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Couple Finds Attractive Way to Recycle Shopping Bags

The reactions are usually shock, then disbelief, then a thorough inspection and finally a quick feel when the Morins tell people the material of their crocheted handbags.

FALL RIVER, Mass. — The reactions are usually shock, then disbelief, then a thorough inspection and finally a quick feel when the Morins tell people the material of their crocheted handbags.

The creations are made out of plastic shopping bags.

"We're recycling in our own way," said 80-year-old Edna Morin, of Fall River, who's lost count of how many she's made since she began a year and a half ago to keep her hands busy. "I've been doing all kinds of crafts -- macrame, cross stitch, crochet, needle craft, sewing -- since I was a kid."

She recruited her husband of 57 years, Ray Morin, who's 83, to help her by cutting the plastic bags into long strips. His help allows her to finish a bag, which is done by looping and knotting the strips together, in about a day and a half.

"You can cut it and burn it, but you can't rip it," Ray Morin said. "They're durable."


The couple's first bag is bigger than the ones they make now. It was created to fit their bingo items and other gambling paraphernalia they take on their frequent trips to Foxwoods Resort Casino.

The two do a lot together, which they say is a reason why they've stayed together for so long. They counsel couples who plan to marry. They're both Eucharist ministers at St. Anne's Church, and they graduated together from Bristol Community College in 2000.

It took them nine years to earn their degree in thanatology, which is the study of the psychological and social aspects of death and dying. They use their learning to help people cope with grief.

In addition, they often wear matching outfits.

"She got me into a lot of things," Ray Morin said, "so this [the bags] isn't any different. I love being with my wife."

They've made so many together that Edna Morin said it's common to get a call from a friend of a friend of a friend who wants one. The news also spread quickly because Ray Morin tends to brag about his wife, Edna Morin said with a smile.

The couple's local Wal-Mart recently changed the color of its bags to white, a disappointment for the Morins. Friends and aquaintances used to ask for extra blue bags with their purchases -- the ones with the smiling yellow dot logo -- so they could give them to the Morins.

The blue bags make for the most realistic purses, said Edna Morin. Plus, she just prefers the blue. And Ray Morin said the white plastic bags only make for good summer pocketbooks.

They also use Stop & Shop bags, which are white with red lettering. Around Halloween, Stop & Shop has orange and black bags. Seabra's Marketplace has green bags, but the Morins haven't used them yet.

The Morins returned to their Riverview Towers apartment once and their was a box with hundreds of blue Wal-Mart bags in it. Edna Morin said her daughter's wealthy friend dropped them by. Edna Morin said the woman felt uncomfortable asking her to make one, so she just brought the bags over.

She gave the woman a scarf and bag. When the woman tried to pay her, Edna Morin refused. She hasn't sold any and to her knowledge, those who she taught at the Niagara-Maplewood Senior Center on Stafford Road haven't sold any either.

"See this macrame bag I have, this was expensive," Edna Morin said. "This one [holding hers in the air] didn't cost me a thing and they look the same.

With a giggle, she continued, "Most people think it's made out of straw and they always, always have to feel it. Always."

Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News