This post in part of a series where I try to make a Galapagos tortoise out of inner tubes. Find all the posts here.
This project is definitely not out of the woods yet, but the “Is This Possible?”-o-meter has swung back towards yes. At least in paper mache or clay.
To be perfectly honest, after my last post I procrastinated…a lot. Much of that was due to a deadline for a submission I was working on (more on that if I get selected). But mostly I wasn’t finding it fun.
Sometimes it takes a bit of a nudge to get me over the hump so I start and find something I enjoy. And in this case that nudge was the lady organising our entries getting in touch to say we had a meeting Tuesday the 6th to discuss our progress so far.
I felt like I needed SOMETHING to show besides five paper mache shells and a pinterest board.
I needed to translate my 2D screenshots into a 3D image. I decided to use maths.
I had the handy 360 view of Lonesome George from the AMNH to work from, and I’d taken screenshots and printed out Front, Side, and Back views. I took measurements but was finding it hard to visualise how to combine all those measurements to make sense.
In the end I used this method, hoping to find the distance between the two points:
Does that picture make sense? I ran it past my husband and he said he got what I was on about, so that’s probably good?
Basically I used my quilting ruler to made a grid on top of the screenshots, then measured Lengths and Heights from each applicable view. Then it was a matter of plugging into google’s hypotenuse calculator to get my measurements.
The paper mache shell was double the measurements on the screenshots, so I doubled all my final results. It’s all in this handy spreadsheet:
Which then translated into this diagram:
I followed the instructions on the video, but added extra wires to support the angles of the legs and backbone, as they kept wanting to twist.
So instead of just Left legs / Spine / Right Legs, I also attached separate front legs and back legs wires, AND wires that went from each front leg up part of the neck.
But when I held on the shell…the armature looked a little too big. Still not sure why that happened TBH. I probably doubled at the wrong point.
If I held the back of the shell where I wanted it to be, the join of the front legs was about 3cm further forward than it should be. Proportionally it seemed alright, so I just shrunk everything down by 33% so my 130mm backbone measurement became 100mm.
Here are the updated spreadsheet and diagram.
You following so far? Good.
Assembly Try 2
I followed the same method as the first time, as it turned out really solid. And I’m pleased to say it looked MUCH better.
Funnily enough, if you looked at my last post’s horrible attempt at an armature, it’s basically the same size as my 2nd go. So that rough wire sketch didn’t end up being pointless after all.
I even added a little wire just to hold the shell on for the ladies at the WI meeting to see. I’ll add more wire to create a basic shape for the shell to rest on…and pad with newspaper.
Next up is to make a couple more of these – I’m thinking 2 more. This first one will be for paper mache, the second for (hopefully) inner tube, and the third as a backup…or to try with clay if the paper mache doesn’t go quite to plan.
This method was designed for clay, so it’s possible I could struggle getting the paper padding to stay put. But I think with enough masking tape anything is possible.
Comparing to my paper mache tortoise shells, the length and width seem like the right proportions…though the height is a bit short. Not the worst thing, as I was worried about getting the scutes right in inner tubes anyway.
What I’ll do is make measurements on the photo, scale those up to the proportions of my shell, and create a better armature out of wire. That sounds straightforward, but I can foresee some hiccoughs.
I’m held up as I need thin wire to bind up my thicker stuff, and have been carless or tending to a sick husband, so I’ve not been able to make the trip to Shrewsbury to get it. Hopefully tomorrow I can pick that up and all the refills I need!
But I’m not at all confident the wire will work, so I’ve found another method that looks promising if I need to start completely from scratch.
But as that would mean abandoning my shells, I’ll wait until I’m sure the wire armature doesn’t work.
This post in part of a series where I try to make a Galapagos tortoise out of inner tubes. Find all the posts here.
We left off the last post with a few ideas of how to tackle construction. Crucially I want a model to work off of, like a dress form.
Deciding on a Reference
While looking for reference photographs I realised how little preliminary research I’d done on the Galapagos tortoise. Some of it is very obvious if you know anything about the Galapagos: it’s renown for the variety of species that developed across the various islands. So yes, each island has its own tortoise subspecies, but to boil it down for simplicity, there are two distinct shell shapes: dome and saddleback.
As I mentioned in my last post, I really doubt the judges will be looking for anatomical accuracy. Or for that matter notice if I used a Galapagos tortoise versus any other sort of tortoise. But it does matter to me. I was already leaning towards saddleback as they can have that great upright stance I mentioned in my previous post. But what clinched it was finding a specific tortoise with a huge number of reference photos to work from: Lonesome George.
You may have seen him in the news: the last known Pinta Island saddleback tortoise. Found in 1972, conservationists were looking for a mate for him for decades. Sadly he passed away in 2012 without having any offspring, and his subspecies is currently extinct.
In addition to all the videos and photos while he was alive, George was taxidermied after he died. There’s a video about it and and a 360 degree view of him on the American Museum of Natural History website. The latter of which is ideal for trying to make a model: I can scrub along the timeline and stop at any angle.
Making the Shell
As it happened we went camping recently, and while digging through the bin of camping supplies I noticed one of our enamel bowls had gone rusty in a few places. But there was a definite upside: it became the basis of my tortoise shell shape.
I used my bowl, paper I saved from parcels, and masking tape to create a basic form, but as it was still a bit squishy I decided a paper mache cover would be best for longevity.
My first was successful but slapdash and a bit thin in places. So I’ve been very systematic covering the rest. At least 5 layers, sometimes six.
Here’s a video of making a good one. As you can see, I put layers in 4 different directions to hopefully give a plywood-like strength to the final piece.
The paste was just a mix of flour and water – starting out in equal proportions, then more water added to thin it out. Whatever I tried, the flour always settled on the bottom, giving my later layers especially gloopy glue. Doesn’t seem to impact the final product, though.
I’ve already made several, and have at least one more in me. Before starting each paper mache cover, I put a layer of compostable clingfilm loosely on my form. Loose so it doesn’t impact the details coming through.
I’m pleased with the results, but they’re really just the beginning. Here’s what I’m thinking going forward:
One will become part of a fully paper mache tortoise. I go through phases of whether or not I think the inner tube version will work, and I’m squarely in a “not sure stage right now” period. Having a completed paper mache version will mean I’ll have *something* to enter and not let the team down, taking the pressure off creating an inner tube version. The paper mache model will also help me get sizing right for the armature of the head/neck/legs for any other versions I create.
I can use the other paper shells as the dress forms for the inner tube version. The spares mean if I inadvertently damage or destroy one it won’t slow me down too much.
Thinking about it…I may need to make more simplified shell shape for inner tube, as having the bumps for scutes in the current form might make it harder to sort my inner tube version out. But I’ll stick with it as is for now.
So stay tuned for my wholly paper mache model. I’ve got garden wire to create a frame for the body and appendages, as well as the 360 degree video and some other in-progress diagrams from the AMNH website to help me out.
This post in part of a series where I try to make a Galapagos tortoise out of inner tubes. Find all the posts here.
When tasked with something new, like making a Galapagos Tortoise out of inner tubes, I like to think around the task. Try to see what other people have done. Come up with a Plan A, Plan B, and maybe Plan C of what approaches I can take.
Deciding how to tackle it partially comes with experience. I’ve made lots of different types of things, but I think anyone can have a go.
Create a pinterest board, like I’ve done. Base it on the one you like best, or mix a few approaches.
My board is a combination of pictures of Tortoises themselves, some pre-made tortoises or turtle craft items, and even a few patterns I could use in a pinch.
I’m really keen to not follow a pattern if possible because I get extra points in the judging. But there’s no shame in using one, a lot of people do, and it’s good to know I could adapt an existing fabric pattern if I needed. To be honest, I don’t think they’re going to be sticklers if it’s it’s not a 100% accurate tortoise.
The tricky bit is going to be the shell, which is a somewhat complicated shapes made from hexagons and pentagons and potentially some other -gons. The internet tells me they’re called scutes that are made of keratin. They get bigger as the tortoise gets older creating ‘growth rings’ – one of the details I really liked from that tortoise sculpture I found recently, and something I’d like to try to show off.
From looking at the ideas I’ve collected on my Pinterest board, there are several ways I think I can approach this make.
If you look at Zeno here, the various shapes that make up the dome of his shell have been pieced together from individual pieces of fabric, like the patchwork on a quilt. I’m inclined to avoid this method as it would be a LOT of seams to stitch, including corners.
Now quilt patchwork is mostly made with cotton fabric, which is thin and can create a sharp fold like paper. Think of origami. Inner tube doesn’t do that.
Inner tube has a lot of inherent body and structure that doesn’t pleat or fold sharply without additional stitching. That can be brilliant for a lot of things, but would mean the corners wouldn’t want sit together nicely and there could be gaps.
In a pinch I could try it, because at least my stitching wouldn’t need to be on show.
I am so in awe of this amazing turtle shell backpack. It looks brilliant! If you check out the listing itself, the seller has some images on the INSIDE of the bag, which will make this method a lot clearer if you don’t understand my written description below.
Basically instead of the green pieces being attached to one another, they’re attached to black strips that make the framework for the structure. Think of them like…the lead on a stained glass window? Because leather doesn’t fray, the green pieces are layered flat on top of the black, so there aren’t any folds to worry about and everything sits more cleanly.
Again, there’d be a lot of stitching, and this time on show. AND I still don’t have a sewing machine, just one of these Speedy Stitchers I haven’t quite gotten around to testing. Still it’s doable, but I’d probably need one of those stitch punches.
The two products above have differing themes on the same idea: create the shell, and then put the various scutes on with either stitching or designs on the fabric itself.
Inner tube is famously black, but I could get some ink like I use for my logos to create the design?
Ignore the Scutes
This handbag from WELCOMECOMPANIONS is brilliant in another way: creating the essence of the animal’s shape without having to worry about fiddly details.
It’s very tempting to go down this route, but I’m really in love with those growth rings.
Plan A, B, C….etc
Ok, so what am I thinking?
Of the ideas above, the ones I love the most are the two bags. While a flat pieced style design would be amazing, I’m worried that my stitching might not be so neat. Another detail I’ve neglected to share is that my tortoise needs to be about the side of a side plate – you’d think that would be easier but it’s often harder: pieces are fiddly and you’re working in small spaces.
Plan A is attempting something like the WELCOMECOMPANIONS bag or the patterned shell method, but add physical layers of scutes to give it that growth ring detail I love so much. I could try stitching them on, or potentially even riveting…though that adds its own set of potential problems.
I might try a standing pose with a longer neck and legs to make it less turtle-y, though that would require some kind of internal structure/skeleton and probably another pinterest board!
If it looks terrible I could go more in the style of the flat pieced bag, possibly even purchasing that pattern and scaling it to the size I need. (Would scaling work, or will that muck up proportions? I’ll cross that bridge if I come to it)
As I’m trying not to use a pattern, my first task is to create a tortoise shell form: something solid I can work off of to get my scute shapes in order. I’ve even pinned a diagram that shows a shell from a few angles to help me get my head around it.
I’m so excited to be taking part in my third Super Seconds Saturday – now Super Seconds Festival! Organised by Sophie from Ink and Bear, it’s a great place to grab a bargain from 250 makers.
What is it?
Sophie created this festival in 2020 when she suddenly had a lot of seconds and no in-person markets to sell them at. The original Super Seconds Saturday was born as an event for her and other makers to sell collectively.
We’re now up to the 4th event, and while it’s grown, some things are still the same. Now officially taking place over two days (Saturday April 9th and Sunday April 10th), everyone will list their offers – whether it’s perfectly imperfect items, older stock, prototypes, or maybe even market specials – at a significant discount!
The full list of makers is available NOW on the Super Seconds Festival website. Just know you’ll be buying from each maker individually – whether that’s on their own website like me, or their Etsy or Shopify pages.
Sophie has really upped her game on the website this time around: there’s even a favourites section so you can keep track of all the makers you want to buy from. I’m really looking forward to using that option. My “random bits of paper” system from last year fell over when my husband tidied and they got put in the recycling.
Why Am I Taking Part?
I’m a maker and not a machine, and sometimes I make mistakes. The materials I use, like punctured bicycle inner tubes, aren’t designed to be repurposed into accessories, homeware, and jewellery. Each item has its own quirks and things don’t always go to plan.
I also like to try new products from time to time, and sometimes those early iterations are a bit rough. It’s a necessary part of the process, but I do feel bad seeing any material get thrown away.
I have an end of life process for anything that goes HORRIBLY wrong (it does happen!), but quite often there’s only something small that’s stopping me from feeling comfortable about selling it at full price.
And finally, Super Seconds Saturday Festival is also the best online event I’ve taken part in. It’s even better than some in-person markets I’ve done. Sophie does an amazing job of creating a sense of community between all the makers taking part. It’s such a wonderful bunch of people.
But generally, buying seconds is such an eco-friendly way of shopping – I’m taking part as a consumer as well as a business!
Why are Seconds Environmentally Friendly?
Honours the Makers’ Materials and Time
Part of the reason I work with reclaimed materials is that so much energy, effort, and time went into creating the inner tubes and toys I upcycle in the first place. Although it might be damaged and not usable for its intended purpose, that doesn’t mean it’s rubbish.
It’s the same with seconds. Makers aren’t machines and mistakes happen. Just because there might be a small blemish or skipped stitch, doesn’t mean the entire product deserves to go in the bin. If you look at it another way, those perfectly imperfect bits make those seconds even more unique and special!
I won’t sell things that I don’t think will hold up to normal use. And remember you’re always protected by your consumer rights, even with seconds.
So yes mistakes happen – but what about trying something completely new?
Supports Maker’s Potential and Creativity
While I’ve now had nearly three years of repurposing with inner tubes, it’s still a tricky material. Being curved in two directions means that, while I can plan ahead and maybe test shapes and ideas with paper or fabric, it’s never going to be an exact comparison. Things I haven’t even thought of will make their presences known and warp the idea I had in my head slightly out of shape.
There may also be times where the idea will go to plan, but during the ever-important testing phase, I realise that idea doesn’t hold up, or I could tweak or add new features that would make the product even better.
Knowing I have a place for these trials helps me be a bit more relaxed, which in turn helps me unlock my creativity.
Allows for Growth and Change
I’m also *FINGERS CROSSED* hopefully upgrading my sewing machine in the near future. It won’t be in time for this Super Seconds event, but it’ll mean two big things:
I’ll have to rework how I construct my current range.
It’ll open up a HUGE range possibilities for new products.
Again, both of those things would be a little more stressful if I didn’t have events like the Super Seconds Festival, where people are actively looking for those experimental one offs and teething issues.
And even better, you’ll get a discount!
What Will I Be Selling?
I’ll have a mix of things: seconds, prototypes, older stock, and even some upcycled display items I no longer use on my market stall! I’m debating having another market special, as I’d still love to introduce a personalisation service to my range, but I have to tweak how that worked from last time.
There I’ll be sending out early and more complete previews of all my offers, so you can get fully prepared ahead of the day.
I’ll also be giving subscribers early access to my listings ahead of the 10am start, as well as an exclusive offer on my non-seconds stock (…and maybe even exclusive access to certain seconds on the Saturday…).
So sign up if you’re interested, I’ll pop a cheeky sign up form below, too.
Quite simply I wanted to see if this could work. I had some strips already cut – they were for a normal basket, but didn’t quite fill the form I had in mind.
At this kind of early stage I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself, I just wanted to stay curious, so I didn’t even time myself.
I used a size 6 form (more info on what that means in this post) as it fit the width of inner tubes (all about 4 cm wide). Even though the tutorial didn’t use one, I knew inner tubes could be an absolute floppy nightmare if I didn’t have a structure to clip them to.
It was still a bit of a pain to be honest – the structure of the basket isn’t really set until it’s complete (I’m not sure how else to explain that…it felt a little like knitting a row without needles?). Somehow the basket turned out really well. Call it beginner’s luck!
Spiral Basket 1
Size: about 13 cm across at the bottom and 11 cm tall to a point.
Hand Press Presses: 24
It’s a bit lacking in stats like I said.
The above picture isn’t my favourite angle though – check out the gallery below for some absolute gorgeousness.
Other Angles and Thoughts
The top view is my favourite.
It was interesting to see the differences between this and the paper version, namely that slight twist the top develops. It looks like some kind of flower, I’m absolutely obsessed.
My husband is a huge fan of this kind of basket, too. Although he’s very supportive with my business, I could tell the other baskets I made weren’t really his thing. He actively questioned me making ones with valves – but he’s not my target customer so I just ignored him and laughed about it with his sister (of A Good Talking To, who I do markets with).
With this one though he kept talking about it, and more or less made me bring them with to the Wasteless Market last weekend. It wasn’t for sale though.
Notes for Next Time
I wasn’t sure I was happy with how I finished off the top. Was there some kind of way to fold the ends under for a neater look? I had an idea to try next time.
But what I struggled with most was not knowing how to plan and cut my materials.
With the straight basket weave, I could easily measure out how long everything needed to be, even if I’d never used the form before, reducing waste. I could picture how it would come together and plan ahead to make sure as much of the writing, patches, and other interesting bits of character would be visible on the final basket as possible.
This was like writing in some kind of foreign language I didn’t speak or really understand.
Needless to say it took me a while to make another one.
It was long enough between my first and second attempts that it almost felt like starting from scratch. I didn’t have any lengths of inner tube cut ahead of time, so I tried to use full tubes.
I did try something a bit different with construction, too, using clothes pins like in the paper tutorial I followed. The bulkiness of the peg made it hard to work with the form, and they didn’t have enough strength to keep the unwieldy inner tubes together.
While I did end up making a basket, I can’t say I was very happy at the end of it.
I thought there had to be a better way, so I disassembled this and regrouped.
Being a bit more systematic
Often when I’m sewing I’ll do a mock up in a similar material. For bags I’ll often use paper, as I have a lot of it around with one or both sides covered in writing or misprinted sewing patterns.
I thought if I could cut some strips to the right width I could assemble the basket, then take it apart to get a rough guide of what I needed to cut.
It looks so orderly laid out like that, though I wish I’d marked the “over” sections of the weave so I could use them as a template for featuring patches or writing.
But with having a rough idea of what lengths to cut, I felt more confident having another go.
Inner Tube Construction
I swapped out my clothes pegs for something more suitable working on a form – a spare band of inner tube I’d riveted together for another basket but hadn’t used.
There aren’t any pictures of this assembly either, but it did make a difference in helping me keep everything from just going everywhere.
The other difference to my first attempt was I went one row (?) higher in the weave because I could, and to see how that would change things.
Oh and I did try folding the ends under, but it made everything too bulky and complicated so I just trimmed it off as I had before. That look is growing on me.
Spiral Basket 2
I used the same form and size of inner tube as attempt 1, but this one’s slightly higher (about 14 cm total).
There is another difference I wasn’t expecting, best seen in the top angle below.
Other Angles and Thoughts
Hmm, maybe you can’t really see! The twist is more pronounced, so the top is more closed in than the lower basket. There’s also an issue of a slightly wonky point, which you can definitely see in the picture below.
It curves in more than the others – maybe one of those tubes is a bit too short or long – stretched or given too much slack with all the faffing about I did attempting the initial folded under finish.
Nevermind, it’s still lovely to look at.
Thoughts for Next Time
That second basket made me feel more confident with this style. The idea of making a paper trial for every size of inner tube/basket I want to attempt this with does put me off a little, if only because that would increase the price of the final product.
But I think this style of basket is slightly more limited in the variety of baskets I can make, especially with the forms I have right now.
In my head all the tubes need to be the same width and I need construct it with strips cut in multiples of four. Though I’ll have a play around with some paper to double check. I’ve also seen oblong examples as purses, which I may have to try out as well…eventually.
Although it’s still like a foreign language, I’m starting to grasp bits here and there.
This Blog Going Forwards
We’re finally caught up to where I am with this process! So going forward don’t expect to see the same kind of leaps of style as there have been. Each basket is a unique construction, with its own characteristics and quirks, and in future I’d love to feature more detail of each one I make instead of breezing on through.
I may post a little less frequently or (gasp) write about something besides baskets.
This post is part of a series about my journey making baskets from punctured bicycle inner tubes. To see them all, click here.
Upcycling can be so satisfying, especially when you take something that would otherwise be thrown away and give it a new life as something useful.
But while I love this mindset it can get you into trouble, as it becomes difficult to get rid of ANYTHING. So while I could recycle the valves as they’re brass, I really wanted to think of a way to show them off. Especially as they’re often the only part of the bicycle inner tube people see, so will help with the perpetual problem of people thinking my stuff is made from leather.
Though this sign does help.
For a very long time I tried to be subtle, but that doesn’t often work. This sign has done wonders at markets – moreso than the bicycle wheel just behind it.
But how best to use those valves?
I’ve toyed around with using valves in the past, making a few cable tidies for a laugh more than anything.
But while I love them on the tidy (and have a few with me for sale at markets), I wanted something that made use of the metal in a unique way. The keychain idea is something I may want to revisit, although I’ve only been able to make one so far – all attempts since have ended with me breaking drill bits.
Thankfully around this time I was making my valet trays, and it occurred to me the valve would be a brilliant place to stack your rings.
But as well as this works, it’s only an option for a small segment of the tubes that get donated to me, as most aren’t the super chunky mountain bike tubes this product needs.
The Seed of an Idea
In my last post, I showed off a basket where I was able to feature the hole where a valve once was. Although it was a death knell for that tube’s use in a bicycle tyre, it was something to cherish and celebrate in its new life as a basket.
But it got me thinking, what if I wove with tubes where the valve was still attached?
I dismissed it for a while as being a bit too mad, but it the idea stayed itching in my brain.
Eventually that itch won and I started a mock up of a basket with a valve. This was back before I found the stacking cubes from my last post, and still using my tetrapak milk carton as a form.
As tempting as it was, even I knew a basket with a valve about as long as the basket is wide probably wouldn’t appeal to anyone, so I didn’t pursue it.
Eventually though I came up with a mockup I was happy with.
Valve Basket 1 – Companion Cube
If you’re curious about the name, I showed my sister some pictures after I’d finished it, and she said it reminded her of the cube from the video game Portal. I definitely agree – there’s something about it that’s just cute!
Size: #7 Stacking Cube, about 12.5 cm each side and 11.5 cm tall
Tubes (estimated): I’d say less than 3 full tubes worth of material, but using at least 4 tubes (as I’ve got 4 valves). All 3-3.5 cm wide.
Rivets: 21 antique bronze coloured brass. None of the valves are all that shiny, so I went with a more muted colour.
Hand Press Presses: 46 (used a couple of washers on the back of where the label attaches)
Assembly was a little trickier than a normal basket, and I ended up drawing on my form to make sure the valves all ended up at more or less the same height. It took extra time and care to get everything to line up but it’s fab so I don’t mind.
As there’s only one valve per tube, I had an extra join so I could put two valves on opposite sides from each other. I only did that the once because I wasn’t sure it would work. I’m glad it came together this way, I really like the asymmetric symmetry.
While my brain kept nagging me with the idea of a basket with every possible over weave featuring a valve like some kind of mad porcupine, it takes time to collect that many tubes that are about the same width and stiffness to work together to create a basket.
So my second attempt was only slightly more spiky.
Valve Basket 2 – Sputnik
Sputnik because the vast antenna array – you see more of it in the galleries below.
Size: #8 stacking box, about 15.5 cm each side and 14 cm tall
Tubes: Material from at least 6 tubes, but probably only 3 or slightly less tubes worth of material. Softer inner tubes, all around 4 cm wide.
Valves: 6 valves – 4 presta (one missing a core), two schrader. Prestas vary from 4-6cm long, schraders just over 3 cm.
Hand Press Presses: 54 presses (two washers again on the back of the label)
It took even more time to put this together than my first attempt, mostly because I didn’t plan ahead. I riveted each pair of valves across from each other without thinking of the overall design, and I got a bit panicked that it was going to look unbalanced.
There was still some rearranging I could do so I sent some pictures to my sister.
Her reply: “Wait, what’s the difference?”
I settled on the first picture above. Ideally I would’ve put a short one opposite a long one on two sides, and kept the two long ones on the other ends. But that was the arrangement I was happiest with given what was already attached.
More Angles & Notes
The big construction difference was that I hid the rivets on the horizonal bands. I kept them on the under part of the weave, as I was worried it would distract from all those valves.
As much as I love it, I do see some areas for improvement with this basket.
Although it’s only a difference of at most 1cm, tubes this wide start looking a little wavy with my normal construction style.
The valves are on the inside of the tubes (the hole in the donut), as is most of the writing. So I tend to make my baskets with that inside facing out. But as the tubes get bigger, the difference in diameter between the inside and outside of the tube grows, and can warp how the basket looks.
Looking back on it now, this width of tube may still be useful for baskets, but they would have to be constructed outside out. In fact, these baskets are pliable enough I can turn this inside out, and you can already see an improvement…though it starts looking like some kind of alien mouth on the inside!
The downside would be some of the writing and character might be hidden, but I could make wider baskets with lower sides to improve the chances of it being seen.
Another note: while this basket is larger, I’m not sure it’s large enough to balance out those massively long valves.
It might be that I just don’t use those for basketmaking, or maybe it needs to be a really massive basket?
I’m not in a rush to try another with that length of valve anytime soon. Or at least not without a lot of mocking up before I rivet things together.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love this basket, and it definitely gets attention at markets so I’ll keep offering it there…though most people tend to be amused/confused/point out it could be a health and safety hazard.
I’ve paused on valve baskets for the moment, until I collect up enough to play around with properly.
But in the meantime I’m still working on my normal basket weave designs, and toying around with another style of weaving- but more on that next week!
This post is part of a series about my journey making baskets from punctured bicycle inner tubes. To see them all, click here.
Measurements & Goal
My last post ended with my purchase of these lovely kids stacking boxes.
The boxes are all more or less cubes, they’re a tiny bit shorter than they are wide. The sizes are (measurements are along one side):
#1 – 5 cm
#2 – 6 cm
#3 – 7.5 cm
#4 – 8.7 cm
#5 – 9.5 cm
#6 – 11 cm
#7 – 12 cm
#8 – 13.25 cm
#9 – 14.5 cm
#10 – 16 cm
#3 is about the same size as the milk carton from my last post, and probably the smallest I’d use to make baskets. #10 is about the same size as the cardboard box I was using before, but with the added benefit of height. So while they won’t let me make anything bigger, these boxes greatly increase the range of things I’m able to make.
And because I get such a variety of widths in, it should hopefully mean I’m able to use up more of the tubes donated to me.
But at this stage my only goal was to experiment. As this was a very playful process, I don’t have much in the way of in making-of photos. Sometimes having to document can be a real barrier for me to create if I’m in a certain mood, so I gave myself permission to just have fun with it.
#10 5×4 Basket
I should probably come up with fancy names, or something besides my personal shorthand to label these baskets, huh? But I can’t think of anything else that works as succinctly to capture the variety possible with all these different forms.
#10 stands for the size stacking box I used.
5×4 are the number of tubes in each direction – 5 on each side vertically, and 4 high.
Makes sense, yes?
Here it is:
A few stats:
Size: 18 cm on each side, 12.5 cm high.
Tubes: There are at least 3 different tubes in this basket (you can tell with the blue stripe and varying widths, 2.5-3.25 cm)
I didn’t take full advantage of the height here as I was using up some scraps of inner tubes from other projects, but I still love it.
There were so many wonderful bits of character on the tubes I used I just had to show off, scroll down to see some more.
There are some brilliant features on this basket I had to highlight. My favourite bit is the hole where a valve is missing.
You can see a stripes and some writing on that side too.
Some great patches on this basket. Check out my first photo of this one to see another on the lowest horizontal piece under the rivets.
As you can see there’s a bit of warping on some of those skinny tubes on each end – most noticeable on the picture with the valve hole.
It could just be the width compared to the tubes that are going across them, or maybe they were slightly more flexible. It was also still early on in my process and maybe the bands aren’t as even as they perhaps should be – to me that top row is a bit wide compared to the rest of it. That may be more noticeable in person, though.
Traditional Action Shot
There’s something about a basket of this size, I just have to wear it on my head.
Call it a compulsion!
I was really happy with how this turned out. I featured everything I wanted to here. Beyond maybe taking a little more care that the horizontal bands were all the same size, next time I wanted to take advantage of the full high of the forms. And maybe try some other widths of inner tubes to see how the baskets turned out.
#8 3×3 Basket
While my process is generally to cut the wide ones flat for use in products like my wallets and coin samosas, I’d kept a few as tubes for another project. It wasn’t successful, so I tried them here instead. (If you’re curious – cutting a tube into a strip using a spiral to get a much longer length to crochet. It was too grippy to act as yarn.)
Size: 15 cm x 14 cm
Tubes: Three different tubes, ranging from 3.5-5cm width.
Rivets: 31 silver-coloured rivets
Hand press presses: 100
Here’s a check of whether or not you’ve been paying attention – did you notice this basket has a huge jump in the amount of times I had to use my hand press?
My previous attempts have all been just over twice the number of rivets. But this basket was made from thinner inner tubes than the previous ones I’d made. To get the rivets as secure as possible, I needed to pad out some of the places they joined with washers.
So instead of just one press for each hole and then one to set the rivet, add two more to create each washer. And these joins have washers front and back.
With a little more forethought I could’ve constructed this differently to avoid some of those washers, but I was happy with the way they looked, and glad to know I could use those wonderful scrap busters in my basket making, too.
(You can read a little more about how I make washers and other ways I use up scraps in this post.)
Details & Lessons
Here are some more angles of this lovely basket.
I also experimented with the number of rivets I used on this basket: with the wider ones I used two at the top of each vertical tube. And went all out with four on each band.
While I didn’t mind the way the top looked, four is way too many in such a concentrated area.
I have much better uses for 5 cm wide tubes anyway (especially once I get my sewing machine sorted), so it’s no great shame to rule them out for basket making.
Well, unless I was doing something much larger than my current forms.
Hooray for height – this taller basket lives (for now) with my Aloe plant, though it’s been ear marked for one of my brothers in law once I get my act together and make the rest he’s asked for!
#7 5×5 Basket
After my foray into wider tubes, I wondered how the tubes I’d used on my small baskets (milk carton/#3 if you’re keen to use my system) would fare in a larger size.
The answer is that they’re gorgeous.
Size: 13 x 12.5 cm
Tubes: At least 5, about 2-2.5cm wide
Hand press presses: 66
These were thicker tubes so the only place I used washers was to help secure where my label attaches – they’re on the back of the tube so hidden in the weave.
I always try to make the most of the marks from tubes’ previous lives when making baskets, but it gets so much tougher the more complex the weave.
If you think about each visible section of the weave as a square, there are 100 squares to keep track of on this basket (25 per side). On my previous one there were just 36.
But I still managed to feature a wonderful patch, a white stripe, and some bits of writing.
Videos are the easiest way for me to share how the same kinds of inner tubes behave differently in different sized baskets. Here’s the larger basket. Apologies about the shakiness of the video – I wasn’t using my tripod for these.
The stiffer inner tubes provide a lot of structure to the basket, helping it keep its shape. In comparison, here’s a small sized basket (#3) made with the same kind of tubes.
These tubes were probably a bit narrow for this form – it’s a little gappier than I’d like. But the real issue is that stiffness. It’s adding so much structure it’s warping the shape of the basket, making some areas too rounded. The resulting basket looks a little sloppy.
You can see above where these stiff tubes want to be tubes. The vertical sections near the corners push the horizontal band in, making that middle much rounder than the top and bottom.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love this basket, but I know now to save those stiffer tubes for larger forms.
Each basket I make gives me more experience with how best to use this material. As I play around ideas pop into my head on new things to try.
But those wouldn’t really do long term. As usual, I’d been thinking a lot about it and had some qualities I was looking for.
For my basket forms I wanted…
Sturdy forms – they needed to hold up better than the cardboard box.
Square bases with higher sides – not that I thought I’d have the same problems as the oblong coiled baskets I made, but square was a more reliable shape. Higher sides meant I had options, and could even make plant pot covers.
A variety of sizes – as the inner tubes come to me in a variety of widths, I wanted to make sure I had options and wasn’t just stuck on one or two sizes.
Ideally secondhand or repurposed – though I’d consider something new as long as it was well made
I did a lot of searching for metal tins – but had trouble finding anything with the variety of sizes I wanted.
The closest I got were kitchen tin sets – a large bread bin, with smaller ones for tea and sugar, but it wasn’t like the ideal Russian nesting doll in my head so I didn’t pick any up.
In the Meantime, Some Ideas
I always try to think of alternative uses for things before they go into a bin. There is no such thing as “away” when you throw things out. It mostly just remains a problem, just somewhere you can’t see.
Over the warmer months I often make my own yogurt, using a starter I got online and UHT organic milk. While I thankfully have a council that recycles tetrapaks, it occurred to me these flexible containers might be sturdy enough to work with.
And as luck would have it, I had a width of inner tube where three fit perfectly along one side. So I decided to make some little baskets.
While my hand press made things a lot easier, I realised that the mouth of it wasn’t deep enough for me to rivet everything together once woven. So instead I made the bands that would go sit horizontally first, and then wove the vertical sections of the basket around them.
It was easier to make the basket a uniform size, though I’m not sure it was quicker.
I’m determined to make the most of each inner tube’s individual characteristics (writing, patches, etc), so more often than not I assemble most of the basket before taking it apart again to punch and rivet the bands, and then reassemble to finish around the top.
Maybe not quicker, but definitely neater!
Size: 11 cm across, 8.5 cm tall (approx)
Time: about an hour (just on construction, not washing or sorting tubes)
Weight: 128 grams
Inner tubes used: about 1.5
Hand Press Presses: 28
There still were some things to tweak, like taking more care so the little tabs at the top finish at the same place. You can see above that some are shorter than others. Overall though I was very happy.
Tetrapacks weren’t a viable option for the complete size range I wanted from my forms, but for the time being I played around with constructing these and made a series of little baskets.
I discovered that some tiny plant pots and saucers I’d picked up on freecycle months previously fit these perfectly.
Those saucers were essential as the inner tube wouldn’t be water tight. Unless you had fake plants, you’d get your surfaces all wet.
Of course I had to do a little photo shoot with succulents.
More Photos and Process Tweaks
One thing I was really happy with was how my TS logo stamp fit perfectly on this size of tube (about 2.5 cm wide). But I wanted a way to have my full business name on there somehow, too.
I’d seen people use wooden or metal tags on crocheted baskets, so I played around with some inner tube scraps until I came up with something that worked.
I didn’t really like the positioning on this basket, but I learned that I needed to think really carefully about the placement of those tags. As I’m assembling the bands first, I need to check and double check…and given how I still mess this up sometimes, triple check…that the placement of the tag so it’ll end up on the correct side of the basket.
If this label were on the lowest side (where I initially wanted), most of the name would be covered by the vertical sections of the weave!
As you can see in the photo above, I also settled on two rivets holding the horizontal bands together. This was prevent them accidentally bending at that join – though that’s less likely when the basket’s assembled as everything’s pretty snug.
It was also interesting to see how different thicknesses of inner tubes affected the shape and feel of the baskets (though it’s difficult to show in photographs so I’ll save it for a future post).
Larger Basket and Testing
While I kept an eye out for other forms, I took the lessons above and applied them to my larger basket form.
So happy with how this one turned out. I have no stats as it was a while back and I don’t have it to even weigh or measure! More on that in a sec. But as it used my same box, it’s about the same size as my attempts from a few posts back.
My branding looks good on this size, too.
So why don’t I have it? I gave it to Zero Waste on Wheels to test. As I mentioned in an earlier post, she does so many markets, so I knew if it was part of her display it would get some robust testing. Here it is in action.
I still wasn’t set on how I’d be constructing these larger baskets. But while I was still tweaking this larger size’s construction, I thought I’d give it to Alicia anyway. I’m pleased to say it’s held up well!
But I was limited to how many baskets I could make with those two forms, so I was still on the lookout for something better.
I have a slight addiction to freecycle, olio, and facebook marketplace. It started during lockdowns, when I couldn’t my usual charity shop treasure hunt fix. TBH I hardly ever pick anything up from there, but it was nice to keep my mind working on how I could potentially reuse the random things that people list.
One day I was scrolling through and this caught my eye.
They’re children’s stacking boxes, made out of a sturdier cardboard. The cute designs are just a bonus.
The sizes ranges from 5×5 cm to 16×16 cm. And while I initially thought that was far too small, I realised the shipping box I was using for my larger forms was about 16 cm square. So I picked it up.
While ideally I want to make larger baskets as well, these fit so many of my goal criteria:
Sturdier than my shipping boxes
Good range of sizes
And for I think £3, they were definitely worth a punt.
But I realise this blog post is already far too long, so what I did with these will have to wait until next week!
This post is part of a series about my journey making baskets from punctured bicycle inner tubes. To see them all, click here.
Background and Goals
If you read my last post, you’ll know I felt a lot happier constructing woven baskets the second time around. While I still had some things to improve on, I saw enough to keep going.
What I needed to figure out were rivets – finding the right size/ kind for me and a reliable supplier.
What I Wanted
Feeling confident in my products is the most important things for me. I feel so honoured when anyone chooses to buy from me, I want to reward that trust with something that will last.
So while I could get the cheap set I found to work by trimming the rivets pins to length, I doubted they would last. For one they were made from a steel alloy that would rust.
All they came with was a hand setting tool that wasn’t consistently accurate and was difficult to use, as the only solid enough place in my house was the kitchen floor. I also used the kitchen floor to set poppers for my cable tidies, samosas, and wallets; so finding something that could be used for both would be ideal.
And speaking of those poppers, I’d run into an issue a while back where one colour of popper wasn’t working with the setting tool I used, leading to a lot of frustration and waste. They were from different suppliers so avoiding that situation was top of mind, too.
So a bit of a summary of what I wanted:
Rivets that wouldn’t rust (e.g. brass)
Correct pin length
Additional dies available for cutting holes and attaching poppers
Supplier who provided both the rivets and the machine to set them
There were three main suppliers/options I came across in my search:
Random eBay Amazon
There are lots of options of people selling machines on eBay and Amazon. I mention them only because they may work for some people. Definitely the cheapest option, and tempting as they look so similar to ones from other stores.
But it didn’t meet my criteria – I wouldn’t necessarily be able to find other dies and supplies that fit from those eBay or Amazon vendors. And even if I did at first, I feel less sure they would have them long term.
Without seeing the machines in person it’s hard to know what the quality of the machines are, and even though they may look the same, I read several reviews on the machines saying they didn’t work with dies purchased from other places.
Trimming Shop is where I was already getting my poppers. They’re based in London, and in addition to their own website, they have Amazon and eBay pages, and may even be on Etsy. They have a huge range of rivets, poppers, and other bag hardware (amongst a lot of other things – they bill themselves online as a wedding and events supplier first).
In addition to the steel-type rivets I was using from my cheap starter set, they also had washable brass rivets, and even some odd colours and pyramid shapes if I wanted to go a bit punk. Their range was really impressive – and they had the sizes I wanted.
On the negative side their poppers were the ones that didn’t work with my setting tool for whatever reason, so I was a bit wary. I also wasn’t the hugest fan on their website, it was occasionally hard to tell what went with what, and they had this automatic customer service robot that would pop up on every single page you open.
I’m someone who has open all the tabs to compare different options (it drives my husband mad), so I didn’t necessarily want to continue using them.
I came across Green Grizzly on a leatherworker forum. Some people in the US were considering using them for the supplies – despite needing to ship things across the Atlantic.
They, too had machines and starter sets (though the one I bought doesn’t appear to be on their website any more for whatever reason).
Unlike Trimming Shop, they seem to focus on hardware and other supplies for bag making. And while looking through their website, I would often come across listings for custom orders, which I thought was a sign of good customer service.
They had steel and brass rivets in the sizes I wanted, and it was really clear with what went with what.
They’re based in Rochester, not at all far from me in Maidstone, though you can only visit them by appointment only. I found their email customer service very helpful, though at the the time their website was a lot rougher than it is now.
Making a Chose
I ended up ordering some samples of what I was looking for from both Trimming Shop and Green Grizzly. They were comparable, so I went with my gut and decided on Green Grizzly. It was somewhat of a toss up as the quality was about the same, but I found their website easier to use.
I liked the fact that they’re focused on the products I’m looking for – sewing/bag hardware – so if I ever need to expand what I’m buying in I know I can look there first.
My decision was rewarded early on when I asked if they’d swap out the steel double-cap rivets on the starter set for washable brass ones and they agreed to without any additional cost.
It was a really exciting day when my hand press arrived!
It does come with tools to attach it to a table top, but because I end up moving it depending on what I’m working on, I just use a clamp to keep it in place.
Hand press in Action
I want to do more videos of my hand press in action. On some products I use it so much I can get quite the workout. Here’s a video I shared last year on Instagram about my valve valets.
Since buying the hand press and setting tool for the rivets I use for baskets, I’ve bought a bunch of dies that have proved useful in creating other things without a sewing machine.
No more working on the kitchen floor! These require a good bit of pressure to set, but if I swap down to a lower table I can put more of my bodyweight behind it and it works brilliantly for cable tidies, samosas, and wallets.
I use the smaller ones as part of the process of setting rivets, but the larger ones have been a game changer for my valets. They allow me to bulk up the material being captured by the rivet so I can use the same size rivets across multiple products.
Rivets have proved useful for the valets and the bauble earrings I shared above. My favourite thing about the tool is that the machine applies the pressure squarely downwards. On the rare occasion it’s gone wrong, it’s my fault for not putting the rivet in the groove properly.
I’ll show off some of the baskets I used these new rivets on in my next post.
The right tool can make such a difference in your process. Instead of having to carry everything downstairs to the kitchen for that finishing touch (or accidentally take chunks out of the lino!), I’m able to take care of everything in the loft room. I’ve got fewer errors, and can feel more secure in the longevity of my products.
What tools have you found to be a game changer for your work?