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carlyn yandle/for metro vancouver
Creating a design is a lot like writing a column. An idea starts knocking around the ol’ noodle until it demands to come out, on paper. It never just flows for me; like working on this column, I start off smooth enough but I can quickly go off course, and soon I’m flailing away, wondering what I’m doing here.
It’s been that way with my design ideas for reusing plastic bags that seem to multiply under the kitchen sink, despite all efforts (and nagging) to use the heavy-duty/dirt cheap Vancouver Public Library bags in the closet. (Oops — there I go again, reeling off side.) I’ve had a lot of ideas for putting those bad bags to good use, like crocheting them into bags (boring, pointless) and braiding them into coils to serve as doormats (hideous). Last year’s Emily Carr School of Art and Design grad show included a stunning white knitted sweater of plastic bags (might scratch like those Phentex slippers my grandma made).
But, like column-writing, occasionally I will land on something that’s worth completing, and instead of doing the equivalent of moving the whole file to Trash, I see it through and spread the word. Voilà! The all-weather balcony drape — perfect for providing a little filtered light on harsh southern-exposed patios; camouflaging an ugly, dark cement wall or foiling snoopy neighbours. By limiting the plastic to just white, the effect evokes the strands of blossom decorations seen in Japan every spring. Not bad for a bunch of IGA bags.
To make your own deck drape you only need to remember three numbers: two, three and seven. Drag out your mountain of plastic bags and sort out the white ones, even if they have writing on them. Cut a seven-inch strip out of each bag, buck up that piece into 2x7-inch strips, tossing the strips with colour. (I used a cutting wheel and a self-healing mat to make quick work of this.) Tie bunches of three strips end to end with other bunches of three until you’ve made a long streamer. Fluff out the ‘blossoms.’ Tie a knot at one end of each streamer and thread it through one of those plastic rods used to contain electrical cords to keep them tidy. Repeat until you’ve used up all your white bags, adding to your drape over time. It took me about 30 minutes per streamer — an easy little project to pick up while watching my stories.