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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?


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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A Very Special Inner Tube – Valets

If you read my last blog post, I talked about the huge variety of inner tubes I get in. Now and then there’s something different that I save for a special project, or cut carefully to preserve an interesting detail. Hopefully this will be the first in a little series of unique makes.

A while back I received two tubes that were wider than anything else I’d ever gotten in. I’m not sure what they were for, maybe a motor bike. Cut open, they were just over 16 cm across. As a comparison, check out the image below.

The top is the narrowest I’ll cut flat (becoming about 8cm wide strips), then largest size I’ll get in regularly (11-12), then the massive tube! I set the two big ones aside, waiting for inspiration to strike.

While the temptation was there to use it as part a of a bag, I thought there had to be something different I could make. These tubes are a bit thicker, so they have a lot of body. Used strategically, the material can hold a shape and structure in an interesting way. The thickness also meant they’d be harder for me to sew, especially as my sewing machine was starting to struggle with inner tubes.

I knew eventually something would come to mind to make the most of its properties.

And then a few months ago, I bought myself a hand press.

I initially picked this up so I didn’t have to set snaps on the kitchen floor (the firmest surface in my house – best place to set them securely). But there are so many different dies, this machine opened up a new range of construction opportunities.

In the past I’d struggled with rivets, but this machine means they set straight every time. And then a use for those wide tubes hit me: a valet! A rivet on each corner would turn them into useful little trays. That shape would make the most of the full width of the tube, as well as my new machine.

I played around with a tester, using my knock-off wonder clips to see if I liked the size and shape.

Not that you can tell by the messy work space above, but it was just so handy for keeping things organised while I was working. I knew it something I wanted to make for Team Sikel. So I did! Just a few at first to test construction methods, to find one I was happy with.

I settled on a construction that used inner tube washers behind each rivet head. I make these myself – it takes time, but makes the final product more secure (and uses up tiny scraps of inner tube, but more on that in another post!).

The downside is that I just have those two wide tubes. After some sales at a little soft launch the valets had at an in person market earlier this year, and a few seconds you may have seen during my Super Seconds Saturday sales, I only have about a dozen to offer in that size when they launch on the 6th November. That is, until I get another wide tube in.

And who knows that will be – the joy and struggle of using reclaimed materials.

But I loved the shape, so I toyed around with a smaller trays in my next largest size – about 10-12 cm across. Those became my small valets – perfect for rings, earrings, or other smaller bits and pieces.

I absolutely love these little trays. I’ve got one next to the sink for when I’m doing the washing up and one in the bathroom for when I take a shower. I even brought one on holiday – it squashed into my wash bag, and was so handy for when I was doing messy things (like a basket weaving workshop) or out on a long hike, where I was paranoid my rings might get lost.

The one above is my favourite. Normally I’d save the patched ones to sell, but this time I kept it for myself!

It’s pleasing when I’m able to find a unique use for a very special tube like those huge ones. And even better when it’s able to inspire another use for other tubes.

If you’d like one for yourself or a gift, do sign up for my mailing list for first dibs on this new range! While they’ll go live to everyone on Saturday 6th November, newsletter subscribers get early access on 5th. I’m debating some other perks, too!

What would you keep in yours? I’d love to know!