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Inner Tube Tortoise – Paper Mache

This post in part of a series where I try to make a Galapagos tortoise out of inner tubes. Find all the posts here.

So after the last post I made a couple of additional armatures using the same method as I had previously. Next step was making George’s shape.

Padding It Out

I used paper saved from parcel deliveries and masking tape to make the body.

I had my reference images out and ready to compare, and took it limb by limb.

Some things I found helpful:

  • Pre-tearing various lengths of masking tape and sticking them along the edges of the table was a must
  • Keeping the paper padding a little loose meant I could go in later and scrunch/shape it a little more, holding those changes in place with masking tape
  • Though having the shell on was a little awkward at times it meant I could more easily judge proportions

I was pretty pleased with the final padded product:

It wasn’t perfect, but definitely good enough. On to the paper mache cover!

Paper Mache

This was similar to my shell process, but took a lot longer. Which I should’ve guessed, but didn’t properly plan for. There were smaller areas, more complex shapes, and lots of changes of direction. Nearly all the strips I pre-ripped were too big, but that was easily remedied as long as I remembered to adjust the size before I got them damp.

I worked with George mostly on his back. I was a little worried about the shell getting wet or deforming but I was careful removing excess flour/waster glue before putting the strips down to prevent that happening. He got flipped over to access the hard to reach areas around the front of the shell, tops of legs, and obviously the neck and head.

I saved the head until last so avoid it making a mess, and dried him on his back as the lower shell threatened to sag – the paper wasn’t held on as well as it should’ve been in that area.

I added some lower shell details I didn’t do at the padding stage – I had no reference for these so I kind of winged it, but it seems to have worked out alright. I can see now that the front shell extension bit should go out further but I don’t mind.

He’s mostly dry in these next photos, but I’m leaving him in the airing cupboard another day just to be safe.

There are a few messy bits, but they’re in awkward areas so I’ll probably just leave them.

I debated, and am still debating, going back in to add some wrinkles. It would be easier to do if my little George were bigger, so I might just paint them on.

Next Steps

Oh yes, painting. To be fair I don’t have that much experience, so I’ll probably draw as much detail on as I can in pencil for reference points and to avoid mistakes. The 360 I’ve been using as a reference is in colour, but it’s a bit washed out so thankfully there are a lot of other photos out there to refer to.

It mostly looks like shades of brown, tan, maybe a little black.

Wish me luck.

When I showed my husband the final product he said it looked great and offered to do the painting. I politely declined. But he did ask another good question…

“How does this work with inner tube?”

Yeah… I’m not sure.

This process definitely helped me get a sense of the shapes involved, and how I might construct it, but also highlighted a lot of hurdles.

The shells will need to have a full wire structure underneath. When making my paper mache version I just wodged a bunch paper balls in there to fill up the space – wouldn’t really work with floppy, stretchy tubes on their own.

I can find tubes in the different widths required for the legs and neck, but how I join them together will be a bit of a puzzler. I might simplify his shape a little more to avoid having to attach different size tubes together for different areas of the leg (like how the back legs get a little narrow above the foot.

Assuming I figure all that out I’ll probably try to assemble it before putting it on, and hope the wire armature doesn’t complain too much about bending to make that work, but the areas where the body meets the shell might be even more frustrating as they will have to be done in situ.

I also have no idea how I’ll stuff it.

I’ll have a think while I’m sorting out the paint for my paper mache and see if I come up with anything.

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Inner Tube Tortoise – Armature

This post in part of a series where I try to make a Galapagos tortoise out of inner tubes. Find all the posts here.

This project is definitely not out of the woods yet, but the “Is This Possible?”-o-meter has swung back towards yes. At least in paper mache or clay.

To be perfectly honest, after my last post I procrastinated…a lot. Much of that was due to a deadline for a submission I was working on (more on that if I get selected). But mostly I wasn’t finding it fun.

Sometimes it takes a bit of a nudge to get me over the hump so I start and find something I enjoy. And in this case that nudge was the lady organising our entries getting in touch to say we had a meeting Tuesday the 6th to discuss our progress so far.

I felt like I needed SOMETHING to show besides five paper mache shells and a pinterest board.

So I decided to use the video I pinned in the last post as my method.

Measuring

I needed to translate my 2D screenshots into a 3D image. I decided to use maths.

I had the handy 360 view of Lonesome George from the AMNH to work from, and I’d taken screenshots and printed out Front, Side, and Back views. I took measurements but was finding it hard to visualise how to combine all those measurements to make sense.

In the end I used this method, hoping to find the distance between the two points:

Does that picture make sense? I ran it past my husband and he said he got what I was on about, so that’s probably good?

Basically I used my quilting ruler to made a grid on top of the screenshots, then measured Lengths and Heights from each applicable view. Then it was a matter of plugging into google’s hypotenuse calculator to get my measurements.

The paper mache shell was double the measurements on the screenshots, so I doubled all my final results. It’s all in this handy spreadsheet:

Which then translated into this diagram:

Assembly

I followed the instructions on the video, but added extra wires to support the angles of the legs and backbone, as they kept wanting to twist.

So instead of just Left legs / Spine / Right Legs, I also attached separate front legs and back legs wires, AND wires that went from each front leg up part of the neck.

But when I held on the shell…the armature looked a little too big. Still not sure why that happened TBH. I probably doubled at the wrong point.

If I held the back of the shell where I wanted it to be, the join of the front legs was about 3cm further forward than it should be. Proportionally it seemed alright, so I just shrunk everything down by 33% so my 130mm backbone measurement became 100mm.

Here are the updated spreadsheet and diagram.

You following so far? Good.

Assembly Try 2

I followed the same method as the first time, as it turned out really solid. And I’m pleased to say it looked MUCH better.

Funnily enough, if you looked at my last post’s horrible attempt at an armature, it’s basically the same size as my 2nd go. So that rough wire sketch didn’t end up being pointless after all.

I even added a little wire just to hold the shell on for the ladies at the WI meeting to see. I’ll add more wire to create a basic shape for the shell to rest on…and pad with newspaper.

Next Steps

Next up is to make a couple more of these – I’m thinking 2 more. This first one will be for paper mache, the second for (hopefully) inner tube, and the third as a backup…or to try with clay if the paper mache doesn’t go quite to plan.

This method was designed for clay, so it’s possible I could struggle getting the paper padding to stay put. But I think with enough masking tape anything is possible.

Keep your fingers crossed for me!

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Inner Tube Tortoise – Armature Ideas

This post in part of a series where I try to make a Galapagos tortoise out of inner tubes. Find all the posts here.

I’ve gone about this all backwards – that’s the conclusion I’ve reached these past few weeks.

So About That Armature…

After finishing my little battalion of five tortoise shells, this is the culmination of my work since then:

Guess what? It’s not as easy to wing a tortoise body out of wire as I thought it would be. Also my husband was poorly and other life stuff got in the way.

Starting with the shell meant I’ve had to work backwards to get the proportions to work for the legs. I really should’ve done everything at once.

I’m not unhappy with the general proportions…that’s about all I can say for it.

So to make something a little less rubbish, I’ve done some research into armatures, looking for a method of that will work for what I’ve created so far.

This is what I’m going to try next:

As for having something to measure, the handy 360 I mentioned in my earlier post has been great. I’ve screen shot side/front/back views, printed them out and made some initial measurements.

Comparing to my paper mache tortoise shells, the length and width seem like the right proportions…though the height is a bit short. Not the worst thing, as I was worried about getting the scutes right in inner tubes anyway.

Next Steps

What I’ll do is make measurements on the photo, scale those up to the proportions of my shell, and create a better armature out of wire. That sounds straightforward, but I can foresee some hiccoughs.

I’m held up as I need thin wire to bind up my thicker stuff, and have been carless or tending to a sick husband, so I’ve not been able to make the trip to Shrewsbury to get it. Hopefully tomorrow I can pick that up and all the refills I need!

But I’m not at all confident the wire will work, so I’ve found another method that looks promising if I need to start completely from scratch.

But as that would mean abandoning my shells, I’ll wait until I’m sure the wire armature doesn’t work.

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Inner Tube Tortoise – Model

This post in part of a series where I try to make a Galapagos tortoise out of inner tubes. Find all the posts here.

We left off the last post with a few ideas of how to tackle construction. Crucially I want a model to work off of, like a dress form.

Deciding on a Reference

While looking for reference photographs I realised how little preliminary research I’d done on the Galapagos tortoise. Some of it is very obvious if you know anything about the Galapagos: it’s renown for the variety of species that developed across the various islands. So yes, each island has its own tortoise subspecies, but to boil it down for simplicity, there are two distinct shell shapes: dome and saddleback.

As I mentioned in my last post, I really doubt the judges will be looking for anatomical accuracy. Or for that matter notice if I used a Galapagos tortoise versus any other sort of tortoise. But it does matter to me. I was already leaning towards saddleback as they can have that great upright stance I mentioned in my previous post. But what clinched it was finding a specific tortoise with a huge number of reference photos to work from: Lonesome George.

You may have seen him in the news: the last known Pinta Island saddleback tortoise. Found in 1972, conservationists were looking for a mate for him for decades. Sadly he passed away in 2012 without having any offspring, and his subspecies is currently extinct.

I say currently as there’s some interesting Jurassic Park for tortoise stuff going on to bring Pinta Tortoises back. But I digress.

In addition to all the videos and photos while he was alive, George was taxidermied after he died. There’s a video about it and and a 360 degree view of him on the American Museum of Natural History website. The latter of which is ideal for trying to make a model: I can scrub along the timeline and stop at any angle.

Making the Shell

As it happened we went camping recently, and while digging through the bin of camping supplies I noticed one of our enamel bowls had gone rusty in a few places. But there was a definite upside: it became the basis of my tortoise shell shape.

I used my bowl, paper I saved from parcels, and masking tape to create a basic form, but as it was still a bit squishy I decided a paper mache cover would be best for longevity.

My first was successful but slapdash and a bit thin in places. So I’ve been very systematic covering the rest. At least 5 layers, sometimes six.

Here’s a video of making a good one. As you can see, I put layers in 4 different directions to hopefully give a plywood-like strength to the final piece.

The paste was just a mix of flour and water – starting out in equal proportions, then more water added to thin it out. Whatever I tried, the flour always settled on the bottom, giving my later layers especially gloopy glue. Doesn’t seem to impact the final product, though.

I’ve already made several, and have at least one more in me. Before starting each paper mache cover, I put a layer of compostable clingfilm loosely on my form. Loose so it doesn’t impact the details coming through.

Next Steps

I’m pleased with the results, but they’re really just the beginning. Here’s what I’m thinking going forward:

One will become part of a fully paper mache tortoise. I go through phases of whether or not I think the inner tube version will work, and I’m squarely in a “not sure stage right now” period. Having a completed paper mache version will mean I’ll have *something* to enter and not let the team down, taking the pressure off creating an inner tube version. The paper mache model will also help me get sizing right for the armature of the head/neck/legs for any other versions I create.

I can use the other paper shells as the dress forms for the inner tube version. The spares mean if I inadvertently damage or destroy one it won’t slow me down too much.

Thinking about it…I may need to make more simplified shell shape for inner tube, as having the bumps for scutes in the current form might make it harder to sort my inner tube version out. But I’ll stick with it as is for now.

So stay tuned for my wholly paper mache model. I’ve got garden wire to create a frame for the body and appendages, as well as the 360 degree video and some other in-progress diagrams from the AMNH website to help me out.

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Inner Tube Tortoise – Ideas

This post in part of a series where I try to make a Galapagos tortoise out of inner tubes. Find all the posts here.

When tasked with something new, like making a Galapagos Tortoise out of inner tubes, I like to think around the task. Try to see what other people have done. Come up with a Plan A, Plan B, and maybe Plan C of what approaches I can take.

Deciding how to tackle it partially comes with experience. I’ve made lots of different types of things, but I think anyone can have a go.

Create a pinterest board, like I’ve done. Base it on the one you like best, or mix a few approaches.

My board is a combination of pictures of Tortoises themselves, some pre-made tortoises or turtle craft items, and even a few patterns I could use in a pinch.

I’m really keen to not follow a pattern if possible because I get extra points in the judging. But there’s no shame in using one, a lot of people do, and it’s good to know I could adapt an existing fabric pattern if I needed. To be honest, I don’t think they’re going to be sticklers if it’s it’s not a 100% accurate tortoise.

The tricky bit is going to be the shell, which is a somewhat complicated shapes made from hexagons and pentagons and potentially some other -gons. The internet tells me they’re called scutes that are made of keratin. They get bigger as the tortoise gets older creating ‘growth rings’ – one of the details I really liked from that tortoise sculpture I found recently, and something I’d like to try to show off.

Construction Methods

From looking at the ideas I’ve collected on my Pinterest board, there are several ways I think I can approach this make.

Patchwork Piecing

If you look at Zeno here, the various shapes that make up the dome of his shell have been pieced together from individual pieces of fabric, like the patchwork on a quilt. I’m inclined to avoid this method as it would be a LOT of seams to stitch, including corners.

Now quilt patchwork is mostly made with cotton fabric, which is thin and can create a sharp fold like paper. Think of origami. Inner tube doesn’t do that.

Inner tube has a lot of inherent body and structure that doesn’t pleat or fold sharply without additional stitching. That can be brilliant for a lot of things, but would mean the corners wouldn’t want sit together nicely and there could be gaps.

In a pinch I could try it, because at least my stitching wouldn’t need to be on show.

Flat Piecing

I am so in awe of this amazing turtle shell backpack. It looks brilliant! If you check out the listing itself, the seller has some images on the INSIDE of the bag, which will make this method a lot clearer if you don’t understand my written description below.

Basically instead of the green pieces being attached to one another, they’re attached to black strips that make the framework for the structure. Think of them like…the lead on a stained glass window? Because leather doesn’t fray, the green pieces are layered flat on top of the black, so there aren’t any folds to worry about and everything sits more cleanly.

Again, there’d be a lot of stitching, and this time on show. AND I still don’t have a sewing machine, just one of these Speedy Stitchers I haven’t quite gotten around to testing. Still it’s doable, but I’d probably need one of those stitch punches.

Patterned Shells

The two products above have differing themes on the same idea: create the shell, and then put the various scutes on with either stitching or designs on the fabric itself.

Inner tube is famously black, but I could get some ink like I use for my logos to create the design?

Ignore the Scutes

This handbag from WELCOMECOMPANIONS is brilliant in another way: creating the essence of the animal’s shape without having to worry about fiddly details.

It’s very tempting to go down this route, but I’m really in love with those growth rings.

Plan A, B, C….etc

Ok, so what am I thinking?

Of the ideas above, the ones I love the most are the two bags. While a flat pieced style design would be amazing, I’m worried that my stitching might not be so neat. Another detail I’ve neglected to share is that my tortoise needs to be about the side of a side plate – you’d think that would be easier but it’s often harder: pieces are fiddly and you’re working in small spaces.

Plan A is attempting something like the WELCOMECOMPANIONS bag or the patterned shell method, but add physical layers of scutes to give it that growth ring detail I love so much. I could try stitching them on, or potentially even riveting…though that adds its own set of potential problems.

I might try a standing pose with a longer neck and legs to make it less turtle-y, though that would require some kind of internal structure/skeleton and probably another pinterest board!

If it looks terrible I could go more in the style of the flat pieced bag, possibly even purchasing that pattern and scaling it to the size I need. (Would scaling work, or will that muck up proportions? I’ll cross that bridge if I come to it)

Next Steps

As I’m trying not to use a pattern, my first task is to create a tortoise shell form: something solid I can work off of to get my scute shapes in order. I’ve even pinned a diagram that shows a shell from a few angles to help me get my head around it.

Wish me luck, I most definitely will need it!

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Inner Tube Tortoise – Introduction

I joined my local Women’s Institute group as a way to make some friends in my local area.

I know the WI has a reputation for being all old ladies and jam making, but my group has 40+ members and a good age range. I’m in my 30s and just the other month we had a birthday party for a member who recently turned 100! It’s only a couple of hours out of my month, I’ve heard some really interesting talks, and honestly it’s been great.

The WI itself campaigns on important issues and has even featured craftivism projects in their magazine.

It’s not what many people would expect!

Every year, there’s a WI craft competition at the Oswestry Show on a variety of themes. There are individual and group categories, and WIs and their members from across the local area compete.

Of course I agreed to join in the fun. I’m taking part in a group tabletop competition based on the theme of “A Famous Person” (we choose who). We need to make “three items to be the choice of the competitors. Cookery/produce/preserves/wine/cordial/liqueur, art or craft. Flowers can be entered as a craft item or used as window dressing.”

The group picked Charles Darwin* as he was born in nearby Shrewsbury, and I’ve been tasked with making…a Galapagos Tortoise out if inner tubes! Can I do it? I’m honestly not sure. But I thought why not share my attempt with you lovely people.

Every other Wednesday I’ll write a blog post sharing my progress, good or bad.

And not long after I found out about my item, I came across this:

Mine is definitely not going to be that big!

Come back in a few weeks while I get my head around what I’ll have to do.

*I wasn’t there when they picked the person or what I was going to do. My suggestion was Sandi Toksvig, who has done some a fascinating variety of things.

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Super Seconds Festival – Why I’m Getting Involved

I’m so excited to be taking part in my third Super Seconds Saturday – now Super Seconds Festival! Organised by Sophie from Ink and Bear, it’s a great place to grab a bargain from 250 makers.

What is it?

Sophie created this festival in 2020 when she suddenly had a lot of seconds and no in-person markets to sell them at. The original Super Seconds Saturday was born as an event for her and other makers to sell collectively.

We’re now up to the 4th event, and while it’s grown, some things are still the same. Now officially taking place over two days (Saturday April 9th and Sunday April 10th), everyone will list their offers – whether it’s perfectly imperfect items, older stock, prototypes, or maybe even market specials – at a significant discount!

The full list of makers is available NOW on the Super Seconds Festival website. Just know you’ll be buying from each maker individually – whether that’s on their own website like me, or their Etsy or Shopify pages.

Sophie has really upped her game on the website this time around: there’s even a favourites section so you can keep track of all the makers you want to buy from. I’m really looking forward to using that option. My “random bits of paper” system from last year fell over when my husband tidied and they got put in the recycling.

Why Am I Taking Part?

I’m a maker and not a machine, and sometimes I make mistakes. The materials I use, like punctured bicycle inner tubes, aren’t designed to be repurposed into accessories, homeware, and jewellery. Each item has its own quirks and things don’t always go to plan.

I also like to try new products from time to time, and sometimes those early iterations are a bit rough. It’s a necessary part of the process, but I do feel bad seeing any material get thrown away.

I have an end of life process for anything that goes HORRIBLY wrong (it does happen!), but quite often there’s only something small that’s stopping me from feeling comfortable about selling it at full price.

And finally, Super Seconds Saturday Festival is also the best online event I’ve taken part in. It’s even better than some in-person markets I’ve done. Sophie does an amazing job of creating a sense of community between all the makers taking part. It’s such a wonderful bunch of people.

But generally, buying seconds is such an eco-friendly way of shopping – I’m taking part as a consumer as well as a business!

Why are Seconds Environmentally Friendly?

Honours the Makers’ Materials and Time

Part of the reason I work with reclaimed materials is that so much energy, effort, and time went into creating the inner tubes and toys I upcycle in the first place. Although it might be damaged and not usable for its intended purpose, that doesn’t mean it’s rubbish.

It’s the same with seconds. Makers aren’t machines and mistakes happen. Just because there might be a small blemish or skipped stitch, doesn’t mean the entire product deserves to go in the bin. If you look at it another way, those perfectly imperfect bits make those seconds even more unique and special!

I won’t sell things that I don’t think will hold up to normal use. And remember you’re always protected by your consumer rights, even with seconds.

So yes mistakes happen – but what about trying something completely new?

Supports Maker’s Potential and Creativity

While I’ve now had nearly three years of repurposing with inner tubes, it’s still a tricky material. Being curved in two directions means that, while I can plan ahead and maybe test shapes and ideas with paper or fabric, it’s never going to be an exact comparison. Things I haven’t even thought of will make their presences known and warp the idea I had in my head slightly out of shape.

There may also be times where the idea will go to plan, but during the ever-important testing phase, I realise that idea doesn’t hold up, or I could tweak or add new features that would make the product even better.

Knowing I have a place for these trials helps me be a bit more relaxed, which in turn helps me unlock my creativity.

Allows for Growth and Change

I’m also *FINGERS CROSSED* hopefully upgrading my sewing machine in the near future. It won’t be in time for this Super Seconds event, but it’ll mean two big things:

  • I’ll have to rework how I construct my current range.
  • It’ll open up a HUGE range possibilities for new products.

Again, both of those things would be a little more stressful if I didn’t have events like the Super Seconds Festival, where people are actively looking for those experimental one offs and teething issues.

And even better, you’ll get a discount!

What Will I Be Selling?

I’ll have a mix of things: seconds, prototypes, older stock, and even some upcycled display items I no longer use on my market stall! I’m debating having another market special, as I’d still love to introduce a personalisation service to my range, but I have to tweak how that worked from last time.

The best way to find out about my Super Seconds Festival offers is to sign up for my newsletter.

There I’ll be sending out early and more complete previews of all my offers, so you can get fully prepared ahead of the day.

I’ll also be giving subscribers early access to my listings ahead of the 10am start, as well as an exclusive offer on my non-seconds stock (…and maybe even exclusive access to certain seconds on the Saturday…).

So sign up if you’re interested, I’ll pop a cheeky sign up form below, too.

More Info

For even more information about Super Seconds Festival, check out the website, or follow the dedicated Instagram account! You can also check out the #SuperSecondsFestival hashtag on Instagram to see sneak peeks from all the makers involved.

I really can’t wait!

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7×7 #10 Basket

If you’re new to the blog, check out all my basket posts here. An explanation for my size shorthand can be found in this post.

Background

I’d really wanted to try something complex. After struggling a little with the results of some of the wider tubed baskets (check out an example towards the end of this post) , I thought it’d be a good idea to go back to using narrower tubes for a while. I’d made some 5×5 #7 baskets before, but as always I want to push myself a little further, and it just so happened 7 of my very narrow road bike inner tubes (all just over 2 cm wide) fit nicely on my #10 stacking box.

In a slight change from my normal format, I’ll show you the final product, then talk a little about how it came together.

The Finished Basket

Some Stats:

  • Size: 17 cm L x 17 cm W x 16 cm H
  • Materials: Stiffer tubes, all just over 2 cm wide. Material from about 11 tubes (but it didn’t use all of each tube, more on that later)
  • Rivets: 43 silver-coloured brass rivets
  • Hand Press Presses: 96
  • Time: About 2 and a half hours

As this was a very complex basket, I was curious how long each section would take me. So I noted down some rough timings as I went along.

Construction

Sorting, Cutting, and Weaving the Base

I’d saved up my especially narrow tubes as they don’t work on my smallest basket size, but it still took time to sort out the ones that had the same stiffness and would work well together.

With this bigger basket I ran into the valve section with a lot of tubes. Quite often I had a choice of leaving a very small section of tube near a valve, or leaving a lot but having to dig more out of my stash to make up the lengths I needed. I chose the latter as thankfully I managed to find enough that would work.

I still have my heart set on a crazy sea urchin basket (discussed a little in this post), and now I’ve got 8+ more valves with a good bit of tube around them to add to the pile of potential materials!

Doing the final sorting and selection of the tubes cutting everything to length, and weaving the base of the basket took me about a half hour.

Time so far…30 mins

Prepping the Bands

Next up was preparing the bands I use to create the sides of the basket (aka weavers). Assembling them ahead of time is an essential part of the process. It means I can make the sizes consistent and pick out how everything comes together to make the most of that lovely writing on the tubes.

At this point I also attach my ‘team sikel’ label. Those are made up of large-ish scraps of tube left over from other things. I tend to save the firmer tube for cable tidies, but anything too stretchy ends up here as it’s just decoration.

This process can be a bit fiddly. There are two mistakes I often make, regardless of how many reminders I leave around my workspace or baskets I’ve made:

  • Attaching the ‘team sikel’ label at the wrong point, so it doesn’t line with the rivets on ‘over’ sections of the weave.
  • Riveting together ALL the bands. I need to keep the top one apart (but marked to the correct length) as that’s riveted together with the top.

Thankfully I didn’t make those mistakes here, but it still took about 20 minutes.

Time so far… 50 mins

Weaving the Sides

I finally remembered to take a picture!

While you’d hope at this point it would just magic together quickly, we’re not even halfway through.

As the inner tube is so grippy, there’s some wrestling to get the sides down where the need to be. I make it a little easier on myself by using bulldog clips to hold the stakes (vertical sections of the weave) I’m going ‘over’ in place. But on each side I have to check I haven’t left gaps below, and that it’s not twisting out of shape.

Each loose stake needs a good tug to line it back up with the one that I’ve left clipped, and then I swap the clips over and repeat until I’ve reached the top of the form.

At this point I have to do some clipping to remove excess layers that would otherwise warp the tabs at the top. This is after a lot of testing to find the best finishing method, which I talk about more in this blog post.

I save the final finishing until after the rivets have been attached. But phew! We’ve got something that resembles a basket.

You may also notice I’ve switched clips. At this very last stage I find a wonder clip style warps the top of the basket less as it’s flat on the back unlike a bulldog clip.

But they’re also much more expensive (and a lot of plastic) so I use the metal bulldog clips as much as possible.

Time so far…1:45

Finessing and Attaching the Rivets

This one was a bit of a marathon. My simplest baskets are 3×3, meaning I have 9-10 rivets to attach at the top. Being 7×7, this basket has 29, so about 3 times as many!

Thankfully I have a placement template to help me keep everything more or less consistent around. I mark while it’s still on the form and then wiggle it off.

Before I get to riveting though, there’s invariably some finessing to make sure the top of the basket isn’t warping and the stakes end straight in the back. I also tend to have a little gap at each corner due to the form I’m using, and I try to space out the top of the stakes to distribute the worst of it along the side.

For the actual riveting, my table top hand press to makes it much easier. As the inner tube is grippy, I have to be careful that the flaps on the back don’t bend out of shape. On many baskets I use some water-soluble double-sided sewing tape to keep everything in place where I can’t see it.

Believe it or not, that process took about a half an hour. And it’s still not done – but thankfully there’s not much left to do.

Time so far… 2:15

Tidying Everything Up

Last but not least is trimming off the ends of the tabs and making them look pretty. It’s something I have to do inside and out. On smaller baskets where it’s harder to get my hand in, I’ll physically flip the basket inside out…one of the perks of using this flexible material!

In my initial trials I tried I lot of finishing styles to end up with the one I have now. It creates a bit more waste than I’d like, but the alternative was something that looked rough for my liking. Until I think up a neater finishing method, I’ll just save up those little scraps to stuff another doorstop for myself.

Final Time… 2:30

More Angles

But with the basket done, all there’s left to do now is take some photos to show off all the work that went into it!

I love how much writing I was able to show off on this basket. And the contrast of the metal with the black of the tubes.

There’s something especially pleasing about these baskets made with the narrower inner tubes. I think it reflects all the effort that goes into producing them.

It may seem odd that I’m devoting so much of my blog space to discussing these baskets when I don’t have them for sale on my website. I absolutely love them, and how they’re able to use up the tubes that I otherwise don’t have a use for. But to be honest, I’m struggling with pricing them.

So while I work through some self doubt about charging their worth, these will be priced cheaper than they should be as an in-person market exclusive.

Though you may see a few up in my Super Seconds Festival offerings – but more on that another day!

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Spiral Baskets

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

Background

After my trials with coiled inner tube baskets, I moved onto a more straightforward basket weave. But off and on I’d search for other styles of weaving that might suit my inner tubes.

I’d look for examples in leather or paper, as I could see some similarities between the materials when handled in certain ways. I came across an interesting looking tutorial for a paper basket from The Craftaholic Witch, and thought I’d give it a go with tubes.

Goals

Quite simply I wanted to see if this could work. I had some strips already cut – they were for a normal basket, but didn’t quite fill the form I had in mind.

At this kind of early stage I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself, I just wanted to stay curious, so I didn’t even time myself.

Attempt 1

I used a size 6 form (more info on what that means in this post) as it fit the width of inner tubes (all about 4 cm wide). Even though the tutorial didn’t use one, I knew inner tubes could be an absolute floppy nightmare if I didn’t have a structure to clip them to.

It was still a bit of a pain to be honest – the structure of the basket isn’t really set until it’s complete (I’m not sure how else to explain that…it felt a little like knitting a row without needles?). Somehow the basket turned out really well. Call it beginner’s luck!

Spiral Basket 1

Stats:

  • Size: about 13 cm across at the bottom and 11 cm tall to a point.
  • Rivets: 12
  • Hand Press Presses: 24

It’s a bit lacking in stats like I said.

The above picture isn’t my favourite angle though – check out the gallery below for some absolute gorgeousness.

Other Angles and Thoughts

The top view is my favourite.

It was interesting to see the differences between this and the paper version, namely that slight twist the top develops. It looks like some kind of flower, I’m absolutely obsessed.

My husband is a huge fan of this kind of basket, too. Although he’s very supportive with my business, I could tell the other baskets I made weren’t really his thing. He actively questioned me making ones with valves – but he’s not my target customer so I just ignored him and laughed about it with his sister (of A Good Talking To, who I do markets with).

With this one though he kept talking about it, and more or less made me bring them with to the Wasteless Market last weekend. It wasn’t for sale though.

Notes for Next Time

I wasn’t sure I was happy with how I finished off the top. Was there some kind of way to fold the ends under for a neater look? I had an idea to try next time.

But what I struggled with most was not knowing how to plan and cut my materials.

With the straight basket weave, I could easily measure out how long everything needed to be, even if I’d never used the form before, reducing waste. I could picture how it would come together and plan ahead to make sure as much of the writing, patches, and other interesting bits of character would be visible on the final basket as possible.

This was like writing in some kind of foreign language I didn’t speak or really understand.

Needless to say it took me a while to make another one.

Attempt 2

It was long enough between my first and second attempts that it almost felt like starting from scratch. I didn’t have any lengths of inner tube cut ahead of time, so I tried to use full tubes.

I did try something a bit different with construction, too, using clothes pins like in the paper tutorial I followed. The bulkiness of the peg made it hard to work with the form, and they didn’t have enough strength to keep the unwieldy inner tubes together.

While I did end up making a basket, I can’t say I was very happy at the end of it.

I thought there had to be a better way, so I disassembled this and regrouped.

Being a bit more systematic

Often when I’m sewing I’ll do a mock up in a similar material. For bags I’ll often use paper, as I have a lot of it around with one or both sides covered in writing or misprinted sewing patterns.

I thought if I could cut some strips to the right width I could assemble the basket, then take it apart to get a rough guide of what I needed to cut.

It looks so orderly laid out like that, though I wish I’d marked the “over” sections of the weave so I could use them as a template for featuring patches or writing.

Next time!

But with having a rough idea of what lengths to cut, I felt more confident having another go.

Inner Tube Construction

I swapped out my clothes pegs for something more suitable working on a form – a spare band of inner tube I’d riveted together for another basket but hadn’t used.

There aren’t any pictures of this assembly either, but it did make a difference in helping me keep everything from just going everywhere.

The other difference to my first attempt was I went one row (?) higher in the weave because I could, and to see how that would change things.

Oh and I did try folding the ends under, but it made everything too bulky and complicated so I just trimmed it off as I had before. That look is growing on me.

Spiral Basket 2

I used the same form and size of inner tube as attempt 1, but this one’s slightly higher (about 14 cm total).

There is another difference I wasn’t expecting, best seen in the top angle below.

Other Angles and Thoughts

Hmm, maybe you can’t really see! The twist is more pronounced, so the top is more closed in than the lower basket. There’s also an issue of a slightly wonky point, which you can definitely see in the picture below.

It curves in more than the others – maybe one of those tubes is a bit too short or long – stretched or given too much slack with all the faffing about I did attempting the initial folded under finish.

Nevermind, it’s still lovely to look at.

Thoughts for Next Time

That second basket made me feel more confident with this style. The idea of making a paper trial for every size of inner tube/basket I want to attempt this with does put me off a little, if only because that would increase the price of the final product.

But I think this style of basket is slightly more limited in the variety of baskets I can make, especially with the forms I have right now.

In my head all the tubes need to be the same width and I need construct it with strips cut in multiples of four. Though I’ll have a play around with some paper to double check. I’ve also seen oblong examples as purses, which I may have to try out as well…eventually.

Although it’s still like a foreign language, I’m starting to grasp bits here and there.

This Blog Going Forwards

We’re finally caught up to where I am with this process! So going forward don’t expect to see the same kind of leaps of style as there have been. Each basket is a unique construction, with its own characteristics and quirks, and in future I’d love to feature more detail of each one I make instead of breezing on through.

I may post a little less frequently or (gasp) write about something besides baskets.

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Fun with Valves

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

Background

Upcycling can be so satisfying, especially when you take something that would otherwise be thrown away and give it a new life as something useful.

But while I love this mindset it can get you into trouble, as it becomes difficult to get rid of ANYTHING. So while I could recycle the valves as they’re brass, I really wanted to think of a way to show them off. Especially as they’re often the only part of the bicycle inner tube people see, so will help with the perpetual problem of people thinking my stuff is made from leather.

Though this sign does help.

For a very long time I tried to be subtle, but that doesn’t often work. This sign has done wonders at markets – moreso than the bicycle wheel just behind it.

But how best to use those valves?

Previous Uses

I’ve toyed around with using valves in the past, making a few cable tidies for a laugh more than anything.

But while I love them on the tidy (and have a few with me for sale at markets), I wanted something that made use of the metal in a unique way. The keychain idea is something I may want to revisit, although I’ve only been able to make one so far – all attempts since have ended with me breaking drill bits.

Thankfully around this time I was making my valet trays, and it occurred to me the valve would be a brilliant place to stack your rings.

But as well as this works, it’s only an option for a small segment of the tubes that get donated to me, as most aren’t the super chunky mountain bike tubes this product needs.

The Seed of an Idea

In my last post, I showed off a basket where I was able to feature the hole where a valve once was. Although it was a death knell for that tube’s use in a bicycle tyre, it was something to cherish and celebrate in its new life as a basket.

But it got me thinking, what if I wove with tubes where the valve was still attached?

I dismissed it for a while as being a bit too mad, but it the idea stayed itching in my brain.

Initial Stumble

Eventually that itch won and I started a mock up of a basket with a valve. This was back before I found the stacking cubes from my last post, and still using my tetrapak milk carton as a form.

As tempting as it was, even I knew a basket with a valve about as long as the basket is wide probably wouldn’t appeal to anyone, so I didn’t pursue it.

Eventually though I came up with a mockup I was happy with.

Valve Basket 1 – Companion Cube

If you’re curious about the name, I showed my sister some pictures after I’d finished it, and she said it reminded her of the cube from the video game Portal. I definitely agree – there’s something about it that’s just cute!

Stats:

  • Size: #7 Stacking Cube, about 12.5 cm each side and 11.5 cm tall
  • Tubes (estimated): I’d say less than 3 full tubes worth of material, but using at least 4 tubes (as I’ve got 4 valves). All 3-3.5 cm wide.
  • Valves: 4 valves – 2 presta, 2 schrader. All 3-3.5 long.
  • Rivets: 21 antique bronze coloured brass. None of the valves are all that shiny, so I went with a more muted colour.
  • Hand Press Presses: 46 (used a couple of washers on the back of where the label attaches)

Assembly was a little trickier than a normal basket, and I ended up drawing on my form to make sure the valves all ended up at more or less the same height. It took extra time and care to get everything to line up but it’s fab so I don’t mind.

More Detail

As there’s only one valve per tube, I had an extra join so I could put two valves on opposite sides from each other. I only did that the once because I wasn’t sure it would work. I’m glad it came together this way, I really like the asymmetric symmetry.

While my brain kept nagging me with the idea of a basket with every possible over weave featuring a valve like some kind of mad porcupine, it takes time to collect that many tubes that are about the same width and stiffness to work together to create a basket.

So my second attempt was only slightly more spiky.

Valve Basket 2 – Sputnik

Sputnik because the vast antenna array – you see more of it in the galleries below.

Stats:

  • Size: #8 stacking box, about 15.5 cm each side and 14 cm tall
  • Tubes: Material from at least 6 tubes, but probably only 3 or slightly less tubes worth of material. Softer inner tubes, all around 4 cm wide.
  • Valves: 6 valves – 4 presta (one missing a core), two schrader. Prestas vary from 4-6cm long, schraders just over 3 cm.
  • Rivets: 25
  • Hand Press Presses: 54 presses (two washers again on the back of the label)

Assembly

It took even more time to put this together than my first attempt, mostly because I didn’t plan ahead. I riveted each pair of valves across from each other without thinking of the overall design, and I got a bit panicked that it was going to look unbalanced.

There was still some rearranging I could do so I sent some pictures to my sister.

Her reply: “Wait, what’s the difference?”

I settled on the first picture above. Ideally I would’ve put a short one opposite a long one on two sides, and kept the two long ones on the other ends. But that was the arrangement I was happiest with given what was already attached.

More Angles & Notes

The big construction difference was that I hid the rivets on the horizonal bands. I kept them on the under part of the weave, as I was worried it would distract from all those valves.

As much as I love it, I do see some areas for improvement with this basket.

  • Although it’s only a difference of at most 1cm, tubes this wide start looking a little wavy with my normal construction style.

The valves are on the inside of the tubes (the hole in the donut), as is most of the writing. So I tend to make my baskets with that inside facing out. But as the tubes get bigger, the difference in diameter between the inside and outside of the tube grows, and can warp how the basket looks.

Looking back on it now, this width of tube may still be useful for baskets, but they would have to be constructed outside out. In fact, these baskets are pliable enough I can turn this inside out, and you can already see an improvement…though it starts looking like some kind of alien mouth on the inside!

The downside would be some of the writing and character might be hidden, but I could make wider baskets with lower sides to improve the chances of it being seen.

  • Another note: while this basket is larger, I’m not sure it’s large enough to balance out those massively long valves.

It might be that I just don’t use those for basketmaking, or maybe it needs to be a really massive basket?

I’m not in a rush to try another with that length of valve anytime soon. Or at least not without a lot of mocking up before I rivet things together.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love this basket, and it definitely gets attention at markets so I’ll keep offering it there…though most people tend to be amused/confused/point out it could be a health and safety hazard.

Next Steps

I’ve paused on valve baskets for the moment, until I collect up enough to play around with properly.

But in the meantime I’m still working on my normal basket weave designs, and toying around with another style of weaving- but more on that next week!