Art Student Celebrates Earth Day by Making Dress from Plastic Bags

4/22/2020

Catherine Lu models the dress that she made for professor Heather Couch's crafts course in celebration of Earth Day. She knitted the dress together using 84 plastic shopping bags.Catherine Lu and her classmates in professor Heather Couch’s crafts course had one tough assignment: make art out of materials that would otherwise go in the trash.

Lu rose to the occasion, knitting a dress out of 84 disposable plastic shopping bags. She even used bags to thread the pieces together, making the dress 100 percent recycled.

“I didn’t want to create waste just to make the Earth Day project,” said Lu, a sophomore studying studio art. “I only wanted to reuse the waste material to make something prettier or some art.”

Couch asked students to design a work of art using “found” materials – ones that would otherwise be thrown away. She encouraged students to use traditional craft techniques to produce something functional or decorative. They could also choose to take a more conceptual or “high art” route.

Lu’s project addresses the real-world problem of plastic pollution. More than 8 million metric tons of plastic enters the ocean every year, according to the Ocean Conservancy. That plastic is often ingested by marine life and, by extension, humans.

Couch sees Lu’s creation as a moment of hope and joy during a difficult time.

“I was really proud of this one, and she is too!” Couch said. “My students are inspiring.”

Catherine Lu makes strips of the plastic bags that she knitted together into a dress for professor Heather Couch's crafts course.Lu, of West Palm Beach, said restrictions on movement due to COVID-19 made it tricky for her to get supplies from outside sources. She looked around her home and turned up a lot of Publix grocery bags. But not enough. With friends pitching in, she gathered 60 Publix bags and 24 white plastic bags.

Once she collected the bags, she had to smooth them into strips. Making the strips and knitting them together was the most time-intensive part of the project, Lu said. She estimated she spent 70 hours over the course of 7 days making the dress.

Lu developed the pattern herself, she said. She drew the design and made some adjustments during the creative process. This was her first time making a dress, although she’s been a longtime fashion observer, she said.

“I like to see good designs of dresses and garments,” Lu said. “I have friends who work in the fashion industry with their own brands. I’ve always admired their success.”

Catherine Lu knits together the dress that she made out of plastic bags. She estimated it took about 70 hours to complete from start to finish.Despite how time-intensive the dress-making was, Lu can’t get enough.

“Ever since I finished the project, it’s very hard for me to look at plastic bags,” Lu said. “I just want to collect them and make them into dresses.”

Photo 1: Catherine Lu models the dress that she made for professor Heather Couch's crafts course in celebration of Earth Day. She knitted the dress together using 84 plastic shopping bags.

Photo 2: Catherine Lu makes strips of the plastic bags that she knitted together into a dress for professor Heather Couch's crafts course.

Photo 3: Catherine Lu knits together the dress that she made out of plastic bags. She estimated it took about 70 hours to complete from start to finish.