Wetsuit Neoprene Projects From the Bottom Up: Beach Wallet

I was talking with a very experienced surfer who has been surfing 50+ years, and he was helping me to understand neoprene better. He told me how when wetsuits were first used, it usually took 2 people to help you get into one, and a good deal of talc. Yikes. That’s a die-hard-super-mega-core surfer, to me- it has to be worth it to me to put on a spring suit, I’m just that lazy and I don’t like chilly water.
He told me that a wetsuit really isn’t meant to serve it’s purpose beyond 5 years, and the neoprene they’ve got now- while stretchier and much less frustrating to put on, thank goodness- doesn’t last beyond a season if used frequently. Sure, you can try to sell or give away an old suit to someone who may have nothing to use to block the cold, but if one is ripped up or just plain not going to do anyone any good, I’m on a quest to do SOMETHING with it as a crafter.
Here is that suit I mentioned from an earlier post about neoprene:

That’s some OLD neoprene!

It picked this up a a boat show for a couple of bucks as an extra back up wetsuit several years ago (and it was old then), but I think I would sprain myself trying to get into it now. The neoprene is quite stiff, and I just haven’t used it. Plus, I found there are several holes in it, so it’s just not worth salvaging, but may be fun to make a few things with.
I DID wash this in the washing machine on warm with high efficiency detergent, but hung it up to dry- remember, I’m not going to be using this anymore as a wetsuit, so it’s OK.
I thought a first project with this suit could be a wallet that could get a little nasty with salty hands, maybe not be too obvious to prying eyes, and could hold some stash cash for grub after the session.
I started by chopping the legs off below the knees, since this suit has some heavy pads in the knee area I want to keep intact. Neoprene won’t fray since the fabric and neoprene are heat sealed together, so I didn’t need to worry about it coming apart.
After cutting the bottom legs off, I cut them both open along the inner flatlocked seam of the leg, so there would be continuous neoprene with no seam to worry about. There were two colors, blue on the inside, black on the outside, so I could choose either color.

Leg cut open at seam

To make the wallet, I determined I needed to cut 2 pieces of neoprene 7.5″ by 3.75″ to make a pocket, sewn on 3 sides, big enough to leave enough room to put bills in flat, and maybe an ID. I also needed a piece to serve as a tab for closure. You can make this whatever size or shape you need, as long as it will keep the pocket folded closed. My tab is about 1.5″ wide by 3.75″ long. I used a rotary cutter on the neoprene, since it mows right through the material. Good scissors can work as well, just make sure that you don’t cut the thickness at an angle, make the cut- top to bottom- as straight as possible, or you’ll have weird edges.

Rotary cutter, mat, and Plexiglas measuring square, scraps off to the side

All 3 pieces cut out

For my closure, I used Velcro from the top of the wetsuit. The hooked half needed some cleaning up with an old toothbrush, but I was able to cut a 1/2″ piece of the hooked half of the Velcro, and a larger square of the looped half. Cutting the looped half larger allows you to adjust the closure depending on the thickness of the contents.

I cleaned up this Velcro- ewww!

I started off by sewing the hooked piece of Velcro to an end of the tab. I then sewed (or you can glue with waterproof glue) the other end of the tab to ONE of the 7.5″ by 3.75″ pieces- don’t sew the pocket together yet! On the other end of the large piece, I sewed (or you can glue- sewing is more durable) the looped Velcro to the other end of the same large piece.
What did I use to sew the neoprene? On a machine, you can buy spools of nylon thread, but since I was hand sewing this completely, I used 4 LB Fireline. If you fish, you may know this as fishing line- to a crafter, like me, I use it for sewing and beadwork since it’s very tough. You can reuse old fishing line, or new line in your tackle box. For a needle, I used a heavier embroidery sharp hand sewing needle. You can use backstitching, stab stitch, or whipstitch to attach the Velcro.

Fireline nylon thread (fishing line) and Velcro being sewn onto tab

Once the tab and Velcro were attached, I could begin sewing the two big pocket pieces together. To keep the pieces from shifting around, I used my handy stapler! Staples are great to use for neoprene pinning, just test it out on a scrap piece before doing it on your cut pieces. If you are working with thicker foam (>2 mm), you may need a deep stapler or use binder clips around the edge.

Getting ready to sew the pocket together

Remember to only sew on three sides- the two short sides, and one long side. Since I wanted a black wallet, I made sure the blue sides of the pocket were facing each other, and the black sides were facing away. You can use a basic whipstitch to sew the pockets together, but I used a blanket stitch (click to go to a how-to) since the foam was thick put together.
Here’s the finished wallet:

Wallet open with my life savings inside
Wallet closed- let’s keep it that way.

Enjoy your squishy-stiff neoprene beach wallet!
Next project? We’ll see…..

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