The Journal

Morsbags – saving marine life one bag at a time

10th May, 2018

I recently shared my skills at the Morsbags workshop in Barrow-Upon-Soar Community Library. This is a free workshop during which attendees make their own reusable, washable, long-lasting shopping bags. Materials are provided and you can add to the range

Why I went along to the workshop

As you know, textiles are my passion and this volunteer group wanted to do something arts and crafts based. They decided on Morsbags because they are unquestionably useful creations. It seemed like my skills could be of genuine usefulness to their endeavour.

I have created artistic pieces since I was a child, (read my story on my website) using generations’ worth of knowledge, passed down to me by my mother and aunts. I have been fortunate enough to be able to pursue my education and achieve my dream of becoming a textile designer. Sharing my knowledge and experience with this group of women, united in a simple community aim, felt very familiar and immensely gratifying.

What are Morsbags?’s tagline is ‘Sociable. Guerrilla. Bagging.’ It has a very simple aim – to rid the seas of the plastic bags that are killing our marine life. Lots of sea creatures mistake floating plastic bags for jelly fish and end up dying after they have ingested them. The government and some businesses are starting to take the situation seriously, which can only be good. But the great thing about Morsbags is that we, as consumers, can take action without waiting for changes to the law.

Obviously, we still need bags, so this campaign seeks to replace the plastic ones with handmade bags made from recycled materials.

Who started Morsbags?

In a Quilting World’ interview in 2016, Claire Morsman explains why she started Morsbags in 2007:

“A combination of things, we lived on a houseboat in London and I was getting increasingly concerned by the endless flow of plastic bags in the canal. I naively wondered where they might end up. When I did a bit of research and found out how fatal plastic bags can be to whales, turtles and other marine wildlife, all for the sake of a one-use bag, I couldn’t believe it. I also went home to Devon and saw a sea bird entangled in a plastic bag and it felt like a message, so I vowed never to use a plastic bag again, but needed to think of an alternative. Serendipitously, my great aunt had just left me her sewing machine which I didn’t know how to use! It was a portable Elna on which I made all the first Morsbags.”

She soon turned her individual protest into an international campaign and set up with some Big Lottery Funding. The Morsmans pay for the ongoing running costs of the site themselves. They even had a donation of old Clarence House Curtains from Prince Charles, as the sustainability element of the movement captured his interest. Read the article here.

Three Facts about Morsbags

1. Pods: ‘Pods’ are what the groups of volunteers making Morsbags are called. There are 1,726 pods in total, you can see if there’s one near you on their website – there’s even one in New Zealand! Or, you could start one yourself. View your pod here

2. Guerrilla Giveaways: After making a bag for yourself, the idea is to make as many as possible and give them away. They are never for sale. The ‘guerrilla’ aspect is the random kindness of giving one to complete strangers.

3. Morsbag label: The only thing you need to buy and sew into your completed bag, as their way of spreading the word.

What I took away from my Morsbags workshop

There are two main things that I took away from my experience: community spirit and environmental responsibility.

I believe in the strength of local people looking after each other. I enjoyed being able to use my skills for this purpose and it was satisfying to completely finish a bag for one lady. I was done so quickly that I could assist others with their sewing machine issues. This included threading needles, which does need a certain amount of dexterity and was difficult for some of those with health problems. I also really like the random acts of kindness philosophy embedded in the movement.

The whole idea of reusing and recycling unwanted fabric also reduces material waste, as well as combatting our reliance on plastic carrier bags. A whole world issue that we must all concern ourselves with.

Getting together with a Morsbags pod adds a lovely social dimension, I had a great afternoon thanks to the good company at Barrow Library; a very worthwhile way to use my skills and creativity.