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Forms and Process

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

Shaping so far…

If you’ve been reading this series of posts since the beginning, you’ll know I’ve used a few different methods (or non-methods) to help shape my baskets.

My initial woven basket was freehand (and slightly frustrating)

My coiled baskets were also by eye (though sometimes I used other forms to help me get the proportions right).

And on my latest woven ones I used a handy cardboard box.

But those wouldn’t really do long term. As usual, I’d been thinking a lot about it and had some qualities I was looking for.

Goals

For my basket forms I wanted…

  • Sturdy forms – they needed to hold up better than the cardboard box.
  • Square bases with higher sides – not that I thought I’d have the same problems as the oblong coiled baskets I made, but square was a more reliable shape. Higher sides meant I had options, and could even make plant pot covers.
  • A variety of sizes – as the inner tubes come to me in a variety of widths, I wanted to make sure I had options and wasn’t just stuck on one or two sizes.
  • Ideally secondhand or repurposed – though I’d consider something new as long as it was well made

I did a lot of searching for metal tins – but had trouble finding anything with the variety of sizes I wanted.

The closest I got were kitchen tin sets – a large bread bin, with smaller ones for tea and sugar, but it wasn’t like the ideal Russian nesting doll in my head so I didn’t pick any up.

In the Meantime, Some Ideas

I always try to think of alternative uses for things before they go into a bin. There is no such thing as “away” when you throw things out. It mostly just remains a problem, just somewhere you can’t see.

Over the warmer months I often make my own yogurt, using a starter I got online and UHT organic milk. While I thankfully have a council that recycles tetrapaks, it occurred to me these flexible containers might be sturdy enough to work with.

And as luck would have it, I had a width of inner tube where three fit perfectly along one side. So I decided to make some little baskets.

While my hand press made things a lot easier, I realised that the mouth of it wasn’t deep enough for me to rivet everything together once woven. So instead I made the bands that would go sit horizontally first, and then wove the vertical sections of the basket around them.

It was easier to make the basket a uniform size, though I’m not sure it was quicker.

I’m determined to make the most of each inner tube’s individual characteristics (writing, patches, etc), so more often than not I assemble most of the basket before taking it apart again to punch and rivet the bands, and then reassemble to finish around the top.

Maybe not quicker, but definitely neater!

Little Basket

Some Stats:

  • Size: 11 cm across, 8.5 cm tall (approx)
  • Time: about an hour (just on construction, not washing or sorting tubes)
  • Weight: 128 grams
  • Inner tubes used: about 1.5
  • Rivets: 14
  • Hand Press Presses: 28

There still were some things to tweak, like taking more care so the little tabs at the top finish at the same place. You can see above that some are shorter than others. Overall though I was very happy.

Tetrapacks weren’t a viable option for the complete size range I wanted from my forms, but for the time being I played around with constructing these and made a series of little baskets.

I discovered that some tiny plant pots and saucers I’d picked up on freecycle months previously fit these perfectly.

Those saucers were essential as the inner tube wouldn’t be water tight. Unless you had fake plants, you’d get your surfaces all wet.

Of course I had to do a little photo shoot with succulents.

More Photos and Process Tweaks

One thing I was really happy with was how my TS logo stamp fit perfectly on this size of tube (about 2.5 cm wide). But I wanted a way to have my full business name on there somehow, too.

I’d seen people use wooden or metal tags on crocheted baskets, so I played around with some inner tube scraps until I came up with something that worked.

I didn’t really like the positioning on this basket, but I learned that I needed to think really carefully about the placement of those tags. As I’m assembling the bands first, I need to check and double check…and given how I still mess this up sometimes, triple check…that the placement of the tag so it’ll end up on the correct side of the basket.

If this label were on the lowest side (where I initially wanted), most of the name would be covered by the vertical sections of the weave!

As you can see in the photo above, I also settled on two rivets holding the horizontal bands together. This was prevent them accidentally bending at that join – though that’s less likely when the basket’s assembled as everything’s pretty snug.

It was also interesting to see how different thicknesses of inner tubes affected the shape and feel of the baskets (though it’s difficult to show in photographs so I’ll save it for a future post).

Larger Basket and Testing

While I kept an eye out for other forms, I took the lessons above and applied them to my larger basket form.

So happy with how this one turned out. I have no stats as it was a while back and I don’t have it to even weigh or measure! More on that in a sec. But as it used my same box, it’s about the same size as my attempts from a few posts back.

My branding looks good on this size, too.

So why don’t I have it? I gave it to Zero Waste on Wheels to test. As I mentioned in an earlier post, she does so many markets, so I knew if it was part of her display it would get some robust testing. Here it is in action.

I still wasn’t set on how I’d be constructing these larger baskets. But while I was still tweaking this larger size’s construction, I thought I’d give it to Alicia anyway. I’m pleased to say it’s held up well!

Lucky Find

But I was limited to how many baskets I could make with those two forms, so I was still on the lookout for something better.

I have a slight addiction to freecycle, olio, and facebook marketplace. It started during lockdowns, when I couldn’t my usual charity shop treasure hunt fix. TBH I hardly ever pick anything up from there, but it was nice to keep my mind working on how I could potentially reuse the random things that people list.

One day I was scrolling through and this caught my eye.

They’re children’s stacking boxes, made out of a sturdier cardboard. The cute designs are just a bonus.

The sizes ranges from 5×5 cm to 16×16 cm. And while I initially thought that was far too small, I realised the shipping box I was using for my larger forms was about 16 cm square. So I picked it up.

While ideally I want to make larger baskets as well, these fit so many of my goal criteria:

  • Sturdier than my shipping boxes
  • Cubes
  • Good range of sizes
  • Secondhand

And for I think £3, they were definitely worth a punt.

But I realise this blog post is already far too long, so what I did with these will have to wait until next week!

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