How To make Your Own Neoprene Handbag
Although typically used for wet suits, neoprene is becoming a fashionable and popular fabric for bags and garments. Its unique structure can create interesting looks but it can sometimes be difficult to sew with. Below you can find a few tips and tricks to make your own neoprene bag and sewing with neoprene smooth sailing. Let's go ahead and get started.
Neoprene fabric is rubber sandwiched between the polyester fabric. It comes in different thicknesses. Most home sewing machines can handle neoprene between two to three millimeters. Once you get to 4 millimeters or higher in thickness you might need to use a heavy-duty sewing machine. If the fabric is called neoprene but it's thin, chances are you're using a scuba net.
Also make sure that you store neoprene rolled up on a roll instead of folded, as folding it could cause permanent creases. When choosing garment styles choose simple over complex. The fabric will have structure, so you want to avoid excess bulk such as a pattern that has a gathering. The fabric is flexible. That means it stretches and it can maintain shape. Realize this fabric isn't breathable, so it can be very warm to wear.
Tips to make your neoprene sewing smooth
- When cutting out your pattern pieces lay your fabric flat, so you're cutting everything out in a single layer. Then, you can layer pattern on top and use your rotary cutter and mat to cut around the piece. Or if you don't have a rotary cutter, what you can do is use your fabric marker to draw an outline and then you can cut it out with your scissors.
- Because we're cutting down on excess bulk, we're going to remove seam allowances. So, wherever I have a seam there's going to be a seam allowance there and you can look at your pattern to see what it is typically its five-eighths of an inch.
- So, I would make a copy of my pattern and let's say there's a seam here and here and just make it shorter whatever the seam allowance is. So, the pattern that I make a copy of is going to be minus seam allowance.
- All I'm going to do is place that on top of it and draw an outline and then cut it out with my scissors. Instead of doing a typical scene which is placing our pieces right side to right side and then doing a five eight scene, we're going to do something which is called in a butted scene. So, this is why we remove seam allowance because these two pieces need to be stitched together.
- I'm going to place them side by side like this and then I'm going to sew a seam or a stitch that goes across the top of them that holds them. To hold them, I would not recommend using straight pins because once you put a hole into your fabric it's going to stay there and it's not going to go away. What you can use is clips like quilt binding clips to hold it together. If it's a really hard one that's not staying together, you could put some fabric glue right on the side of it and then hold them together.
What stitch to use?
You can definitely use a straight stitch when sewing with neoprene. However, if you're doing it in a butted seam you might want to do a zigzag stitch to make sure that you're choosing a slightly longer stitch such as a three or three point five. Another stitch you can do is a flat butted stitch or you can also use a flat block stitch. If you've never sewn with neoprene before you'll definitely want to practice on some neoprene scraps. You want to find out what the correct tension is. In my particular case, I need to have a higher thread tension so I have my net at eight. You want to make sure you choose the correct needle. You want something that's made for heavyweight fabric that's going to be size 100. It can be a denim needle, it can be a leather needle. Also, I'm using polyester thread and a walking foot. This is so the fabric feeds evenly, as it's going through the sewing machine because you don't want to stretch the fabric as you're selling it.
When sewing with neoprene on your sewing machine make sure to sew slowly. you can see with my stitch is catching both sides and bringing them together. Also, you probably don't want to do a back stitch. Instead, just take your tail ends here, put them in a loop and tie your knot by hand.
Adding a zipper
Garments made up from neoprene can definitely have a zipper but you probably want to do an exposed zipper. The nice thing is you don't have to place the zipper wherever you have a seam like most zippers in garments. Instead, you can place it wherever you want in your garment. You can just cut directly into the area where you want to have the zipper. Neoprene doesn't unravel so you don't have to worry about finishing any edges. So, if I want to do a zipper like this, I measure the width of how much of the zipper I want to see exposed and the length of the zipper. Then I can draw a little rectangle. So, I would be drawing the width of the zipper and then wherever the bottom of the zipper is. Then, I can just cut that box out, place the zipper underneath my box. Again, you probably want to use fabric glue to hold your zipper in place. Then you can see I just did a straight stitch all the way around the perimeter of the zipper along the sides and along the bottom.
Leaving the edges
Because our neoprene doesn't have to have finished raw edges, you don't have to worry about doing a normal hem such as folding this over and then doing another sketch. You can just leave the raw edge exposed because it's not going to unravel. You just need to make sure that you cut your raw edges very neatly.
Working with a commercial pattern
Also, you may need to make some alterations if you're working with a commercial pattern. Normally, at most waistbands, the fabric is folded over so it has a finished look on the inside of the waistband as well. So, I just take my pattern to decide what I want my finished waistband width to be and I create a new pattern from that. So, then I just cut it out and just sew it to the top and then I'm done with the waistband. You also don't need to worry about any interfacing or adding any lining as well. Now you definitely need to check out your care instructions when you buy your neoprene. I know with mine I can't iron it with a hot iron. I need to use low iron. So that's why you can't really try to get increases in it because you're not going to be able to get those out.