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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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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!