You can help homeless veterans AND benefit the environment at the same time. By collecting plastic bags and crocheting them in to sleeping mats, you can give a homeless veteran a soft place to lay his or her head and help keep plastic bags out of oceans and landfills.
Maria Mendez-Young and other American Legion Auxiliary members in California are part of an initiative to create and provide these sleeping mats to homeless veterans in their community.
Each 6-foot-by-2½-foot mat is made from 600 to 700 recycled plastic grocery bags and takes about 50 hours to make.
“They are lightweight, waterproof, and, from what I hear, bugs stay away from them,” Mendez-Young said.
Other groups across the country are doing similar projcts. Interested in learning how your crocheting or knitting craft can help homeless veterans? Follow these steps:
- Be a collector – Collect clean plastic bags from the grocery store and other places. The bags should be in good shape and not full of holes.
- Be a folder – Return the bags to their original shape.
- Be a cutter – Cut off the bags’ handles, as well as an inch from the bottom of the bags. Then cut the bags into 2½-inch loops.
- Be a “plarn” maker – Link the loops to form plarn (plastic yarn) and roll them into balls like you would with a ball of yarn.
- Crochet OR knit the rows:
- Crochet the mat into a 6-foot-by-3-foot mat. It is a single crochet with a size P or Q hook.
- Make a chain 36 inches long, which is about 66 chains. Make the loops loose with a little space between each one.
- Make an extra loop at the end to use as your turning point.
- Start at the third loop to make your second row.
- Continue until the mat is 6 feet long.
- Crochet from front to back so that it does not pucker up.
- Crochet two rows of a single crochet to form a tie that is 80 inches long. Connect the tie to the mat so the mat can be rolled up and carried like a sleeping bag.
- Knit the mat using size 19 knitting needles. Knit approximately 50 stitches until it reaches about 2½ feet wide. Keep knitting until it reaches 6 feet long. Cast off, and you’re done!
For more information on what Mendez-Young and American Legion Auxiliary Unit 291 are up to, click here.