Making bag kites means different things to different people. Everything from a 3 year old's toy, to a big kite restrained by many men! Not to mention a range of curious creations that lie somewhere in between.
Much of our own range of MBK designs falls very neatly into this category. Nearly every one of the Dowel and Skewer designs on this website has been made from cheap plastic garden bags. The Paper Kite Series is an exception... Oh, hang on - not really - I guess they could be made from paper bags!
If you are interested in making any of these MBK designs, check out my book catalog. Downloadable e-books, not physical books.
This page is more of a survey of kiting applications for bags of various sorts. If you have already tried using a bag to make a kite, you might soon realize there are other paths to follow.
If it wasn't for the demise of plastic shopping bags in South Australia (by law!), I would have given the tube-kite thing a try. Read on if you're curious about that...
It seems one of the most commonly attempted home-made kites is the plastic Diamond kite. Hardly surprising, given the huge history and general popularity of this design.
History? Yes, the diamond shape goes back 100s of years. This type of kite can be found in illustrations going right back to the Middle Ages!
Plastic suitable for making simple kites is probably even more widely available than light-weight paper. Also, it's more resistant to damage than paper, both from tearing and moisture. The multi-ply plastics in particular are quite strong.
As far as I can tell, paper isn't really the material of choice for most casual kite-makers these days. It used to be, in the days before plastic!
A good choice for spars is bamboo BBQ skewers, if you don't mind flying rather small bag kites. For much larger kites, hard-wood dowel is often used. As for the MBK Dowel kites.
These all start life as a large garden tidy bag, so they are definitely 'bag kites'. The sharp crease down the edges is quite handy since one of these ends up as the center-line of the kite. You can see how straight the vertical spar is. Or isn't!
The main advantage of using bags for the construction of single-line kites is that you can achieve great symmetry in the sail.
In other words, one side is an exact mirror-image of the other. If you try just measuring out the whole outline at once, a lot depends on just how accurate you are.
With a large bag, you just mark out half the outline on one side, then trace those lines on the other side. After cutting and un-folding the bag, voila! there's a perfectly symmetrical kite sail. The next step is cutting spars to length. By laying the spars over the kite sail to get the length, you just can't go wrong.
The approach just mentioned is a little slower than lashing some spars together before cutting the sail around them. However, it is much more accurate. Accuracy gives your kite a fighting chance of flying nicely at the first attempt! There are other factors too, but let's stick to bags and bag kites for now - that's what this page is about.
As the name implies, the Garbasail is constructed from garbage bin liners. Lots of them! The more, the merrier, or is that 'the hairier'! An increasing number of intrepid groups of People Who Like To Try New Things are putting these crude but exhilarating bag kites into the air. Ropes are attached to 2 opposing sides, and with one person on each rope, one edge is allowed to float up higher than the other. Thus, the whole thing billows up with air pressure and ... erm ... flies. Sort of.
Actually, on coming across this, it reminded me of an experience in my childhood where there was a similar group activity. Not with joined plastic sheets, but a massive patchwork cloth. Out on an oval somewhere, dozens of us got the rectangular thing to fill with air and float over our heads for a while.
Like a kid's wind-sock kite, the Garbasail is not really a kite since it's brief flights cannot match the sustained flight of a real kite. In my humble opinion! But it's fun. Perhaps it's one of those things you have to do at least once in your lifetime.
This is an interesting one. Someone has had the bright idea of turning a couple of plastic shopping bags into a tubular kite. Technically, a cellular kite, by using bamboo BBQ skewers to internally brace the bags. Two bags, joined end-to-end, with more bracing on the upwind bag. I've seen photos, and the odd-looking thing flies very well!
What's more, this 2-bag unit can be hitched to others to produce larger kites for even more spectacle. Both end-to-end and side-by-side, resulting in an array of possible configurations to rival the famous tetrahedral kites! Creative stuff.
Alas, I won't bother trying any of these since the plastic shopping bag has been banned by law, here in South Australia. On the other hand, various types of plastic bags are still being sold which could fit the bill...
When it comes to art or craft projects for small children, kites are a common choice. However, we're not talking plastic diamond kites flying high in the sky in this case! These kids kites are not really kites at all really, since they are not capable of flying much higher than the hand of the child towing it.
A small kid's bag kite is simply a small paper or perhaps plastic bag with a few bridle lines attached around its opening, like a wind-sock. In fact, it is a wind-sock, not a kite! The idea is for the child to run around towing the bag. From an art perspective, the child also has fun attaching long streamers to the bag, and decorating the bag with various light-weight but colorful things. A flying line of only a meter or 2 (3 - 6 feet) is attached to the bridle lines to tow the 'kite'.
I've seen kids' TV program presenters make these 'bag kites' and run around saying 'up, up up it flies!' Yeah, right... Almost up to shoulder height :-)