Tutorial: Inner tube plant hanger

by Jessie Kwak

I adore houseplants.

It may not look like it, given the stunning number of casualties my love of house plants has produced over the years, but I do adore them.

I sometimes forget to water them, I never think to fertilize them, and some of the poor things suffer, root bound in too-small pots for ages waiting for me to notice.

But I love them.

In an attempt to help us get settled in our new place, I’ve been sneaking stray plants in whenever I can. Succulents planted in broken teacups, an air plant nestled in a traditional Kwak beer glass, and now a spider plant suspended in the air…

Recycled inner tube plant hanger | Bicitoro Bikes & Crafts

…in a macrame inner tube plant hanger.

I just couldn’t resist. I posted my prototype last night on Twitter and Facebook to ask if this was a ridiculous idea or totally badass, and I got a 99% response of “badass,” with one respondent weighing in with “badassculous.”

Want to make your own badassculous inner tube plant hanger? Read on, friends. Read on.


You need:

3 busted road bike inner tubes
A ring of some sort – I used a 1.5″ D ring
4 binder clips

Preparing your inner tubes

Snip the valves out of 2 of your inner tubes, then fold each in half and secure with a binder clip. Carefully cut up both sides of all 4 halves, stopping about 1/2″ from the binder clip.

Recycled inner tube plant hanger - cutting | Bicitoro Bikes & Crafts

At this point things will be a bit chalky because of the talcum inside the inner tube. Without removing the binder clips, wash your inner tubes with hot, soapy water. Dry with a towel.

(You can refer back to this post about cleaning inner tubes if you have any questions.)

Next, cut each strip in half lengthwise again, so that you have 8 inner tube strips dangling from each binder clip.

Cut open and wash your 3rd inner tube, then cut several long strips about 1/4″ wide from it. You’ll use these strips to tie the macrame knots.

Adding the ring

Carefully remove the binder clips, and thread everything through your ring. You should still have about an inch of intact rubber in the center to hold everything together.

Gather the 16 strands together with a gathering knot.

Recycled inner tube plant hanger - tie gathering knot | Bicitoro Bikes & Crafts

(Andrea from MacrameForFun.com will teach you everything you need to know about gathering knots.)

I used gathering knots for all of the knotting in this plant hanger, because it made a smoother look. Alternately, you could just tie overhand knots.

Making the basket

Measure down 15″ from the knot (12″ for a small hanger), and gather the strands into 4 bunches, securing them with binder clips.

Tie a gathering knot at each binder clip.

Recycled inner tube plant hanger - tie small gathering knots | Bicitoro Bikes & Crafts

Separate the bunches, joining 2 strands from each bunch with 2 strands from its neighboring bunch. Measure down 4″ (also 4″ for a small hanger) and mark with binder clips. Tie gathering knots.

Recycled inner tube plant hanger - binder clips | Bicitoro Bikes & Crafts

ONLY FOR LARGE HANGER: Repeat this process one more time.

Finish by tying a gathering knot around all 16 strands, about 3″ below the last set of knots.

Recycled inner tube plant hanger - finished plant hanger | Bicitoro Bikes & Crafts

Hang yer plant

Put the plant in, and hang it from something. You’re done!

Recycled inner tube plant hanger - finished shot | Bicitoro Bikes & Crafts

What do you think? Is my brain totally addled from four days of being snowbound with no one to talk to? Have I finally lost it? Or is this a legitimate thing you would actually make?

Happy snowbound crafting, everyone!

Want more inner tube crafts? Check out my ebook Crafting with Inner Tubes.

Crafting with Inner tubes | Bicitoro bikes and crafts


Tutorial: magnetic office board made out of bicycle chains

by Jessie Kwak

With all the moving, etc., I haven’t had time to sink my teeth into a good bike craft project lately—until this week, when I made Rob’s Christmas present.

(I know, Christmas was forever ago! *hangs head in shame*)

Do you like it?

message board made from recycled bicycle chains

As an outside rep, he’ll be working out of his car, and out of our house. Our new place has an extra room we’re using as an office, so I’d planned on getting him something interesting and office-y for Christmas.

I was still racking my brain for ideas when I walked into Arbor Lodge Coffee. It’s our closest neighborhood coffee joint here in Portland, and they have these fantastic boards up for people to post notes on.

They’re all different, but the one that caught my attention was similar to the photo above: strands of bike chains hanging from a board. Magnets are used to pin up colorful notes.

I just had to make one for Rob.

Aside from the elbow grease needed to clean the chains, it’s a really straightforward project.


You need:

  • Seven old bike chains
  • A sturdy board about 4 feet long
  • Small chain rings for decoration (optional)
  • Small screws
  • A scrub brush
  • Degreaser
  • Gloves
  • Strong magnets

Ask around at local bike shops for old chains and chain rings—I got mine at Second Ascent in Seattle. (Thanks, Dave, for letting me root around in the recycling!)

Clean the chains

This was actually my first bike chain project, despite my years of blogging about bikes and crafts. I looked up this guest post from Laura about making bike chain stars, and basically followed her instructions on how to clean the chains.

Bicycle chain board 4

I ended up using one of those green plastic pot scrubbers to polish them up after the degreaser bath, and then I used shop rags (AKA cut up T-shirts) to wipe them down really really good afterwards. The last thing I wanted was grease getting on the walls or Rob’s important papers.

Also—wear gloves! I still have grease under my fingernails.

Prepare your board

I got some gnarly old Douglas Fir fencing from a neighbor in Georgetown, which he promised would look beautiful once it was sanded down and oiled. He was right:

Bicycle chain board

I used a power sander to take of years of weathering and ancient kerf marks, then sanded it by hand with a sheet of fine sandpaper. Once it was to my liking, I applied a couple coats of tung oil to bring out the natural beauty.

Attach the chains

I used a pair of pliers to break apart the chain, popping out the little spacer so that both sides swing loose.

Bicycle chain board 5

I then tried to use a pair of wire cutters to chop off the back link, but to no avail. So I ignored it and screwed the top link on anyway, figuring that it wasn’t that noticeable.

Because you’re attaching the chain so close to the edge of the wood, be sure to pre-drill before putting the screws in.

(This was a fun project for me–years of theater shop class lessons and a funny stint working with a carpenter in Venezuela were all coming back to me.)

Break the chains to length

Or you could do this before you attach them, whichever you like. I did it this way because then as I broke them off I could get an idea of how they hung—I wanted them to be a little uneven, in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Use a chain breaker* to break the chains to about 3 feet—or whatever length you find desirable. I referred once more to Laura’s post on making chain star ornaments for instructions.


Add decorative chain rings as desired, either by screwing them on or glueing, then attach it to your wall. Use magnets to post notes, and viola!

The finished unit will be pretty heavy, so you’ll want to screw it into a stud to attach it.


* “Why do you need the chain breaker? What’s wrong?” Rob asked. My phone started ringing within seconds of sending a text to him asking where it was.

“I’m just playing around with those old chains I got. Making art,” I said. “Nothing important. I found a chain breaker in your tool box.”

“Oh. Good.” A pause. Then, worried: “Which one did you find?”

“One with a blue handle and green tape on it. There were two, but this one looks older so I figured I could use it.”

“It’s not one with a black handle? Because that one’s definitely off-limits to you.”

“Nope. Blue handle, green tape.”

“Good. You remember how to use it?”

“Yup!” Googlegooglegoogle…. “Love you! Bye!”


Tutorial: Steampunk neoprene cycling gaiters

by Jessie Kwak

I held off on this tutorial last week because I was really hoping to be able to give you guys some feedback on how my new neoprene cycling gaiters performed—and it hasn’t been raining.

Not even a little! We’ve had an entire week of cold, misty mornings that slowly dissolve into brilliantly crisp (almost warm) afternoons.

Not even when Nalisha and I rode up to Cowichan Bay on Vancouver Island for a Trifecta weekend. (A what? I’ll write a post about it later.)

See! Pictorial evidence of how sunny it was:

Cowichan bay wine tasting

So without any further ado,

How to make steampunk neoprene cycling gaiters

Because you know you’ve always wanted some.

Cycling gaiters tutorial - finished2

I wrote last week about my solution for keeping my feet from getting sopping wet when I wear my Dr. Martens whilst biking in the rain (among other things). Not being content to merely buy a pair of cycling gaiters, I decided to make a pair of steampunk-inspired neoprene gaiters that would do the double duty of keeping my feet warm and dry, while still not looking like “bike gear.”

Initially I’d planned to make something that just zipped up the back, but when I Googled gaiters I came across all sorts of fascinating Victorian, steampunk, and military gaiters that just seemed So Much More Cool than what I’d planned to do.

I was in particular inspired by this tutorial at By Sidney Eileen about how to draft a fitted gaiters pattern, as well as this pair of antique gaiters I found on Etsy (click to see the listing):


Check out the fastener on those babies. Rather than using buttonholes, button loops or boot hooks, there’s simply a cord laced through a row of grommets. I loved the idea, so that’s what I decided to do with mine.


You’ll need:

  • About 15″ x 30″ of 2mm or 3mm neoprene (I got mine in the scrap bins at Seattle Fabrics.)
  • A pair of boots to trace
  • 3 or so yards of fold-over elastic trim (I got mine from Porcelynn Fabric Boutique.)
  • 12 grommets plus a grommet setter (I stole my grommet setter from my mom. Did you ever wonder where that went, mom? I have it. Let me know if you need it back, although you probably bought another one after all these years.)
  • One busted bicycle inner tube
  • 12 buttons

Make a pattern

If you’re feeling precise, follow the drafting instructions at Sidney Eileen’s blog. If you’re feeling like me, lay your boot down on a piece of paper, smash it so it’s mostly flat, and trace it to the best of your ability, adding about an inch for seam allowance and wiggle room.

Draw a line 1/3 of the way to the back, and 1/3 of the way to the front. You now have 3 pattern pieces in 1: the full inside piece, and the overlapping halves of the outside piece.

Cycling gaiters pattern

Cut your pieces out in muslin, sew the front to the front and the back to the back, then try it on for size. If you used the pattern drafting method, it probably fits pretty well. If you used the Bicitoro Method of Estimation, you probably still have some work to do.

Cycling gaiters tutorial - fitting

You can see in the photo above that although mine fit pretty well through the calf, it left something to be desired in the slope above the foot. I pinned out the excess, then stitched the seam again. Perfect.

While I was tweaking my pattern, I decided that instead of fastening straight up the side, I wanted the gaiter to swoop towards the back, like these Merrell boots I’ve been lusting after. So I cut out a swoopy piece, then sewed it onto my front outside piece.

Cycling gaiters tutorial - fitting2

Now you can see that not only does my muslin gaiter fit better, it’s also got more sass. That white bit near the bottom front is an extra little wedge of paper I fit in there to even out the bottom hem.

Carefully take apart your muslin, and use the pieces as your pattern.

Assemble the gaiters

Note: Sewing with neoprene is surprisingly easy. Make sure you have a sharp needle, go slow when sewing over any seams, and use a longer stitch length (I set mine to 4mm).

Cut out your pattern pieces, being sure to mirror them so you don’t end up with two left feet. Like me when I’m dancing!

Sew the front and back seams, then fell them by trimming away one side close to the stitching, then folding the other side down and top stitching it.

Cycling gaiters tutorial - seam

That gives you a nice seam that lays flat, without being too bulky.

Cycling gaiters tutorial - seam 2

Keep trying the gaiter on throughout the process to make sure no adjustments need to be made. Mine was a bit long, so I had to trim about a 1/2″ off the bottom.

When your pieces have been assembled, you can add reflective trim if you like. I just put a strip of it up the back seam.

Edge finish and fasteners

There are other ways to finish the edges of neoprene, but I think the nicest is to use fold-over elastic. Set your sewing machine on a zig-zag stitch, then go slowly, stretching the elastic slightly as you do. It takes a bit to get the technique down just right, so if you’ve never used fold-over elastic before I’d recommend practicing a bit on scrap pieces.

Cycling gaiters tutorial - edging

Finish just the vertical edges for now.

Add 6 grommets to each Outside Front edge, spacing them evenly. (Again, practice the grommets on scrap first.)

For the lacing, use a 2-foot-long strip of busted bicycle inner tube, cut to a width of 1/4″. You could use regular elastic, I suppose, but all I had was a gigantic pile of inner tubes. Lace it through as shown below, then tack the ends in place.

Cycling gaiters tutorial - before buttons

(You can see my chalk line on the heel where I need to trim it evenly.)

Mark the places for the buttons, but don’t sew them on just yet.


Finish the top and bottom edges with fold-over elastic. Sew the buttons on.

The last thing you need to do is to sew a strap to go underneath your boot, preferably in that place right in front of the raised heel. Try the gaiter on, and pin a 1″ wide piece of bicycle inner tube in place so that it fits well, but not too snuggly. Stitch it down.

Cycling gaiters tutorial - finished3

Viola! If anyone makes a pair of these, please be sure to let me know! I love mine–they’re super toasty, and I’m sure I’ll be wearing them all winter.

Happy riding!


Guest post: Bike Chain Ornaments

by Jessie Kwak

I’m excited to announce another tutorial guest post for this week! Today, Laura from SurlyGirlCrafts is here to tell us about making holiday ornaments out of old bike chains.

I first saw SurlyGirl’s work on the Uncommon Goods blog, and was so enchanted with how she transforms little bits of bikes into things of beauty.

In all the bike crafting that I’ve done, I’ve yet to dive into actually creating things out of bikes, which is why I asked Laura to come on over and enlighten us. Read on—there’s still time to make a few for your tree!

(If you’re feeling low on time, why not just hop on over to SurlyGirl’s Etsy shop and pick up a couple that were made by the master herself? My favorite is this adorable wreath:

Cute, right? And there’s only one left, because I already bought the other one.

Take it away, Laura.

How to Make Ornaments from Recycled Bike Chains

Turning your old chain into a holiday ornament is a great way to give it a new life, and putting a chain star on your tree will show your love of cycling in a festive way. It’s also a great way to commemorate a bike that has special meaning to you. Maybe it was the one you won your first race with, road your first century or just got you back and forth to work everyday. Chain ornaments also make great gifts for your cycling friends.

You’ll need:

  • A bike chain
  • Degreaser
  • A scrubbing brush, old toothbrush, Q-tips
  • A chain tool

Creating chain ornaments is simple. The most difficult and time consuming task is cleaning and preparing the chain.

Once the chain has been removed from your bike use a scrub brush to remove large chunks of dirt and grease. I place a piece of plastic canvas in the sink to protect it, then I use a kitchen scrub brush and the sink sprayer to get the chain as clean as possible.

After most of the dirt and grease has been removed I soak it in decreaser to remove the remainder of the grease. There are a variety of cleaners out there. I use Park Tool’s Citrus Chain Cleaner because it is effective but also environmentally friendly.

I use a solution that is part water, part degreaser. For most chains the ratio is half and half, but on dirtier chains I will use more degreaser and less water. The condition of the chain also dictates how long to soak. Sometimes it’s as short as an hour, sometimes it’s overnight.

After soaking the chain use a toothbrush dipped in degreaser to clean around the pins and in between the links. A Q-Tip also does a good job of cleaning between the links. After thoroughly rinsing the chain, use a clean shop towel to rub it dry.

After it is dry use a chain tool to break off the piece you are going to use for your ornament. I use Park Tool’s CT – 5 chain tool. This is a good tool to use because it is small enough to get into the space between the star points. It also has replaceable pins. If you make a lot of stars, you’ll go through a lot of pins.

You will need 10 chain links.

When breaking the chain don’t push the pin all the way through. Only push it far enough to separate the links, as you will need to push the pin back through to link the chain.

Once you have the correct chain length use the chain tool to attach the links creating a loop. Then shape it into the shape you desire.

Use the chain tool to tighten down the pins.

Start with the points of the star, tighten them so that they no longer bend. After those are tight tighten the pin in between the points.

Once all the pins have been tightened the chain links should not move and it will retain it’s star shape. Loop a ribbon or string through one of the points and it’s ready to hang on your tree.

Most chains, depending on condition, can yield about 10 ornaments. Make up several as decorations on gifts or as stocking stuffers for the cyclist in your life.

My real name is Laura White. Mountain biking is my passion and I raced for several years on a pink and green Surly 1 x 1, which is how I got the moniker SurlyGirl. I’m originally from Michigan, but moved to Southwestern Virginia several years ago so that I could be near mountains. I’ve always been a crafter. For years I was primarily a knitter; making hats, scarves and baby blankets, and I first started making crafts from bike parts when I had a section of pink chain leftover from the Surly. I made it into a key chain. From there I began to create other things from my old bike parts and eventually started to collect parts from local bike shops. I like to surround myself with things that remind me of my bikes and my love of cycling even when I’m not riding which is why I love making things from bike parts and incorporating bikes into my knit designs.


Tutorial: Make your own reflective ribbon trim

by Jessie Kwak

As I mentioned last week in my Bike Craft roundup, I’ve been thinking a lot about visibility. In Seattle, we’re coming off an unprecedented number of gorgeous, rainless days, but even as the sky stays clear, the sun is setting sooner and sooner.

That’s fine, though, because we’re about to enter my absolutely most favoritest month: October.

It’s the month of butternut squash and sage ravioli, apple pie, delicious hearty soups, crunchy leaves under bike tires, sunny crisp days, and the return of my favorite wardrobe item, the scarf.

There are all sorts of reflective trims available for the home sewer to add to sewing projects. Big box fabric stores like Jo-Ann’s often carry trims—in fact the Jo-Ann’s near my work has reflective piping, black and fluorescent yellow reflective grosgrain ribbon, and iron-on reflective ribbon.

Specialty stores like Seattle Fabrics will have more esoteric things. In addition to the basic fluorescent shiny stiff, Seattle Fabrics also carries nifty reflective piping, reflective shock cords, and more. They also carry reflective fabric by the yard. It’s pretty reasonably priced for what it is (I think it’s around $22 a yard), and some day I’m going to make a coat, or a pair of panniers or some such out of it and just blind the hell out of everybody. Maybe I’ll make an evening gown.

There’s a common problem with the ribbon trims, though. They’re meant to be high-vis, and as such they’re often neon yellow or orange, or some other bright color. At the very best you can find them in black.

It’s understandable—there’s not nearly enough of a demand for these ribbons that they would be available in a wide range of colors. No Rose Smoke or Tangerine Tango or Rhapsody.

Which brings me to today’s tutorial:

Make your own reflective ribbon


  • Iron-on reflective ribbon (I got mine at Jo-Ann’s)
  • Grosgrain or satin ribbon
  • Iron
  • A press cloth

First, can I tell you about press cloths? I didn’t even know what one was until last winter, when I finally broke down and bought a yard of silk organza to make one. (One yard makes 4 press cloths.) I was making a nice wool winter coat, and every blog I read about coat making talked about how important it was to use a press cloth with wool to keep the iron from leaving all those shiny marks in the fabric.

I use it for everything, now.

A press cloth is really helpful for projects like this, where you’re dealing with materials that could potentially melt on your iron. Silk organza can withstand high heat, and is see-through so you don’t have to guess what you’re doing.

The directions on the package seem pretty self-explanatory: peel off the backing, iron to the fabric, peel off the protective front coating.

I followed it all up to the last, but after I’d ironed the reflective piece on I couldn’t find the protective coating to peel off. It seems to work, though. I guess it’ll just be like when you get a new phone, right, and you don’t realize there’s one of those protective screen films until like three weeks later when someone else is using your phone and points it out, and then you just shrug and say that you keep it that way to prolong the resale value, even though it was just the free phone from Sprint, and later you peel it off when no one’s looking. Or maybe that’s just me.

Where was I?

Ah, yes.

1: Slice up your reflective trim

Use a rotary blade to cut your reflective trim into 1/4″ strips.

2: Peel off the backing

Fingernails are a plus, here. The newly exposed side will be a sparkly graphite color. That’s the reflective side.*

3: Iron it onto your ribbon

Center the reflective strip sparkly graphite side up on the ribbon. Lay your press cloth over it, then use the tip of your iron to tack it down every few inches. Once it’s nice and stuck in place, press it fully according to the directions.

Awesome, right? Now go forth and be well lit!

*Wait–so is this the protective coating that I’m supposed to peel off after ironing it on? Then where’s the clear backing? Either way, it worked for me and I only found one layer to peel off. Please enlighten me, oh crafty folk of the internet.