CNCHnet . . . The Textile Arts Webzine of the Conference of Northern California Handweavers

A Trek from Trash to Textile

It’s so satisfying to re-use old materials to create something new and useful, and it’s even more exciting when what you’ve created falls into the category of glamorous evening accessory! Gudrun Polak’s handwoven evening bag is a case in point, which many CNCH conference-goers got the chance to see in person last May at Squaw Valley. Gudrun is a member of the Santa Cruz Handweavers Guild.

magtape evening bag

Obsolescence to Elegance: Magnetic Tape Evening Bag

The recycled material Gudrun utilized is the old 8mm magnetic tape, now so outdated that perhaps there are young techies out there who’ve never even seen it! Back in the 1980’s, 8mm videotape was considered the cutting edge of home “Handy Cam Hi8” technology, and was also used for computers and professional video. Although no longer manufactured, it is still widely available.

For this project, Gudrun used the material for both warp and weft and wove a 3-selvedge textile measuring 7 X 20 inches. 8 mm tape has good tensile strength, while wider tape is better just for weft. As you can see by the picture, it has a dazzling look when woven. Gudrun wove the main part of the handbag on the loom, but she didn’t stop there, adding a zigzag band braided on a square disc and a tablet-woven handle. A truly original piece of upscale upcycling.

You can really appreciate the reflective quality of magnetic tape in Gudrun’s table runner, using half-inch computer tape.

 table runner

Table Runner: Computer tape adds an almost water-like reflectivity

Gudrun used some artistic strategy here. Taking advantage of the contrasting  sides of half-inch tape in her design, she chose a Fibonacci striping sequence to utilize  both the matte and the shiny sides of the tape. She used linen picks to stabilize the weaving, and finished off the bottom with so-called graphite donuts — reminiscent of core memory from computer days of yore!   A little care has to be taken when weaving with this material, because once it’s creased, it stays creased. You can see at the selvedges that Gudrun carefully mitered folds to get around to the next pick.

More and more these days, plastic shopping bags are becoming a thing of the past, too, which is a good thing, environmentally speaking. But while they’re still around, they can be used as Gudrun did, combining them with product labels in a big, quirky wall-hanging.


Spot the logos in this offbeat recycleweave

green peas

green peas


In this interesting technique, Gudrun cut the labels into strips andthey blurred out a bit when woven. When this big3-by-5-foot piece has been on display, it’s been a big hit with kids who try to identify the product trademarks.  Another testimony to our transient times: some labels, like Tower Records, are already nonexistent!  In a three-way play on words, Gudrun calls this piece Green Peas/Green Piece/ Greenpeace!

Funny story: While working on this piece, Gudrun began looking carefully at what’s printed on plastic wrapping. On one toy the wrapper said “Keep away from children!”

As you can see, weaving green can be a superb eco-statement, but it can also go far beyond that, by turning the obscure into objets d’art. And for more of Gudrun’s art, visit her website at

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