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Coiled Basket #3: Bigger and Changes in Technique

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

Goals

If you remember from my last post, I had some ideas on how to change or improve my process on this next basket:

  • Make the sides a bit more even – my previous basket has a bit of a waist (for lack of a better word)
  • Change the method I used to pull the strips through – the pliers I use have teeth and I damaged the coiling strips a few times
  • Use a different size tube for the core of the coil – I’d nearly run out of the very narrow ones I was using before

In my head this one was also going to be a bit smaller, hopefully taking less time. If I ever wanted to sell these for my business, I felt I’d need to be able to make them faster (or accept the fact that they’d end up costing hundreds of pounds).

Construction

Given the second two points above, my construction method changed a little bit this time around.

As you see, I only used one inner tube as the core material for my coil instead of the two (narrower) tubes I’d used on the first two.

And instead of the pliers I used for those first two baskets, I switched to a wooden needle I’d carved myself for needlebinding.

The method was similar to that second coiled basket – around the core tube twice before picking up the coil below, and I focused even more on making the sides straighter than before.

I progressed- though it was even slower as the coils were thinner (it didn’t grow as quickly), and the basket ended up being bigger. I worked on this basket from August-November 2020.

For once I wasn’t terrible at documenting my progress. Here are some shots as I went along.

5 working hours in with my hand for scale. I was about 4 inner tubes in at this point, too.

My initial idea that this would be smaller than my previous basket was well out the window, but I was enjoying the process so I didn’t mind.

The needle seemed to be working well at this stage.


7 hours into basket making. Not a huge difference from my previous basket, but that’s because I spent a good chunk of that additional time cutting strips from the wider, stretchier inner tubes I couldn’t use on wallets or samosas.

While I liked using the needle, the movement of using it put a different kind of focused strain on my hand. The repetitive motion caused me to pull a muscle or tendon (or something) that impacted lots of things in my life.

I distinctly remember it hurting to turn on the tap in my kitchen. So at this point I took a break to let myself heal.


11.5 hours into the basket. I abandoned the needle after I developed that pain in my hand, and bought an expensive but well made bent needle nose set of pliers (a link the the manufacturer – not for sale there but you can find it lots of places).

These didn’t have any teeth – the inner tube doesn’t need it, with pressure it grips well enough in the pliers jaws – so hopefully I wouldn’t damage the strips as I was doing before.

It also meant I was using my whole hand in the motion, and not a few little muscles in my fingers, so hopefully I wouldn’t injure myself

To be honest my hand still twinged a bit now and then, which was a little scary but I was still OBSESSED with these baskets so I kept going.


16.5 working hours into the basket (though we’re now into October 2020).

A lot of other things took precedence in the months between this and the previous photo, but thankfully inner tubes don’t go off, so it wasn’t hard for me to pick this up again.


Not sure how far this one was along, but I was close to finishing. Tilly for scale (though she’s a petite cat so I’m not sure it’s much help).

One thing I enjoyed about this style of basket making was I could do it on the comfy seats in the evenings.

As I wasn’t working to a form there was a judgement call about when this basket was actually done. It’s hard to describe but one of those ‘I know it when I see it’ things.

That’s all the in-process photos I have. Curious to see how it turned out?

The Final Basket

Some Stats:

  • Size: 24 cm tall, 23 cm diameter
  • Weight: 2.4 KG
  • Time: About 23 working hours
  • Materials: 20 or so inner tubes (I was bad at keeping track)

Comparison

How did this fit in with the baskets I’d made so far?

Obviously it’s bigger and took more time – both because of the size and the fact there were more layers of coils.

I felt a lot neater this time around, though I can see there it’s not perfectly straight. Let’s be honest, I’m a human not a robot, so it’ll never be perfectly straight.

It’s hard to get a sense of the sizing from those photos – this basket felt massive compared to the previous one. For fun (and maybe because I was going slightly mad) I found an better way to demonstrate.

The first photo is of my previous basket – I’m getting Marge Simpson vibes. But happily (?) this one’s big enough to completely cover my head.

Do ignore the messy shelving.

Moving Forwards

I didn’t feel completely done with round basket making, but having made three I wanted to try a different shape. So I set my sights on:

  • an oblong basket
  • maybe even one with a handle

Sounds simple enough, right? Next post is going to cover three (or nearly three) baskets as I worked out all the kinks with what I thought was going to be an easy progression with this technique.

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Coiled Basket #2: Recycled Recycling Bin

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

Goals

After my first coiled basket, I had a list of improvements for my next one. As a reminder, they were:

  • Don’t let the strips twist when wrapping
  • Cover the core inner tubes as much as possible
  • Pay a bit more attention to the shape and being even on both sides
  • A little bigger

To be honest that second point made me a little uncomfortable: I love featuring the characteristics of the tubes when using them in my products, and this method would completely cover up some wonderful details.

But that seemed to be the style of most coiled baskets I’ve seen, and the materials were still being saved from landfill and used for something useful, so I decided to go with it.

Construction

For something that looks very different, the construction method was very similar to my first coiled basket. I still used two inner tubes as my core material, the same strips, and a pair of pliers to grab and pull the material through the gaps when wrapping. I even went around the core twice before picking up the coil below in the 3rd wrap.

What I did do differently was take my time and make sure to cover that two-inner tube core as much as possible. It took a lot more time, too. Instead of doing it over two days, this took me about a week. To help me sort out the size I used our existing bathroom rubbish bin (though not as a form, just as something to hold it up to to get the proportions.

Oh! I also changed how I swapped between inner tube strips.

At first I tied knots with the ends, then tucked the tails around and under other strips – you can see a few loose tails here I haven’t neatened up.

But a few hours in I thought to try something different: I tucked the end of the new strip into that central core of two inner tubes for a few wraps of the old strip before starting to use it. Then I tucked the old end in for a few wraps to secure. It was a nearly seamless finish, something I’d been striving for after that initial woven basket attempt.

So how did my hard work turn out?

The Basket

Some Stats:

  • Size: 23 cm tall, 21 cm diameter at the rim
  • Materials: Just shy of 20 inner tubes
  • Weight: Just over 2 kg
  • Time: Not sure working hours, but I finished it in just over a week

More Photos and Family Shot

A phrase I will repeat so much when talking about baskets (and my products generally tbh): it took ages but I love how it turned out!

It’s a very different look than the first basket, but they both have their charms. I hate to call these improvements, but you can see how much I’ve progressed.

Here are closeups of the coiling (first then second):

The scale isn’t quite the same between the two photos (the strips are about the same width, though as you can see there is some variation).

Conclusions and Next Steps

Things I loved:

  • The look of this new coiling method – so neat!
  • How many inner tubes these baskets devoured – perfect as I’d been saving the narrow ones for ages while I looked for a good use
  • The sides were more even
  • Great useful size for my recycling

Some things to improve for the next one:

  • A bit more even – the basket has a bit of a waist (for lack of a better word) I didn’t notice until it would’ve been a pain to unravel
  • Change up the method I use to pull the strips through – the pliers I use have teeth and I damaged the coiling strips a few times. As they’re under pressure that might impact its longevity
  • Use a different size tube – I’d nearly run out of the size I was using, this basket used so many!

But I liked this basket so much I thought I’d make another for a similar one. My workspace needed a recycling basket, too.

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My First Coiled Basket

After reading my post last week about baskets, what direction did you think I’d go?

I wanted to try a different style of basket making, one that wouldn’t leave a lot of raw edges that would be difficult to finish off securely. I ended up diving down a rabbit hole that became an obsession and kind of gave me an RSI.

But more on that later. We’ll take it in steps so you get to know these baskets, some of which I spent upwards of 20 hours on. To see all my posts about baskets click here.

The Why

I can’t remember what inspired my first coiled basket. Searching upcycled basket weaving lead me to examples made from second hand fabrics and wool.

But the idea stuck with me. It seemed an ideal use for some of the inner tubes I was struggling to find a use for:

  • Those narrow inner tubes could be the core inner material of the basket
  • The stretchy inner tube that wouldn’t work for my main product line of wallets, samosas, and cable tidies could be cut into strips – those strips would keep the narrow inner tubes together.

I’m always looking for uses for tricky inner tubes, ones that would make the most of their unique characteristics.

This style seemed like a win-win!

Construction

I managed to find a few pictures taken when crafting the piece, but only pretty early on in the process:

As you can see in the upper left corner of that first picture, I folded up two narrow inner tubes to create the coil. Why two? It meant I could swap to a new inner tube without the thickness changing too much – though if you look at the finished pics at the end, there are some areas where I didn’t cover the join especially well.

I used a pair of pliers to pull the strips through, and tied the strips together hiding any tails as I went. I made two wraps around the central core material, and the third wrap picked up the layer below to keep everything together.

At the end I didn’t replace the second narrow tube in the core and it kind of trailed off at the rim.

The Basket

And here it is:

Some not entirely certain stats:

  • Inner tubes used: about 7 (?)
  • Time Taken: Not entirely sure, but it was over 2-3 days
  • Size: 16.5 cm at its widest point, opening about 9.5 cm. 12.5 cm tall.

More Photos & Next Steps

This basket was more a proof of concept – more about speed than anything else.

You can tell I didn’t pay too much attention to whether or not the strips twisted as I went, or the fact that they didn’t cover everything. I wasn’t consistent about whether the folds from that central core of two inner tubes were facing the inside or outside of the basket, and it’s a very…organic shape.

A polite way of saying messy.

That’s not meant to take anything away from the finished product, which I still love and use to store bits and pieces around the house. But I did see some areas for improvement, mostly in terms of neatness:

  • Don’t let the strips twist when wrapping
  • Cover the core inner tubes
  • Pay a bit more attention to the shape and being even on both sides

I had it in my head to make a slightly more open, bigger shape too. Functionality is always first and foremost when I’m making things, so I decided to use my next basket as a recycling bin for my bathroom.

But more on that next week!

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My First Inner Tube Basket

I’ve written in the past about how I make the most of inner tubes, and how I use up scraps. While I touched on how I’ve use the narrow inner tubes to make baskets, I wanted to expand on how I got to the method I’m working on now. This is the first in a series of posts about inner tube baskets. Read them all here.

It all started with this basket:

Some stats:

  • Dimensions: 30cm across, 13 cm tall
  • Material: 11 inner tubes!
  • Finished with: Heavy duty Gutermann thread

I’m getting a little ahead of myself, though.

It REALLY all started with a kind of tube I wasn’t able to use to make my core range of products. The narrow road bike inner tubes, even when cut open, wouldn’t be a useful width. So beyond a few keychains, and the odd strap for a light duty bag, they just built up in my inner tube store.

I’d been thinking about basket weaving with inner tubes for ages before I ever attempted it. I was inspired by baskets made with other unconventional materials, like blinds.

When I finally got up the nerve to try it, I was basically winging it. I collected a bunch of inner tubes that were about the same width and arranged them on the floor. Everything was done freehand without any kind of form for support- to be honest it was a bit frustrating. But I used lots of bulldog clips and patience to get things to stay in place.

The toughest bit was finishing it off. While a lot of traditional basket weaving materials are already stiff, or stiffen as they dry, these inner tubes would always remain a little floppy. I settled on sewing Xes using heavy duty upholstery thread.

Each one is separately tied, and the process very nearly put me off basket making entirely. It took ages and was really tough on my hands, as in some places I was going through 8 layers of inner tube! Thankfully I had a thimble, and just tackled it in stages, in the evenings in front of the telly.

I do really love how it turned out. But I knew if I wanted to do them for my business I needed a better way to put them together. Ideally one without a lot of ends that needed sewing to keep the basket secure and together.

Where is the basket now? I still have it, but I don’t have a photo in situ. Why? It’s storing unphotogenic things in my bathroom.

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Making the Most of the Scraps

I work with materials that might otherwise end up in landfill, like punctured bicycle inner tubes. It only stands to reason I wouldn’t want to waste a scrap.

Larger Lengths

I wrote more about my process in a previous blog post, but depending on their characteristics, the long lengths of those punctured inner tubes become products like my bags, wallets, and coin samosas.

Inner tube is a funny material. It’s curved in two directions and comes to me in random lengths and sizes, depending on what gets donated. It’s very rare that I’m able to use up every last scrap on a design, due to the way they’re constructed.

So what do I do with what’s left over?

Above is my very rough and ready storage system for scraps. It is a bit of a mess, I know. Most pieces are leftover from making products. It also contains some things I’ve taken apart: products that were too wonky even for Super Seconds Saturday.

They sit there until I’m able to find a use for them.

Using Scraps While Making Larger (Or Non-Inner Tube) Things

Where I can I try to use the scraps in my normal making process. The tabs around either end of the zip are often made of smaller scraps from other projects, and I’ll mix and match the pieces for wallets as they all tend to be the same width and amount of stretch.

I’ve used scraps to reinforce around poppers, as flaps over pockets, and even as a grippy helper to pull needles through thick layers.

That grippy nature also helps me use inner tube around my business for other things: I use a strip of inner tube to keep my ruler in place when cutting out coasters.

I also use that strip to open bottles of glue if they get a bit stuck. I’d love to make jar openers out of inner tubes, but the material isn’t food safe so I wouldn’t feel comfortable.

But what about those smaller bits?

Whenever possible I try to turn them into something useful!

Cable Tidies!

Cable tidies are my go-to scrap buster. If the pieces are at least 5-6 cm long in one direction, I can probably turn it into a tidy.

And they’re great for showing off that wear and character that gets left behind on other projects. Just check out some available at the time of writing in the shop:

But what to do with those even smaller scraps?

Storage

Any thin strips of inner tube, where possible, gets turned into rubber bands to help me store more inner tubes! Sometimes I do have scraps that are circular strips, but more often than not I tie them up from longer strips.

I also use any rubber bands we get in on produce. I don’t think I’ll need to buy a rubber band for the rest of my life!

But I’ve still got the chunky little bits of inner tube I can’t tie into bands and are too short for cable tidies. I’d been saving them for ages, waiting for a project, and I’ve finally found a use in a new product!

Valets – Helping use up the unusable

If you’ve been paying attention to my valet trays on social media, you may have noticed there are washers near the rivets.

They’re there to add a little interesting detail, and to make the rivets I use more secure. But did you realise I make them myself? They repurpose those little scraps I can’t do anything else with.

You can see the process clockwise for making 10mm washers I use for the small valets – and it’s basically the same for the 12mm I use on the large ones.

They do take a bit of time, but I’m so happy to remove even more waste from my process. But obviously that’s not the end of the story.

End of the line – a work in progress

As great as the washers are, I’m still left with little circles and wispy remnants from around the washers. I also get little straggly strips from neatening up edges on other projects that are too thin or weak to use as rubber bands.

If I can’t find another use for them, those bits will probably go into stuffing something for myself. I’ve already made a little bolster to prop the door open for my cat to come in and out of the loft.

Believe it or not that bolster is has 1.8kg of inner tube scraps in it. It just swallowed them up. And the exterior of scraps made from fabric scraps of some linings for bags.

I’m always on the lookout for more ideas, though, especially for inner tubes. If you have any, leave a comment below!

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A Very Special Inner Tube – Valets

If you read my last blog post, I talked about the huge variety of inner tubes I get in. Now and then there’s something different that I save for a special project, or cut carefully to preserve an interesting detail. Hopefully this will be the first in a little series of unique makes.

A while back I received two tubes that were wider than anything else I’d ever gotten in. I’m not sure what they were for, maybe a motor bike. Cut open, they were just over 16 cm across. As a comparison, check out the image below.

The top is the narrowest I’ll cut flat (becoming about 8cm wide strips), then largest size I’ll get in regularly (11-12), then the massive tube! I set the two big ones aside, waiting for inspiration to strike.

While the temptation was there to use it as part a of a bag, I thought there had to be something different I could make. These tubes are a bit thicker, so they have a lot of body. Used strategically, the material can hold a shape and structure in an interesting way. The thickness also meant they’d be harder for me to sew, especially as my sewing machine was starting to struggle with inner tubes.

I knew eventually something would come to mind to make the most of its properties.

And then a few months ago, I bought myself a hand press.

I initially picked this up so I didn’t have to set snaps on the kitchen floor (the firmest surface in my house – best place to set them securely). But there are so many different dies, this machine opened up a new range of construction opportunities.

In the past I’d struggled with rivets, but this machine means they set straight every time. And then a use for those wide tubes hit me: a valet! A rivet on each corner would turn them into useful little trays. That shape would make the most of the full width of the tube, as well as my new machine.

I played around with a tester, using my knock-off wonder clips to see if I liked the size and shape.

Not that you can tell by the messy work space above, but it was just so handy for keeping things organised while I was working. I knew it something I wanted to make for Team Sikel. So I did! Just a few at first to test construction methods, to find one I was happy with.

I settled on a construction that used inner tube washers behind each rivet head. I make these myself – it takes time, but makes the final product more secure (and uses up tiny scraps of inner tube, but more on that in another post!).

The downside is that I just have those two wide tubes. After some sales at a little soft launch the valets had at an in person market earlier this year, and a few seconds you may have seen during my Super Seconds Saturday sales, I only have about a dozen to offer in that size when they launch on the 6th November. That is, until I get another wide tube in.

And who knows that will be – the joy and struggle of using reclaimed materials.

But I loved the shape, so I toyed around with a smaller trays in my next largest size – about 10-12 cm across. Those became my small valets – perfect for rings, earrings, or other smaller bits and pieces.

I absolutely love these little trays. I’ve got one next to the sink for when I’m doing the washing up and one in the bathroom for when I take a shower. I even brought one on holiday – it squashed into my wash bag, and was so handy for when I was doing messy things (like a basket weaving workshop) or out on a long hike, where I was paranoid my rings might get lost.

The one above is my favourite. Normally I’d save the patched ones to sell, but this time I kept it for myself!

It’s pleasing when I’m able to find a unique use for a very special tube like those huge ones. And even better when it’s able to inspire another use for other tubes.

If you’d like one for yourself or a gift, do sign up for my mailing list for first dibs on this new range! While they’ll go live to everyone on Saturday 6th November, newsletter subscribers get early access on 5th. I’m debating some other perks, too!

What would you keep in yours? I’d love to know!

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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.