the women jumped on board to help.

“I thought it was fabulous that you could help somebody and at the same time use something that we all know should not be a part of the landfill; our landfills are overflowing as it is,” she said.

The group of about 10 women meet each Monday to make plarn – plastic yarn – and crochet.

Each bag is straightened and smoothed before the handles and bottoms are cut off. Then they’re cut into four two-to-three-inch strips and tied together with slip knots to make a long strip of plarn that’s rolled into a ball.

Though tedious and time consuming, making the mats isn’t difficult. All it takes is time, a crochet hook, and a heart that wants to help.

“I crocheted years and years and years ago … and all I’ve ever done is a chain stitch,” she said.

Three feet wide and six feet long, it takes at least 500 plastic bags and about 20 hours of crocheting to make one mat.

Lightweight and portable, the mats dry quickly, are easy to shake clean, and are a good alternative to sleeping on concrete or dirt.

During a worship service later this month, the group will present an initial batch of mats to Open Door Community House, a Columbus-area ministry that serves the city’s homeless population. Much of the Midland UMC congregation has supported the effort, either by making the mats or by donating grocery bags.

“We want the congregation to see what they have done and how they’ve contributed,” Taft said. “We can’t do it without the donation of the bags.”

The church has a small and loving congregation that takes care of each other, Taft said, and they’re doing what they can to help care for those in their community.

“We pray as we crochet,” she said. “We pray that God will see that these mats go to someone who needs them and maybe help them get back on their feet and turn their life around. We pray that God would use the work that we are doing to the good of the person who receives it and to our good as well, because it does help us to help other people.”

For more information on making plastic sleeping mats, click here or email Nora Taft at nest121339@gmail.com.