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Revisiting Basketweave

This is the seventh post in a series about my journey making baskets from punctured bicycle inner tubes. To see them all, click here.

Thinking Time

After my previous attempt, I took a break from making baskets. Partially to let my arms heal, partially to work on other things. But the idea never really left me.

Work on another project – my inner tube footstool – reminded me that just a plain weave could look gorgeous, too.

More info on that project can be found in a series of posts here.

As much as I wanted to make more plain weave baskets, I still struggled with how to make it work. I loved my first attempt, but there were a few things I wasn’t happy about the process.

Stitching through up to 8 layers of inner tube was tough on my hands and took a lot of time. It also wasn’t the level of finish I was after. I needed an alternative that wouldn’t take ages, would look nice, and would hold up.

And then I remembered my rivets!

(Not So Much) Fun with Rivets

Rivets are used in sewing to reinforce stress points. You see them on the handles of bags, and on jeans in areas that might be under a lot of strain (like around pockets).

A while back (2019 sometime?) I bought myself a cheap rivet set off eBay – I can’t find the listing again and wouldn’t recommend it anyhow, though it was useful for testing.

How rubbish was it? Well for one the clasp that holds the case shut is broken, on more than one occasion it’s spilled everywhere and I tbh I can’t be bothered to put it back properly.

But at least it came with several sizes and colours of rivets, a setting tool and a hole punch.

I had only ever tried them with one product: a test for a bifold wallet commission.

You may have seen this product for sale during my first Super Seconds Saturday – this one was listed mainly because of the rivets. They weren’t really necessary, but once I’d made the holes for them I had to follow through. The issue was that they didn’t want to attach straight.

Here are some failed attempts I had to remove:

As you can see they didn’t line up. Eventually I was able to hit two in that went straight, but more often that not, on this project and on other tests, they’d go all wonky.

I assumed it was because they were just rubbish rivets, but I’ve since learned a few useful lessons about rivets.

Fun with Rivets

I picked up my rivet knowledge through a live talk on Craftsy which I also can’t find a link to now. But there are tons of tutorials and YouTube videos out there that will help. If I’d looked at basically any of those, I could’ve saved myself a lot of heartache.

My main takeaway was: you have to fit your rivets to your project (or your project to your rivets).

Let’s look at the rivets I got in my set – for reference the grid is made of 1 cm squares.

My issue was using a rivet with too long of a pin. My wallet material was maybe 2 cm thick, and even the smallest rivet was about 5 or 6 cm long. It’s a surprise I managed to get two straight!

Another tip I picked up in the talk was (depending on the type of rivet) I can cut them to size. So if I needed something that was shorter than the longest one, but longer than the middle one, I could make my own.

That raw edge would be hidden inside the rivet cap I attach on the other side.

Alternatively, I could add an extra layer of material to bulk up my project to suit the rivets I had.

Another lesson: attach on a hard surface.

You want to have something sturdy, like concrete, under you when you’re attaching hardware like this to make sure it’s secure. This meant working on my kitchen floor.

(Though just a note I ended up taking a lot of photos in my bedroom bay window for the purposes of this blog post as the lighting’s better)

So armed with this new knowledge I was ready to try baskets again.

Goals

If you’ve been following my series of posts on baskets, you know I like to share what I was hoping to get out of a project.

Things seldom work perfectly, but by giving myself one or two things to focus on, I can feel like I’ve succeeded even if there are still some issues to work through.

This time it was just seeing if I could get rivets to work. Would they hold? Would the basket look ok? There were so many unknown unknowns I gave myself a lot of slack.

Tools

I armed myself with my rivet set, my belt punch, and an old cutting mat to prevent me from damaging the floor.

And – not pictured – a hammer.

If you read my trials with an earlier basket weave basket, you know I struggled a bit during construction to keep everything together. So this time I had a form:

High tech, eh?

Those triangular bits in theory help the sides from caving in while I worked. I’m not sure if they actually did anything but they were reusing the flaps I cut off the top and made me feel better.

I don’t have a lot of in progress pictures, as stopping to document can sometimes take me out of my flow state, but I did end up with a basket at the end.

As it was my first go I initially secured everything with thread so I could work out how to attach the rivets without additional stress. Then I used my leather belt punch tool to create the holes. I also took the opportunity to finish it off several ways to help me settle on the look I wanted to go for.

Brace yourself, it’s really rough!

Woven Test 1

A stat:

Size: 23 cm across and 10cm tall.

Poor record keeping means I’m not certain how many tubes I used (it was a while ago). I can see material from at least three different ones, but there are probably more.

I learned a lot about what I didn’t want to do in future baskets with this one. While it was a bit of a bust, I saw enough to think I could continue and make it better.

But let me show you more, as embarrassing as it is.

Sides

Side 1

I left just sewn in. It’s the most closed on top and obviously rough, but good as a comparison.

Side 2

Secured with two rivets at the top of each section of tube. While it’s neater on top than some of the others, there’s far too much hardware.

It looks too busy and any differences in spacing are really obvious, as are if I’m accidentally higher or lower than the other rivets around it.

Ignore bits of fluff, I’ll get to those later.

Side 3

One rivet in the centre of the horizontal band at each section of tube.

A little neater, I liked the placement in the centre, though it ended up being more distorted and looking A LOT messier from the top.

Side 4

One rivet for each section of tube at the top of the horizontal band.

While neater than the above from the top, it didn’t look as pleasing from the side.

I saw enough in the method not to abandon it, but there would need to be some changes to fix how the basket looked.

Folding it over at the top like I’d done on my first basket was on my list to try next time, but that wasn’t all that needed fixing.

Let’s Talk About That Corner…

Oh it’s awful, isnt it?

In this post I skipped a train of thought I’d had: that maybe the issue wasn’t the stitching itself but the fact that I was just using a needle and thread to go through the tubes. I thought that by using the punch tool first I could then go through with thicker thread and it would look better.

The answer was no. No it wouldn’t.

Why I chose jute I don’t know, probably it was what I had on hand. I’d forgotten that inner tube is crazy grippy, and all it succeeded in doing was looking awful and pulling the jute to fluffy bits.

I also struggled making the holes down the side with my rotating punch tool. The jaw wasn’t deep enough to reach the bottom without scrunching everything and making it hard to be neat.

Thankfully I had a little stand alone punch tool that came with my rivet set (left below). I was determined to use that and the rivets next time.

But no, there’s even more that needed fixing.

…And That Middle Tube?

Do you notice how round that middle horizontal tube looks? Turns out, you can’t just bung any old tubes together to make a nice basket.

As I talked a little about in a previous blog post (Making the Most of Inner Tubes), there are many qualities to consider when using tubes.

I’d just looked at the width of the inner tube, not considering how thick the butyl rubber was. That centre tube was a lot thicker than the tubes around it. That thickness and the narrowness of the tube meant it just wanted to stay round. The thinner tubes around it didn’t apply enough pressure to keep it flat.

But I didn’t notice it until I’d taken it off the box I was using as a form and it was too late to correct.

So yes, paying more attention to the materials I was using, and making sure they’re from similar types of tube, would be important in making a successful basket.

So I gave myself another attempt, with these new things to look out for in mind.

Woven Test 2

Goals

Just to sum up what I wanted to do:

  • Fold over the tube sections at the top so there’s no weird gaping open areas of tubing.
  • One rivet per vertical tube, not at the very top of the basket
  • Use my single punch tool to more easily reach into corners
  • Secure everything with rivets
  • Use the same type of tube for the whole basket

Sound good? Well let’s see how it turned out. Once again I took the opportunity to test finishing techniques out on each side.

Test Basket 2

That’s looking a lot better, isn’t it?

Same size as last time because I used the same form.

I did have some fun experimenting with tweaks to the folded finish to get the best look though.

Sides

Side 1

For this side I just folded over the sections of tube and riveted them down. While already miles better looking than my last attempt, it still wasn’t as neat as I wanted.

Side 2

For this side I cut off the lower layer of tube at the point it folds over the top. That stopped the layers from warping, but still looked a little rough.

It didn’t help that I put the rivets really close to the edge.

Side 3

This one I cut the lower section of the tube off past the fold, but also cut the corners to give it a more intentional finish, like I do with many of my cable tidies.

I really liked the way this looked.

Side 4

Same again, I couldn’t think of anything to tweak, though I probably should’ve changed the angle of the notches I cut off.

Nice to know it looks just as good with these colour rivets.

Overall I was much happier with how this worked, though there were still a few things that needed tweaking.

The Corner

This was better but not perfect.

The rivets I had were too short for 6 layers of inner tube, so I cut off some of the under layers as I did when finishing off the top. Though obviously I went a little too far on some of them, as you can see the cuts on that middle horizontal tube.

Hiding off those raw edges was definitely on my list of to dos for next time.

Thoughts Going Forward

After this second basket I felt sure I could make things I was happy with. All the remaining tweaks were fairly minor – more about finishing than the actual construction method.

Some things to think about for next time:

  • I still struggled a little using the hand punch tool (more on that in a sec…), so I thought it best to invest in a table top hand press. I also wanted better rivets, ideally something that wouldn’t rust.
  • My cheap rivet set weren’t the right size for the baskets I was making – I wanted to source ones that were. Although I cut long ones to size for these, it’s a bit fiddly and adds a lot of time.
  • Another future issue was going to be finding more sturdy forms. The box I was using was starting to look rather knackered, and I wanted the option of doing a basket with higher sides.
  • Because the tubes are all different sizes, I wanted a variety of forms – like a Russian nesting doll of cubes, so that regardless of the size tubes I was working with, I could find a form to fit.

All of that was going to require a bit of research. But I felt really positive.

A Little Mishap

Well done for making it to the bottom of the post. For fun I thought I’d share a blooper from the making of this second basket.

Remember how I switched to that stand alone punch tool? I used it over the cutting mat to protect my kitchen floor. I assumed it would be as rubbish as the rest of the set and need some oomph to make it through all those layers of inner tube, but it turns out it was pretty sharp.

How sharp?

Yes, that’s right, I went straight through the tubes and mat, putting a hole in the kitchen lino.

Thankfully I was able to fish the bit I cut out of the tool and stick it down with some glue. Can you see where it is?

I can, and I made the mistake of telling my husband. Though it’s been about six months since this happened, he confessed last night he notices it every single day.

Oh well – at least it’s not obvious at a casual glance!

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