I’ve been excited about making another bike pannier for some time.
Something functional and fun, with plenty of space for commuting, or a grocery run.
To be totally fair, I don’t think this is going to be a hardcore grocery run sort of bag—I think it’s sturdy enough, but I’m not sure I’d stuff it full of heavy produce or canned goods. Rather, it’ll be a good bag for all those light-but-voluminous items like lettuce, bread, and bags of marshmallows. (You know, for camping only. Not for eating straight out of the bag—I would never do that.)
Think of this as the final project in my inner tube tutorial series. It’s a culmination of a lot of techniques we talked about, like cleaning, cutting, gluing, and machine sewing. I can’t promise I’ll never post about inner tube crafting again, but I can tell you that I’ve got it out of my system for a little bit.
A week, at least.
If you’re still not sick of inner tubes, stick around. Let’s make an oilcloth & inner tube shopping pannier.
- 3 road bike inner tubes
- 1 yard oilcloth
- 1 yard lining fabric
- contact cement
- large button
- About 5 yards bias binding
- 1 coroplast election yard sign
Cut out of oilcloth and lining fabric. Remember geometry class: trapezoid height refers to the measurement from top to base, not the length of the legs.
- 2 trapezoids with a base of 10″, top of 13″, and height of 15″
- 2 trapezoids with a base of 7″, top of 9″, and a height of 15″
- 1 10″ x 7″ square
Baste the oilcloth to the lining
Baste the wrong side of the oilcloth to the wrong side of the lining fabric. I decided to do it this way rather than making a separate lining bag because I thought it’d offer a bit more strength when sewing on the straps and other hardware.
Take 3 half-lengths of inner tube, and—without cutting them open—wash well and dry.
Hopefully the tubes aren’t full of the green goo used to repair flats. If so, ew. Grab another one and use the gooed ones for a step that involves washing the inside of the tube, too.
Stitch all 3 halves along the length 1/4″ from either side.
Use a ballpoint pen to mark a few lines on your trapezoid pieces. Don’t worry about mistakes—the ink cleans right off with rubbing alcohol if you need it to.
On all trapezoid pieces: Mark a line 2.5″ up from the bottom.
On one small trapezoid: Mark 2 vertical parallel lines that are 3″ apart, centered. (This is for the reflective strips; optional.)
On both big trapezoids: Mark all the yellow lines on your back piece, and only the 2 vertical lines on your front piece:
Stitch down the straps
On both the big trapezoids, stitch an inner tube strap along the vertical yellow lines. Extend the bottom of the inner tube down 1/2″ past the lower yellow line, and reinforce it well at the top.
Note: You may want to drop the feed dogs here—I found that was the only way to keep the oilcloth from puckering, like so:
For the front piece
In order to secure the top of the bag, I decided to make a little button closure to go around the back strap. Here’s a closeup:
I used a large ladybug button that I had left over from a coat I made for my niece. I’m a bit embarrassed at how completely and utterly happy it makes me.
To make the button closure, cut a piece of inner tube that’s 8″ long and about 3/16″ wide. Thread the button through, then knot the ends together.
Stitch it on the front piece, 8″ from the top and dead center between the straps. Stitch it as close to the button as you can.
For the back piece
On the back piece, stitch the 3rd inner tube strap along the upper yellow line. Leave a gap across both straps—this is where your bungee cord hooks will go through.
Take a 6″ length of the remaining strap piece, fold it in half, and stitch it down at the halfway point of the lower yellow line, with the ends extending 1/2″ below it.
Ignoring the rubber base and bungee cord, it’ll look like this. (Sorry, I thought I’d taken a photo of the finished piece. Turns out I did not.)
Add Reflectivity (optional)
On the smaller trapezoid you marked, add reflective strips in between the 3″ lines. I cut them at varying widths to make it a bit more interesting. You don’t need to extend the reflective pieces beyond the 2 1/2″ line at the bottom—that’ll be covered up by the rubber bottom.
(Again with the forgetting to take photos of the finished piece.)
Sew it all together
Sew the trapezoids all together along the long ends. If you’re only adding reflective stripes on one side, make sure it ends up being the side that faces to the rear once the bag’s mounted on your rack.
Trim down the seams, then finish with bias binding.
On the inside of the back, sew a couple strips of bias tape across in order to hold the coroplast in place. This will give you the option of removing the coroplast if you want to (or if you no longer like the candidate on the sign).
In hindsight, I should have sewn a pocket on the bottom, rather than just a strap. It would be a bit more secure.
Sew the bottom square to the small end of the trapezoid, and finish with bias binding.
Turn the bag right side out, then finish the top edge with bias tape.
Make the rubber bottom
Cut your remaining 1 and a half inner tubes open lengthways and wash them well. Cut them into 16″ pieces.
Make a flat mat of inner tubes that measures 11″ x 15″ like so:
Stitch the pieces together lengthways until you get a piece that’s about 12″ wide.
Square the ends so that the piece is about 14″ wide, then stitch a half-width of inner tube along both ends.
Square the whole piece to 11″ x 15″.
On the inside, mark a square 2 1/2″ in from all edges.
Fold up the edges (using the square you drew as the base) and secure with binder clips.
Test the fit by setting your oilcloth bag inside.
Stitch down the triangles in the corners. I had problems with skipped stitches at this point, so I tried changing out my needle. That helped a little bit, but I think my machine was just not interested in sewing through 3 layers of inner tubes….
Glue the base to the bag
Spread a thin layer of contact cement over the bottom of the bag and the bottom of the rubber bottom. (I used an index card folded in half as a squeegee.) Don’t try to do it all at once. Let it dry for 10 minutes, then stick them together.
Repeat with one long side, then the other.
After both long sides are done, use a paint brush to coat the short sides with contact cement. Let dry, then press together.
Cut out of coroplast:
- 1 trapezoid with a base of 10″, a top of 12″ and a height of 12.5″
- 1 10″ x 7″ square
Insert the trapezoid down the back, and wedge the square in the bottom.
Shorten a bungee cord so that it fits comfortably like so:
Add a Velcro strap that loops through the lower tab. The hooks will go over the top of the rack, and the Velcro will loop around the lower legs of the rack.
Whew! While I had a lot of fun with this whole series, and this project in particular, I’m really looking forward to using my machine for materials that are a little less hard on it. Please leave any thoughts, questions or suggestions in the comments section. I look forward to seeing your own projects!