Crocheting sleeping mats a two-fold service for Most Holy Redeemer ‘Bag Ladies’

| March 31, 2017 | 0 Comments

Dorothy Kovarik of Montgomery crochets plastic with large wooden needles made from dowels. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Every Monday, up to 25 women gather at the American Legion hall in Montgomery to make sleeping mats out of plastic bags for the homeless.

Started by the Most Holy Redeemer Council for Catholic Women, the group has made more than 45 mats for homeless people around the metro and southern Minnesota.

“We call ourselves the Sisterhood of the Bag Ladies,” said Most Holy Redeemer parishioner Carol Freid during a crochet day March 27.

CCW president Cathy Herrmann introduced the project to the group, which has done many other service-oriented activities, including making prayer shawls and baby diapers to send to Haiti. The group began making mats in summer 2016 and has opened up the project to the greater community. Women from other church congregations now join them.

“That is what we do — to reach out to the poor, the homeless [and] those in need,” said Herrmann.

From left, Adeline Dietz, Barb Weiers, Mary Kotek, Theresa Daas and Carol Freid cut and fold plastic bags to prepare them for the next step in the process of making mats for the homeless. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Making the mats takes a lot of work, starting with folding and cutting the plastic bags, followed by tying the plastic into a ball. Then the women make long strips of plastic yarn that they call “plarn.”

Those who crochet weave together the plastic with crocheting sticks, which they plan to start making from old drum sticks. Most Holy Redeemer parishioner Nancy Dorshak gets drum sticks from her son, who plays in a band.

Finished mats, usually about three feet by six feet, have a thick but soft and light feel. The opaque colors and patterns vary based on the plastic bag colors.

Dorshak said crocheting plastic is harder than yarn because of the varied thickness, “but we do it, because we’re doing it for a reason.”

That reason has the grocery store in Montgomery saving plastic bags for the group. Their friends and family members also donate plastic bags. It takes 600 bags to make one mat, and time to produce it varies based on crocheting skills Herrmann said. It takes the group 1-2 days to make each mat.

The “Bag Ladies” anticipate that the mats could be used indoors or outdoors. They’re easily carried and cleaned with water. The mats’ thickness insulate users from cold floors, and the tight plastic weave keeps the mats clean of dirt and bugs.

For the CCW members, the mats have two purposes: address the needs of the poor and a way to help the environment. “The idea is to recycle the plastic,” Herrmann said.

The mats’ tight weave is designed to make them durable and comfortable. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

The mats initially went to the homeless in north Minneapolis through Streets of Hope Outreach, but now they also go to communities in southern Minnesota, where Herrmann said homelessness has increased.

Streets of Hope Outreach founder Todd Finney, who picked up 29 mats from Montgomery March 27, said homeless people get good use out of them, especially if sleeping outside or on shelter floors.

“Not only does it create a level of comfort for them, but it is [knowing] ‘somebody out there cares about me enough to put something like this together,’” he said.





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