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NY woman knits suit, purse using hundreds of repurposed Wegmans bags


Talk about recycling, Greece woman uses more than 300 plastic shopping bags to knit a suit.
Jamie Germano, @jgermano1

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Rosa Ferrigno can’t sit still. So she takes on big, seemingly impossible projects — like knitting herself a suit from plastic Wegmans bags.

You read that right.

Ferrigno made a skirt from 140 bags and a coordinating jacket from 170 bags.

The 75-year-old doesn’t watch television. And she absolutely hates it when family members pull out their smartphones at the dinner table.

“She says, ‘Everybody, put those away!’” her 50-year-old daughter Fran Bertalli says with a laugh.

When the weather is warm, Ferrigno — who immigrated to the United States from Sicily when she was 16 — spends a lot of time outside her Greece, N.Y., home, tending to a large yard and flower and vegetable gardens. When the weather turns cold, she prefers to stay indoors — and very busy. 

For her Wegmans-wear project, which she started in November, Ferrigno cut the bags into strips and tied them together to make longer, yarn-like strips and knitted those into the suit. The job required gigantic knitting needles that don’t exist in the retail world, so she made those, too, by whittling — yes, whittling — points at the ends of wooden dowels bought at a Michaels store.

A bargain at 80 cents each, she says.

More: New Jersey teacher wears same dress for 100 days to promote sustainable fashion

The suit itself — which you’d swear was made of yarn if you didn’t touch it — would have been a lot pricier if someone had paid Ferrigno an hourly wage to make it. It took her two months (not continuously, but total), from that first stitch to lining both pieces with sheer brown cotton fabric.  

Fortunately, “I do it for fun,” Ferrigno says.

Did we mention that she didn’t use a pattern? She just eyeballed it, and it fits her to a T.

Ferrigno started knitting and sewing as a child back in Sicily. After arriving in Rochester, she was quickly hired as a seamstress at Hickey Freeman. She worked there for eight years before starting a family. But the drive to create clothing — that never left her.

Over the years, “She’s made hundreds of clothes, thousands of clothes” for family members, her daughter says. And when Bertalli was a teenager, and it was prom time, all her friends would rely on Ferrigno to do dress alterations.

The idea for the Wegmans suit grew out of two smaller projects.

“We were at a family picnic last August,” Bertalli explains, and one of the other guests was carrying a purse made from repurposed plastic bags. Ferrigno was intrigued. She and her daughter went to YouTube in search of instructions and found them. Shortly thereafter, Ferrigno knitted a purse from red, white and blue plastic JC Penney bags and braided a purse from the brown and green Wegmans bags.

Then, she told her daughter she was going to knit an entire suit from plastic Wegmans bags to match her braided Wegmans purse.

“I go, ‘Of course you are.’ That’s just her,” Bertalli says. “One idea leads to another.”

The full ensemble made its public debut earlier this month when Ferrigno wore it to a brunch following a family wedding.

“Everybody went crazy!” Bertalli says.

So what’s next?

“I told her, ‘You should make a suit for Danny Wegman,’” Bertalli says.

Ferrigno says trying to make a suit with pants would be too complicated.

We think she’d probably crush it.


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