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My First Coiled Basket

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

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

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

The Why

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

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

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

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

This style seemed like a win-win!

Construction

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

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

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

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

The Basket

And here it is:

Some not entirely certain stats:

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

More Photos & Next Steps

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

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

A polite way of saying messy.

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

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

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

But more on that next week!

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My First Inner Tube Basket

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

It all started with this basket:

Some stats:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Making the Most of the Scraps

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

Larger Lengths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But what about those smaller bits?

Whenever possible I try to turn them into something useful!

Cable Tidies!

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

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

But what to do with those even smaller scraps?

Storage

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

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

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

Valets – Helping use up the unusable

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

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

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

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

End of the line – a work in progress

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

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

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

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

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Findings (aka the Metal Bits)

Ahead of Indie Roller Fri-Yay and the launch of my upcycled dinosaur earring range on May 28th, I wanted to share some of the decisions I make while creating my earrings. One of the big ones is around earrings findings: aka the metal bits.

It’s not as simple as just buying anything!

Legal Obligations

Did you know there are laws for anyone in the UK who makes jewellery? Besides the usual Trading Standards, jewellery makers have a specific set of regulations they need to follow for findings. If you’re interested in the nitty gritty check out this article.

One of the main takeaways is businesses need to know about the metal they’re using for their jewellery, especially in things like earring posts and hooks that have prolonged direct contact with the skin. Nickel, Cadmium, and Lead are the main metals of concern. Cadmium and Lead are toxic and not allowed. Nickel is allowed, but only in certain amounts.

Part of me would LOVE to use second hand hooks and metal findings for my earrings – Team Sikel is all about reducing waste. But if I did, I wouldn’t know the metal content. Not only would that probably be against the law, it would also be restrictive for customers who have allergies or sensitivities. I want my earrings to be inclusive.

I would also worry about the durability of the final pieces. Choosing quality hooks and findings means the earrings I make will last as long as possible.

My Choices

My earrings are made with one of three hook options (Left to Right above):

  • Surgical Steel
  • Silver Plate
  • Gold Plate

I get the hooks get from one of two suppliers: Cookson Gold or Beads Unlimited.

When I originally searched for earring findings, I was tempted with some cheaper options. But after ordering and seeing the poor quality of the hooks and posts, I knew it was worth going with more established brands that have better standards and accountability if things go wrong.

Thankfully it’s easy to find quality jump rings and eye screws from other suppliers, so I tend to shop around there.

Surgical Steel

This is my go to choice for earring findings. It’s easy to maintain (no worries about tarnishing!) and has a subtle look that doesn’t distract from the quirky toys I use. I get these findings from Cookson Gold.

While they meet the legal standards for metals in jewellery, surgical steel does contain some nickel, and so wouldn’t be a good choice for people sensitive to that metal.

Silver & Gold Plate

I like to give these as options on some earrings for a number of reasons:

  • For those with a nickel allergy. Beads unlimited put their gold and silver plate over brass that’s nickel, lead and cadmium free. When I asked Cookson Gold about the metal content under their silver plate, they would only confirm that it meets the legal requirements for nickel.
  • Sometimes the items I’m upcycling (like my upcycled Christmas baubles) already have some gold or silver coloured areas and I want it to match.
  • Or I just think the pieces would look better with gold or silver.

This option does have some drawbacks, namely that the silver can tarnish and the plating could wear off over time, but I choose plate over solid gold and silver to make them comparably affordable with my surgical steel jewellery.

The Trouble with Choice

I love being able to give people options, but sometimes it causes problems. There are two things to keep in mind:

  • My earrings are often one of a kind.
  • Sometimes thing can go wrong: toys or metal can break, drill bits can get stuck, holes can get drilled in the wrong spot, etc.

I don’t want to have someone pay for something that I’m unable to deliver. It would be mortifying for me and really frustrating for the customer.

So I normally make things ahead of time, and make a choice on metals depending on what I’ve got and my personal preference in how it looks.

This is especially the case for when I do in-person markets, as I don’t have time to make them to order then and there. And I don’t often have multiples of the same toys to make some of each.

My Offer for the Fri-Yay 28th May Launch

For my Fri-Yay Surprise Dinosaur earrings, I’m going out of my comfort zone and giving you guys a choice.

When you place your order, you’ll be able to choose between silver plate and surgical steel. While all the pieces will be pre-drilled, they will be assembled to order.

You’re going to have to bear with me that it might take a little longer for your earrings to arrive. And there’s an incredibly slim chance that things might go wrong. But given my experience working with these toys so far, they shouldn’t (knock on wood). But know if they do I’ll be in contact ASAP – you’ll get a full refund or an alternative (if available) and a discount code towards a future purchase as an apology.

Any Questions?

I’m always happy to answer. Comment here, email me, or DM me on Instagram.