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Winter of Care & Repair

Have you heard of the #WinterOfCareAndRepair2023?

I hadn’t until Jacq (@goodtalkingto) suggested it might be something I was interested in, so I listed to @thepeoplesmending talk about it on the @checkyourthread podcast.

TBH it sounded slightly daunting at first – a challenge that lasts 90ish days. I have a spotty track record for challenges that last a month. But after I listened to the episode I left the idea to percolate for a few days. I thought of a number of things I’ve been neglecting, or things I’d like to do but sometimes find it hard to stir up the motivation – especially at this time of year.

So here we come with the very generous list. Surely I’ll hit at least one?

Between Winter Solstice 2023 and Spring Equinox 2024, I will do at least one of the following every day:

  • mend, tend, repair, care for, or otherwise maintain something I own
  • declutter, deep clean, or otherwise sort out an area of my home/garden
  • work on a creative project for myself
  • get outside for a walk or do some yoga/stretching
  • share my progress in weekly posts

It’s very easy for me to be a hermit, and to prioritise work making over something for myself. I don’t need to do much – maybe some cutting out, pinning, or a few stitches. I also keep putting off tidying up some areas of the garden, and polishing my boots. On days where I’m not feeling up to something like that (or hopefully in addition) I’ll make sure I do some kind of physical activity. I’ll also share it on here, because why not?

I’m hoping the cumulative effect of all my little bits of effort will be a sense of achievement when I look back, or just a boost to my wellbeing.

Today is the winter solstice, but don’t let that stop you from percolating up an idea for yourself over the next few days. It all sounds very much like something to give yourself a little nudge, and not a stick to beat yourself with!

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Inner Tube Tortoise – The Final Tortoise

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, I feel a bit embarrassed about this. I totally dropped the ball in updating about the progress of my tortoise. I think when I realised just how difficult it would be to create what I wanted out of inner tube, it became my priority to get just SOMETHING done to enter into the show to not let my team down.

And by “just get something done” I mean, faff for over a month and the scramble to finish at the last minute.

And thankfully I did finish it!

To backtrack a bit…

I had made several spare shells, and I used one to practice how I’d do the shell design. I thought I’d make the scutes, with a lighter shade between them to mimic the dust that gets trapped in the grooves.

My original was messier to mimic the natural variations on the images I saw, but I ended up going neater on the final piece as I was worried the judges would be pedantic and assume I was just being messy.

I struggled with how to do the face

Before you ask: I have no idea. It wasn’t a grinning face, that was supposed to be his…beak? lips? Well it obviously didn’t turn out the way it did in my mind. The final face is much more subtle.

I also struggled with the wrinkles, and just went with squiggly lines.

How did I score? I got joint second lowest or joint lowest for individual entries. Ha! It turns out this judge prioritised expertise over ambition and originality, and my paper mache wasn’t smooth enough. Oh well. I’ve found a David Shrigley print that more or less sums up with what I have to say to that judge.

I’m not really that bitter about it, I promise. I more find it really funny. But I had a lovely time working with the ladies in the WI, and will be co-taking over the WI Show group next year. Here are both our group entries in progress (missing a few elements). I can’t find the pictures I took of them so I’m going off some images from the WhatsApp group.

And now I know not to take it nearly as seriously as all that, and prioritise enjoying myself (which I did in the end) as there is no objective judgement criteria to work from. It’s all completely out of my control and down to the personal preferences of the judges.

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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!