What comes first – the chicken, the egg, or the plastic grocery bag? Have you ever made a craft from plastic shopping bags? Recently, I’ve seen knitted or crocheted items made from “plarn,” a yarn that’s cut from plastic bags. Well, here’s another cool way to repurpose those plastic shopping bags – a Plastic Bag Chicken made by designer Kathleen George.
There are two parts to this craft – building the body from foam shapes, and then adding the “feathers”. While this isn’t a fast, ten-minute craft, it’s very do-able, so don’t let the length of the instruction scare you!
To make a Plastic Bag Chicken, you will need:
- STYROFOAM Brand Foam: one each 5” and 3” eggs; one 4” ball; two 2-1/2” balls
- Plastic shopping bags: 4-5 white and one orange or red
- Wood dowel: two 4” x 3/16” pieces
- Acrylic craft paint: brown and green
- Chenille stem in tan
- Quilt pins, two with black heads
- Thick, white craft glue
- Low-temperature glue gun
- Tools needed: Serrated knife; old candle or bar of soap; indelible marker; wooden skewer or thin knitting needle; scissors
To make a Plastic Bag Chicken:
Make the body:
1. Wax the serrated knife with an old candle or a bar of soap; this will make the cutting easier. Cut a thin slice from one side of the 5” egg, toward the wide end, so that the egg will sit flat with the narrow end tilted up slightly. Cut a small slice from the top of the wide end for the neck. Cut a small slice from the 2-1/2” ball, which will be the head. Twist together the neck and cut side of the ball till they fit snugly and then glue together.
2. Cut the remaining 2-½” ball in half. Glue one half on to the top of the tail end (narrow end) of the chicken. Just below the half ball, slice off the narrow end of the egg at an angle, shaping the tail.
3. Cut a small slice from each side of the egg body for the wings. Cut the 3” egg in half lengthwise; these will be the wings. Twist together the cut side of each wing against the cut side on the body, till they fit snugly. Glue wings to body.
4. Draw a line down the center of the chicken, from the head to the tail, and continue the line all the way around the chicken. This will help you keep track as you add the feathers.
5. Paint the wood dowels brown and let dry. These are the chicken legs. Insert and glue the legs into the center bottom of the chicken, and position the body so that the chicken’s head points down slightly.
6. Cut the 4” ball in half, and put aside one half for a future use. Insert the legs into the half ball, but don’t glue them in place. Paint the half ball green and let dry.
Add the feathers:
1. Cut about 50, 1” squares from the white plastic bags, avoiding any printing. It’s o.k. if the plastic is wrinkled. You’ll want to save the smoothest portions of the bag for the tail feathers (Step #4).
2. Here’s how to add your feathers: place a dot of white craft glue on the chicken, and center a plastic square on top. Push the plastic square about ¼” deep into the body using a wooden skewer or thin knitting needle; twist the skewer slightly to remove it. To point your feathers in a certain direction, hold your skewer at an angle when inserting the plastic squares. As you add your feathers, it will look more realistic if you angle them this way:
- On the front or chest, the feathers angle down
- On the sides, the feathers point towards the tail
- Wing feathers point up and back
- On the back of the chicken, the feathers point straight up
3. Once an area is covered, trim the tips of the plastic “feathers” to smooth out uneven feathers and to develop the shape of the chicken. You’ll trim closest around the head and neck. If you an, keep the scissors flat as you trim. The line you drew around the chicken will help you you’re your bearings, so leave it uncovered as long as you can. Fill in with more feathers as needed.
4. Next, work on the tail. Cut 26 – 30, 2” x 4-1/2” rectangles; and eight, 3” x 6” rectangles from the smoothest areas of the white shopping bags. Fold each rectangle in half lengthwise, and trim one end to a point. These don’t need to be perfect!
5. Insert a row of four, 4” feathers at the center back of the tail, just where the half ball meets the body. Add a row of three, 6” feathers just above the first. Continue this way as you cover the ball, alternating rows of 4” and 6” feathers. Add a more feathers, if needed. Fill in the area under the tail and on the sides with 2 ½” squares; trim to create a smooth transition between sections.
Finish the wings:
1. Cut 10 – 15, 3” x 2” rectangles. Fold in half lengthwise and cut the tips into points. Insert a row of six or more feathers just above the small feathers at the bottom of the wing, pointing them back towards the tail. Above this, add a row of 3 – 4 feathers, followed by a row of 1 – 2 feathers at the top.
2. Cut two, 6” x 6” feathers for the front of the wings. Fold the bottom of the feather several times, forming pleats, and cut the tips into points. Insert it at the front of the wing, angled toward the tail. Push it deep into the body so the feather flares. Trim and add feathers as needed.
3. Insert a 1-1/2” plastic square behind each leg. Trim.
Finish your chicken:
1. Cut out a comb and wattle from the orange or red plastic bag. Poke in the comb along the mid line at the top of the head. Cut out a 1” square for the beak, fold into quarters, and attach to the front of the head. Add the wattle just below the beak.
2. Push in quilt pins for the eyes.
3. Glue the legs into the base. Cut chenille stem into eight, 1” pieces. Fold over ¼” on each piece, forming claw. Glue three stems in front of each leg, and one at the back.
If you’re interested in more ways to recycle your plastic shopping bags, be sure to sign up for the Crafts ‘n things newsletter. This springtime wreath is made from plastic bags and will be featured in the March 22 newsletter (and, the newsletter is free!).
I confess that I keep a stash of different colored plastic shopping bags for projects like this, how about you? What crafts have you made from plastic shopping bags, or other repurposed materials? Share!