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The Database of Rubberist Patterns - Information - tip001
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Rubber The Right Way

A Condensed Primer on Making Your Own Latex Clothing

©copyright 2002 by wetseal_rubber

Content Summary and Statement of Intent


Content Summary

Did you know that with basic skills and tools, you can make your own rubber tee shirts for $USD 25.00, and full catsuits for $USD 100.00? The goal of this essay's is to concisely present basic rubbermaking skills within the essay size constraints of the Cocoon contest. As such, this is not a full guide, even for the basic skills discussed in it. But it will provide enough to get you started making your own rubber gear.

Techniques chosen here are:

  1. Designed to make latex well, not make it fast

  2. Tailored for home use, not commercial production

  3. Taken from my own experience working with latex

  4. Severely edited for space. Zippers, snaps, sewing, and other latex 'basics' intended for this document have been removed


Statement of Future Intent

This essay is a 'beginning'. My intent is to at least complete and refine the unfinished portions of 'the basics' after the essay contest closes. If provided with access to some free and reasonably responsive web space, a properly formatted HTML version with linked table of contents, index, drawings, and pictures will be created. As time permits, a summary of tips and findings in Rubberist.NET articles can be added. Finally, there is considerable room for growth in this document as a resource for rubberists. Your feedback on how this document has been useful or not useful will help shape how it looks in the future.


Request for Input

This offering to the rubber community is neither the only way, nor necessarily the best way to make latex clothing. Your suggestions for improvement and additional information are welcome. Meanwhile, my hope is that this essay will put the creative license to realize your favorite latex garment in your hands, while keeping some of that hard earned money in your wallet!

Thanks for reading my essay.

Wet Seal!


Workspace Requirements


Work Table

  1. For garments up to t-shirt size, 36" x 36" (0.9 m x 0.9 m) is sufficient.
  2. For larger garments a 36" by 72" (0.9 m x 1.8 m) table is required.
  3. A smooth, solvent resistant surface that is free of sharp edges, copper alloys, and any other hazards to latex is required. Formica laminated surfaces serve these requirements well.
    1. Old polished laminate office doors are ideal and can be cheaply acquired at architectural recyclers.
    2. Old formica counters also work well.
    3. Hardware stores and Ikea sell stands to fit under your table.
  4. Arrange your table for a comfortable working height while standing.

Lighting

  1. Provide two good lights at different locations over the table (to cut shadows)
  2. Add one small movable lamp that can highlight work in progress

Cleanliness

  1. Pick a space that can be kept clean. Latex builds static which efficiently collects dust, pet hair, cigarette smoke, and other debris. These wind up in your garment as you assemble it

Storage and Organization

  1. Store your latex rolls suspended on dowels or lying flat. Standing rolls uncurl and the uncurled latex will become damaged.
  2. Add small and large drawers, pegboards, and shelving to keep tools and supplies close at hand.

Hazard Removal

  1. Prevent sunlight from hitting work in progress or stored latex.
  2. Keep latex away from heat and moisture.
  3. Remove copper, brass, and bronze from the work and storage area, as these materials stain latex.
  4. Cover or blunt sharp edges on or near the work or storage area.
  5. Avoid cigarettes or other flames. Latex burns like polyester.
  6. Provide ventilation. Solvents are both toxic and flammable, and latex seams dry quicker.

Basic Tools and Supplies


Required Tools

  1. SHARP full-size tailoring shears for piece cutting. Buy quality scissors!
    1. Hand 'wheel cutters' are unsuitable. They compress and bunch up the latex.
    2. Quality electric wheel cutters and electric scissors work, but you must be used to them.
  2. SHARP small trimming scissors for small holes, slitting buttons, etc.
  3. Measuring tape (at least 60" - 1.5 m).
  4. Ruler (at least 12" - 30 cm with an edge that resists bleed under by markers).
  5. 2" (5 cm) wide brayer or wooden dowel.
  6. 4 oz - 8 oz wide mouthed glass bottle with sealable lid (large baby food jars work well) for storing thinned solvent based adhesive.
  7. Fan (for ventilation and drying latex seams).

Optional Tools

  1. Several sewing sites provide inexpensive ways to make personal Dress Forms. Dress forms provide a good basis for fitting, with the understanding that finished forms are slightly (1/2" to 3/4" or 2.5 to 3.8 cm) larger than your own measurements. The technique focuses on dresses, but can be adapted for other garments as well.

Required Supplies

  1. Solvent based adhesive.
  2. Rubber cement thinner (or heptane, or Coleman naptha based camp fuel).
  3. Rubbing alcohol (cleans off many markers).
  4. Plain yellow dish soap (no hand conditioners and not anti-bacterial) or Johnson's Baby Shampoo (to remove talc, sewing lubricant, etc.).
  5. 'Acid brushes' or other stiff, disposable 1/2" (1.3 cm) brush (small bottles of 'rubber cement' often contain these).
  6. Soft, lint free rags (tee-shirt material, cotton sheeting).
  7. 1/2" (1.3 cm) low-tack masking tape.
  8. Metallic 'paint' type fine tip (1/16" - 0.2 cm) markers. Black markers are a substitute for most colors except black, semi-transparent, and very pale colors. Test markers first on scrap latex for bleed through and removability.

Optional Supplies For Reinforcing Seams

  1. 2" (5 cm) or wider low-tack masking tape

Optional Supplies For Garment Closures

  1. Liquid latex or water base latex adhesive.
  2. Nylon interfacing (white, red, and black).

Optional Patterning Education and References

  1. Pattern fitting course (takes a standard home use pattern and teaches you how to fit it to your own measurements).
  2. Pattern drafting courses (teaches you how to create your own patterns. Usually each course focuses on a specific type of garment).
  3. Tailoring and Pattern Drafting books.

Latex Sources

(not an exhaustive list and not an endorsement of product)


Four D Rubber Co., Ltd.


Company, Product, and Price Characteristics

Hygenic Corporation


Company, Product, and Price Characteristics

Other Latex Sources


Commercial Garment Vendors

Some garment manufacturers sell latex by yard/meter. Prices are double what you would pay directly, but you can purchase small quantities this way.

Some places make their own latex sheeting in short runs. Cottage industry latex is often sold in sheets instead of rolls and can be very high quality material. Some sheet latex comes with a peel away backing, useful for tracing and cutting pattern pieces without clean up of markings afterwards.

ex. Latex-U-Wear (http://latex-u-wear.com)


Industrial Vendors

Industrial rubber suppliers often carry latex sheeting in limited colors (usually semi-transparent and black) but can often provide unusual widths and thickensses. Quality can vary considerably.

Industrial suppliers often carry other kinds of rubber that may be of interest.

ex. Canal Rubber (www.canalrubber.com)


Theatrical Vendors

Theatrical supply houses often carry semi-transparent latex sheeting as well. Once again, quality varies considerably.

Theatrical supply houses also stock latex dyes and other types of rubber for creative rubberists.


All About Latex Sheeting


Latex Colors and Printed Latex

The most common latex colors are black, red, and semi-transparent (actually a light yellow).


Sheeting Thicknesses

  1. Less Than .31/.38 mm (<.012"-.015")
    • Balloon-like and fragile.
    • Difficult to glue with solvent adhesives without taping behind the intended seam because thin latex curls tightly and is difficult to separate.
    • Suitable for harem pants and other gossamer garments that will not be subject to stress and where sheer-ness is desirable.
    • Semi-transparent colors are most transparent in thin latex.
    • Make waistbands, necklines, and cuffs from a heavier latex.
  2. .31/.38 mm (.012"-.015")
    • Feels most like human skin.
    • Very responsive to body movement, drapes well, sensual, and not overly constrictive if stretched around the body.
    • Excellent for almost all loose fitting garments, and for tight garments that are not subject to stress.
    • Loose garments in this weight have excellent eye-catching ripple effects when the wearer moves.
    • Catsuits can be made for light duty wearing.
  3. .43/.50 mm (.017"-.020")
    • Still quite responsive to body movement and not overly constrictive.
    • Feels a bit less like skin.
    • More durable and suitable for most form fitting garments.
    • This weight is easy to seam and to create stylish work with.
  4. .50/.63 mm (.020"-.025")
    • Not as responsive to body movement and becomes constrictive if stretched around the body.
    • Suitable for heavy duty catsuits, but ensure that measurements under the arms and other sensitive areas are not too tight.
    • Make Jackets, Trenchcoats, Capes, Jeans, Vests, Mini Skirts, Chaps and other garments usually constructed from heavier fabric.
    • Many leather garments can be rendered in .50/.63mm latex.
  5. .50/.63 mm to 1.02/1.17 mm (.025"-.050")
    • Useful for BDSM articles.
    • Make restrictive garments, belting, waistbands, and waist cinchers in these thicknesses.

Sheeting Characteristics


Four D Rubber Sheeting

Hygenic Rubber Sheeting

Sheeting Forms


Glues for Latex

There are generally two types of latex adhesives, water based and solvent based.


Water Based Adhesives


Characteristics

Purchasing

Usage and Storage

Solvent Based Adhesives


Characteristics

Purchasing

Preparation

Usage and Storage

Unsuitable Adhesives


Glue Cleanup


Taking Measurements


Patterns and Modifying Them


Educate Yourself


Which Commercial Patterns to Modify


Buying Versatile Patterns


Modifying Patterns to Fit


Creating Reusable Patterns


Starter Projects


Layout and Cutting


Layout


Cutting


Cleanup Markings


Scraps


Preparing Seams

All seam preparations discussed here assume the use of solvent based adhesives.


Bonding Concepts


Good Bonds


Best Bonds


Basic Seaming Considerations


Matching Seam Overlaps


Managing 'Stretch'


Seaming Start Points

Begin seams based on the most critical spot to be joined accurately. The following are a general guide:


General Seaming Points


Straight Seams


Optional Seaming Preps

Prior to seaming, you can perform optional steps to aid in the seaming process:

  1. Apply low-tack masking tape directly behind the seam surfaces to be glued. This reduces the curling of latex when glue is applied and prevents stretching of the latex when the seam is joined.
  2. Apply low-tack masking tape alongside the seam surface to be glued, 1/2" (2.5 cm) from the edge of the material. This ensures a clean edge when you brush on the glue.
  3. Remove tape immediately after seaming. Masking tape does not age well.

Making the Seam

  1. Check to ensure your seams are oriented correctly prior to applying any glue (glue can be removed by careful rubbing with a soft, small solvent dampened rag if needed).
  2. Apply glue to the seam line of both pieces to be joined in a 1/2" wide strip along the seam line. Apply the glue evenly and not too heavily.
  3. The latex will curl when the glue is applied (much less if masking tape is applied to the back of the seam).
  4. Allow the glue to dry completely. The latex will uncurl in the process. This takes between 5 and 15 minutes.
  5. Once dry, remove both pieces and remove excess glue on the table by rubbing it up and then sweeping it away.
  6. Inspect the seams for inclusions (bits of dry glue, etc.) that will show up when the seam is joined. Pick these away with fingernails or tweezers.
  7. If the seam sticks to itself, peel away gently, clean up and smooth out the glue with a solvent dampened soft rag (rub gently), and re-glue if needed. When peeling stuck seams, peel from the inside where possible to avoid stressing the raw edge. This reduces the risk of accidentally splitting the latex.
  8. Set the 'bottom' piece (glue on the outside) flat on the table and orient so you can join the seam without shifting the pieces too much.
  9. Set the 'top' piece (glue on the inside) with the outside face up on the table, but folded over so that the glued inside edge is turned upward. Use your arm or an object to prevent the top layer from casually unfolding onto the lower layer being seamed. For small pieces it is simpler to just join the pieces.
  10. Position the top piece alongside the bottom piece so that top seam can be folded down into place a bit at a time.
  11. Begin at the appropriate start point (usually farthest from the hem or where four seams meet) and gently join an inch (2.5 cm) at a time without pressing down hard or stretching either piece of latex. Join so that the raw edge of the upper piece comes to the edge of the glue on the lower piece, but does not overlap it. Overlapping produces a 'pick point' where the seam can be split apart over time. Don't worry if a little glue shows up along the finished seam edge. This can be gently cleaned with solvent and a soft rag after assembly.
  12. When you finish a seam, the hem end may not meet exactly. If the mismatch is not severe, you can use any extra allowance to trim as required to make the hem even.
  13. Gently roll the seam with a brayer, about 4" - 6" (10 - 15 cm) at a time. This will set the seam bond evenly so that it doesn't bunch up when rolled more firmly.
  14. Roll a second time using firm pressure.

Optional Seam Reinforcing


Notes

The bond continues to strengthen over the next 24 hours. If the seam is good, give it that time before wearing. If you made a mistake, separate the seam now. The seam become more difficult to separate later. See the section on separating and reglueing seams for more details.


Curved Seams

All of the steps and tips that apply to straight seams also apply to curved seams, but with special considerations for the challenges this type of seam presents.

  1. On tightly curved seams, you may slightly stretch the top layer to make the seam. Remove any masking tape before working curves. As the curve takes shape, the latex will rise off the table a bit on either side of the section being worked. Work the seam smaller sections, concentrating only on the piece that maintains contact with the table. You may gently spread out (without stretching) the part of the seam currently being joined to prevent rippling of the curved seam.
  2. If you have really good hands, you can gently join both pieces 1/2" (1.3 cm) at a time using fingers on one hand to produce a curved cradle for the latex while joining with the other hand.
  3. When completed, consider reinforcing curved seams because the reinforcement gives the curve some body (reducing any rippling) and helps smooth out any irregularities caused by uneven stretch or pressure while joining.

Matched Seams

  1. Use the same techniques as for straight seams, except that you begin joining in the middle. Matched seaming is required when you have to mate four seams together (crotches, armpits) or when you need to have an equal amount of material on either side of a central point (collars started from the center back, set-in sleeves started from the top of the shoulder).
  2. Begin by taking the top layer to be joined (glue on the inside), and folding the seam to be joined back on both sides (glue side out) except for a point on the end of the fold exposed to match the desired point on the on the bottom layer. Join the center point on the fold to the lower half, then place one or more objects on one side of the running seam to prevent the top layer from unfolding to contact the bottom layer. Join the other side working away from the center join point. When complete, remove the objects preventing the first side from contacting and then join it beginning from the center join point and working outward.

Other Seaming Techniques


Welt Seam Characteristics

Welt seams:


Making Welt Seams

  1. Do not apply masking tape behind the seam glueing area.
  2. If you mask along the seam glueing area, mask at 5/8" (1.6 cm) away from the edge instead of 1/2" (1.3 cm).
  3. Prepare and glue your seam as usual and allow the glue to dry.
  4. Once dry, take the upper layer (glue on the inside) and beginning at one end, fold over a 1/8" (0.3 cm) hem and press down gently. Continue until the entire seam is complete.
  5. Roll out the "hem" when finished.
  6. Re-glue the upper layer seam to be joined again, including the 1/8" (0.3 cm) hem and allow to dry.
  7. Join the seam as if it were a lap seam.
  8. Reinforce from the inside with latex strips.

Separating and Reglueing Seams

For seam construction errors or garment alterations, you can usually carefully separate the joined seams. This technique DOES PRESENT A RISK TO THE GARMENT, but about a 95% success rate is acheivable. Practice first on glued scraps.

  1. Find a spot along the seam (preferably near the end) where you can carefully pick the seam apart. Avoid overstretching the raw edge and avoid starting where a jagged raw edge exists.
  2. Once started, carefully split the seam apart no more than 1/8" (0.3 cm) per tug, bracing the downseam latex with your fingers against splitting. Work from side to side along the width of the seam, being careful not to tug the raw edge at a shallow angle. Don't use solvent, because while it softens the glue, it also weakens the latex while in contact with it.
  3. When the seam is apart, smooth rough glued edges with solvent. Don't remove the glue, just smooth it out.
  4. Re-glue the seam, allow to dry, then rejoin.

Basic Hems

Hemming removes the risk of catching and splitting raw edges while giving your garment a finished appearance. Basic hems are made as follows:

  1. Turn the garment inside out and orient the raw edge towards you.
  2. If the hem is in the round, insert 3" (7.5 cm) wide strips of paper to protect the exterior surface turned inside from glue.
  3. Apply a 1/2" (1.3 cm) width of glue along the raw edge. For round hems (sleeves, ankles), glue in two steps, flipping the garment between steps.
  4. Allow to dry.
  5. Begin folding over a 1/4" (0.7 cm) hem and continue along the full length of the seam to be hemmed.
  6. Roll with a brayer or dowel when completed.
  7. Reinforced hems on tight garments do not roll up. Use the same reinforcing technique as for seams, keeping one edge of the reinforcing strip close to the edge of the hem. Start and end at a seam point, providing 1/2" (1.3 cm) of glued overlap on the strip. Ensure glue is complete to the edge of the overlap to prevent peeling.
  8. Roll with a brayer or dowel.

Reinforcing Glued Latex


Prepare Reinforcing Strips

  1. Prepare 1/2" (1.3 cm) wide strips of latex that are at least as long as the seams you intend to reinforce.
  2. Apply glue to the strips and allow to dry.
  3. If you need many strips, you can be more efficient by doing several at once.
  4. On the outside surface, use wide masking tape to back larger piece of latex (to prevent curling).
  5. With a ruler and marker, rule out 1/2" (1.3 cm) wide strips to be cut.
  6. Tape the latex, inside up, to the table with slight stretch applied.
  7. Apply glue, allow to dry.
  8. Cut the strips and remove the masking tape.
  9. Hang cut strips over a wide board or using clothespins until ready for use.
  10. Do not allow them to stick together.

Apply Reinforcing Strips

  1. Strips must be longe enough to reach to a hem or a seam without a break. Overlap strips at seams if needed.
  2. Begin application at one end, allowing most the strip to lie glued face up on the garment parallel to the seam.
  3. Take into account any hemming, zipper placement, or other finishing work to be done. Leave the width of intended hems un-reinforced to allow a good bond and to reduce bulk at the hem.
  4. Apply the strip an inch (2.5 cm) at a time, pressing gently so that it can be removed and placed again if necessary.
  5. On curves, apply smaller sections at a time, stretching the seam from side to side slightly. Press lightly when applying. Work between any rippling as needed. Avoid over-stretching along the seam length.
  6. On completion, stop about 1" (2.5 cm) from the end of the seam and cut the excess strip, accounting for any hemming at the seam end.
  7. Gently roll out the seam with a brayer or wooden dowel. The first gentle rolling sets the seam and strip bond so that unbonded sections won't bunch up under pressure.
  8. Roll out firmly a second time.

Order of Assembly and Efficient Construction Practices


Order of Assembly

In general, assemble example garments in this order:

Most other garments are assembled similar to the examples above.


Efficient Use of Time and Table Space

Alot of time making latex garments is spent waiting for glue to dry.


After Construction

  1. Allow 24 hours for seams to fully bond.
  2. Inspect the seams. Sometimes if your glue was not quite dry on joining or the surface not well prepared, some lifting of rolled hems and seams may occur. Gently roll these down. If an air bubble is created, use a sharp needle in an inconspicuous spot to relieve it.
  3. Clean up excess glue by rubbing gently with a soft rag and solvent. Do not over-clean.
  4. Polish as desired.

Wet Seal

wetseal@connect.ab.ca // wsflatex@connect.ab.ca



"You are not alone!"