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Knitted Dragons from Plastic Bags

Knitted Dragons from Plastic Bags

I had knitted quite a few dragons before this and I wanted to make a really big one but I knew I didn’t have enough material for the size I wanted. I thought about what I did have and I came to the realisation that I had stacks of plastic bags. One might say it was slightly ambitious to try to knit a dragon roughly 35cm high, 65cm long (with tail bent) and a 70cm wingspan out of strips of plastic bag when your only prior experience knitting with the material was a 10cm square to see if it was even possible. I have now made several such dragons and have learnt a lot from the experience.

Materials

Fairly thin plastic bags work best, the white dragons were made from mainly white bags but they had a bit of green and black on them which made a nice variation.
For the black one, I used compost bags which had black on the inside. These were a lot harder to knit because the plastic was very thick and I had to fold it so the black was on the outside, sometimes you can see a bit of green where I got distracted.
I sewed them together using the same plastic but I pulled it tight so it became like a thread. It’s sometimes rather hard to get it right and it does keep snapping, but when you get into the rhythm you can get long strips perfect for sewing, plus you can use the short bits as stuffing.
I iron plastic together for the wings because it makes it look leathery, around six layers gives you a nice thick sheet.

Preparation

Normally what I do is find a drawing of the kind of dragon I want online and print it at roughly the size I want the dragon to be.

If I am planning on making a rather big or tricky dragon I make a wire structure first by bending it in roughly the shape of the dragon.

I tried several ways to attach the legs and wings with tape and thin wire. In the end, I soldered the legs but had trouble with the wings due to their weight. Finally, the idea came to use two wire connectors by slipping them over the main frame and tightening the screws until they stood firmly at the right angle.

Then I tied plastic bags onto the frame using the strips of plastic till I was satisfied with the general bulk.

For the smaller dragons, I skipped the wire frame entirely though I did use wire in the wings on the black and white ones.

Then I will trace out the parts I will need (photo) sometimes I also write it out in list form (e.g. Main body, Back legs x2, Front legs x2, Head, Belly, Wings x2). I then cut the bags into long strips, and start knitting!

Knitting

I make the shapes as close to the drawing as possible. If I find it too hard to do it in one piece I knit it in two and sew them together, like with the back legs: I knit the front side twice then the back side twice and sew them together. The front legs are normally more straightforward because they don’t have the knee bent and I can normally get away with knitting it double the length it needs to be and folding it in half lengthwise.

The main body I do in two pieces and the belly in an alternative colour. For the three-headed one I had to do slightly differently to have room for the necks I knit a top piece and bottom piece with no belly.

Head

On one of the heads of the three-headed dragon, I gave it an open mouth by knitting the jaw and top of the snout separately after finishing the brow decrease until they were double the length I wanted then I doubled the over and sewed it together.

The head I knit in the round on three needles starting at the size of the neck and increasing equally on each needle till it is the correct size. Then I knit in a round for a few rows then start to decrease on two needles to make the slopping brow leaving the bottoms stitches intact as the jaw, then decrease on all three till I have only one stitch each and finish it off by sewing them together and threading the end through the back, leaving a kind of spiral knot.

Wings

With the big dragon, I ironed six layers with the iron in between the first two. It was kind of tricky to iron around the bends and it did leave a few pockets of air between some layers.

 

The wings are made from plastic bags I ironed together. For the big one and both the black and white ones I used wire but with the three-headed dragon and the small one I just sewed on.

 

For the black and white ones, I made the framework of the wings and sewed a strip of knitting around it then sewed on the cut-out wings. I didn’t use a wire structure on those two so there was nothing for the wire to attach to and I just poked the end through and sewed the base as best I could. It worked well on the white one and the wings were able to stand up, but with the black one, which is bigger and the material on the wings heavier, they just swung around and it has to stand on its back legs like it’s about to leap.

 

Extras

The dragon only looks complete with the horns and spikes and claws, which is good because it’s always a lot of fun.
All the horns and spikes are made with ironed plastic, cut out and sewn together.

 

The small one had little scales which all needed to be cut out and sewn on individually.

 

The three-headed had little spikes running down the back and necks which were cut out in zig-zagging lines and sewn on by alternating on either side so it stands up rather then just sewing it down on one side so it lies flat. It also had a set of spiked armour on the under-belly where I cut out little half circles of varying sizes (the smallest at the end of the tail, the biggest on the chest). They also had horns made from six layers of white plastic ironed together and coloured with a Sharpie because I didn’t have the right coloured bags.

The black and white ones had Mohawk-like strips of ironed plastic sewed down their necks and backs like the three-headed one. I had a little trouble getting the curve right for the neck and they are slightly wonky and stretched. The Sharpie I used to colour them is fading slightly and you can see the bar codes from the plastic bags.

The big one came to life with all the added extras. With the goat-like horns, I thought I would have to use wire to get the curve right but I knitted it using mitred corners for the curves (I use mitred corners a lot with bits like the legs and sometimes the main body too) and it somehow it just worked perfectly. The scales alternate between green and white ironed plastic and were cut into slightly pointed plates and sewed down from their tops. The claws were made from green plastic sewed together with lengths of knitting around their base. I did what you could call “Plastic Surgery” on the face by knitting little bits like eyebrows and a long thin strip for lips and a curling length for the nostrils and sewing them into place.

A ROARing Success

When starting a dragon I always think it’s going to be easy.
It’s somewhere in the middle that I realise it is not going to go according to plan. After finishing all the knitting I have this big pile of strange, curling bits and have no idea what any of them are supposed to be. They don’t line up with anything on my picture and I’m considering throwing it all away and giving up. But instead, I decide to carry on, because, why not? I’ve gotten this far.
Once I have the main body and added the wings I can start to sew on all the little details like the claws, spikes and the horns.
Then I step back and realise it IS a dragon after all.
“Oh,” I say, “Would you fancy that?”
Then I start on the next one.

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