Mercy Mats – Crochet a Plarn Sleeping Mat for the Homeless

Crochet Patterns, Rugs

:: Craft for Humanity – Crochet a Plarn Sleeping Mat for the Homeless :: Making a mercy mat 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. And that’s how to make a mercy mat.

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