Rem­brandt of re­cy­cling

New­ton res­i­dent makes totes, hand­bags from plas­tic bags

The Covington News - - Local News - By Josh Briggs

When you approach Gwen­dolyn Mag­gitt’s front door, you can’t help but no­tice two pot­ted au­tumn joy se­dum’s fram­ing the bot­tom step. Per­fect for the cur­rent con­di­tions in Ge­or­gia, the hearty plants re­quire very lit­tle wa­ter and en­joy bask­ing in full sun.

That they can flour­ish just as eas­ily in Ari­zona as they can here is as­ton­ish­ing in its own right. But that’s not what makes th­ese peren­ni­als so unique.

“They were orig­i­nally my grand­mother’s,” says Mag­gitt, “Ever since I can re­mem­ber, those plants have been around in my life. They’re over 58 years old.”

Once inside her home, a quick scan re­veals a metic­u­lously kept in­te­rior with fam­ily pho­tos on the man­tle and a comfy blan­ket ly­ing neatly over the back of an over­stuffed arm­chair.

Sit­ting on the floor near the din­ing room ta­ble is a large, blue tote bag. At first glance, noth­ing seems pe­cu­liar about the tote. But a closer look re­veals some­thing amaz­ing. It’s made from plas­tic gro­cery bags.

Mag­gitt makes purses, hand­bags and totes us­ing noth­ing more than plas­tic bags she col­lects. She weaves to­gether strips of var­i­ous col­ored plas­tic us­ing a large cro­chet hook and says her imag­i­na­tion dic­tates her cre­ations.

“What­ever I feel like do­ing, I just sit down and work on them,” she said. “Many times I’ll start with one stitch then change it up. I have no set pat­tern. Some­times I’ll just grab ma­te­rial out of a bag and that’s the color I’ll use.”

A re­tired reg­is­tered nurse orig­i­nally from An­napo­lis, Md., Mag- gitt has been cro­chet­ing with yarn for more than 40 years, but the idea of us­ing plas­tic bags was a stretch.

“I got the idea off the In­ter­net about three or four years ago, and I didn’t do any­thing with it,” she said. “I saw the pat­tern and I thought, ‘that’s ridicu­lous’, so I didn’t do any­thing with it.

“I was cro­chet­ing baby blan­kets, afghans, hats, scarves - dif­fer­ent things like that. I get bored eas­ily so one day I said, ‘let me try that (plas­tic) pat­tern’. So I just picked it up and tried it.”

It takes Mag­gitt sev­eral weeks to make a bag. One of the most time con­sum­ing as­pects of her hobby is in the prepa­ra­tion. Since she can’t run down to the clos­est Michael’s and buy what she needs, she of­ten spends hours just mak­ing her plas­tic “yarn.”

Oc­ca­sion­ally she uses other plas­tic ma­te­ri­als to cre­ate her mas­ter­pieces. Her col­lec­tion dis­plays a wide spec­trum of col­ors and de­signs rang­ing from beige beach totes to white hand­bags.

“This one here is ac­tu­ally made from cau­tion tape,” Mag­gitt said, hold­ing up a bright orange hand­bag. “I don’t dye any­thing. The col­ors come from the orig­i­nal col­ors of the bag or plas­tic ma­te­rial.”

She has made more than a dozen bags, vary­ing in style, ap­pli­ca­tion and color.

Mag­gitt started cro­chet­ing at an early age and has re­fined her skill over count­less pa­tient hours.

“My grandma taught me how to cro­chet when I was a teenager, and my aunt ac­tu­ally taught me how to read a pat­tern,” she said.

Not only are Mag­gitt’s bags use­ful, they’re eco-friendly. She es­ti­mates a typ­i­cal tote con­tains up to 150 gro­cery bags.

While Mag­gitt doesn’t usu­ally sell her fin­ished prod­ucts, she has be­fore and says she gets the oc­ca­sional re­quest from friends ask­ing her to make a cus­tom bag.

“I do this for en­joy­ment,” she said. “If it be­comes work, I wouldn’t like do­ing it as much. But I have been asked by mem­bers of the com­mu­nity to do­nate a bag for silent auc­tions and such and I have done that.”

In­evitably peo­ple do buy her bags. When asked, she will sell one, but she doesn’t ac­tively pur­sue it as a busi­ness ven­ture.

Don’t be sur­prised if you see one of her bags on television some­day soon; if only she can keep them around long enough.

“I have sold two bags, both of which I was plan­ning to send to Oprah,” she said. “But each time I have one I want to send her, some­body sees it and wants to buy it, so I end up sell­ing it to them in­stead.”

Mag­gitt and her hus­band Wil­lie, along with their 8-year-old son William Lee, moved to Cov­ing­ton a lit­tle over a year ago af­ter visit­ing fam­ily in the area. She says she en­joys the area and plans to get in­volved in the com­mu­nity af­ter be­ing so ac­tive in Mary­land.

The fam­ily joined the Church of the Good Shep­herd Epis­co­pal and Mag­gitt plans to par­take in the Great Amer­i­can Cleanup on Satur­day.

Even though she en­joys cro­chet­ing, Mag­gitt still finds time to work in her gar­den and main­tain her many flow­ers and plants.

“We had a sep­a­rate truck for all my plants when we moved. I dug up ev­ery­thing and brought it down here to plant. Any time I get, I’m out­side tend­ing to my plants. I love my plants.”

Trash to trea­sure:

Gwen­dolyn Mag­gitt sits in the liv­ing room of her Cov­ing­ton home sur­rounded by a variety of the hand­bags and totes that she cre­ates us­ing re­cy­cled plas­tic bags.

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