A Wetsuit for All Seasons

I’ve been getting really sick of this El Nino crap. It feels like Summer one day, then I’m back in a wetsuit. Come on Summer. Enough of this chilly nonsense.

I upgraded wetsuits (well, I got a deal online on a 4/3) this year, so I still had my old 3/2. In all honesty, it was REALLY on its’ last legs, but I can’t get rid of neoprene. I need to be on “TLC’s Neoprene and Surfboard Hoarders.”
A friend of mine asked if I could cut the legs off of her brand new Billabong 3/2. She didn’t like the way the legs below the knee constricted her pop-up, and since her legs are in the water anyway- shielded from the wind. She would be comfortable without neoprene on her legs.. I was hesitant, but she liked how the suit came out, so I had to make a chopped wetsuit for myself. And I had the perfect candidate for a suit!
One tidbit my good friend told me is that she attempted to cut her own suit once. It came out horribly ragged and jagged on the edges- but at least neoprene doesn’t fray, so it was still usable. Albeit hillbilly. (Sorry, D.)

Neoprene Cutting Tips Right Here!

  1. Use a rotary cutter, preferably a 45 mm or larger since surf neoprene is thick. Use NEW rotary blades!
  2. If you must cut with shears, use the type made for thicker fabrics (Fiskars makes an ok one, and you can get in at most craft stores). These type almost resemble the Pinking Shears Grandma used to use, without the spiky edge.
  3. When you cut, don’t cut all way down the shears (scissors), only about 3/4 way. Carefully reset the shears (reopen them) to the last cut, and start cutting again. Try this on a piece of paper- you’ll see a difference.
  4. Don’t use pins with neoprene. Either use quilter’s clips, staples (yes, they work!), or, if you’re really good, just hold it in place.

*****

Now to the good part!
Here’s the old, mercilessly pilled-on-the-inside, salt embedded neoprene. I’ve washed it, but it’s been more comfortable, stretchy and LOOSER in the past….

I hate wetsuits. Truly.

First, I wanted to chop off the legs. I’m pretty modest, so I don’t like the shorts being too short.
Using fabric weights, a straight edge, and a rotary cutter, I just cut the legs off (at a slight angle to the torso, but perpendicular to the leg length- hey, our legs don’t go STRAIGHT down) with two cuts- one for each leg:

No need to sew or hem. If your seams are glued and sealed, no worries. If you have flatlocked seams (you’ll see the thread begin to fray), put clear nail polish over the fraying end.

***UPDATE***

I wore this suit from January into March- I loved it. Warm, but not constricting. I think this will be done on future suits if I can get a better deal on a 3/2 than a specialty long sleeve 2/2 that has a limited season.

***

On to the next…..
Now, with the air getting warmer, I wanted a short Farmer John (Jane). Back to the old suit!
This is a little trickier- you need to try your suit on and mark with chalk where you want it trimmed up BEFORE you cut. My suit has a funky Velcro neck too in back that’s annoying too I’d like to lose:
This suit doesn’t have shoulder seams (more common as suits get better), so I laid the suit flat on my cutting board, measured out about 2″ from the collar seam:
Measuring from the bottom of the collar seam, 2″ out to the shoulder is where I’m cutting it (Notice the pattern/fabric weights. They’re made from canvas and BB’s!)
Other shoulder

Also note how I’ve lined it up on the grid- I’m going to curve OUT slightly, toward the armpit. If you don’t, the fit will be Kooksville.

Both shoulders, weighted, lined up, and ready to be curve cut with the rotary cutter.

  Personally, I like a 60 mm or larger, kind of like a Pizza Cutter. I don’t have all day.

You can see the faint curved chalk line out to the armpit.
Arm is surgically removed!

Here’s the result- again, NO SEWING (taped and glued seams):

Me likey.
NO FRAY! NO SEW!

I still was bothered by the high, rubbery neck. Didn’t need the super cold protection, just a thick wind block. I looked inside to the neck area to check it out:

Inside the suit, looking at the collar, suit front facing camera

The rubbery, friction-y part looked like it was flatlocked to the neoprene. Time for the seam ripper!!!

Ripping out the inside seam to open the rubber flap and expose the base neoprene
When that inside seam was removed, you can see the regular neoprene. I’m going to use the glue/sew line to cut away the excess. I did use my thick fabric scissors, and used the method described above. Came out well!:
Cutting away the excess rubber and neoprene with thick fabric scissors
I can breathe!!!!
So here it is finished:
Paddle perfection
*** APRIL UPDATE ***
I’ve been using it for a few months, and it works great, except for the scratchy pilling.
For real, don’t be scared to chop up your suit. Compared to the $15 you can get for selling your nasty used it on Craigslist, you could be saving $100 on a spring suit. It’s a no brainer. Like this dude:

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