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Coiled Baskets #4-6: Trials in Oblong

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

Goal

After finally finishing my massive recycling basket I decided to try an oblong shape, and because I was feeling keen I wanted to try adding handles, too.

Sounds simple enough, right? Think again!

Coiled Basket #4

Trouble from the Start

This shape proved tricky from the get-go – though my initial issues were of my own making. For some reason I thought I’d wrapped around my core inner tube three times before picking up the coil below, but I realised pretty quickly that ratio turned gappy.

At that moment in the process I couldn’t face unwinding everything: there’s no easy way to take it apart without cutting the strips to bits. So instead I started a second attempt – this time using my tried and true two wraps around the core before picking up the coil below.

Also – there was part of me that thought the gaps were caused by the oblong shape itself, and I didn’t want to spend time taking something apart if it happened again. Keeping the first would give me something to compare the second attempt to.

Can you tell how much better the second one (the one on the left) is? To me it’s obvious but then I’ve stared at these baskets for hours and hours.

Sorting that out meant I was able to continue on with construction.

Handles

Inner tubes have one big difference to more traditional basket weaving materials like willow: they always stay stretchy/flexible. Those more natural materials are soaked before being worked with, but firm up as they dry.

Even other coiled baskets are made with rope and other fibres that don’t stretch. So while many different types of basket handles came up on Pinterest and Google image search, I never felt like they’d work with what I was doing. Or they might look nice, but not be functional or long-lasting. Especially if you put something heavy in the basket: the whole basket might just stretch out when you picked it up.

I decided to integrate a second, sturdy reclaimed material into my process: webbing harvested from a bag I’d made a few years ago.

The idea in my head was to leave gaps in the coiling (i.e. leave a wider gap between points where I pick up the coil below) and weave some webbing through those spaces. The webbing would go under the basket as well, supporting the weight so it wouldn’t stretch the basket out.

All my planning sketches were on the backs of envelopes which have since been recycled, but you see this kind of thing on duffle bags:

Obviously there are some differences – I wouldn’t just be attaching it to the outside, it would be woven into the structure – but as above there wouldn’t be a single stress point where the handles attached. The webbing would support the inner tube and take the weight of what was inside.

That was the theory at least. My attempt didn’t turn out looking like what was in my head.

I wasn’t happy with how this looked: it reminded me too much of my initial failed attempts at this style of basket, I wasn’t able to get the openings consistent enough, and it just looked sloppy.

Looking back on it now, maybe if I’d integrated the handles in lower and left more space between coils where I wove the inner tube through it would’ve looked better. But to be honest it wasn’t the only issue here. There was something fundamentally off about this basket I needed to correct before I even considered adding handles.

So I undid to before where I added the gaps, and tried to address the bigger problem.

The Twist

From the start, this basket wanted to twist. Here’s the earliest picture in the process I could find – you can see how warped it is:

My working assumption was that it would get better as the basket grew, and at some magic point would go away entirely. Believe it or not, it was even worse on the very first coil around, and seemed to get incrementally better as I added layers of coils.

So at every opportunity I’d manipulate it back to being as flat as I could, but it never really went away. You can see it with the finished basket.

Coiled Basket #4

Some stats:

  • Size: 12 cm tall x 17cm wide x 26cm long
  • Weight: 973g
  • Time: Approx 8 hours
  • Materials: 6ish tubes

It’s a perfectly usable basket, but not what I wanted. It does rock a bit, even when full. Some people might even like this look as it’s a bit different, but it wasn’t what I was after.

But how to move forward?

I had a few theories:

  • The twist was caused in that first coil around. If I could find a way to stop that, it would never develop.
  • The twist was caused by the construction method. The inner tube is flexible and the wrapping itself or direction of coiling was causing the twist.
  • Or both of the above.

The first one was the easiest to correct, so I went ahead with that.

Coiled Basket #5: Attempt in Bracing

I used a wooden dowel from a toy I’d partially dismantled to use as an earring display. The dowel was wrapped in inner tube strips before coiling a tube around that support as normal. At first it worked:

But the further I got from the dowel, the twist grew. As I didn’t need another twisty basket, I abandoned it soon after this, and just left it as a twisted tray.

Coiled Basket #5 Tray

Stats:

  • Size: 33 cm x 10.5 cm wide, 4cm high in the middle
  • Weight: 435g
  • Time: Approx 3.5 hrs but I was bad at time keeping
  • Materials: 3ish tubes

It wasn’t all bad, though. The dowel made this tray much sturdier than it would’ve been otherwise. If I found a way to fix the twist, I could use the dowel in addition to give longer baskets more structure.

Moving Forward

As the bracing didn’t work, I moved down to my second theory – that something in the construction method itself was causing the twist. Fixing that was a bit trickier, but I borrowed a technique from crochet in the hopes I could make it work.

Basket #6: Two Coil Method

Construction

Coiled basket making reminded me a little of crochet in that there was only one active point. It meant when I wanted to stop I just had to tie up that end point, and the rest of the basket wouldn’t unravel. This is opposed to something like a standard basket weave or knitting, where you’ve got lots of ends on the go at once.

Now and then while crocheting I start two colours at once to create a stripe without having to switch colours, like a barber pole. Check out this tutorial from Shiny Happy World if you can’t quite picture what I’m on about:

If the twist was caused by the wrapping, then in theory I could start a basket with two inner tube coils: one always wrapping the inner tube away from me over the top of the coil and the other always wrapping the inner tube towards me. The two twists would cancel each other out.

In theory.

So that’s what I tried:

And as you can see – it worked! Even from very early on, I didn’t get the extreme twisting I had with my first oblong basket attempt. I’ve included both pictures above as it’s easier to see the two coils (and two active points in the basket) in the second image. Here’s a picture from the side:

I was so excited to have finally figured it out and did my best to speed through construction.

While I was hoping changing up the wrapping direction would give my muscles a break (as the pain in my hand/arm I’d experienced before came back now and then and I often had to stop for a day or two to recover between sessions), it really only succeeded in knackering them more thoroughly.

Why was it so tough? If you’re curious how I constructed the basket, I managed to take a few detailed process photos so you can see why.

Coiling an Inner Tube Basket

Coiling these baskets was knackering process, so don’t try this at home. Maybe if I’d done a “proper” basket weaving class with something like willow before I started this obsession, I could’ve built better technique into my process from the start. But this is what I was doing.

Wrapping strips around the core inner tube was easy enough. I rolled up the whole inner tube I was using as a coil (kind of folded it in thirds) and used my left hand to keep that together. Notice how tightly I have to hold it – the tip of my left index finger is going white.

My right hand controlled the strips and wrapped them around that core material.

Even between wrapping I had to keep a firm grip on the active point of the basket. The strips were at tension, so if I let go it would loosen up at a minimum to the point I last wrapped around the coil below, but probably more.

This was kind of an organic process, so sometimes I’d need to pick up the coil below at the same point I’d done that on the previous coil. It’s a judgement call which way to go.

I used a pair of bent needle nose pliers (you can see them towards the bottom of the picture) to poke through a gap below the previous coil, grab a section of the inner tube strip a few inches along, and then pull it through.

I was careful not to twist the strip.

Then while holding the strip in place at the top, I’d pull the rest of the strip through. This picture I think is the very end of that process, right before I was about to wrap twice around that core inner tube again.

Because the inner tube is stretchy and grippy it took a lot of effort to pull the strip through. Lots of repetitive motions without giving yourself lots of breaks is a recipe for an RSI.

In the time since this picture I’ve done that willow basket weaving class, and have learned there are tools to help keep the gap open between coils and remove some of the effort of pulling the strip through the gap. It wouldn’t have eliminated the chance of hurting myself like I did, but it would’ve made things easier and quicker.

Oh well.

But I kept that method up throughout, always wrapping one coil’s strips away from me, the other’s towards me, until I reached a size I liked.

Coiled Basket #6

Stats:

  • Size: 23 cm long, 16 cm wide, 19 cm tall
  • Weight 775g
  • Time: 6.5ish hours over two weeks
  • Materials: 7ish inner tubes

More Photos and Comparisons

I was so chuffed how this basket turned out, it looks great from any angle.

The new technique created a slightly different ‘look’ to the basket – do you notice the difference between the two photos below?

There’s always going to be some variation in the slant of the wraps that pick up the previous coil in the basket (as I’m not a machine and my strips are different widths), but having two different directions of wrapping gives a slightly irregular appearance to the finish of the basket. I honestly don’t mind, but it might have been something I played around with in future baskets.

And how did it compare with my previous oblong basket? Tilly does like a photobomb.

At first glance they may look the same from above, but the one on the right has the twist. Look how slanted the sides look in comparison to the central line where I started the basket. It’s nearly \ | \.

I finished this basket in April 2021, so obviously I had to do an Easter picture:

Next Steps

I had a few more ideas for these baskets. I thought I’d go back to the round shape, and maybe have a go at smaller ones that would be a lower price if I eventually sold them (as they would take less time).

I wanted to try colour work and be more sure of their longevity: I even went as far as getting a tester lined up. While the ones I’d made over the past year+ were still going strong they largely stayed in one place. I needed someone who would move it around a lot and give it a bit of abuse.

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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.