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Inner Tube Skirt – Update 5: Done!

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

Tilly was not amused by my photo shoot

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

Connecting the Strips

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve got two last ideas:

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

Finishing the Hem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last but not least was the waistband.

Cutting & Attaching the Waistband

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

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

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

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

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

The last few touches were the popper and label.

The Finished Skirt

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts & Takeaways

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

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

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

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

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

Pattern Alterations

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cutting the Tubes

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

And here’s the front:

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

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

Next Steps

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

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

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

Next update should be a finished skirt!

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Inner Tube Skirt – Update 3: More Testing!

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

Surely I’ve tested enough already?

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

And here it is:

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

The Fabric

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I rushed through and my skirt now features:

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

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

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

What I Didn’t Get to Practice

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

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

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

The Takeaway & A Timescale Adjustment

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

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

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

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

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Inner Tube Skirt – Update 2: Testing

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

Prepping the Pattern

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

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

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

Sewing The Test Skirt

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

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

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

How did it turn out?

The Final Garment

Ta da!

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

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

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

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

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

Fun with Facings

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

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

Upcycled garments get a Team Sikel tag

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

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Inner Tube Skirt – Update 1: Ideas and Plan

The winner of this month’s challenge

In case you missed it, after last month’s footstool, I put up a poll on Instagram for you guys to pick my creative challenge for May. Clothes for my lower half won! I’ve decided to try a skirt.

I was intentionally vague on the poll as if my primary idea goes wrong, I have an even easier backup (a half apron/tool belt) that will still meet the brief.

You’ll be able to find all of this month’s posts here.

Why a Skirt?

A skirt is a relatively easy sewing project that many people start with on their me made clothing journey. I thought it’d be a good first attempt for sewing inner tube clothes, as I can take a simple sewing pattern and make adjustments to it to fit the needs of inner tube.

I’m going to go with a mini as I often wear them with leggings anyway. Assuming it works, the skirt may make it into a semi-regular rotation. If it doesn’t, it’ll use fewer inner tubes than longer skirt.

I’ve made several skirts before, and they all tend to be upcycles. Here’s one I made from a pair of trousers a few years ago:

Limitations

Sewing inner tube isn’t like working with normal fabrics. While I start with strips, the centre of each strip is longer than the sides. So if I were to create a huge sheet and cut out from it, that fullness would distort the pattern pieces, and I’d have to repeatedly keep cutting, creating a lot of little scrappy waste.

Some other thoughts:

  • Whenever possible I want to create pattern pieces as close as possible to the pieces of inner tube I’ll be using.
  • Inner tube is rather bulky, so I won’t be creating a drawstring or elasticated waist garment. It’ll need to be relatively fitted with some stretch and ease provided from the inner tube itself.
  • That bulkiness also means it doesn’t like to fold neatly – so it won’t be the normal sew the right sides together process of sewing. Instead, I’ll be overlapping strips to construct the pieces and seams.
  • I’ll also need to add a waist stay out of a stable material – that’s a reinforcing piece to prevent fabrics from stretching out. This will help keep some pressure off at the waist, and will hopefully protect my stitching lines.

Plan

My idea is to make a few test skirts out of regular fabric to have a pattern that fits me well. I’ve got a few patterns in my collection that I want to start with:

I really love Peppermint Magazine – they regularly release new patterns as part of their sewing school at low cost (they recommend a donation). They’re a great place to experiment with different styles of garments if you’re just starting out

Both of these would just need to be cropped and maybe minor alterations to the location of darts, but they’re something I’d wear anyway so I’m excited to give them a go. To be honest, I only have one or two minis that fit after some recent weight loss, so it would be good to make some!

Hopefully they’re something I can translate into inner tubes easily.

If these don’t work with tubes, I’ve also considered a gored skirt. Gored skirts are made out of identical panels. The benefit to this is they’re all symmetrical, so it could be easier to construct. BUT:

  • it would also cause a lot of skinny strips of waste, which I wouldn’t be able to easily use on other projects.
  • it’s also more suited to flared skirts, which would be less suited to a mini, and not necessarily work with the level of bulk I’ll have because I’m using inner tubes.

Still, I’ll keep this idea on the back burner though if my initial plan doesn’t work.

Next week I should have some fabric test garments to show you, I’ve even got some fun secondhand fabric to use on the project!