Sunday, June 08, 2008
I have been on a creative and environmental mission this weekend creating 'morsbags'. As someone who has used reusable shopping bags since the 1980's, I jumped on the opportunity to update my shopping bags and join in with the current trend of encouraging their use in others.
Morsbags is a grassroots and environmentally-driven project created by Claire ("Pol") Morsman in Devon, UK. Claire had found a dead seabird with its legs trapped in a plastic bag on a beach in Devon and later learned about a dead whale who had washed up on the shores of Normandy with a stomach full of plastic bags. Plastic bags are the serial killers of wildlife. Turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and eat them and die. They are ingested by one animal, which dies and then decomposes around it, after which the bag floats off to find another victim.
Morsman now lives on a barge in West London and has been repeatedly upset to see the number of plastic bags that float by her home every day. She realized that an answer to the problem of plastic bags lay in the our seeming reliance of them and changing our patterns of plastic bag use. Using a previously unwanted sewing machine that her great-aunt had kindly left her, and in spite of her lack of sewing skills, she begged her mum to design a simple bag that anyone could make and convinced her fiancé to make a website (overnight!) so that everyone could join in and make their own bags. That website became a major movement in Great Britain and has now spread world-wide. Morsbags can now be globally recognized by their iron-on labels (download here in pdf format) and only add to the looks, the intent, and the fun!
The goal of morsbags.com (be sure to use the plural form, a copycat site uses bag in the singular and tries to get people to buy their commercial bags!!!!...use the plural morsbags !!!) is to get people together socially to make reusable cloth bags out of old, free or repurposed materials (sewing or quilting scraps/old duvet covers/curtains/sheets/old jeans/charity shop fabrics etc.) and then use and distribute them amongst friends and colleagues so that collectively we can reduce the number of plastic bags we use. The simple pattern creates bags that are reusable, recycled, fun and easy to make.
I use mine for light shopping...running to buy a few clothing items, craft ingredients, socks from Costco. For grocery shopping, like many of you, I prefer boxy shaped bags with stiff bottoms that can almost stand alone. I will be making my own pattern for those next to mimic the ones available for purchase at our grocery stores. Remember, in many countries, there are no recyclable bags for sale, much less for free!
As the morsbag label states....sociable...guerrilla....bagging. The idea is to make enough of the bags for yourself and friends and family members and then take the leap to 'socially' making them in groups and using 'guerrilla' or 'catch them by surprise' tactics, and hand them out to others. Collective pods (as in whales) will often have sew-ins at shopping malls, zoos, businesses, and other public places...and simply offer the made at the site bags to others as an alternative to their using plastic shopping bags.
I was so inspired by all that I read that I agreed to serve as 'moderator' for a pod. I will track any bags that I...or any of you....make and keep the count updated. Any bag you make can be counted...as long as it is made of free, scraps, donated, thrift shop or recycled materials and there is no charge for the bag involved. Labels can be placed inside or out, and you may be as simple or as creative as you like. Please let me know if you have made a bag by linking your bag(s) to this post...so I can come to your blog and use it to add to the count. Every single bag helps. By making a couple of bags for personal use or for distribution, you can eliminate the use of about 150-200 plastic bags a year!!! Even if I only made 20 bags and distributed them here in Salem Oregon....that would be 400 plastic bags eliminated from use in a year! Hopefully, I will make lots more than that ;)
My first bags took longer than they should have because I wanted to decorate them a bit, but all of them have been made out of thrift shop fabrics and donations...including the glow in the dark rickrack! Future bags will be far more simple...especially when I begin to hand them out to shoppers ;)
Making these morsbags has been so much fun! Claire Morsman said: “Once people have made a morsbag, they realise how addictive it is and how proud they are of their creations! Even the recipients of the free morsbags feel more attached to a unique cloth bag than a flimsy plastic one and if people get into the daily habit of carrying cloth bags, we can save 1000’s of animals, birds and fish”
Basic Bag Directions from morsbags.com(PDF) or Basic Bag Directions (MS Word)
More Instructional photos
morsbag website: http://www.morsbags.com/
Morsbag Guide (PDF)
Morsbag Guide (MS Word)
Labels (MS Word)
Make your own labels with fabric and freezerpaper: (do not mirror reverse image, just print off)
****Amazing photos of some of the bags that have been made. You HAVE to see these!
Flickr: bargebaggers' Photostream