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Making the Most of Inner Tubes

I started my business to help reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. Not only just reuse it, but try to make the most of its unique characteristics and feature any wear from the life it lived before it came to me.

Surely an Inner Tube’s an Inner Tube…right?

Not quite. They’re all (mostly) black, and the ones I use are all made of butyl rubber, but I never know quite what I’m going to get when I collect from the lovely businesses that save inner tubes for me: Senacre Cycles and Zero Waste on Wheels. There’s so much variation in each batch.

They can be very narrow or very wide (though not often as wide as the one below):

And either of those can be for a large or small wheel.

And if that weren’t enough, but the thickness and stretch of each inner tube varies, too!

Combining those ranges of sizes and widths and thicknesses… it’s no surprise that no two products I make are the same. It’s hardly ever as easy as pulling out the first inner tube I see and being able to make whatever I want with it.

Projects to Suit

So making the most of the inner tubes means….what? Coming up with projects that suit those varied qualities.

In the most basic sense, the first divide I make is narrow and wide. The wider ones I cut open for projects like my Wallets, Coin Samosas, and Bags.

The strips aren’t flat, but flat enough to work with in projects like this. For larger items like bags, I have to piece the strips together to make them large enough.

Whenever possible I try to make products from just one inner tube – as I was able to do with the bag above. You can see the blue stripe on all three strips I sewed together (it’s all the way over to the left and top of the piece with the writing on it).

If I mix and match I take a lot of care in choosing inner tubes that are as similar as possible.

Circumference

The smaller circumference of the tyre and rim the tubes are made for, the wavier the strip. Those small ones are really great for coin samosas – you end up with such great volume inside to hold your change.

It can be trouble for bags, though. I once made a little clutch bag from a smaller tube. I loved all the detail and waviness, until I realised it affected how the zip functioned! I kept that one for myself, though, so it’s not as though the inner tube was wasted.

Working with Stretch

And finally there’s stretchiness and thickness. Inner tubes that are thicker are better suited for Samosas and Wallets. That sturdiness holds up well with the snaps. I once made the mistake of using a stretchy tube for a prototype wallet…and then having the tube stretch around and leave the snap where it was!

It happens towards the end of the video below.

Those stretchier ones end up as bags, or were cut into strips for my coiled baskets (more on that below). Now that I’ve stopped making those, I’m using those strips in new projects launching next month.

What about the narrow ones?

Below a certain width, it doesn’t make sense to cut them open. I’ve used them for projects like keychains or my coiled baskets, or even straps for certain bags.

While I’ve stopped making my coiled baskets, I’ve been dabbling with some woven ones. They’re not quite ready to release online, and probably won’t be until next year. Alicia from Zero Waste on Wheels has been kind enough to test a few sizes for me on her van, if you want to spot one in the wild! A few may make an appearance at any in-person markets I do in the lead up to Christmas.

What I love about Inner Tube

Inner tubes are made form butyl rubber, a durable material that’s also used for lining ponds and roofs. It’s got some stretch and grippyness, and can often be treated like leather. It’s such a hard wearing material, it would be a shame to send it to landfill just because it can no longer be repaired for use in a bicycle tyre.

I love the character on the tubes – the lines, the writing, the patches! And I try to feature those on items I make.

When I get a very special tube in – a colour stripe I haven’t seen before, a new brand of inner tube with interesting branding, or a unique size – I often save it for a special project. That was the case for the valet trays I’m releasing next month – but I’ll post more about that soon!

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Upcycled Dress from a Poncho

I’m always on the lookout for easy secondhand wins for sewing when charity shopping. There are a few places where I could, pre-covid, sometimes find lengths of fabric or good quality duvet covers. But if not those, then something with larger panels of fabric often catches my eye. Think larger sizes, gathered skirts, generally something without much tailoring. This poncho was one of those. I forgot to get a good before photo, but found someone selling one on eBay so you can get a sense of what it looked like:

It was viscose, and more or less a rectangle of fabric – no seams, just some hemmed/bound sides around the front opening, neck hole, and sides.

It sat in my to-upcycle collection for at least a year, waiting for the right project. And that finally came as I wanted to make another True Bias Southport dress. I’d worn the ones I made last year sooo much, but they’re now too big and it’s not an easy project to resize. The only problem was that ‘more or less’ part of being a rectangle of fabric.

Pattern Tetris

The important thing when laying out your pattern pieces is to think about the grain of the fabric. Here’s a little article about what that means, but it’s important so the final garment looks like it’s supposed to and doesn’t twist out of shape. So ideally:

  • all pieces would lay along the same grain line.
  • the pattern would mostly go in the same direction – I didn’t want it to look too jarring or draw attention to the fact that it was pieced
  • I wanted a midi dress – about mid calf, so I could feel comfortable wearing it without leggings.

Despite the amount of fabric it took a while to pattern tetris my way into something that made the most of the shape I had. Here’s what I came up with:

I mostly used the cross grain here. And while the gallery above makes it look like a speedy process, it took a while!

I’m really proud of myself for finding this layout. The big winner was splitting the front and back bodice pieces. I know they’re small, but the armhole/neckline area leaves a lot of odd pieces in the fabric when cutting out. Getting those from other areas of the poncho meant I could make the most of what I had.

Ultimately I was able to get nearly all the pieces along the same grainline and with the pattern running in the same direction. The exceptions were the top of the front and back bodice pieces. Rotating those to run the same way as the rest of the dress would’ve shortened the length of the skirt and made it harder to assemble the bias binding (more on that later). And having a different pattern/fabric/etc in that section of a garment isn’t uncommon, so I hoped it wouldn’t look too out of place.

Assembly

Sewing the dress together first meant piecing all the pattern pieces together. I needed to turn 11 pieces into 4 (not counting bias binding or casing here), before I could even start with the normal construction of the dress.

The poncho is made of viscose, which can stretch and fray quite easily, so I decided to flat fell all the seams.

The sides of the original poncho were hemmed with a double fold of fabric, and I used that to my advantage when assembling the pieces. Flat felled seams are one of my favourite finishes – they hide all the raw edges, meaning your work is stronger and lasts longer. Here’s a tutorial, though I’m generally lazy and do all my sewing on the wrong side of the fabric. Most of my stitching was black on black, so if it’s a little wonky you can’t generally tell.

Unfolding those original hems after I cut the pieces meant I had the little flaps I needed to fold over and sew down without having to cut as much (if any) of the seam allowances away. I got the idea from someone on instagram, who mentioned that in commercial sewing patterns, the seam allowances for pattern pieces with flat felled seams are different so the sewists don’t have to spend time or create waste cutting excess fabric away.

It did make lining up the seams a little harder, but I just used lines of chalk on both sides and stuck pins through to make sure they lined up properly. And then used copious copious pins to hold the pieces in place so they didn’t shift.

Bias Binding

One of the last bits to assemble was the bias binding, which I took from the odd bits around the neck hole.

It always amazes me how much bias binding you can get out of what appear to be little scraps of fabric. And although it can take a lot of time, that stuff is so useful for sewing! I’d recommend everyone get at least one of the little tool you can see in the photo on the right if you make any bias binding for yourself. They come in different sizes – buy one you feel comfortable with, and then just use that size tape on your projects as long as it’s close!

Actually Sewing the Dress

The pattern itself is relatively simple, especially when you omit the button placket in the front of the dress. Here are the front and back panels, ready for sewing together. Can you tell where they’ve been pieced? I added lines on the photo to the right approximately where the extra seams are:

The little black blob at the bottom of the photo is Tilly, who decided to ‘help’ me on the photo shoot.

I made one other tweak to the pattern, beyond removing that button placket, and that was to make a casing for elastic in the waistband instead of using a drawstring. While it was on the inside of the garment (so I could’ve used whatever I had that was about the same weight), I was able find more scraps to piece it from leftover pieces of the lower skirt panels and some scraps around the neck hole I didn’t use for binding.

It ended up a little narrower than I would’ve liked, so instead of attaching one edge of the casing when sewing the bodice and skirt together, I tucked the top raw edges into the flat felled seam as I was finishing it. The lower edge was folded over and basted before sewing it to the skirt. Apologies for not having photos, it was a fairly tense operation…made even worse when I tried to thread the elastic through and realised I hadn’t caught the casing (or it frayed) in a few places along the top edge and I had to unpick and re-sew. Next time I’d stay stitch/fold over/or otherwise reinforce that top edge as well. So far it’s held up to a few wears and washes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point I have to replace it.

I also managed to stretch out the neckline while sewing on the bias binding. It’s not too noticeable, unless you sew, but it sticks out a little instead of lying flat.

A small win I had was to use the original hem as my hem on the dress – tbh it wasn’t entirely straight, but isn’t noticeable during wear, and a reminder that the things you buy in shops aren’t perfect either!

The Finished Dress

Ta Da!

I’m really pleased with how it turned out. It’s a super comfy summer dress perfect to throw on when it’s hot out. And I’m really pleased I used up so much of that poncho.

Here’s all the scraps that were left:

Scraps have this amazing ability to look huge, even though there’s really not much there. I promise those are all wonky whispers of fabric that would’ve be useful for anything besides stuffing.

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Bum Bag Zip Replacement

My trusty inner tube bum bag has been in near constant use now for over a year, accompanying me on walks and bike rides and other escapes from being stuck home during a pandemic.

So I was gutted when I broke the zip. It was totally my fault: I stuffed it really full with a wispy plastic bag on top, which got caught in the zip. Instead of taking care I just tried to force it closed/open, whacking a tooth out of place. Soon the zip just came off one side.

I couldn’t just bin the bag. I’d saved the inner tubes that made it from landfill, washed and sewed them up, pairing them with a lining made from a pair of secondhand trousers. It was such a useful thing and meant a lot to me, so I decided to replace that zip.

I’d never done a zip replacement before, but thought of no better time to give it a go. As I’d constructed the bag I knew where it was attached and more or less what would need to be done to put a new one in…I thought.

I definitely learned a lot in this process (translation: some things didn’t go exactly to plan!).

Choosing a New Zip

I love the combination of inner tube and metal teeth, so I rummaged through my stash of secondhand zips for one I liked the looks of. With a lot of repairs you have a big choice: whether to try to hide the repair or show it off. I decided to ask Instagram:

Thankfully you guys chose contrasting. To be honest, I would’ve gone contrasting even if the votes had gone the other way, but it was nice to see nearly everyone agree.

When things break it’s so easy to just toss them in the bin. Repair can sometimes seem like a subversive act. I love highlighting the mends and adjustments I make to garments to make people think.

I did decide to use black thread, though. There was going to be a lot of hand stitching and I’m out of practice so I thought it might turn out a bit rough.

Taking Out The Old

I like to do my mending work in front of the telly in the evening. This time, I had some help removing the old zip from the bag. Tilly decided to keep me company.

It made things so awkward and slightly frustrating, but she’s so tiny I can’t say no! There was a point I did have to set things aside because she got very cute and demanding for a fuss.

Zips are where I start with a lot of bag making, they tend to be really sewn in there as they’re under a lot of stress. So I carefully unpicked the stitching all around the opening. It was attached along each edge – long and short – sewn twice to the lining, and stitched in along the join on the bag’s short edges.

But it didn’t take long to remove, despite Tilly’s ‘help’.

Adding the New Zip

Adding the new zip is where things started to go wrong. For some reason I got it in my head to sew through all the layers at once. Maybe I thought it’d be faster and less hassle?

I was so wrong.

I used a double sided sticky tape (designed for sewing) to attach the zip to all the layers. If I were to do this again, I’d start with the lining only, and then go back and stitch through the exterior as well. This mimics how I sewed the bag together to begin with, so I’m not sure why I went rogue here.

Doing both sides at once meant I needed to keep an eye on a lot of different seams, but it did come together eventually.

While the tape can be frustratingly sticky, it can also shift against the inner tubes. I found it moved as I worked, so I had to undo some stitches periodically. Eventually I also put some sewing clips (a great alternative to pins for inner tubes), which helped a great deal, but there are still some areas where it’s a bit wonky.

All of the seams were resewn by hand. This opening is too small and fiddly to work through on my current machine (at least when the bag is completely assembled), and I wanted to go through the existing holes in the inner tubes to reduce damage – you can see them really well in the photo above. I reassembled with a quick running stitch to get everything in place, and then came back again later to fill in the gaps.

I’m really glad I chose black thread as I somehow managed to turn a straight line wonky, even going through the original holes as much as possible. It’s a talent!

Another downside to doing everything at once was it created a flap of lining. I was worried it might get caught in the zip, so I eventually went back later and did a (more or less) invisible stitch line in red to tack it to the zip tape:

I also reinforced the short edges of the bag with a few lines of stitching through those same holes. That’s probably the part of the bag that’s under the most strain, so I wanted to be sure it wouldn’t come undone.

The End Result & Summary

Despite all the stress I’m so happy to have my bum bag back! I really missed it for the week or two it was out of commission.

I’m so happy I’d chosen a black lined bag for myself, so I was able to use black thread on the repair. Some of my stitching looks ok on the outside, but really dodgy on the inside.

If you’re not the one using it day to day I doubt you’d notice. And it hasn’t impacted the usability of the bag at all. If I ever have to do this again, I’ve learned some valuable lessons I can put to good use doing a better job.

So if you’re thinking about doing this yourself:

  • Decide what look you want: contrasting or matching (matching thread is always a good choice for hand stitching if you’re out of practice)
  • Take your time – Don’t try to do everything at once!
  • Make sure your pins/clips/tape/glue are secure
  • Be proud of you work and the fact that you’re saved something from landfill!
  • Try to ignore any little mistakes, no one will notice them but you!

And if you’re interested in your own bum bag, you can find the rest of my limited stock here. While I love the design, I’m on a pause making any new ones until I get an industrial sewing machine.

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Inner Tube Skirt – Update 5: Done!

This post is part of a creative challenge for May (extended into June) to create a skirt from punctured bicycle inner tubes. You can find all posts in this series here, and all my challenges here.

Tilly was not amused by my photo shoot

I’m SO excited to share this with you. Now that it’s done I can look back on the process fondly and pretend like it wasn’t a whole lot of work, especially towards the end. The hem was so time consuming!

Connecting the Strips

I ended my last blog post having cut all the strips to make up the front and back panels for the skirt. The next step was assembling those panels.

I had some strips leftover from my obsessive period of coiled basket making, which made perfect backings behind the joins so I could zig zag across to connect. Below are the finished – well, sewn together panels. All those straggly threads needed to be tied off by hand, which took a couple of hours in front of the telly.

There were some tricky bits, and I have a few lessons:

  • Remember where you’re putting your zip! I forgot and assembled the back as one piece. Fixing it involved unpicking, which was frustrating but didn’t detract from the final piece as the holes left from the stitching got cut off to expose the zipper teeth.
  • Sewing the front to the back was the most frustrating part as the edges were so curved. It would’ve been easier to save the straightest stitching on the front of the skirt for last. The double sided tape I use doesn’t cooperate sometimes, so for those very curved sections I held the top together with masking tape too, pulling it back as I went.

My machine was not consistent with zig zags for some reason. Sometimes it would be fine, but other times I’d get loads of skipped stitches and have to go back over it again. I’m not sure if it was an issue with thickness, tension, needle, or something else. I tried adjusting everything I could could think of, and nothing fixed it consistently.

It doesn’t replicate on fabric, so inner tube may just be a bit too much for my machine to handle. I want to buy an industrial machine eventually, but I was hoping I could get by with my New Home for a bit longer so I could save more money.

I’ve got two last ideas:

  • Getting my machine serviced – I haven’t used it much, but it must take a lot to sew through inner tube
  • Try a different brand of needle, as I used to not have this issue and that’s the only thing I can think of that I’d switched.

Finishing the Hem

After main skirt was in one piece, I tackled the hem. I really ummed and ahhed about what I’d do- whether to fold it over or just cut it to length (it’s not like it’s going to fray) or back it as I did with the joins in another strip of inner tube.

My main worry was about long term stability. The hem is a point of strain and if I used an inner tube strip my fear was it would be TOO stretchy and more likely to snap the thread while walking or climbing stairs when those seams were under more pressure. Just folding over wouldn’t protect those seams at all, and may stick out weirdly due to the wavy nature of inner tubes.

So I just trimmed everything to the final length and used some black twill tape inside.

The tape does have a little give, but it’s not stretchy so it should protect the bottoms of those seams.

It wasn’t as simple as just stitching that on over the top though. For each join I:

  • Marked just beyond the width of the twill tape
  • Unpicked my stitching to that point
  • Clipped the backing strip of inner tube
  • Redid the stitched by hand using the original holes

Why did I do this? Sudden changes in fabric width can cause tension issues and skipped stitches. Given the issues I’d already had, I didn’t want a wonky hem.

Thankfully all my work paid off and I didn’t have a single skipped stitch!

Last but not least was the waistband.

Cutting & Attaching the Waistband

I saved the waistband until last because I wasn’t sure how I would handle it.

The only quibble I had with my second fabric version of the skirt was the straight waistband. It stood away from a my body a little bit in places – probably not noticeable to anyone but me, but I knew it could be better. A curved waistband, like I had on my upcycled initial test of the pattern, would lie flush but I didn’t have a pattern piece for it.

But inner tube often curves when you cut into it, as the middle in longer than the sides. So I thought as a lazy test I’d just cut it and see what happened:

As it happened, the curve fit my body really well!

Attaching it was another tricky curved seam, but the double sided tape below and making tape above sandwich worked a treat again. I backed this seam with twill tape as well to prevent my joins from splitting.

The last few touches were the popper and label.

The Finished Skirt

Drumroll please: here’s the finished inner tube skirt! Hopefully it’s obvious enough it’s made from bicycle inner tubes, and not just very badly sewn fabric.

The gallery below shows the outside and the inside, front and back:

One of my favourite things when sewing is to make something as neat as possible, inside and out, and I’m really happy with both here. I made sure to put some writing on the strips I used inside – it’s the equivalent of using crazy fabric for your pocket bags: no one else knows it’s there but it brings me joy.

Here’s a little twirl so you can see the skirt in action!

Final Thoughts & Takeaways

This was a ridiculous thing to make with the weather as hot as it’s been. While I’m so proud of the final result, and kind of desperate to wear it out, it’ll have to wait until the temperature cools. Maybe by the time I’m fully vaccinated and feel comfortable doing markets again, the weather will be more cooperative.

The skipped stitches on my machine are frustrating, and part of the reason I’ve put a pause on making larger things out of inner tubes for now. Here’s hoping I can get this machine working again – at least for a new product I’ve got in mind.

I’m giving myself a break from these inner tube challenges for the rest of June, and probably July. While they’re a lot of fun, they do take up a bit of time, and there’s a lot of work I’d like to do on my business and my current (and future) product lines.

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Inner Tube Skirt – Update 4: Pattern Alterations and Cutting the Tubes

This post is part of a creative challenge for May (extended into June) to create a skirt from punctured bicycle inner tubes. You can find all posts in this series here, and my other challenges here.

Pattern Alterations

After the tests I highlighted in my previous posts, I was happy enough to move onto inner tubes. The new material meant a few changes needed to happen to the pattern pieces, though:

  • Remove the seam allowances
  • Determine where the strips would go and how many

Removing seam allowanced was easy, just cutting off 1.5cm all edges that weren’t on the fold. And the skirt was already the perfect length so I left the hem as it was. To preserve the work I’d done on the pattern I made a copy (with some additional length for the hem) in case I wanted another of these out of a normal fabric.

The decide on the strips, I first drew lines down from the darts that were parallel to the grainline on the pattern pieces. Areas left that were too wide for the tubes I had were split up into two or three sections to make them easier to piece. Then it was a simple matter of finding tubes in my stash that were about the right size for each strip.

Because my plan is to butt the tubes up next to one another when joining (as opposed to overlapping them), I needed the tubes just a little wider than the strips so I could trim off the slightly jagged edge I get when opening them up before washing.

It’ll mean a neater finish overall, one that I’m happy to show off in close ups!

Cutting the Tubes

Then I cut the strips as best as I could to match the pattern pieces. Here’s the back:

And here’s the front:

I love that I managed to get some writing and stripes in there. Hopefully it end up as something I can actually wear!

One piece is still to cut: the waistband. There’s part of me that doesn’t think I’ll need it. Another part wants to alter it slightly to be curved so it fits better against my body. It gets attached last anyway, so the delay doesn’t impact anything.

Next Steps

We’re getting to the final stretch: next is assembly!

I fully expect there will be issues when I actually join the tubes together- especially in the length of each strip. Did you notice how wavy the tubes are in the pictures above? That’s because the centre of each strip is longer than the sides – which makes getting a consistent cut really tricky.

I’ll start sewing from the top and will just need to trim when the whole thing is assembled. Depending on how messy it looks, I may put a bottom band on but I haven’t decided.

Next update should be a finished skirt!

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Moustache Trouser Alteration

Sometimes sewing can feel like a super power. It can take something sentimental but unwearable and turn it into something useful again.

I have a few smallish stacks of clothes waiting alterations and mending. I’m determined to make the most of my existing clothes after a recent weight loss:

The alternation pile contains some clothes I’ve made myself and am very proud of, some sentimental pieces, and a few purchased items of clothes I love the fabric of (or otherwise know won’t sell if I donate it). While I have a number of garments I’ll be rehoming responsibly, it would be hard for me to get rid of these.

I finally tackled the first piece yesterday: the pair of moustache trousers you can see poking out towards the bottom of the Alteration pile.

Apologies in advance for a lack of ‘before’ and ‘during’ pictures. I originally thought this was going to be a simple alternation not really worthy of a blog post, then was too in the zone to stop and document. More on that later.

The Story Behind the Moustache Trousers

I bought these trousers while travelling in 2014. I was in Turkey, staying at the home of a British couple for a few weeks to help out on their smallholding. They were a minibus ride from Yalova- the closest city and where we did a weekly shop at a farmer’s market.

I spotted the trousers while on that minibus, hanging up outside of a small shop. I bought a pair despite my lack of Turkish (I think I only picked up the words for coffee, tea, one and ten during my time there). They weren’t especially comfortable from the get go, but I wore them now as then as the viscose was cool in the incredibly hot Turkish June.

They survived with me all this time, and still bring back memories of that trip, so I couldn’t bear to part with them.

A Simple Mend… or not

I picked them as my first alteration as I thought it would be a simple case of just tightening up the elastic in the waistband, as well as repairing the slight bodge job I’d done in mending the trousers a few years ago when the original elastic in the waistband had gone.

Dodgy Prior Mend

I don’t have great pictures of it- but the original elastic was sewn into the front seam, a scrap of it was still there as I’d cut out the elastic around the stitching to make my life a bit easier at the time. I’d also just stitched new elastic in around that seam (the white stitching is visible just above the finger on the left), creating a casing just as big as the elastic I was inserting.

All I wanted to do was make proper casing and hopefully reuse that elastic.

Thankfully I was able to, but when testing out how much to tighten up the elastic, I realised the trousers weren’t comfortable at all. Further investigation led to a dodgy crotch curve. It’s hard for me to explain because I’ve only made a few pairs of trousers that fit well – but I think this comparison might help:

The shape the seam is where your pelvis goes. Basically these moustache trousers left no room for my bum. I either got a massive wedgie wearing them (in GBSB terminology: hungry bum) or couldn’t walk properly because I had to wear them so low.

This picture of me wearing them might help- the waistband should be level:

Not shown: the massive wedgie these trousers gave me

I could try and fix the problem or use the fabric with a new pattern. Alteration was the easiest option so I dug through my stash of scraps and went ahead with the only spare viscose I had on hand: a blue and white striped dress that was a bit too worn to donate to a charity shop. I figured I could get a scrap of tan viscose at some point to make the mend more subtle the next time I was in a charity or fabric shop, already knowing the shape/size patch I needed from this test.

I opened up the inseam from the crotch to about level with my knee on both legs, and then roughly measured the gap in the crotch seam that needed filling to make the waistband level again. Then I put the trousers on my work table and traced around the triangular space created when I made that same length gap in the seam. Last step was sewing in patches from the stripey dress.

Or – look what I added in this pic:

Was this going to work? No idea, but I figured at worst I could sew it back up the way it was.

The End Result

Hooray! It worked, and it wasn’t even that noticeable during normal wear. And while the thought that I could swap it out at some point convinced me to give it a go, now that it’s there, I’m going to keep the stripes. I love it. I’d even wear the trousers outside with a big ol’ badge that says ‘ Ask me about my stripey gusset!’

I tried explaining what I did to my husband but he had no idea what I was talking about. He commented though that he’s not sure he’s ever seen me happier. Hyperbole: for sure. But I won’t deny how good it felt to know I fixed these! They’re not perfect by any means, but an elastic waistband and loose drapey fabric hide so many sins.

And it reminded me of another power of mending: it adds to the history of the piece. By the time it’s no longer wearable, I’ll probably be able to write a book about this pair of moustache trousers.

Here’s a little twirl:

If I look a little groggy in that picture it’s because I woke up about 20 mins before! I wanted to get the video before I forgot.

There’s still lots more that needs alteration, and next time I’ll do my best to get before and during pictures!

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Inner Tube Skirt – Update 3: More Testing!

This post is part of a creative challenge for May to create a skirt from punctured bicycle inner tubes. You can find all posts in this series here, and my other challenges here.

Surely I’ve tested enough already?

No! As I mentioned in my last post, I’d made so many little tweaks to the pattern to make it fit the skirt I upcycled, I decided to make another test to be certain it would work.

And here it is:

I’m honestly not sure why I turn into some kind of dancing clockwork person, but I love how Tilly barges in at the end in the lower right corner so it’s the winning take!

The Fabric

Before I go into more details about the finished skirt, I want to talk about this fabric.

I absolutely love it. I found it back in 2019 at a charity shop in Ashford – in fact, the same day I found the rainblow Dinosaurs at the centre of this weekend launch! It was a good day of shopping. Looking through my photo archive, I even found the original photos I took of the fabric:

When I go charity shopping, I’m on the lookout for stuff for myself, my business, and my sister-in-law Jacq, who’s behind the fabulous A Good Talking To (which specialises in replacements for single use items made with second hand and remnant fabrics). I’m constantly asking her opinion on interesting things I’ve found and things she may be able to use.

This fabric caught my eye because of the amazing design. Most anything featuring that wonderful mustard colour is already halfway in my shopping cart.

The length really sold it to me, though. Yes, that’s 63 x 310 INCHES, meaning about 787 cm of fabric that’s also nearly 10″ wider than the standard fabric widths found in most shops. At just over £1 a metre, it would be a crime not to pick it up, even though I had no idea what I was going to do with it.

Thankfully it’s cotton (burn tests are useful for figuring out fabric content), but it was probably meant for curtains given the length and the fact that it’s on the stiff side.

But there are some clothing patterns where that structure isn’t a bad thing, and a slim skirt like this is one of them.

The Skirt – A Lesson in How NOT to Place a Pattern

I knew I wasn’t going to pattern match, so I didn’t pay that much attention to what went where. But I should’ve realised that with a very large, graphic print like this, it’s important to know where things will sit so you don’t put something in an awkward place.

You also want to make sure it’s not close – it’s got to be deliberately not matched.

But I rushed through and my skirt now features:

  • Front: a handy arrow on the front at the hem that points up to my crotch (this could’ve been much worse to be fair)
  • Side: an awkward repeat
  • Back: a grid that centres squarely on the middle of my bum. Better yet, that intersection is a few mm off!

But all that being said, I still love it and will wear it regardless. You see much worse things in shops. I’m especially proud of how neat the inside is, so even stuck a Team Sikel label in there:

French seams and binding (and an overcast around the zip)

What I Didn’t Get to Practice

One thing I was hoping to attempt this time around was an exposed zip, which I want to have in the final make. The construction would be different here, but I’d at least see how it’d look.

I did not read my trusty Reader’s Digest Guide to Sewing before cutting out my fabric though (really worth picking up if you find one in a charity shop – it covers so many things!). The very first line in the exposed zipper instructions is: “The exposed zipper can be applied only where there is no seam.”

Oh well. The centre back seam meant I went with an invisible zip, which is fine for this test. I’ll still go ahead with the exposed for the final!

The Takeaway & A Timescale Adjustment

I’m pleased with how this skirt looks on me, and am happy to keep going on with the pattern as is. It will need a bit of tweaking to work with inner tubes, but I don’t need to do any more tests.

What I have realised is I’ve given myself too much to do this month. The Fri-Yay surprise launch this Friday has occupied the time I’d normally be doing a lot of other things (such as sewing for myself and working on random creative projects like this). And if I were to forge ahead with my current end of May deadline:

  • I probably wouldn’t make the deadline
  • I wouldn’t enjoy the process
  • I’d probably make mistakes and waste materials

So I’m giving myself a break. I’ll finish the skirt by Mid-June. It was only going to be for me anyway, and it’s important I do it as well as I can and learn throughout the process.

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Findings (aka the Metal Bits)

Ahead of Indie Roller Fri-Yay and the launch of my upcycled dinosaur earring range on May 28th, I wanted to share some of the decisions I make while creating my earrings. One of the big ones is around earrings findings: aka the metal bits.

It’s not as simple as just buying anything!

Legal Obligations

Did you know there are laws for anyone in the UK who makes jewellery? Besides the usual Trading Standards, jewellery makers have a specific set of regulations they need to follow for findings. If you’re interested in the nitty gritty check out this article.

One of the main takeaways is businesses need to know about the metal they’re using for their jewellery, especially in things like earring posts and hooks that have prolonged direct contact with the skin. Nickel, Cadmium, and Lead are the main metals of concern. Cadmium and Lead are toxic and not allowed. Nickel is allowed, but only in certain amounts.

Part of me would LOVE to use second hand hooks and metal findings for my earrings – Team Sikel is all about reducing waste. But if I did, I wouldn’t know the metal content. Not only would that probably be against the law, it would also be restrictive for customers who have allergies or sensitivities. I want my earrings to be inclusive.

I would also worry about the durability of the final pieces. Choosing quality hooks and findings means the earrings I make will last as long as possible.

My Choices

My earrings are made with one of three hook options (Left to Right above):

  • Surgical Steel
  • Silver Plate
  • Gold Plate

I get the hooks get from one of two suppliers: Cookson Gold or Beads Unlimited.

When I originally searched for earring findings, I was tempted with some cheaper options. But after ordering and seeing the poor quality of the hooks and posts, I knew it was worth going with more established brands that have better standards and accountability if things go wrong.

Thankfully it’s easy to find quality jump rings and eye screws from other suppliers, so I tend to shop around there.

Surgical Steel

This is my go to choice for earring findings. It’s easy to maintain (no worries about tarnishing!) and has a subtle look that doesn’t distract from the quirky toys I use. I get these findings from Cookson Gold.

While they meet the legal standards for metals in jewellery, surgical steel does contain some nickel, and so wouldn’t be a good choice for people sensitive to that metal.

Silver & Gold Plate

I like to give these as options on some earrings for a number of reasons:

  • For those with a nickel allergy. Beads unlimited put their gold and silver plate over brass that’s nickel, lead and cadmium free. When I asked Cookson Gold about the metal content under their silver plate, they would only confirm that it meets the legal requirements for nickel.
  • Sometimes the items I’m upcycling (like my upcycled Christmas baubles) already have some gold or silver coloured areas and I want it to match.
  • Or I just think the pieces would look better with gold or silver.

This option does have some drawbacks, namely that the silver can tarnish and the plating could wear off over time, but I choose plate over solid gold and silver to make them comparably affordable with my surgical steel jewellery.

The Trouble with Choice

I love being able to give people options, but sometimes it causes problems. There are two things to keep in mind:

  • My earrings are often one of a kind.
  • Sometimes thing can go wrong: toys or metal can break, drill bits can get stuck, holes can get drilled in the wrong spot, etc.

I don’t want to have someone pay for something that I’m unable to deliver. It would be mortifying for me and really frustrating for the customer.

So I normally make things ahead of time, and make a choice on metals depending on what I’ve got and my personal preference in how it looks.

This is especially the case for when I do in-person markets, as I don’t have time to make them to order then and there. And I don’t often have multiples of the same toys to make some of each.

My Offer for the Fri-Yay 28th May Launch

For my Fri-Yay Surprise Dinosaur earrings, I’m going out of my comfort zone and giving you guys a choice.

When you place your order, you’ll be able to choose between silver plate and surgical steel. While all the pieces will be pre-drilled, they will be assembled to order.

You’re going to have to bear with me that it might take a little longer for your earrings to arrive. And there’s an incredibly slim chance that things might go wrong. But given my experience working with these toys so far, they shouldn’t (knock on wood). But know if they do I’ll be in contact ASAP – you’ll get a full refund or an alternative (if available) and a discount code towards a future purchase as an apology.

Any Questions?

I’m always happy to answer. Comment here, email me, or DM me on Instagram.

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Inner Tube Skirt – Update 2: Testing

This post is part of a creative challenge for May to create a skirt from punctured bicycle inner tubes. You can find all posts in this series here, and my other challenges here.

Prepping the Pattern

Before creating the skirt out of inner tubes, I needed a pattern to work from. The skirt in my head is a mini, which I often buy secondhand but have never made for myself. In my last post I mentioned two promising patterns to hack from Peppermint Magazine’s Sewing School: the Wool Pencil Skirt and the Wrap Skirt. These patterns are PDF and can either be printed out in letter/A4 or sent out to a copy shop or printing service for a larger format.

While I was initially leaning towards the wrap skirt, after seeing the pattern pieces in front of me I thought the Pencil Skirt would work better with inner tubes. So I started with that, though as always I made a few changes to the pattern:

  • Cropped about 6 inches off, front and back. Didn’t measure, just held it against my body and guessed tbh
  • Removed the slight taper
  • Graded between sizes: cut out the size 12 but added 0.5cm to the front and the back centre of the main pieces (and 2 cm to the waistband) so they would match my measurements.

Sewing The Test Skirt

While I thought this pattern would work for the inner tubes, it’s always good to make a test garment before using your proper fabric. To make my project even more eco friendly, I decided to use secondhand clothing to make my test. I event had the perfect skirt to start with, which was far too big on me:

I loved the colour, the corduroy, and the buttons running down the front. One of my favourite things to do when upcycling secondhand clothes is to reuse as many of the features from the original garment as possible. Besides the buttons, I decided to reuse the waistband and the front pockets.

I mostly made this while on the phone handsfree with my parents, running around between my sewing machine in the loft, the iron in the bedroom, and the cutting mat on the dining room table. You can understand why I have no in-progress photos.

How did it turn out?

The Final Garment

Ta da!

I’m so pleased! As hoped I was able to keep a lot of the elements from the original:

I didn’t have matching thread, so I used a brown…which doesn’t stand out too much. So while I did flat felled seams on the sides, I avoided top stitching the pockets and the waistband, and even hand blind stitched the hem.

There is one unintentional remnant from the ‘before’ skirt: You can see a ‘shadow’ on the back from the original pockets.

I don’t think it’s too noticeable while I’m wearing it, but I’m hoping it’ll become a little less visible after a wash. The original back had a yoke, which didn’t work with the new pattern, so I wasn’t able to keep those pockets where they were. I’m debating whether or not to add them to the back now. I’ll wear it once or twice before to see if I really need them- it might make the skirt look a little too casual. It’s kind of dressy as it is.

It also ended up just long enough. So instead of folding over the hem, I used some scraps of a yarn-dyed cotton in my stash I really love.

Fun with Facings

That little facing trick is something you can easily do at home to lengthen something you’ve bought as well…though there might be some slight colour variation on the bit that’s been folded under.

And last but not least, I added a cheeky Team Sikel tag:

Upcycled garments get a Team Sikel tag

And while I absolutely love this, I’m going to make a second to get a feel for how the back zip works, and to ensure the fit is there before I start on the inner tube version. There were so many little on the fly tweaks to make the features of the original skirt work. After some recent weight loss I could use a few more skirts in my closet anyway.

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Indie Roller Fri-Yay Surprise

Indie Roller Fri-Yay Surprise

I’m so excited to be taking part in Indie Roller’s Fry-Yay Surprise launch event. Part of the joy is everyone’s taking part a little bit differently. Read on to find out more about the event and what I’ll be offering.

What is Indie Roller Fri-Yay Surprise?

The Fri-Yay Surprise is a launch pad for experimentation. Indie Roller members taking part will create one new product or service to all launch on the same day. The goal is to reach outside our comfort zones, try to new things, and share the fun messy middle of our creative process.

Throughout the rest of May I’ll walk you through a product start to finish. You’ll learn about where I source my materials, the decisions I make along the way, and more about the why and the how.

I even want to bring YOU into the process as well. At key points I’ll be asking for your opinions on which direction I should go.

So join in the fun, I hope you’re looking forward to this as much as I am (though TBH it’s a little scary… in a good way).

What will Team Sikel be offering?

I’ll be releasing a VERY limited range of upcycled toy dinosaur earrings – or hope to be. I haven’t made them yet and they may not all pan out.

There are some brightly coloured, slightly pliable dinosaurs that are completely new to me. I have made a few of the more ‘realistic’ ones before (mostly for myself), but not these varieties. Here are a sampling:

What could possibly go wrong?

  • They could not sit level: not always necessary, but something like those diplodocus/brontosaurus (the long necked ones) would look very odd if they’re tilted forward or back.
  • They could eat my drill bits: this is mostly an issue with more rigid plastics, but I haven’t made earrings from something similar to this before. Who knows how it’ll react to the heat generated by the drill bit?
  • They could easily pull off the eye screws: especially those single-coloured dinosaurs that are a bit pliable. I want my earrings to last, so I’ll have to do a little testing before I put them out there and potentially think of a different hanging method.
  • They might not be comfortable they could be too awkward or heavy to wear.

So get ready to learn about what goes in to making these pre-loved toys into the quirky earrings available in my shop.

Assuming all goes to plan, if you sign up to my new newsletter, you’ll get extra perks on launch day. More info about that closer to the time.

How do I follow along?

All my updates will be on Instagram, so follow me there. I’ll have grid updates, stories, reels, and even a live or two.

To see everyone taking part, check out the #IndieRollerFriYay hashtag.

And if you’re interested in my products or process, or that special launch day offer, sign up for my newsletter.