Each week, I round up a clever little tutorial for this How-Tuesday column. Well, this week I’m switching it up with a project dreamed up by yours truly! I’ve made this project at workshops with kids and grown-ups alike, and I hope you’ll enjoy it too.
If you ride a bicycle, chances are you’re going to get a flat tire here and there — it’s just a fact of freewheelin’ life in the bike lane. Read on to learn how to make a handy pouch you can use to carry your phone, keys, pencils, or whatever else you need to bring along for the ride — and you’ll save a busted bike tube from the trash. Turn that holey tube into something wholly new. Long live the bike life!
A busted bike inner tube
Bucket of water
Rotary cutter and cutting mat (optional)
Paperclips or binders clips
Hole punch or screw punch with punching mat
Darning needle or DIY needle made from a paper clip
Button (and needle and thread) or Velcro for closure
Tip: If you don’t have a busted tube, or want to make this project with a group and need more tubes, check at your local bike shop — chances are they’ll be happy to pass along some trash-bound tubes.
1. Cut & Clean. Take your busted bike tube and cut it open with scissors. Make your cut right next to the valve for maximum uninterrupted rubber surface to work with. Cut the tube open lengthwise. To help make a straight cut, follow a seam with your scissors.
As you’ll see, the inside of the tube is coated with talcum powder, so proceed with caution — you don’t want to inhale or ingest this stuff. Put on some rubber gloves and fill a bucket with warm water and dish detergent. Using a sponge with an abrasive nylon side, give your tube a good scrub. Dry it with a rag, or let it air dry.
2. Prepping. Cut your clean tube down to size. For this pouch, I cut a piece that is 12″ long and about 3.5″ wide when flat. The width of your pouch will be determined by the width of your tube. A super skinny racing bike tube might be best for a pencil case or another narrow pouch, while the wider tube from a cruiser or a mountain bike will give you a little more room to work with.
Cut another 12″ section of tube. From this, you will cut two thin, even strips of rubber, a fat 1/8″ wide, to use as lacing to sew this whole thing up. Cut these strips either with a pair of scissors (don’t use your finest fabric scissors for this!), or a ruler, rotary cutter, and cutting mat.
3. Format. Decide out how you’d like your pouch to look. How long will the flap be? Once you’ve determined that, clip one side of your soon-to-be pouch with binder clips, clothespins, or whatever you’ve got. I used oversized paperclips here.
On the other side, determine where you want the sewing holes to be. Make small dots with a paint pen to get the placement right. Make sure the holes aren’t too close to one another, and aren’t too close to the edge — you don’t want the holes to run into each other. Mark the holes on one side to start. We’ll repeat this on the other side later.
4. Punching. For this step, there are a few options, tool-wise:
- A hand-held hole punch with a 1/8″ hole (Fiskars makes a good one.)
- A hand-held hole punch with a 1/4″ hole (This is the most common kind.)
- A screw punch — One of my favorite tools! These can be found at craft stores in the scrapbooking department, or from bookbinding or leather craft suppliers. The bits come in different sizes, so you can make holes of varying diameters.
Test out your tool on a scrap to get the hang of it, and make sure it will work properly with rubber.
If you’re using a screw punch, find something to place under your project while you punch the holes. I cut up the cardboard backing of an old sketchbook and taped it together along the edges to make a handy tool that I also use for bookbinding projects that require hole punching. Line up the bit of the screw punch with the dot, stand up to get the best force, and press the tool down. It should punch easily through both layers of rubber. Since a screwing mechanism is what makes this tool work, the rubber might spin around when you press down. If this is troublesome, have a friend hold down the rubber while you punch the holes.
3. Sewing. Time to stitch up that side! You can use a darning needle with a nice big eye or you can make a homespun version, using a paperclip and a little needle-nose plier wizardry, like I did here. There’s no need to worry about the eye of your needle being too wide, as as the rubber will stretch to make way for it as you stitch. Depending on the size of the holes and the width of your rubber lacing, you might not even need to use a needle at all.
Pull the needle and rubber lacing through the bottom hole, leaving a tail.
Tie a double knot snug against the edge of your pouch. Or, if you are an expert knot maker, make something fancier!
Either let the tail hang free, or tuck the tail in between the layers of rubber to hide it away before you make your next stitch. That design decision is up to you. Either way, don’t trim the tail close to the knot or it will find away to untie itself.
Keep whip-stitching your way up the side, adjusting the rubber lacing as you go, since it will get a bit twisted sometimes. You can also experiment with different stitches, if you prefer.
When you reach the top, make another knot, like you did at the beginning.
You can hide this knot on the inside too, if you feel so inclined.
4. Repeat. Mark and punch the holes on the other side. You won’t need to bother with clips this time around, since you have nice sturdy stitching holding the opposite side in place. Stitch it up as you did on the first side.
5. Make a Closure. Trim the flap of your pouch how ever your heart desires. Square it off, round if off, cut it into a triangle or any shape you can dream up. Next, make a closure. Here are two simple options:
- Sew on a button. Cut a slit for the buttonhole. Cut it smaller than you think it should be at first, and slowly cut to expand it till it is just right. After all, it is easier to make that buttonhole longer, and darn near impossible to make it smaller.
- Add a Velcro closure. Be sure to keep the sticky side totally clean, and when you place it onto your pouch really press down and count to twenty to help it adhere into place.
- Come up with your own creative closure, such as as a twig woven through slits or a long strip of tube wrapped around the whole pouch a number of times and tucked into place.
6. Decorate. Shake up those paint pens and draw to your heart’s content on the rubber. Before you start drawing, be sure to test the paint pens on a test piece of paper or rubber to avoid making unwanted paint blobs. You can embellish your creation in other ways too, such as stitched or hot glued add-ons.
7. You’re done! I recommend making a couple of pouches. The more you make, the better your stitching and knotting will become, and the more presents you’ll have to give to friends. Now, what will you keep inside your pouch?
If you make your own bike tube pouch, share a photo with us in the Etsy Labs Flickr group.
Julie Schneider is a Brooklyn-based artist, teacher and punster. When she's not working on Etsy's community team, she's writing, drawing and making cards and papercuts. Keep up with her latest creations on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.