Be Kind, Please Rewind: VHS Tape as Yarn

I’m not entirely sure why I decided to try my hand at working with VHS tape. Perhaps I just wanted something different to try, perhaps it is because VHS tapes are hard to recycle where I work and I wanted to help find a way to make use of them (I work for a second hand retailer, we try to recycle almost everything that doesn’t sell/ can’t be sold, but last I checked, we didn’t have a place to send VHS tapes). In any case, I’ve been playing around with using old VHS tape as yarn, on and off,  for the last couple of weeks.

WARNINGS

While writing this article, I came across a Flickr discussion on the topic citing health dangers adherent in magnetic tape (VHS and cassette tape). Read the full discussion complete with further links here: Warning- Crafting with old cassette/ video tape. Basically, the tape contains cobalt, chromium and iron, which can break down or come off as dust from the tape. The iron may not be so much of a problem, as humans naturally have iron in their bodies (though too much iron can be bad), but cobalt and chromium are certainly toxic and can cause cancer. I am not telling anyone not to use these tapes, and I, myself, have not had any issues with it yet, but I want to bring the health concerns to attention so you can make up your own minds.

Trial and Error

While I don’t really have any finished projects right now, there are certainly some things I have learned in the process of trying to work with this material that I want to share.
The first idea I had was to use it to make a “Letters From Mr. Right” letter holder/wallet/clutch from Melissa Horozewski’s Austentatious CrochetThis required that I pull on the tape to stretch it and make it thinner and more pliable. It is harder to get the tape stretched out uniformly if you are impatient and are trying to get a lot of it in a short time. I ended up getting blisters/ friction burn on the sides of my index fingers. I recommend using leather or garden gloves, this will not only help prevent the blisters I got, but it will also help prevent getting any dust on your skin if your tape happens to flake off on you. I also learned that if you pull too hard the tape will snap apart. If you look, it’s kind of hard to see the texture of the cluster stitch used. It just looks like a blob to me.

Because I got tired of pulling on the tape so much, I decided I’d also try using a bigger hook and crocheting with the straight tape, no stretching. Because there is no prep work needed, it works up a lot quicker. I don’t have much done with it yet, and it’s entirely possible I’m just going to scrap the exercise because I’m just not fond of it. This experimental piece is just a single crochet around a chain, in the round.

Other VHS Artwork

Now, while I’ve determined that I’m not entirely fond of working with the VHS tape, there are other people out there that do work with it and have done things with it that I like:

Diane Gilleland used it to make flowers to accent a straw purse. She also used the casings to make bookends. – Craftstylish.com

Cindy from My Recycled Bags made a cute little sling purse – MyRecycledBags.com

Adrian Kershaw manages to turn VHS tape into absolutely gorgeous fine art – Crochet Concupiscence

Zilvinas Kempinas created this awesome tunnel installation – Lost At E Minor

Erika Iris Simmons created several portraits from VHS and cassette tape – VHS Art Representations

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Donated Treasures

During the day, I work for a second had store. Working at a second hand store, I am always getting to see interesting items that people donate (like a really cool antique spinning wheel). Sometimes I get to see some not so interesting items (like nasty, cruddy underwear – ewww). I like looking at the clothes that come through. I like to note little nuances in style, in piecing – I especially love looking at clothes that others have altered from their original state as well as other home made goodies. Some months ago, we got in what was quite possibly the coolest thing I have seen to date. Someone crocheted a giant dragon from garbage bags. I was on break when a co-worker came to show me, and I happened to have my camera in my purse that day.