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Upcycled Dress from a Poncho

I’m always on the lookout for easy secondhand wins for sewing when charity shopping. There are a few places where I could, pre-covid, sometimes find lengths of fabric or good quality duvet covers. But if not those, then something with larger panels of fabric often catches my eye. Think larger sizes, gathered skirts, generally something without much tailoring. This poncho was one of those. I forgot to get a good before photo, but found someone selling one on eBay so you can get a sense of what it looked like:

It was viscose, and more or less a rectangle of fabric – no seams, just some hemmed/bound sides around the front opening, neck hole, and sides.

It sat in my to-upcycle collection for at least a year, waiting for the right project. And that finally came as I wanted to make another True Bias Southport dress. I’d worn the ones I made last year sooo much, but they’re now too big and it’s not an easy project to resize. The only problem was that ‘more or less’ part of being a rectangle of fabric.

Pattern Tetris

The important thing when laying out your pattern pieces is to think about the grain of the fabric. Here’s a little article about what that means, but it’s important so the final garment looks like it’s supposed to and doesn’t twist out of shape. So ideally:

  • all pieces would lay along the same grain line.
  • the pattern would mostly go in the same direction – I didn’t want it to look too jarring or draw attention to the fact that it was pieced
  • I wanted a midi dress – about mid calf, so I could feel comfortable wearing it without leggings.

Despite the amount of fabric it took a while to pattern tetris my way into something that made the most of the shape I had. Here’s what I came up with:

I mostly used the cross grain here. And while the gallery above makes it look like a speedy process, it took a while!

I’m really proud of myself for finding this layout. The big winner was splitting the front and back bodice pieces. I know they’re small, but the armhole/neckline area leaves a lot of odd pieces in the fabric when cutting out. Getting those from other areas of the poncho meant I could make the most of what I had.

Ultimately I was able to get nearly all the pieces along the same grainline and with the pattern running in the same direction. The exceptions were the top of the front and back bodice pieces. Rotating those to run the same way as the rest of the dress would’ve shortened the length of the skirt and made it harder to assemble the bias binding (more on that later). And having a different pattern/fabric/etc in that section of a garment isn’t uncommon, so I hoped it wouldn’t look too out of place.

Assembly

Sewing the dress together first meant piecing all the pattern pieces together. I needed to turn 11 pieces into 4 (not counting bias binding or casing here), before I could even start with the normal construction of the dress.

The poncho is made of viscose, which can stretch and fray quite easily, so I decided to flat fell all the seams.

The sides of the original poncho were hemmed with a double fold of fabric, and I used that to my advantage when assembling the pieces. Flat felled seams are one of my favourite finishes – they hide all the raw edges, meaning your work is stronger and lasts longer. Here’s a tutorial, though I’m generally lazy and do all my sewing on the wrong side of the fabric. Most of my stitching was black on black, so if it’s a little wonky you can’t generally tell.

Unfolding those original hems after I cut the pieces meant I had the little flaps I needed to fold over and sew down without having to cut as much (if any) of the seam allowances away. I got the idea from someone on instagram, who mentioned that in commercial sewing patterns, the seam allowances for pattern pieces with flat felled seams are different so the sewists don’t have to spend time or create waste cutting excess fabric away.

It did make lining up the seams a little harder, but I just used lines of chalk on both sides and stuck pins through to make sure they lined up properly. And then used copious copious pins to hold the pieces in place so they didn’t shift.

Bias Binding

One of the last bits to assemble was the bias binding, which I took from the odd bits around the neck hole.

It always amazes me how much bias binding you can get out of what appear to be little scraps of fabric. And although it can take a lot of time, that stuff is so useful for sewing! I’d recommend everyone get at least one of the little tool you can see in the photo on the right if you make any bias binding for yourself. They come in different sizes – buy one you feel comfortable with, and then just use that size tape on your projects as long as it’s close!

Actually Sewing the Dress

The pattern itself is relatively simple, especially when you omit the button placket in the front of the dress. Here are the front and back panels, ready for sewing together. Can you tell where they’ve been pieced? I added lines on the photo to the right approximately where the extra seams are:

The little black blob at the bottom of the photo is Tilly, who decided to ‘help’ me on the photo shoot.

I made one other tweak to the pattern, beyond removing that button placket, and that was to make a casing for elastic in the waistband instead of using a drawstring. While it was on the inside of the garment (so I could’ve used whatever I had that was about the same weight), I was able find more scraps to piece it from leftover pieces of the lower skirt panels and some scraps around the neck hole I didn’t use for binding.

It ended up a little narrower than I would’ve liked, so instead of attaching one edge of the casing when sewing the bodice and skirt together, I tucked the top raw edges into the flat felled seam as I was finishing it. The lower edge was folded over and basted before sewing it to the skirt. Apologies for not having photos, it was a fairly tense operation…made even worse when I tried to thread the elastic through and realised I hadn’t caught the casing (or it frayed) in a few places along the top edge and I had to unpick and re-sew. Next time I’d stay stitch/fold over/or otherwise reinforce that top edge as well. So far it’s held up to a few wears and washes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point I have to replace it.

I also managed to stretch out the neckline while sewing on the bias binding. It’s not too noticeable, unless you sew, but it sticks out a little instead of lying flat.

A small win I had was to use the original hem as my hem on the dress – tbh it wasn’t entirely straight, but isn’t noticeable during wear, and a reminder that the things you buy in shops aren’t perfect either!

The Finished Dress

Ta Da!

I’m really pleased with how it turned out. It’s a super comfy summer dress perfect to throw on when it’s hot out. And I’m really pleased I used up so much of that poncho.

Here’s all the scraps that were left:

Scraps have this amazing ability to look huge, even though there’s really not much there. I promise those are all wonky whispers of fabric that would’ve be useful for anything besides stuffing.

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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 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!

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Footstool Upcycle – Update 3: Weaving and Done!

This post is part of a series documenting a creative upcycling challenge to update an old footstool with a new punctured bicycle inner tube top. See all posts here.

Assembly and Gluing

I skipped a weekly update, as the only thing I’d done was finish polishing the footstool. But over last weekend I finally glued the thing back together!

I thanked past Kelly for so thoroughly labelling all the pieces in areas that wouldn’t sand off. It meant things came together easily. Though I only have two clamps, so I had to glue over two days.

Just before I glued, I did a little test of my wrapping idea (which I wrote about in the previous post) to make sure it would work. I realised I was running out of time and I didn’t want to be scrambling for another solution with only days left of the challenge.

Thankfully I did the test, as besides proving my concept, it gave me a very important insight.

The mortice and tenon joints on the footstool are round. If I wrapped the inner tubes at tension around the cross bars (going across the top only), it might eventually break the glue and cause them to spin. With the other bars still glued, I doubt the thing would come apart. But my idea needed a slight tweak to help preserve my weaving as long as possible

I decided to basically create bands around the bars, that went across both top and bottom of the cross pieces, so the tension wasn’t in danger of spinning them around. I would alternate which side the ends of the tube were on, to distribute the chunkiness of those extra layers.

This new method meant there was another decision to be made: should I weave the tops and bottoms together or separately?

In the end I decided separate: the extra tension would just annoy me, and it might be difficult to get a neat finish as the two layers might not want to lay together. Or if I got them looking nice to begin with, they might shift during use.

Weaving the Top (Finally!)

I did a few time lapses as I went (not for everything), as I realise my descriptions may only make sense to me. The videos are at a weird angle – they’d look better vertical, but that doesn’t play as nice on Youtube. Here are the steps I took.

Step 1: Wrap the cross bars in inner tube strips.

The grippiness of inner tube is the crux of my plan. It’s the bane of my existence in a lot of ways, so I thought I might make it work for me for once!

The inner tube bands could slide against the wood, especially as it’s been sanded and polished under where I’m weaving. By putting this base layer down, I made a foundation that would help hold the bands in place.

2: Put the bands on the short sides.

I don’t have a video on the bands going on. TBH I was feeling a little overwhelmed with the thought of having to do all the things. I cut myself some slack and told myself I only needed to do 15 minutes, but I enjoyed it so much I just carried on.

Basically I wrapped the lower part of the band around the crossbar first to hide the end from easy view, then brought the upper part around over it. I held the bands in place with the clamps I normally use to keep the table cloth on at markets. They were so useful.

3: Wrapping the bands in place on the short sides.

The clamps came into their own here, when I realised I could just clamp the tails of the bands (not the bands on the crossbars) and need fewer hands to hold everything in place.

I made Xes with strips on the three faces where the bands lay against the frame, wrapping in new strips as I needed. This ended up a little messier than I hoped it would, especially between bands where the layers built up and where I needed to wrap things in, but it’s not so noticeable during use. I love the way it looks, now!

The tension of the strips on top should hold the ends of the inner tube bands against one another, and the inner part of the bands against the first step’s wrap. The grippiness should hold everything in place!

On both of the short sides I had long tails left over, so I decided to carry that to the longer edges and save me having to weave more in.

4: Arranging the long sides.

I decided to make the most of the writing and patches on some of the tubes I had available for this side. As I’d decided to weave the tops and bottoms of the bands separately, doing this loose weave had to be done twice.

At this point I stopped for the day. I could see how the footstool would more or less look in the end, and wanted to give my hands and arms a break. Though it wasn’t as intense as weaving a coiled basket, it still puts a strain on my hands to keep that tension.

5: Wrapping the long sides

All that weaving prep really paid off, as I “just” had to tension and wrap the longer sides the next day. I wrote a majority of this blog post the day before I finished to take the load off in case I was running late. That sentence is a bit funny now.

This was a bit trickier as I had more bands to wrangle with fewer clamps, and less space to feed the tails of the strips through. The tube with the patches had a very short tail, so that required a bit more finessing, but thankfully the first set of Xs I do are on the bottom so I didn’t have to juggle a three-handed job for long.

And all that leaves is…

The End Result

It’s just brilliant. I love it so much!

Here are some close ups and other angles:

I loved how I was able to feature writing and patches on the top of the stool, to show off the material’s history. One funny little side effect was air got trapped in the longer inner tubes, which ended up slightly puffy in some areas. It’s not especially noticeable, and I don’t mind.

If I see another footstool, I’ll probably pick it up to have another go. I’m still debating whether or not I’d try a chair, I’ll have to see how this weave holds up over time.

It’s also a little stretchy, as I didn’t go full tension on the tubes.

Lessons & Going Forward

What was really great was having this challenge. Though I did take my time, especially during sanding, the accountability really helped me push through and actually complete it. I’ve learned a new way to use inner tube, one that I can potentially take forward in my business.

I’ve decided to do another challenge for next month. If you’re looking at this on 30th April check out my stories on Instagram: I’ve got another poll for you to help me pick!

The idea is to keep these monthly challenges going forward as long as I’m enjoying working on them and have an idea. I’ll hashtag everything on instagram #TeamSikelLab so you can follow along with all my experiments.

Once a winner is chosen in my poll, I’ll write a bit more up about the challenge and what my next project will be.

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Footstool Upcycle – Update 2: More Prep Ideas

This post is part of a series documenting a creative upcycling challenge to update an old footstool with a new punctured bicycle inner tube top. See all posts here.

Progress

I tried sanding all those tricky places on the footstool the palm sander couldn’t reach by hand (see my last post for more info). How did it go? Well at least I got to spend an hour out in the sunshine.

While I did make some progress, I decided I would have to take it apart if I was ever going to make that new top this month/year/ever. The alternative was painting, which I wasn’t happy doing. I really love the look of woodgrain, and think it’ll look great against the black of the inner tube.

Thankfully some of the joints were loose so I was able to use my workmate to gently pry it apart.

First steps in disassembly

And then further prying and cajoling did the rest (including clamping it in the workmate, sitting astride the workmate, and manually encouraging those last stubbon bits out). At one point, one cross piece came out suddenly and I hit myself on the forehead with it. I think the cut has finally healed. Don’t let anyone tell you upcycling, or crafting for that matter, is without risk!

In the end I was able to fully take it to bits, which showed me it had been stained and varnished before assembly.

So, in a way, it was good I took it apart. Not only was I able to do a decent job sanding, but I also fell back in love with the piece – which I talk a bit more about in a reel I posted on Instagram.

Here are some beauty shots of the sanded wood:

At this point though I set it aside for a few days to focus on the Indie Roller Bundle event, as well as other personal projects. Last night I finally started polishing. I love how much warmer the wood gets with even one coat of oil.

Plain (L) and One coat of oil (R)

I’m using a natural polish containing linseed oil and beeswax, which I originally bought it to help protect my upcycled wooden earrings. The thing is… it absolutely reeks of boiled linseed oil, which isn’t particularly pleasant. The smell fades (or you go nose blind), but it’s still better to use it on furniture than anything I hope to sell.

The instructions tell me to wait 24 hrs between coats, so it’ll be a few days before I’m able to go any further.

In the meantime I’ve been thinking about what I’ll do with the top once the frame is reassembled.

Inspiration/Limitations

I have a few ideas in mind, but before we get to them, here are some ideas I bandied about but ultimately decided against. They may work for someone else, though, so I thought it worth sharing:

This tutorial from Design Sponge is great, but would involve buying in tacks (which I don’t have).

I’d also hate to hammer/staple anything into the frame if I don’t have to, as it hasn’t had any in the past.

And as anyone who’s had a blowout knows, a puncture can easily become a tear with an inner tube. The weave is going to be under a decent amount of tension when it’s finished – just asking for it to tear!

If I must, I will, but it’ll be a last option.

This tutorial on ehow goes through recreating a traditional rush seat. When I first got the chair I attempted something similar with inner tubes, but quickly realised it wouldn’t work. It’s designed for something you have very long lengths of, and inner tubes are under 2m long.

So sadly this won’t work for me either.

This Danish footstool I spotted on Etsy (sold out) is probably closer to the look I’ll end up with- at least with the spacing between the lattice strips.

It’s secured with staples, but I’m as with my first example I’d like to avoid those. I’m hoping to use the inherent grippy-ness of the inner tube to hold itself in place.

My Plan

Ultimately I hope to end up with something similar to the last example above, as I said, but without any wood visible on the cross bars.

What I think I’ll do is…

  • …wrap the cross bars with inner tube strips, similar to what I use when making my baskets, tucking the ends under the wrap.
  • Then I’ll arrange the tubes as they’ll be woven on one short and one long side of my frame.
  • Wrap again with strips to secure – maybe in some kind of decorative pattern?
  • Weave the footstool top.
  • Repeat the securing process on the other sides once the weave is done.

Hopefully the inner tube strip sandwich will keep the footstool top in place. The second lot of securing it will be a little trickier as it’ll be under pressure, but with some clamps to keep the tension as I go along the line, it might work?

My backup idea is to feed something sturdy inside the inner tubes to take the pressure and eliminate the inner tube stretch…though that might defeat the point of the upcycle. I haven’t decided. Let’s hope my original plan works instead!

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Footstool Upcycle – Update 1: Prep!

Last month I asked for your help on Instagram to help me stretch my creative muscles. When I get new ideas for things to make out of punctured bicycle inner tubes, they often get set aside due to lack of time. There’s always something pressing when you run your own business!

So I popped a poll in my Instagram stories: should I upcycle a footstool or a folding craft basket/knitting bag frame with inner tubes in April?

The footstool won, though for a while it was neck and neck.

So now I’m committed, and hoping the process gives me some accountability to see these ideas through. While I doubt this will become something I’m able to add to my regular line, the point of this is to try new things and push myself. Hopefully I’ll learn new techniques that will inform my making in the future.

First thing’s first: Prep

As much as I’d like to dive straight in with the inner tubes, the frame needed sorting out. Where the woven rush ‘seat’ for the stool had been and at the top corners, there was some damage to the wood.

Damage to the top rungs of the footstool

It needed a sand. After about an hour of work in the sunshine with my little power sander, I’d taken it as far as I could…and probably annoyed all of my neighbours in the process (sorry!).

As you can see in the second image, there were some areas the little sander was still too big to reach. I’ve since ordered some sheets of sandpaper, and hopefully the weather will improve enough for me to be outside for a few hours without freezing. This pass was done with 80 grit sandpaper, so it’ll take a good bit of time to work my way up the grades to be done.

While I don’t want to buy things specifically for this project, sandpaper is something I’ll make use of eventually – if not for products than for my evening woodworking classes or random makes at my local men’s shed – whenever it’s safe to go back to those!

This is definitely getting ahead of my self, but once sanding’s done I can wax/polish. While I sand by hand, I’ll start thinking about what I can do with those inner tubes…

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Upcycled Earring Display Tutorial

Team Sikel is all about creative reuse, so as much as possible of my craft stall displays are second hand or upcycled by me. It’s easy to get carried away, but also a lot of fun.

One of my early wins was this upcycled picture frame to display my earrings:

Upcycled Earring Display

While I’ve moved on to a smaller frame as my balance of stock shifted, I was really pleased with how this turned out. This was the first version to be able to stand on its own.

Without the stand, the picture frame is a simple make that shows off your earring collection in a unique way.

Want to make your own?

Read on to learn how to make a wall-hanging version, but if you’re interested in how I made my stand, or have any other questions, email me. Once I find where I saved the pictures of my process for the stand, I’ll write another post!

Step 1: Collect Your Materials

Materials
Wooden Picture Frame
Wire Mesh
Tools
Pliers / Wire Cutter
Staple Gun & Staples
Hammer
Thick Work Gloves

You’ll be cutting and bending wire mesh, so thick work gloves will help prevent injuries to your hands. Your clothes may get caught by the mesh, so wear something you don’t mind getting holes in, too!

Some top tips:

  • Deep box picture frames work best – shallow ones won’t leave enough room for your backings to hang properly.
  • Look for wood frames – something you can staple into.
  • Before buying your mesh, measure the height/width of the picture recess- that’s what I’m calling the part where the glass and picture go. My picture recess was 51 cm high x 40 cm wide, so I needed at least 53 x 42 cm of mesh.
  • Keep metal allergies in mind when picking out your mesh. I used galvanised steel, which means it’s coated in zinc (a common metal in jewellery). My next one will probably be brass.
  • Buy staples that are shorter than the thickness of your frame or they’ll bust through to the outside (ask me how I know!). Mine was about 1cm thick.
  • Thicker gauge staples will be easier to tap in if necessary, and less likely to snap if you need to remove a mistake.

Step 2: Prepare Your Picture Frame

​Remove any glass, backing, and pictures from your frame. You may need to use your pliers to remove staples. I ended up with several staples that snapped until only tiny points remained above the wood that I couldn’t remove. Just tap those in with a hammer.

Backing sits on the ledge to the right
No backing ledge

If you’re using a deep frame (and I hope you are), take a look at where your backing sits. On frames that give you the full depth in front of where the backing sits, you can choose to leave in the metal strips that hold the backing in place (first photo above). On other frames, you can remove those, too (second photo above).

Did you want to decorate your frame? I like the industrial raw wood look. If you’re going to paint or decoupage, do it now. It will be much harder when the mesh is in and stapled.

Step 3: Cut your mesh to size

Take the picture recess height and width, and add at least 1cm to each side for the staples to catch (I’m assuming you’re using a deep frame here, remember). Your exact amount depends on the depth of your frame, and whether or not you’ll use the backing.

My picture recess height and width were 51 cm and 40 cm respectively. Adding 1 cm to each side gets me to 53 cm x 42 cm. (NB: when doing this version I added the full 1.5 depth, or maybe even a little more, which caused problems later. You can see in the photos).

Mark your measurements along the mesh at intervals and cut with your wire cutters. Be careful not to cut yourself, and wear the gloves to prevent any injuries from the wires.

Once you’ve got it cut out, remove the corners as shown: Take out a square with sides as long as the depth amount you added. I removed a 1 cm x 1 cm square from each corner, but your measurements will vary.

Step 4: Fold and staple in your mesh

Carefully fold the mesh to the dimensions of your picture recess.

Check that your mesh fits properly within the frame. As I mentioned in the section above, I added too much to my picture recess dimensions: on my first attempt, wires were poking past the edge of the frame. That meant it would leave scratches on the wall. If you follow my instructions above you shouldn’t have this problem, but if you do, just take the mesh out of the frame and cut off a little more along each side.

Once it fits properly, use your staple gun to attach the mesh. Start at the centre of each side, and once all four sides have a staple in, you can move towards the corners.

Use enough staples that it’s secure. You may need to use a hammer to tap some in.

Step 5: Hang and Enjoy

Hang using your preferred method. As the frame I showed ended up getting a stand, here’s the one I use for my personal collection:

If you’ve used a box frame that allows you to keep the backing, you can use the existing hanger, and also change up the background from time to time.

It’s hard to see above, but I’ve used some pretty wrapping paper I carefully removed from a birthday present.

Thanks for reading – please share on social and tag me @teamsikel on Instagram and Facebook if you make one of your own!

-Kelly