Craft for Humanity – Crochet a Plarn Sleeping Mat for the Homeless

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:: Craft for Humanity – Crochet a Plarn Sleeping Mat for the Homeless :: That is creativity with a mission :: While the creative process may feel good to us, it can also be useful to others.

Crochet Plarn Sleeping Bag Design

Craft for Humanity: Crochet a Plastic Sleeping Mat for the Homeless

These plastic crochet sleeping mats for the homeless are a project by humanitarian and environmentally concerned Dawn Warmbold from Arkansas that has warmed many hearts and bodies already. Dawn has found her mats to be in high demand.

Craft for Humanity: Crochet a Plastic Sleeping Mat for the Homeless

The sleeping mats are intended for people who are less fortunate, be that the homeless, refugees in camps, or people in the third world. These crochet mats are remarkable comfortable and offer just enough to create a barrier between the ground and the body, to help retain body heat while sleeping. It’s no problem if the mats get wet as they can easily be dried.

The mats are also a cleaner way of sleeping. Bugs don’t like them. And when dirty, they can be easily hosed off, shaken out and be good to go again.

They are portable as well. The crochet plastic makes for a very lightweight mat. With the accompanying strap, these crochet mats can easily be carried over a homeless person’s shoulder.

Not only are they free to make, each mat will keep 500-700 plastic bags out of the landfill. Humanitarian and eco-friendly!: what is not to love?? !!


Come on, let’s make some mats…

How to Crochet a Plastic Sleeping Mat

Step 1: How to Make Plarn
Craft for Humanity: Crochet a Plastic Sleeping Mat for the Homeless

Start with about 10 plastic bags at a time. Straighten out each bag by pulling at the end and the handles, so that it becomes as nice, smooth and flat as the plastic bag in the picture.  Cut off the plastic bag handles and the bottom of the bag.

Now, for a plastic grocery bag that’s standard in size and in thickness, cut each bag into 4 rings. Loop these rings together, so that you will have one long plastic chain.  This long plastic strip is called ‘plarn’, short for plastic yarn.

Note how the decision to cut each bag into 4 rings is ‘just right’. If you make more rings, you’ll get a longer but thinner plarn, which takes longer to crochet and creates a mat which is not as cushiony.

Crochet Mat Video Tutorial

In this free crochet video, humanitarian and environmentally concerned Dawn Warmbold from Arkansas shares her ideas to help the homeless and  her pattern for making plastic crochet sleeping mats.


Step 2: How to Crochet a Mat

You’ll need a crochet hook size 10 or above. If you get a really large crochet hook, you will find that it’s easier to crochet looser, making the mat more cushiony, and making it more comfortable to crochet with the plastic.

Mat Crochet Pattern

Set-up: ch 42. This is the width of your mat (minus 2 st), and should be approximately 2 1/2 feet-wide.

Row 1: sc into the 40th st, and sc all the way across.  ch 2. Turn over work.  Now, check that your mat is indeed about 2.5 feet wide.

Row 2 – ? : repeat row 1 until your mat is approximately  6 feet-long mat. inches in length.

Cast off.

Crochet Plarn Tips:

  • In case you wonder: What is plarn? Plarn is simply short for plastic yarn. It’s not a typo.
  • If you have thicker plastic bags, cut smaller strips.
  • You can use any kind of plastic bag, even from your dry cleaners.
  • If you want to get started, or just figure out if this project is for you (crochet plastic is not soft on hands, after all), why not make a small mat for your back door to your garden. Or a mat for by your outdoor shower?
  • Then, when you are ready, contact your local homeless shelter, or third world help organizations, start collecting plastic bags.
  • If designs matter to you, then sort plastic bags right away by color.

Questions? Email Dawn Warmbold at

Craft for Humanity: Crochet a Plastic Sleeping Mat for the Homeless

How to make a Strap for your Sleeping Mat

Make a 6-foot chain. Single crochet down the entire length of the chain. Put the two ends together (no twists!) and join. Fasten off. (see comments below by Jo-Ann).

Please work with others to create Heaven on Earth. You don’t need a church group in order to start making these sleeping mats, but it helps if you are doing this as a group, even as a family. Kids can straighten the bags and cut the strips. Adult hands are best suited to crochet the mats.

No need to wait till Earth day to start this. Start today! 

Project & image credit: Dawn Warmbold


  1. I think that is a great idea and a good way to give back to the community and help someone at the same time. Thank you for sharing, I have a new project!

  2. Thanks Dawn for this wonderful project and you are beautiful person am starting this today! and sharing on facebook n email what a great way to help people and spread a message of love as well as comfort!

  3. What a wonderful project. Thank you so much for this pattern.

  4. KristiYaYa says:

    Today IS earth day~! What a special day to find this project!!!!! (and quite accidentally, I must say!) I’m going to try to set up a group to make these. That will give us all the joy of one another and a community project. Thank you so much for sharing this project, giving to homeless, and saving the earth! God Bless You, Sister!!!!!

  5. Hai Kristi Yaya!

    How great is this! I love it. Thank you, on behalf of humanity, thank you!!! That would be wonderful. Good luck in setting all this up and I am happy that you are taking on this project.

  6. You are welcome, Marlene!

  7. Susan Coffey says:

    My husband and I feed the needy and homeless in the mountains 5 days a week. What a awesome idea to keep them dry while they sleep.

  8. Lillian-Rose, says:

    I am so so blown away, by your skill and ingenuity for this idea Dawn. Being raised by parents who always believed in participating in our local community, and showing others by example, how they to could be involved, giving all people a sense of worth and value. No matter what was happening in our own lives, there were always people doing it tougher and harder than us. You Dawn, have taken their teaching to a higher level. ” CONGRATULATIONS and WELL DONE .”

    My parents are gone now, but I have spent my whole life living by the ethics they instilled in me, much to hard to change. Where ever I have lived, and through my work, setting up Food Co-ops – Mobil Kitchens – Helping Families – Feeding the Homeless – or just being a Friendly Face, everyone needs to know someone cares, and are thinking of them. A smile goes a long long way.

  9. Blanca Garcia Campos says:

    Hi, from Spain. What a great idea,
    At this time in Spain are a lot of people out of look, and I will try to do it, but I don´t hava a idea how to start o where to go to start.
    Good bless you

  10. Popped on over to your site from Joyful Mama. Thank you for sharing this idea! I am always looking for ways for kids, young and old, to serve.

  11. Bravo…an elegant design for a mattress.

    I do a lot of plarning…this will be added into the repertoire.

    Such a great cause.

    Thank you.

  12. Thanks Dawn, our church group is looking for a project. I think we found it.

  13. Thanks for an easy-to-follow list of directions and tips. Our small group in Bellevue Nebraska are going to make these for our homeless shelter who gives them out to their over-nighters.

  14. Mariane Christian says:

    We have a ministry that helps the homeless. This is such a wonderful idea and we’re going to get started in making these. God bless you!

  15. Rick skimmings says:

    These people don’t need more garbage to sleep on, they need homes!!!!!!

  16. I’ve just sent this link to a number of supermarkets. I would like to encourage others to do so and see if we can get some, or at least one, of them to make it a publicity campaign.

  17. Dee! You are brilliant !! What a great idea. I will keep you posted if I am contacted, okay?! I hope you will help bring it to fruition…. Kiss, Rose

  18. If you live in the Arlington, Tx area Or travel to this area…. we would love you to become one of our urban friends and make these mats, we have many urban friends willing to accept such a useful gift!

    Follow us on

  19. Thanks, Stephen, for contacting us. I usually remove links in comments as they are often spammy, but I shall leave yours in tact. I love your rephrasing of ‘homeless’ for ‘urban friends’ as it sure sounds way better! I am VERY keen to feature further homeless projects and so perhaps we could work together on this. You could write directly for this blog if you want (with loads of readers already), which might jumpstart your initiative.

  20. You are right, Rick. They do need homes. The mats are mere helps in the process of doing so!

  21. Hi Mariane! How are you getting on with making the mats? Are they a hit? Any advice for other groups??!

  22. Linda, please let us know what other things you make with plarn. We would love to feature more (of your?) ideas! Hugs, Rose

  23. thanks and would like to know where to donate these mats….have started and enjoy making them…
    thanks for any advice on where to send them.

    ty joan

  24. Hi Joan,
    This is great! What you do is to contact your local shelter or soup kitchen to help you make the connection to the homeless and to hand them out. You might want to make a little flyer for them to hang up somewhere, to explain their use, etc.

  25. I was wondering how to make the strap for this, but other that that, I think this is a wonderful idea!

  26. Ariel Griffith says:

    How do you make the strap for the mat? Thank you!

  27. Where do I send these mats…………..

  28. To the homeless via shelters / soup kitchens. Don’t send them, but talk to the shelters / soup kitchens first and find out the answer.

  29. This is a really great idea….great way to put to use those hundreds of plastic bags that seem to multiply all by themselves. We have a street corner mission in a city close by that I think could hand these out. Thanks for sharing!

  30. Be sure to make a turning chain at the end of each row.

    You can use newspaper bags by cutting down each side, putting the strip through the last loop on your piece, and tying the ends in a tight square knot. Be sure the knot is not at the point where two loops join, then trim to ~3/16″. To hide the ends of the knot: when you approach the knot, wrap it securely in the whole strip and proceed. If your bags are more than 4″ wide, cut them down (or in half if they’re 8″). Put two 2″ strips together to make 4-ply plarn.

    Make a loop at the end of the mat to secure the carrying strap as follows: On last row, single crochet 17 stitches. Chain 6. Skip next 6 stitches. Single crochet remaining 17 stitches to end. Secure end.

  31. Carrying strap (via Dawn): Make a 6-foot chain. Single crochet down the entire length of the chain. Put the two ends together (no twists!) and join. Fasten off.

  32. My cat loves my messy first mat. I’m going to make him one of his own–two layers, stuffed with the bag trimmings. And my very elderly mother wants one for her hard plastic deck chair.

  33. That’s Great, Jo Ann! I love that you can leave these mats outside. If you don’t keep the mats outside all the time, though, you’ll find that they will last longer.

  34. Thanks for your help, Jo Ann!

  35. Joan and Anita Pepe, I belong to a group in Weatherford, TX called Roos with a Heart. Our mission is showing others they are loved. This last Saturday, we had an event called ” Burgers, Bibles and Blankets for the Homeless”. We went into their part of town and served 250 hamburgers, 72 hot dogs, handed out 200 coats, 250 blankets, 100 pillows, 300 tobaggons, 200 backpacks filled with personal needs/hygiene items and countless pairs of gloves and socks. What a blessing it would have been to be able to hand out this bedding item. We’ll gladly pay for shipping if your interested in helping our cause!

  36. What a wonderful idea, Catherine! That just warms my heart. I will put a tweet out for people to connect with you! GREAT! ~ Love it, Rose

  37. Great idea. How much do they weigh?

  38. Hi Hermit,
    They weigh as much as a bag full of plastic bags: nearly nothing. That’s what makes them so ideal for people on the go.

  39. This will be a project at our Girl Scout Camporee. We will teach the girls to make smaller mats for sit upon’s but will definitely pass along the idea of sleeping mats for the homeless. Thank you so much!

  40. Kim that is great! So pleased that you find this project inspirational. Tip: crochet with plastic is hard on hands. Let the kids complete the projects over several smaller sessions rather than making this a single afternoon affair. – Good luck, Rose

  41. Julia C. says:

    Crocheters when you make this project try not to get any new plastic bags for it. Plastic bags are the scourge of the earth. They are killing our oceans, wildlife on land and getting into or food chain. Ask your friends for bags that they already have on hand and when you shop always bring your own bag. that way this will be an environmentally sound project. Plastic bags are never really recycled, so I sometimes get mine from the recycle bins at supermarkets. Sometimes I get neat colors that way.

  42. I think this is a great idea. But before I start I would love to get some feedback about how the homeless like the mats. Anyone have stories about how they are received?

  43. Many of the plastic bags I have had holding things have disintegrated when picked up!!

    So … how does one know which plastics are suitable for the long haul and would be good for crocheting?

  44. I have bags to donate! Are you interested?

  45. Hi Kathy,
    Why don’t you print out this article and post it with a note that you have bags to donate at a community board in your neighborhood? I’m thinking in the public library, churches nearby your home, doctor’s office. That would work best, I think.
    Hope this helps you/the homeless in your neighborhood!

  46. If your bag says ‘bio-degradable’, it is. If your plastic bag is really thin, then make really wide strips, or use 2 strands of plastic at the same time to make it stronger. My advice: just begin and start caring!

  47. Barb, I suggest you do your own research. You can contact any of the existing community groups who are making these, but every city has different weather conditions & circumstances. Talk to YOUR local shelter, and you might find out other things they’d like to receive, besides these mats. Good luck!

  48. Love your comment, Julia. Yes, you are on the right track: best not to create garbage in the first place. I use sturdy re-usable grocery bags, which are permanently stored in the car, always with us. So, personally, I don’t get that many plastic bags anymore, and those I do get I use as garbage bin liners. Having said this, you are right: once you are on the look-out… you can recycle other people’s plastic bags. I indeed have collected really neat colors and am currently crocheting plastic flowers with them. Gorgeous…! Thanks for your contribution.

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