Making mats and pillows for homeless
Pat Jones is working at getting the community involved in another project – making pillows and mats for the homeless from plastic bags.
Last year we ran a story about a local resident who had taken to making mats and pillows for the homeless from plastic bags, according to Jones, she saw the story and was simply fascinated. She had the opportunity to meet with the woman responsible, who has recently retired from the Cameron School District, at a Cameron Library program for kids about recycling. As it happened, this was around the same time Clinco announced they would no longer be accepting plastic bags and Jones had been saving them in her house to recycle, she now needed something new to do with them.
Jones said she saw the woman in action and was very impressed so she spoke to her after the program about making the bags and pillows. The woman loaned Jones a pillow loom and as Jones got started on her own projects, she called the woman to ask for tips and advice and Jones said she has been very gracious and so helpful.
Jones said she was inspired by the stories of Meredith Hahn and Sherria Sloan who regularly visit homeless camps in Kansas City with a group of other people.
Jones told one story relayed to her of a young man who was arrested on a non-violent crime and said what kept him going in jail was knowing his “family” in the camp he had lived in was waiting for him and would be glad to see him.
Jones said making these pillows and mats is a way to contribute to the work these ladies and others are doing.
The pillows and mats are extremely lightweight, durable, weather proof and very soft. Most of the homeless are established in camps and the mats allow them to have something to separate them from the cold ground and have something softer to sleep or sit on. It takes approximately twenty years for a bag to decompose in a landfill, so woven tightly; they should last for some time.
There are several steps to take to prepare the bags for weaving, including folding, cutting, and chaining them together. Jones said a lot of people like to then form the chained bags into a skein like yarn to use to weave, but she has developed her own spindle, which she prefers. According to Jones, it takes one of her large spindles, “more than over full” to create a pillow and three of the spindles over full to create a mat. The end pieces cut off the bags before chaining are used to create the stuffing for inside the pillows, not a single part of the bag goes unused.
“I don’t do well just sitting around my house,” Jones said. “I may spend one day folding bags, one day cutting, another day chaining and when I get tired of one part of it, I go back to another.”
Jones also made the point that these mats aren’t only useful to the homeless. She said she has made herself a pad, in black and gold, to take to local ballgames to sit on. She left the end open to put her phone and her wallet in to carry in and then sits on the pad, which is soft and feels much better than the seats or bleachers alone in the stands. At one game another woman noticed her pad and requested she make her one – so Jones did in red and black. The possible uses for the pillows and mats once made are endless. Jones even suggested the mats could be made and used for preschoolers or kindergarteners.
Jones plans to start a group meeting with anyone interested at the Stella Grinstead Center on Tuesday mornings at 10:30 a.m. If anyone is interested and wants to learn, she encourages them to come down and learn. Even if anyone is interested in simply beginning to learn the process, this is an excellent opportunity to do so. Jones was also encouraging of anyone who just wants to fold bags, cut them, help with any part of the process, without committing to actually weaving the bags, to reach out.
Jones said some churches have mentioned they have youth groups and organizations might be interested in getting these projects started as well.
Not only do they need people interested in making the mats and pillows, they also need plastic bags – without holes, donations can be brought to the center on Tuesday when the group is there.
They are also in need of someone who is willing to build looms, or donate the lumber to build the looms. The looms are a 2x4 attached to a piece of 1x6 with 3/8” dowel rods.
Anyone who is willing, able or wishes to learn more is encouraged to reach out to Pat Jones on Facebook for more information, or go to the Stella Grinstead Center on a Tuesday morning at 10:30 a.m. to learn more.