Crafting for a Cause

Did you know that Australian’s use in excess of six billion plastic bags per year? Craft expert, Penelope Quinn, explains all!

Environmental artist Angela Von Boxtel is putting her crafting skills to good use by using unconventional materials that she hopes will get you thinking about waste materials in a whole new light.

Her idea to crochet a bikini entirely out of plastic bags may have started out as a "joke" and now, Angela Von Boxtel's bikini is helping to spread an important message about plastic bags that end up in our oceans. 

"I've always been interested in exploring ‘waste’ materials,” says Angela, whose plastic bag bikini has recently been selected for the International Women's Day Art Prize. “Things other people throw out, I call them precious resources.”

Starting out as a young child crocheting clothes for her dolls, Angela always had a penchant for unusual materials destined for the bin - t-shirts, sheets, orange net, hessian bags, old woolen blankets and video tape – soon, she moved on to plastic bags.

“Plastic bags came in the picture because as an Eco Artist & Designer I work closely with environmental groups and try to do my bit by taking their message to a wider audience. Art is a great medium for that,” she says. 

Angela’s bikini has been modeled by environmental scientist and plus size model Laura Wells, who recently hiked 140 kms across Tasmania’s Tarkine rainforest with Responsible Runners, and is also aligned with Greenpeace.

“It’s absolutely stunning and I still get goose bumps when watching the photo’s, even if I’ve seen them a hundred times by now,” says Angela.

“If you can look darn sexy in a plastic shopping bag that’s a hell of a strong statement to make,” she adds. “In the end, I guess the image speaks louder than what any word could ever portray!”

Angela's blog documents her ideas and projects to help inspire “people to make a change.

“It’s about giving them small and simple ideas to start with.

“As often I see environmental issues are to overwhelming for most people and that is when they zone out and become aphethic and do nothing.”

“In the end I’m not the poster girl of your every day environmentalist, I’m a mum of four boys, who is just questioning things I encounter in every day life as a family and how we can become more sustainable and green.”

“All I can wish for is if I can plant some seeds of thought or inspiration in other people’s minds.”

Penelope’s 5 tips on making sustainable crafts

1) Look for unconventional items

Keep a sharp eye on hard rubbish collection days. I recently salvaged a huge frame in Mosman that I turned into a chalk board. Old building materials can make great material for crafts. Some old bathroom tiles from a skip bin are going to be a mosaic project.

2) Try to use recycled materials where you can.

If you are in Sydney, drop into Recycled Garbage. They have a warehouse full to overflowing with waste material that is just waiting for someone with creativity and imagination.  I always seem to find buttons and sewing supplies in op shops too.

3) Be aware of your footprint. 

Be aware of your own craft practices. If you have plenty of material left over from a project, don’t’ throw them out, why not donate it? Your local council should be able to advice. If you’ve finished a painting project, don’t’ pour the rest down the drain. Donate it, or use it for another project.

4) Get the kids involved

Upcycling inspires creativity, so get the kids involved. Save old wrapping paper and ribbons and start a craft box for the kids and let their imagination run wild.

5) Get resourceful

There are many great resources online for inspiration. You only need to type in ‘recycled craft’ into Pinterest for hundreds of ideas! 

Do you have any ideas for turning trash into crafty treasure? I’d love to hear about it! Just leave a comment at the Ask a Question section or head to LifestyleHOME Facebook 

For more craft tutorials, visit


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