Introduction: Bohemian Butterfly Bicycle Baskets

I love alliteration.   I also love winged things. 

This instructable will show you how to use basic power tools to secure wire bicycle baskets and how to add artistic flair to your basic cruiser.  This will be indispensible if you live in Boulder, CO, and plan on strutting your bad self about the town on Thursday nights.  

I bought this Schwinn single speed bicycle off a dear friend and former roommate when I lived in NYC.  I'm now in a biking town and average 14 miles/day.  Because my current weather conditions can average 20 degree F climate shifts from day to night, I decided I needed some on-board storage for sweaters and the like.  The bicycle came equipped with wire saddle bags, but to ensure my security and prevent monsoon damage to agents stored in said saddle bags, I decided to add locking lids and fabric linings. 

If you already know how to use a sewing machine and jigsaw, much of this will be redundant, though potentially inspirational (why make hinged basket lids when you could make butterfly hinged basket lids?!). However, this tutorial is designed to introduce explorers and neophyte DIYers to new skills.   Part 1 involves the woodworking bit, part 2 involves the sewing bit. 

Cheerio, riders! 

Step 1: You Will Need...

For Part I, the wings:
  1. Drill  Don't have one?  A screwdriver will suffice, as your screws are probably too small to drill pilot holes.  However, a drill will speed up the process and save your wrists from overuse injuries.  I speak from experience on this one. 
  2. Jigsaw  Again, a power tool is not necessary, but will spare you the headache and tedium of cutting your butterfly wings out with a hacksaw or other small handsaw.
  3. Clean 1gal milk jug  This will be cut down to make hinges.  Obviously, this is not a secure method as anyone with a penknife can slice right through them.  Because I'm poor, it's a temporary solution and a way to reuse recycling refuse.  I will eventually replace my milk jug hinges with real hinges, but if you're not as interested in security, they will probably last a good while and are cheap and easy to replace.
  4. Sandpaper (100 & 220, depending)  I used a coarse 100 grit to sand the edges off before painting.  If you are using a finer wood than scavenged plywood, you may want to take the time to sand it further and make your wings nice and smooth for precision painting.  The way I figure it, they're meant for outdoor weather--no need to get too polished with this one.
  5. Ruler / Measuring Tape  I used both, but one will probably suffice.  If you don't have a measuring tape, you can always use a spare bit of string.  Stretch the string across what you need to measure, mark it, then measure the string with your ruler. 
  6. Paint brushes
  7. Paint selection  I had leftovers from painting my kitchen and doors and such.  It wasn't much, but it's enough for wings.  And if you're really serious, consider a paint made specifically for outdoors.  
  8. Template paper  Scraps paper and/or newspaper works great.
  9. Pencil
  10. Scissors
  11. Screwdriver You'll need this and the wrench to get your baskets off your bike.
  12. Crescent or socket wrench
  13. Wood (duh) salvage, salvage, salvage!  There's lots of free wood in the world!
  14. Bike with baskets (also, duh)

For Part II, the lining:

  1. Fabric  This will take a couple yards if you want a liner to your liner.  You could always just use one layer of fabric and put the seams on the inside.  I'm a stickler for finished edges, so I line damn near everything.  I had a heavy duty non-natural fiber fabric laying about and used that, assuming it will wear well outdoors. 
  2. Ruler
  3. Tailor's chalk or fabric pen I used a felt tipped pen because A) I knew my serger would clip those inked lines off and B) I didn't care if it had pen marking on it anyway.  If you think you don't want pen marks, use something that will wash out easily.
  4. Sewing scissors  These are much sharper than your average household scissors.  If you plan on doing any kind of sewing in the future, invest in a pair of fabric scissors and use them ONLY for fabric.  If you use them around your house, you'll find you'll be making that investment repeatedly. 
  5. Seam ripper  Because no matter how experienced I am, I still screw up.
  6. Lacing cord  Just about any ol' cord will do.  I had a giant spool of natural coloured twill tape and so I used that.  Jute cord?  sure.  Hemp?  Of course?  Satin cord, lace, whatever!
  7. Safety pin This will be used to feed your cord through the casing.
  8. Iron & ironing board Don't have an ironing board?  Put a towel on a hard, and preferably hardy, surface.  Antiques might not be the appropriate surface for this technique. 
  9. Sewing machine

Step 2: Making the Template

1.  Measure your baskets and write down the dimensions for reference.  If you are planning on going on to Part II of this instructable, then go ahead and measure all dimensions.  If you just want to make the wings, you only need the dimensions of the top.

2.  Make a template.  Using the measurements you took, sketch out an image of what you think the wings should look like.  I used a french curve from my sewing kit, but you could use a plate to get even curves on your wings.  You can also make a paper template for the middle piece.  I made a plain ol' rectangle for the butterfly body.  Depending on your hinging plans, you may have to factor the width of your wood into your design and make the middle portion a bit smaller to accommodate metal hinges.

3.  Test the template.  This is why we use a template.  It's so much nicer to make a mistake on a piece of newspaper than it will be to cut your wood wrong.  Take the time to make sure it fits the way you want.  Play with it--pretend there's a hinge and make sure when the wings are vertical, they won't hit the bicycle seat.  Make adjustments if needed.

4.  Trace the template.  Now that you know your paper version fits perfectly, it's time to trace it onto the wood.  Using a pencil (or pen, or olive oil, or whatever writing aparatus you can manage), trace exactly around your template.  When positioning your template, look for knots in the wood that might be difficult to navigate and adjust your placement accordingly. 

5.  Cut out the wings.  Put the blade in your jigsaw with the teeth facing forward.  Wear appropriate safety gear like goggles and close toe shoes.  If you're nervous about using power tools, most jigsaws have variable speed triggers that will allow you to start a bit slow.  Always be mindful of your power cord--keep it behind you so you don't cut right through it, too! 

Step 3: Sand and Paint

6.  Sand.  Using a coarse sandpaper, go along the edges and any interior spots that will make it difficult to paint.  Because I'm using a salvaged, weathered plywood, there are some cracks and deficiencies I just don't want to address.  As long as I get the big splinters, I'll be happy. 
*An easy way to sand the edges is to hold the sandpaper across the edge, one side of the sand paper in each hand.  With an oscillating motion, scrub with all your might and work your way along the edge.  Done in a jiffy!

7.  Paint.  Once your edges are smooth, you can start expressing your artistic side with paint.  I had to reference a butterfly image for the vein pattern in the wings; if you're not a keen lepidopterist, you may have to do that too.  Also, you may want to put a priming coat on your wood if it's super dry or porous.  I went straight for the yellow and have it a couple of coats.   After my last yellow coat was dry to the touch, I commenced veining in dark blue with gold spots around the edges.  The next day, I opted for a quick coat of black spray paint on the underside for no reason whatsoever, really.

**Painting tip!  If you don't have too long to wait for coats of paint to dry (1/2 hr or so), you can wrap your paintbrush in plastic wrap and tape it closed.  This will prevent it from drying out in the air and will keep you from having to rinse your brush out after each application, only to find you have a soggy brush when it's time to recoat. 

***A note about the painting tip--I have actually left my paint & brushes this way overnight and it was fine, but it's not my fault if you screw it up and your paint dries out.  *big innocent smile*.

Step 4: Remove Baskets, Add Wings, Make Magic.

8.  Remove Bike Baskets.  Now it's time to strip your bike of it's baskets by removing the hardware under the seat and removing the nut on the back wheel.  You baskets should come off pretty easily, unless you have a very helpful mate who ratcheted your back wheel on with super-human strength, in which case you might struggle a bit.

9.  Cut hinges.  Using a utility knife or some scissors, cut enough pieces of your milk bottle for wing hinges and to secure the flat center part of your butterfly body.   I used four for the undercarriage and six for hinges.  Err on the side of too big--you can always cut them down.

10.  Secure center piece to baskets.  Flip your baskets over and shove your center body piece underneath.  Center it up.  This will be easiest if you don't have a recycled plastic fabric fender obscuring your vision.  Take a strip of your milk bottle, lay it over the center wire and begin screwing it down.  Your screws should be pretty short, so don't bother drilling pilot holes--it's not necessary.  Also, you're probably going to want four pieces--two each in the front and the back.  Keep in mind that the milk bottle pieces will only straddle the wire, so if your security straps aren't as far out to the edge as you can get them, the center piece will be able to slide back and forth across the wire.

*When screwing through the milk bottle plastic, be sure not to get too zealous--you will go straight through the plastic and have to cut a new piece.  Yep.  I speak from experience here. 

11. Measure for wing hinges.  Make sure you have your hinges where you want them, then begin to secure them to the wings.  Once you have your plastic bottle hinges on one wing, line it up to the center body and start screwing the other half down.  Start with one and make sure the angle of the bend works for your thickness of wood.  You can adjust the distance between the wing and body to accommodate, if needed. 

12.  Got both halves on now?  Awesome!  Now you can add your optional security.  I think I mentioned earlier that this 'security' ain't so secure without real metal hinges.  The fact that you can lock your butterfly wings down to the wire on your baskets will not stop someone from using their penknife to slice open your plastic hinges.  If you want real security, get real hinges.  If you're just keeping honest folks honest, you're probably fine like this, but maybe you should refrain from leaving your ipod/wallet/passport inside the baskets, huh?

13.  Put your baskets back on and admire your handiwork.  Part I is now finished!

Step 5: Part II -- Sewing the Liners

13.  Make & cut your pattern.  Using the dimensions you recorded earlier, construct a basic pattern for you basket liners.  This sort of pattern is pretty simple.  Using a grid ruler (or a regular ruler in combination with a square of some sort), draw the baskets one component at a time: 4X small side, 4X long side, 2X bottom.  Add 5/8" to each side.  If you want to do this as a composite step as shown, simply add your 1 1/4" to each of your dimensions to accommodate for seam allowance.  All done drawing?  Cut it out.  Remember you'll need twice as many pieces if you're lining your liners like me.

Also, you'll need a long rectangular piece to act as a casing (X2).  This should measure just a few inches longer than 2shorts and 1long side.  In other words, one long side shy of a top perimeter.  Finally, cut two binding pieces.  These can be on the bias or just plain ol' rectancles just slightly longer than one of the long sides and about 2 1/4-3" wide.

**I used a felt pen because I A) included seam allowance in my original draft and so knew I was going to serge that edge and B) didn't care.  If you care about your fabric or elect to draft your pattern on actual measurements and then add seam allowance, you may want to make a different choice: tailor's chalk, graphite, and soap are all appropriate washable substances for marking on fabric.

14.  Serge.  This is optional and can be done after the stitching is complete.  I serged all my edges before stitching things together because I like to zone out while I finish edges and then not have to worry about it again.

15. Make the first basket liner.  Begin by stitching a small side to a big side.  Then do the other small side big side, then the other big side to the whole thing until you have a four-sided box.  Now that your sides are stitched together, you can sew the bottom on.  I'll walk you through this in pictures.  

16.  Check your fit.  Now that you have one box complete, go put it in your basket and make sure your size is correct.  If you really have doubts, you're going to want to do this as you make your pattern.  And if you really, really have doubts, just remember to err on the side of too big. 

17.  Got a nice fit?  Then continue sewing your other liner and the liner linings

Step 6: Liner Lining, Casing, and Bohemiafication.

18.  Nest your lining liners and staystitch.  If you're lining your liners, Make sure wrong sides are together and nest the lining inside the liner with the raw top edge exposed.  Run a basting stitch around the top edge to keep it all in place while you put your binding and casing on.

19.  Add the binding and casing.  The casing only goes along three sides of the basket because the wheel side is obscured by the center basket connecting pieces.  Thus, we need a binding on the long wheel side and casing on the other three. 

To sew your binding, iron one side in by 1/2" or so.  Sew the non-ironed side to one of your long sides.  Then flip the binding over the raw edge and stitch down.  You can do this by hand, or you can try what's called 'stitch in the ditch,' whereby you topstitch in the 'ditch' left by the seam edge and catch the under part with the bobbin side of your stitch.  This can take some practice and a sensitive hand to feel when you've lost your underside.  I just topstitched mine because I didn't mind seeing the stitching. 

For the casing, make a pair of button holes on either side of the center line to thread your ties through.  Split the buttonholes open.  Finish the raw ends by folding them over and stitching them down to create a clean edge. Then, proceed as with the binding, stitching the casing all along three sides of the top edge. 

20.  Add your bohemian flare.  I had some tassel braid left over from an old bellydance costume.  There was just enough to go around the three sides of each basket so I used it. 

Step 7: Lacing It Up and Pimping Your Ride?

21.  Thread your lacing.  Grab a safety pin and close it on one end of your lacing.  Use the safety pin to feed your cord through the casing and out to the back side.  Now, wrap the lacing around under the center wires on the wheel side of the basket and feed it through the other side of the casing, around the basket and out the other button hole.  Cinch your liner to the basket.  If your buttonholes are on the 'hidden' side, you can also easily tie them off to the wires. 

22.  Enjoy the magic you have created and cruise the town.  Do not be alarmed when others tell you how adorable your bicycle is.  And then whiz past because they were smart enough to buy a bike with speeds

The End  
*fairy dust*