Rubber The Right Way
A Condensed Primer on Making Your Own Latex Clothing
©copyright 2002 by wetseal_rubber
Content Summary and Statement of Intent
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:
Designed to make latex well, not make it fast
Tailored for home use, not commercial production
Taken from my own experience working with latex
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.
- For garments up to t-shirt size, 36" x 36" (0.9 m x 0.9 m) is sufficient.
- For larger garments a 36" by 72" (0.9 m x 1.8 m) table is required.
- 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.
- Old polished laminate office doors are ideal and can be cheaply acquired at architectural recyclers.
- Old formica counters also work well.
- Hardware stores and Ikea sell stands to fit under your table.
- Arrange your table for a comfortable working height while standing.
- Provide two good lights at different locations over the table (to cut shadows)
- Add one small movable lamp that can highlight work in progress
- 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
- Store your latex rolls suspended on dowels or lying flat. Standing rolls uncurl and the uncurled latex will become damaged.
- Add small and large drawers, pegboards, and shelving to keep tools and supplies close at hand.
- Prevent sunlight from hitting work in progress or stored latex.
- Keep latex away from heat and moisture.
- Remove copper, brass, and bronze from the work and storage area, as these materials stain latex.
- Cover or blunt sharp edges on or near the work or storage area.
- Avoid cigarettes or other flames. Latex burns like polyester.
- Provide ventilation. Solvents are both toxic and flammable, and latex seams dry quicker.
Basic Tools and Supplies
- SHARP full-size tailoring shears for piece cutting. Buy quality scissors!
- Hand 'wheel cutters' are unsuitable. They compress and bunch up the latex.
- Quality electric wheel cutters and electric scissors work, but you must be used to them.
- SHARP small trimming scissors for small holes, slitting buttons, etc.
- Measuring tape (at least 60" - 1.5 m).
- Ruler (at least 12" - 30 cm with an edge that resists bleed under by markers).
- 2" (5 cm) wide brayer or wooden dowel.
- 4 oz - 8 oz wide mouthed glass bottle with sealable lid (large baby food jars work well) for storing thinned solvent based adhesive.
- Fan (for ventilation and drying latex seams).
- 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.
- Solvent based adhesive.
- Rubber cement thinner (or heptane, or Coleman naptha based camp fuel).
- Rubbing alcohol (cleans off many markers).
- Plain yellow dish soap (no hand conditioners and not anti-bacterial) or Johnson's Baby Shampoo (to remove talc, sewing lubricant, etc.).
- 'Acid brushes' or other stiff, disposable 1/2" (1.3 cm) brush (small bottles of 'rubber cement' often contain these).
- Soft, lint free rags (tee-shirt material, cotton sheeting).
- 1/2" (1.3 cm) low-tack masking tape.
- 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
- 2" (5 cm) or wider low-tack masking tape
Optional Supplies For Garment Closures
- Liquid latex or water base latex adhesive.
- Nylon interfacing (white, red, and black).
Optional Patterning Education and References
- Pattern fitting course (takes a standard home use pattern and teaches you how to fit it to your own measurements).
- Pattern drafting courses (teaches you how to create your own patterns. Usually each course focuses on a specific type of garment).
- Tailoring and Pattern Drafting books.
(not an exhaustive list and not an endorsement of product)
Four D Rubber Co., Ltd.
- Heanor Gate Industrial Estate
- DE75 7SJ
- United Kingdom
- Tel: +44 (0)1773 763 134
- Fax: +44 (0)1773 763 136
Company, Product, and Price Characteristics
- Largest supplier of fashion grade latex.
- Order by phone, by mail, or on-line.
- Minimum order quantity: 10 m in one color and thickness delivered on a roll.
- Width: 0.9m (36") and 2.0m (80")
- Smooth one side.
- 'Sample' price per meter for .31/.38mm (.012/.015") in 0.9m width = USD$9.00 to USD$11.50 depending on color.
- The Hygenic Corporation
- 1245 Home Ave.
- Akron, OH 44310
- Phone 1-800-321-2135
- Fax 330-633-9359 or (800) 633-7331
Company, Product, and Price Characteristics
- Order by phone or by mail.
- Minimum order quantity: [?]
- Width: 1.05m (42")
- Smooth both sides.
- 'Sample' price per yard (0.9 m) [?]
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 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 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).
- Latex is available in over 30 colors in four basic groups:
- vibrant (neon),
- and semi-metallic colors.
- Vibrant and semi-metallic colors are about 20% more expensive.
Light colors, particularly white and natural semi-transparent, stain easily. Light colors also get lighter when wet but return to their original color when dry.
- Some latex is also available printed. Pinstripes, lacy netting, animal prints, and polka dots are all common prints on top of latex sheeting. The 'print' on printed latex does wear off over time in high abrasion areas such as armpits.
- 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.
- .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.
- .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.
- .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.
- .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.
Four D Rubber Sheeting
- Smooth on one side.
- You must laminate two pieces of latex for dress shirt collars and other 'turned over' pieces to get shiny surfaces on both sides.
- The burnished inside surface provides for excellent bonding compared to the smooth exterior.
Hygenic Rubber Sheeting
- Smooth both sides.
- Very sensual inside surface.
- Takes more work to prepare and get a good bond on smooth latex.
- Smooth surface tends to stick to itself when it dries after washing.
- Normally, latex comes on rolls between 36" (0.9 m) and 48" (1.2 m) wide depending on the vendor.
- Latex can also be obtained in widths up to 2 m (80"), useful for bedding and sleepsacks.
- Sometimes, latex can be bought in clean cut narrow coils, excellent for accents glued on the garment.
Glues for Latex
There are generally two types of latex adhesives, water based and solvent based.
Water Based Adhesives
- Consist primarily of latex, ammonia, and water.
- Milky in appearance.
- Smell like ammonia.
- Do not curl latex when applied.
- Require application to both surfaces and joining while still damp.
- Take longer to dry than solvent based adhesives.
- Are easier to work with, not as flammable, and are less toxic than solvent based adhesives.
- Produce adequate bonding for garments not subjected to alot of stress. Seam bonds become white and weaker when wet.
- Marketed as liquid latex, mold builder, and theatrical latex.
- Buy liquid latex in craft shops, theatrical supply houses, industrial rubber outlets, and some office supply shops.
- Trade names vary considerably.
Usage and Storage
- Use water based adhesives to coat non-latex items like nylon reinforcing fabric and zipper tapes so that they can be bonded to the latex sheeting itself.
- Store in a cool place out of sunlight.
Solvent Based Adhesives
- Consist of latex in a solvent solution.
- Use heptane and other solvents to keep the latex in solution.
- Are semi-transparent whitish or yellowish in appearance.
- Smell like solvent.
- Are somewhat more difficult to work with.
- Curl latex when applied.
- Dry quickly.
- Require application to both surfaces but must be allowed to dry. Join like contact cement.
- Are flammable and require ventilation.
- Produce a strong, waterproof bond.
- Marketed as rubber cement.
- Buy in office supply and art supply shops.
- Trade names vary considerably. Bostik, Elmers, Ross, Denison, and Lepage all make solvent based cements. Bestine, known for their heptane thinner, may also make a cement.
- Avoid buying in plastic containers. The solvent reacts with the plastic and doesn't bond as well.
- Solvent based adhesives require an additional 15% to 25% extra solvent for good bonding. Use rubber cement thinner, heptane, or Coleman naptha based camp fuel. The camp fuel is cheapest and easiest to find.
- Add adhesive and solvent into a sealable (lidded) glass container. Seal the glass container and shake vigorously until the additional solvent is thoroughly mixed with the adhesive.
Usage and Storage
- Solvent based adhesive produce a superior bond for skin tight latex and other high stress applications. This essay assumes the use of solvent based adhesive.
- Don't use tyre repair or wetsuit repair adhesives to join latex. They are designed to bond different types of rubber.
- After glueing each seam, remove excess dry water or solvent based adhesive from the table by rubbing and sweeping away the 'crumbs'. This keeps glue and latex 'crumbs' from sticking to seams unintentionally.
- Clean up excess glue on the garment by rubbing gently with a soft rag and solvent. Do not over-clean.
- Measurements should be taken by 'a friend'. The flexing of your own body while taking your own measurements will throw them off. Measurements should be done with snug fitting clothing only.
- The following are a general set of measurements useful in making most garments (a number of additional measurements for specialty garments have been omitted for this essay):
- Neck - around the neck
- Shoulder - from the neck to where the arm drops away
- Arm - from the neck to the wrist with the arm outstretched
- Underarm - around the underarm with the arm outstretched
- Bicep - around the bicep
- Forearm - around the largest forearm
- Wrist - around the wrist
- Back - measurement across the back at the shoulder blades
- Chest/Bust - measure around largest chest / apex of bust
- Midriff - around the largest middle, a useful measurement if your navel area is larger than your waist
- Waist - natural waist for men or women
- Shoulder to Waist / Neck to Waist - from the top of the shoulder to the waist or from the base of the neck to the waist.
- Front Rise - from the waist to the point where the four seams of pants meet under the crotch
- Full Crotch - from the waist in front, through the crotch, to the waist in back
- Vertical Girth - begin on top of one shoulder, go down the front of the torso, through the crotch, and return up the back of the torso to meet the starting point. Used to accurately fit the length of the torso in catsuits and halfsuits.
- Hip / Seat - largest measurement around the hip or seat
- Inseam - crotch to one inch (2.5 cm) above the floor on the inside of the leg
- Outseam - waist to one inch (2.5 cm) above the floor on the outside of the leg
- Upper Thigh - around the largest part of the thigh, usually 4" (10 cm) below the crotch
- Knee - around the knee
- Calf - around the calf
- Ankle - circumference at the ankle
- Shoulder to Floor - from the top of the shoulder to 1" (2.5 cm) above the floor. Use for capes and 'tunic-like' garments.
- Other useful measurements for hemmed garments include:
- Shoulder to Hem / Neck to Hem - from the shoulder or base of the neck to the intended hemline. Useful for shirts and short dresses.
- Waist to Hem - from the waist to the intended hemline. Useful for skirts and long dresses.
Patterns and Modifying Them
- Take a pattern drafting course or purchase a good book on pattern drafting if you are serious about good fit. Patterning and sewing references also provide tips to create really dressy 'not your basic' latex. You can teach yourself about pleats, bound hems, ruffling, and numerous other techniques to add style to your latex outfits.
Which Commercial Patterns to Modify
- Commercial patterns don't consider latex as a material for their garments. You will nearly always have to make allowances on a store bought pattern. Some store bought patterns are easier to adjust for latex than others.
- Kwik Sew creates a substantial number of patterns for lycra that are easier than most to modify for use in latex. Their surf-suit pattern (No. 2335) alone can be adapted to make T-Shirts, Shorts, Tank Tops, Leggings, and Catsuits.
- Stretch & Sew also produces patterns that can be adapted reasonably for form fitting latex garments.
Buying Versatile Patterns
- When buying patterns, look for a few versatile stock patterns can be adapted and combined to make several different outfits. Elements from one pattern can also be used in another. A snug short cocktail dress pattern with a princess line can be combined with elements from the surf suit pattern to produce interesting results.
Modifying Patterns to Fit
- Modifying your patterns to fit you is a math exercise that is out of scope for this essay. You must count the pieces in the pattern and the difference between your measurements and those of the pattern. You then subtract or add to each pattern piece (usually, but not always evenly) to get the desired fit. If you buy a multi-size pattern, use the spaces between the lines to determine where to increase or decrease the measurements. A good pattern drafting course or book really helps here.
- For medium thickness form fitting latex clothing, strike for a finished chest, waist, and hip measurement about 1" (2.5 cm) smaller than your actual measurement. Thighs should be about 1/2" (1.3 cm) smaller. Arms and legs should only be slightly smaller. Lengths for arms, legs, and torso should be right on or very slightly smaller when finished (but slightly longer when cut to allow for squaring up and rolling over hems).
- Seam allowances in many patterns are 5/8" (1.6 cm) on each pattern piece. For a standard lap seam of 1/2" (1.3 cm), you only have to allow 1/4" (0.6 cm) per pattern piece to join. Each pattern piece contributes half of the overlap.
- Most older Burda patterns have NO seam allowance!
Creating Reusable Patterns
- Trace often used patterns to poster board, add markings from the pattern, and cut them out. This saves your pattern and makes it easier to lay out and cut your next garment.
- Prior to making any garments, cut small pieces of latex and practice making seams.
- When you cut out your first few projects, practice critical seams using scraps prior to making them in your garment. Practice before trying new challenges such as glueing in zippers, adding snaps, etc.
- For first projects, choose easy garments to make. This ensures you get good experience and early success. Don't start with that catsuit you've always wanted. Tee shirts and plain shorts are good starter projects. They consist only of seams and hems.
- For a first project consising of a basic, lap seamed tee-shirt with reinforced seams and hems, you can expect to spend about 6 hours from opening and adjusting the pattern to completing the finished garment. When you become proficient, the same tee-shirt will take about 2-1/2 to 3 hours from your own pattern.
Layout and Cutting
- Unprinted latex has no 'grain'.
- There is also no unusable 'selvage' at the edge of the material.
- Lay out pattern pieces to most efficiently use the latex.
- Although latex sheeting is narrow, a carefully laid out catsuit in an average size will consume no more than 3.5 yards (3.1 m).
- Lay out an entire garment on the same roll, or color match two rolls (latex color varies slightly between rolls).
- Avoid laying out opposing pattern pieces on folded over material as many patterns suggest. It's quick, but wastes expensive latex.
- Lay out pieces individually and trace them with a marker as you go (test first for bleed through and removability).
- Remember to cut the second piece for legs, sleeves, and bust panels with the pattern piece flipped over.
- Lay out and trace your large pieces first.
- Add small pattern pieces between the large ones where possible.
- If you plan to use reinforcing strips of latex on the seam interior, leave a continuous edge on one side of the latex sheeting to get long strips from that selvage.
- When all pattern pieces are traced out, begin cutting slowly and carefully. Ensure you leave no 'jagged' edge when cutting. This occurs when the scissors bite the latex wrong. If this happens, trim the jagged portion to prevent the stress point on the inside corner of the jagged edge from splitting. Have your scissors sharpened if this occurs frequently. Neatness counts because on lap seams your edges show.
- Consider cutting sleeves, ankles, skirt hems, dress hems, and other hems about 1" (2.5cm) too long. This gives you room to adjust for imperfect matching when seams are joined by allowing you trim the extra material to produce a clean edge for hemming.
- On semi-transparent or pale colored latex, remove all markings after cutting is completed. Rubbing alcohol gently applied with a soft rag will remove most metallic markers.
- Rubber cement thinner or Coleman camp fuel removes most other inks. Some inks respond better to the thinner used for rubber cement (or the Coleman camp fuel). Use the solvent sparingly on a very small piece of rag under good ventilation. Rub gently. Solvents are flammable, toxic in still air, and soften the surface of the latex (making it very easy to scratch up).
- Avoid leaving a smear.
- Save larger scraps from cuttings for latex strips and to reinforce crotches, armpits, and zipper bases.
- Use scraps to test new polishes and practice seams.
- Recycle larger scraps for small parts of other garments. Use them for belt loops, pockets, collars, and small articles of clothing. Ensure they color match the intended garment prior to use.
- If you are artistic, use scraps in other colors to laminate designs or underlay cutouts in latex. Select thin scraps for laminating because they cannot be 'picked away' easily.
- Use scraps as trims, bound hems, and as ruffled accents.
- Piece scraps together to produce larger 'leather like' garments or bags.
- Store scraps by color in large ziplock bags.
All seam preparations discussed here assume the use of solvent based adhesives.
- You can glue latex seams immediately after cutting. In loose garments, poorly joined seams peel away slowly over time. However, armpits, crotches, zipper bases, and some necklines experience considerable stress, particularly when putting on or taking off the garment. Under stress, poor joins often give way suddenly. As the stress is relieved down the opening seam, the first well-bonded section encountered usually redirects the stress, splitting the rubber in the process.
- Clean surfaces ensure a 'good bond' between two materials.
- A prepared clean surface ensures the 'best bond' between materials.
- Latex usually comes dusted with talc or other 'anti-sticking' powder. To get a 'good bond', wash all cut pieces of latex in a clean sink or bath tub using a weak lukewarm solution of plain yellow dish soap (or Johnson's Baby Shampoo). Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry completely without letting the drying latex touch itself.
- For some high stress areas, inflatables, and accessories glued on the shiny outside surface (such as pockets), you need a 'best bond'. Gently go over both sides of the seam to be joined using a very small rag and solvent in a well ventilated area.
- Pockets are particularly tricky to keep glued reliably. Many commercial latex manufacturers overcome this with rivets, but some rubberists dislike them. Lay the pocket out and very lightly mark its outside edges to be glued on the garment surface. Take a coarse rag and form a narrow tip with it. Apply solvent just inside the markings in about a 1/4" (0.7 cm) width and rub firmly. Go right to the top edge of the pocket. You will scour the shiny latex surface, preparing an excellent bonding site for the pocket. Do the same for the pocket inside edge to be bonded. Pockets done this way hold well without rivets provided care is taken to scour and glue right to the edge of the pocket.
Basic Seaming Considerations
Matching Seam Overlaps
- For best appearance, think through the pattern of seam overlaps as you assemble.
- Ex. On a tee-shirt with raglan sleeves, you join the front and back of the bodice (torso) and in a separate step join the sleeve around to itself. Afterwards, you set the sleeve into the bodice of the tee-shirt. When you join the bodice, decide if the front will overlap the back, of vice versa. Overlap the left and the right side seam the same way. Raglan sleeves are opposing cutouts. Ensure the left and right sleeve underarm seams overlap to match the side seams of the torso. You avoid that 'home grown' appearance when your seams match correctly.
- Latex 'stretchiness' is both an asset and a liability when seaming.
- Join seams with even pressure and tension on both the upper and lower layers being joined. Excess tension (lengthwise stretch) on either layer will cause rippling of the seam and curling at the hemline.
- On relatively straight seams, you can avoid this risk by applying low-tack masking tape to the side of the latex opposite the seam join before glueing.
- On tightly curved seams where one piece to be seamed is cut in a different direction than the other (crotch seams are a good example), some light and even stretching of the outside seam may be required to make the join. Join very small sections at a time for tightly curved seams. Curved seams may try to ripple or rise off the table at the ends as the curve is established. Only work the section of the seam that you can reasonably keep in contact with the table at a given time.
- Excess finger pressure in one spot when joining will cause small dimples in the seam because you are compressing the latex while joining.
- Take limited advantage of the latex stretch to make up the difference over the length of the seam when one side appears slightly longer than the other. Use very light tension only. You can safely make up about 1/2" (1.3 cm) over a 10" (4 cm) length of seam provided the material that is .43/.50 mm (.017"-.020") or thicker.
Seaming Start Points
Begin seams based on the most critical spot to be joined accurately. The following are a general guide:
- Shoulder seams- start at neck, trim at shoulder.
- Raglan sleeve seams- start at armpit, trim at sleeve hem.
- Adding set-in sleeves- start at shoulder seam (center top), fold the sleeve seam over itself in half with the glue side out to establish sleeve center top. Join at the center top and work towards the armpit on each side.
- Adding raglan sleeves- match seams at armpit, work towards shoulder on either side.
- Side seams with set-in sleeves attached- match armpit seams, complete sleeve seam, trim at sleeve hem. Complete torso side seam (and leg seam if needed). Trim at hem.
- Vertical bodice seams- start at neck or underarm, trim at hem.
- Inside leg seams- start at crotch, trim at hem.
- Outside leg seams- start at waist (or the underarm if needed), trim at hem.
- Other vertical seams from the waist- start at waist, trim at hem.
- Waistbands that are not 'pull up' (they have a fly, buttons, or skirt zip)- start at center back, work towards the front on either side, trim leaving a 'tongue' for closure if required.
- Continuous waistbands- start at the center back seam, finish and overlap there.
- Collars with an opening- start opposite the opening (if opening is center front, start center back) and match the center of the collar seam by folding the collar in half with the glue side out. Join the center and work around the neck towards the opening. Trim at the opening.
- Non separating zippers- set the zipper inside so that the stops at the top of the zipper sit at the edge of your intended hem or if no hem is needed, at the top of the material (ensure that any collar, waistband, or cuff is in place first). Start at the base of the zipper. Work up either side and end at the hem.
- Separating zippers- trim zipper and re-stop to fit space, start at neck or waist, making allowance for hems if required and set the zipper stops at the top of the intended hem (or if there is no hem, at the top of the material), end with allowance for bottom hem.
General Seaming Points
- Most latex is constructed using lap seams. Lap seams:
- Are where one piece of material is simply overlapped over another.
- Are flat, easy to construct, least intrusive on the smoothness of the latex, but appear 'industrial'.
- Are generally constructed with an overlap of about 1/2" (1.3 cm).
- When glueing seams in the round, such as joining raglan sleeves to the bodice or adding stockings / gloves to a catsuit, turn the garment inside out and use paper in the round opening to be seamed to protect the exterior surface from glue. Glue the seam in two halves, flipping the garment over between halves.
- When using latex that is glossy on both sides, ensure you join your pattern pieces with the proper side up (especially sleeves, pant legs, and bodice panels).
- Rub up excess glue from your work table after each seam is completed to prevent glue and latex crumbs from sticking to your work.
Optional Seaming Preps
Prior to seaming, you can perform optional steps to aid in the seaming process:
- 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.
- 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.
- Remove tape immediately after seaming. Masking tape does not age well.
Making the Seam
- 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).
- 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.
- The latex will curl when the glue is applied (much less if masking tape is applied to the back of the seam).
- Allow the glue to dry completely. The latex will uncurl in the process. This takes between 5 and 15 minutes.
- Once dry, remove both pieces and remove excess glue on the table by rubbing it up and then sweeping it away.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Position the top piece alongside the bottom piece so that top seam can be folded down into place a bit at a time.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Roll a second time using firm pressure.
Optional Seam Reinforcing
- If you plan to use reinforcing strips on the inside of your seams, do this as each seam is completed. Reinforcing is easier while assembling than when the garment is complete.
- Overlap reinforcements slightly on other seam points as you cross them, particularly in the armpits and crotch.
- Roll the seam again after reinforcing.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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
- Are similar jeans seams where the upper layer is folded under at the edge where joined.
- Are more visible on smooth latex than a lap seam, but the look is very dressy.
- Take longer to make.
- Are difficult to alter afterwards.
Making Welt Seams
- Do not apply masking tape behind the seam glueing area.
- 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).
- Prepare and glue your seam as usual and allow the glue to dry.
- 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.
- Roll out the "hem" when finished.
- Re-glue the upper layer seam to be joined again, including the 1/8" (0.3 cm) hem and allow to dry.
- Join the seam as if it were a lap seam.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- When the seam is apart, smooth rough glued edges with solvent. Don't remove the glue, just smooth it out.
- Re-glue the seam, allow to dry, then rejoin.
Hemming removes the risk of catching and splitting raw edges while giving your garment a finished appearance. Basic hems are made as follows:
- Turn the garment inside out and orient the raw edge towards you.
- 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.
- 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.
- Allow to dry.
- Begin folding over a 1/4" (0.7 cm) hem and continue along the full length of the seam to be hemmed.
- Roll with a brayer or dowel when completed.
- 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.
- Roll with a brayer or dowel.
Reinforcing Glued Latex
Prepare Reinforcing Strips
- Prepare 1/2" (1.3 cm) wide strips of latex that are at least as long as the seams you intend to reinforce.
- Apply glue to the strips and allow to dry.
- If you need many strips, you can be more efficient by doing several at once.
- On the outside surface, use wide masking tape to back larger piece of latex (to prevent curling).
- With a ruler and marker, rule out 1/2" (1.3 cm) wide strips to be cut.
- Tape the latex, inside up, to the table with slight stretch applied.
- Apply glue, allow to dry.
- Cut the strips and remove the masking tape.
- Hang cut strips over a wide board or using clothespins until ready for use.
- Do not allow them to stick together.
Apply Reinforcing Strips
- Strips must be longe enough to reach to a hem or a seam without a break. Overlap strips at seams if needed.
- Begin application at one end, allowing most the strip to lie glued face up on the garment parallel to the seam.
- 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.
- Apply the strip an inch (2.5 cm) at a time, pressing gently so that it can be removed and placed again if necessary.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Roll out firmly a second time.
Order of Assembly and Efficient Construction Practices
Order of Assembly
In general, assemble example garments in this order:
- Set-in sleeve tee-shirts - shoulders, hem neck, add sleeves, do side seams, hem sleeves, hem bottom.
- Raglan sleeve tee-shirts - shoulders, do side seams, hem bottom, seam raglan sleeves, hem sleeves, join sleeves, hem neck.
- Plain shorts and leggings - outside leg seams, inside leg seams, crotch seam, waist hem (or waistband), leg hems.
- Tank tops, vests, and tank dresses - bodice seams or darts, side seams, non-zip front / back seams, shoulder seams, add zipper if needed, neck hem, bottom hem, underarm hems.
- Raglan sleeve basic catsuits with full length four panel bodice - side seams, inside leg, hem legs, seam raglan sleeves, hem sleeves, join sleeves, non-zip front or back seam, add neck (if required), add zipper and placket.
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.
- If you have a large table or extra tables, consider doing multiple pieces of a garment together. You can do the left and right sides of a pair of pants or shorts at the same time with the waistband also being constructed alongside.
- Multiple garments can also be constructed together.
- Allow 24 hours for seams to fully bond.
- 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.
- Clean up excess glue by rubbing gently with a soft rag and solvent. Do not over-clean.
- Polish as desired.
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