Star White displays a sleeping mat she crocheted for Juneau’s homeless using 467 plastic grocery bags on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Star White displays a sleeping mat she crocheted for Juneau’s homeless using 467 plastic grocery bags on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Find out how a Juneau woman turned 467 plastic bags into help for the homeless

Online community steps up to donate bags

The craftsmanship of one woman could soon provide some relief to Juneau’s most vulnerable population.

Star White, a 33-year-old stay-at-home mother of two, is turning used plastic grocery bags into bed mats that she plans to donate to homeless people. White was spurred into action after hearing of the plight of a homeless woman who had scrapes from sleeping on concrete.

“I know what it’s like to not to have a lot,” White said in an interview on Thursday at her apartment. “I don’t have a lot of money to give, but I know I can give time to help them at least feel somewhat comfortable when they lay down to sleep wherever they’re at.”

[Not as bad as expected: Juneau’s homeless shelter survives veto scare]

The first — and according to White, most time-consuming — step to the mat-making process is turning the plastic bags into the spools of plastic bag yarn, or “plarn.” This bags are flattened, cut into strips and chained together. White crochets the plastic bag yarn from spools of plastic.

Star White crochets a sleeping mat for Juneau’s homeless using plastic grocery bags on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Star White crochets a sleeping mat for Juneau’s homeless using plastic grocery bags on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

“I thought it was an easy project, and the only thing it costs me is my time,” White said. “With my oldest daughter at school, my youngest at daycare, I had that time.”

The first mat took about a month to crochet, White said. She’s already about halfway through her second mat, which she started only recently.

“I didn’t realize it took up to 400-500 bags (per mat),” White said. “I was like, ‘I think I got my work cut out.’”

White was about halfway through her second mat when she exhausted her bag supply. She took to social media to solicit donations, and within hours, garnered dozens of responses. She said the Juneau Foodland IGA bags are thicker and firmer than the others, and work best. So far, she’s received four bundles of bags.

Star White displays a sleeping mat she crocheted for Juneau’s homeless using 467 plastic grocery bags on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Star White displays a sleeping mat she crocheted for Juneau’s homeless using 467 plastic grocery bags on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

White learned to crochet six years ago, and first put those skills to use to make knit hats.

“I started crocheting so I can make hats for my daughter,” White said. “She’s afraid of the dark, and I couldn’t find light-up hats, so I made that for my daughter and I started venturing out on my patterns and what I want to do with my new creativity.”

White said she plans to make mats as long as she can continue to find bags. The Salvation Army told her they’ll give her some bags from their supply. She said the best way to make a donation to is contact her on Facebook.

“If I could figure out who I could talk to about rent(ing) a hall, maybe go to a conference room or something for free, maybe I could teach it and have more people help me with this,” White said.


• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or nainsworth@juneauempire.com.


Star White talks about her personal project to make sleeping mats for Juneau’s homeless using plastic grocery bags on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Star White talks about her personal project to make sleeping mats for Juneau’s homeless using plastic grocery bags on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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