DIY Upcycled Neoprene Surfing Beanie

In case you didn’t already know, I hate winter. We don’t generally get snow in this part of Florida- just windy, gloomy days with a biting chill that can become unbearable sometimes. At least the winters appear to be getting shorter in the Northern Hemisphere, and that means I may have waterfront property sooner than later.

Always look on da bright side, yo.

As I’ve been playing with and learning more about Neoprene upcycling, I’ve considered more things I can make, and one thing I NEED is a well fitting Neoprene beanie hat that will stay on when I surf to keep my head warm from the chilly wind. However, most surf beanies are fitted right to the skull- great for guys with short hairstyles, not so great for surfer chicks with ponytails…

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BLEH!!!! NO chinstraps, please

I wanted to make something that had the top open enough to allow my ponytail to poke through, but I could close it up if I had wanted to wear it down. I used plain paper, a pen, and rulers to draft out a beanie pattern that would use 4 of these pieces (this is a good visual tutorial that is similar to my project).

 

 

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Drafting out my beanie pattern

 

I had an ancient 1.5 mm Hyperflex Neoprene surf vest that had plenty of decent material to use. I made sure to cut away any original flatlocked and finished seams on the vest, so the sewing machine wouldn’t bite on them.

 

 

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Cutting away the neoprene pieces out of the vest

 

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Laying out the pieces and pattern

 

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The four beanie pieces cut out

 

In this project, I used a simple 2-thread overlock on the serger since the total thickness would be 3 mm (1.5 mm for each layer). If it was any thicker than 3 mm in total, I would’ve hand stitched the pieces together. Totally doable with a sharp heavy hand needle, some heavy nylon thread, and a basic whipstitch.

 

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Two pieces of the beanies serged along the edge, with the top left open

 

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Fit check!

 

For the hat band, I used 1″ fold-over elastic in black. I measured the elastic about 3″ shorter than the hat’s circumference, and stretched as I stitched to fit.

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After the hat band (fold over elastic) has been sewed on

 

On the crown, I hand stitched grommets (2 at the top of each quarter, 8 total). I made these grommets so I could pull elastic or a drawstring through to close the crown. I made my own drawstring ribbon from some scrap Lycra in a fun purple paisley print. Just because it’s so freakin’ jaunty. You can use elastic cord, or other drawstring materials.

 

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Different things to use as drawstrings

 

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Last fit check

 

Done! Now, I can thread my ponytail through, and it will help as a pseudo-tether as well.

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Better than a chinstrap

 

Hey, surfers may get a bad reputation as stoners, but at least our beanies and hats don’t turn out like the skiers’ and snowboarders’. Ya hippies.

 

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I’ve skied in one of these, full disclosure

 

DIY Upcycled Neoprene Pouch Keychain

This week has been cray cray. The stress of the holidays is approaching, and you can see it around Cocoa Beach with the influx of angry out of towners. And here I thought the ocean was supposed to be soothing.

Instead of getting out in the crazy shopping melee tomorrow, MAKE something useful out of your old wetsuit, since you’re probably getting a new one anyways. Even if you’ve been naughty and stealing my waves, you wanker.

I used a scrap of Neoprene from a machine washed wetsuit sleeve for the main part of this pouch. Machine washing is OK and DESIRED if it is to be used for crafting! The Velcro and nylon webbing piece came from another old surfing vest zip back. I cut the piece of Velcro in half so it would span the top flap and keep it closed.

I also used a keychain ring with a clip from the hardware store, and some heavy duty nylon thread in purple and black to sew everything. You can use Neoprene repair glue if you want to glue the pieces instead, but I hand sewed everything on.

I cut the sleeve just a few inches above the wrist, then cut away a little on the inside, leaving a top flap to put the Velcro on:

I sewed the clip and strap onto the back of the pouch also:

Done- and useful for putting all sorts of surfy stuff in, like surf wax, fin screws, leash loops, etc. Schweet.

Now, wasn’t that more fun than dealing with the holiday chaos?

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:

DIY Neoprene Sunscreen Stick Holder

Going through my stash of upcycle items, I still had a bit of 2 mm neoprene from a old pair of surf shorts that I had cut up for a past neoprene project. I only had a bit left, so I used the remnant to make a little holder for my sunscreen stick that I can attach to whatever I want when I head to the beach.

For this, I needed neoprene, some 4 lb test fishing line or strong thread, a medium weight needle, a split ring (like for a standard keychain), some scissors, and my sunscreen stick:
 

I made a pattern that is usable for a regular sunscreen face stick like you’d pick up at the drugstore. Mine is 3″ around and 3 3/4″ tall, so the pattern is based on those measurements. You can adjust the pattern as needed if yours is a bit different. The pattern is there to give you an idea of the cutout outline.
 

I cut out the pattern to show you how it works. The dotted lines are fold marks plus one line-up mark to show where the top and bottom will meet. You’ll be folding the top part over the split ring and straight stitch across, then fold the bottom up and whip stitch up the sides. Neoprene’s stretchy, and this is meant to be a snug fit, so this pattern is meant for use with this material only. You may need to make it wider if you’re using another material like cotton.

To make sure the pattern stays in place while I cut, I stapled it to the neoprene in a few spots. 
 

Next, I folded the top section over the split ring and just straight stitched by hand with the needle and fishing line along the section’s bottom:
 

I clipped off any extra line after knotting the ends, and flipped it over. I folded the bottom section up like the pictures above indicated, and just whip stitched up the sides. Try to make small stitches- taking shortcuts will guarantee a short life on your holder. You can add a carabiner or clip to it for convenience. As you can see, the snug fit keeps the sunscreen stick from falling out.

 

When I was done, it looked a lot a mace holder. Maybe that’s appropriate. The Sun can be pretty deadly.

Wetsuit Buying….Online

Honestly, as much as I want to support my local surf shop, I have a lot of trouble finding a wetsuit that suits my needs and fits well. Even though I’m a woman, I know men have this same problem just as much.
Options are limited a lot of times to one or two brands, and here in Florida, you are given the choice of a spring suit, and possibly a 3/2 mm full suit. This year, I wanted a 4/3 mm full suit since I get cold easier, and the neoprene’s much stretchier anyway than in the past. When I called around to several shops up and down the East coast, I was not helped, but actually insulted by the staff, asking why I would even consider such a suit here in Florida, and did I know ANYTHING about wetsuits?!? Why, yes, I do. And I know I surf for more than 15 minutes at a stretch, so I get chilled easy. So kiss my frosty ass.
I’m so touchy.
Anywho, that’s when I turned to the internets for my future suit. I had an O’Neill suit last year, but I need to consider some things this year:
1. If I upgrade to a substantial design overhaul especially from a completely different brand, the fit may be different. Rip Curl obviously has done this with the E-Bomb, so the fit of the new design may feel different.
2. If the neoprene quality listed has been upgraded to “super-duper ultra stretch”, this may also affect the fit, and even the warmth and durability considerations. Neoprene tech has gone wild, but this can REALLY alter a fit, necessitating a size change from previous seasons.
3. Even if you plan to order online, take a gander at the selection offered at your local surf shops just to get your hand on the neoprene. Kick the tires, so to speak. Give it a stretch, see where the seams are, how they are finished and taped (or not), and look at features up close- even if the suits offered aren’t in your size, or even in your model. Companies tend to keep wetsuit construction pretty consistent over the line- it’s the neoprene quality that improves as well as the taping and lining.

*   *   *

Some helpful hints to ordering a suit online:

  1. Only order from an online shop that has a clear return policy, preferably with free returns, of course.
  2. CHECK THE DAMN SIZE GUIDE. Nobody freakin’ does that, especially men. For your convenience, I’ve procured a list of direct links to Size Guides of the most popular brands of wetsuits. Here’s your happy links to all the Size Guides:
  3. Once you’ve found the size guide for your brand, measure yourself with a tape measure at the points indicated on the guide to find your approximate size. If you’re an average dude, your measuring tape is probably in your nightstand. The weight part of the guide is tricky. In my opinion, if you find yourself in a lower weight class, but your measurements are LONGER than indicated (lean/willowy build), it may be best to go with a tighter fit and shorter limb length for better core warmth. Conversely, if you are on the heavier side, and find that your weight class ends up with longer limb measurements (strong/curvy build), keep in mind that you can trim neoprene without worrying about fraying. In fact, most ends of sleeves and legs, you will notice, are just raw edged neoprene. This is my opinion- your fit will be unique, of course.
  4. When you get your order, check the zippers first BEFORE trying it on. That means zip them up AND down at least twice. If the zipper is blocked by tags, remove them- they’re attached by a plastic tab, not a gold lock. The company can reattach it, trust me. If they’ve got an issue with it, that’s ridiculous. You need to at least need to be able to see if the zipper works more than once.
  5. Be courteous to the next guy and have a piece of Velcro handy to cover up the neck tab Velcro (if it’s a back zip) while you put the suit on so you don’t pill and rip up the inside of the suit. Bonus points if you’ve taken a shower, but didn’t put on deodorant yet. Nobody wants your Axe leavins’ in the suit lest you decide to return it. Underpants are a given, I hope.
  6. The suit should feel slightly restrictive, but not uncomfortable at the neck, groin, or shoulder points. Have a seat, stand up, bend over and touch your toes (well, work on that one). If it’s a full suit, the neoprene should reach your wrist bone, and right above your anklebone ideally.
  7. Hopefully it works out, but if not, pack it up- right side out- with all the tags, and fill out the return slip. Send it back and try again, but make sure you’ve carefully measured, and considered what didn’t work about the fit on this one before you order again.

All in all, we live in a lucky time. The early surfers had he pleasure of surfing in wool bathing suits, and when it got cold, switched into army issued stiff SCUBA suits that chafed your tattoos clean off. But don’t let that old complaint keep replaying. I keep hearing kids parroting the elders on this, and this is not sage wisdom being passed down, only unchecked bravado of times past. There is little difference in movement these days for the average surfer in a neoprene suit versus not wearing one. Temperature difference, however, I will concede, will make a performance difference.
Men always complain that women don’t understand shrinkage, so this gentleman has diverted all attention from that area:

HEY! My face is up here you pervert!!!

If you scratch my back, I’ll…..punch you in the face.

To the casual observer, we don’t have distinct seasons here in Central Florida. But, being a surfer, I can always tell the when the leaves are turning by the murmurs of my fellow surfers:

“They’re already in a SPRING SUIT?”
“Aren’t you HOT in that vest?”
“Did you SEE that guy wearing a FULL SUIT? I wonder what his problem is…..”

The beauty of the season.

Well, with those utterances, I went to purchase a new fullsuit for the season coming up (fortunately, with discount in hand this time of year). And once again, something that bothered me in the past keeps raising its ugly head. This:

The Death Tab of Velcro

I hate the Death Tab of Velcro. Every time I go to put a suit on that has a back zipper (no, I will NEVER do the chest zip again) the hooked side of the Velcro tab gets lost down in the suit somewhere, ripping the inside to shreds, and making me fumble for five minutes trying to recover it. Then I get nice pilling inside the suit over the season that make me itch. Lovely:

Yuck. And this is just from try ons.

Ok, so I came up with a little hack to help avoid this problem that most suits seem to ignore.
A lot of suits have this grab tab at the neck:

I’m going to attach some loopy side Velcro (NOT the hooked side) to this tab, so I can fold it back onto itself while I put it on so it stays out of the way until I’m ready for it.
Here’s my supplies:

I’m using bright green 3/4″ Velcro so it will show up in the pics- you can use scrap Velcro, whatever. You’ll only need a piece of the LOOPY, SOFT side, not the scratchy hooked side. I also got good scissors, clear 4 LB test fishing line, and a heavy duty SHARP needle. You may want to also use a rubber jar opener to help pull the needle through, since you will be sewing through the tab and the piece of Velcro, which is a lot like sewing through leather, so the grip helps.
Cut a piece of the loopy side of the Velcro, no more than 1″- you don’t want the piece flapping around against your neck.

This is important- you will be sewing the piece to the flap with the loops facing OUTWARD, so the wrong side will be against the outside of the wetsuit tab. You will be whipstitching just one edge together. Make a good starting knot:

Do a tight whipstitch up the edge of the tab:

Finish with a strong knot and trim the ends.

Now, this piece can fold to the inside to act as a block, to prevent the hooked Velcro from snagging on the neoprene while you put it on each time:

Now, get out there and work it, bitches!

DIY Neoprene Headband

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving- there’s been waves here all this Thanksgiving week, but it’s been insanely windy, making it feel a lot cooler than normal. When the wind starts kicking up, the first thing to bother me are my ears, since when the wind hits them, it feels like it blows through my head *insert brainless blonde joke here*. I could wear a hood, but sometimes it’s just a little overkill, and feels a bit constricting.
I have a pair of neoprene shorts I replaced recently, so these are a good candidate for making the headband. They’re about 1 mm thick:

I used the back of one of the legs, since this will be a long enough and wide enough piece of neoprene for my big head headband.

Next, I used my rotary cutter to make a 4 inch wide headband. The length I used was about 16 1/4 inches, a snug fit for my bulbous head, but I don’t want it coming off in the surf, since it stretches. If you measure around your head, take an inch or two off of the measurement, since different types of neoprene stretch more than others, especially today’s modern neoprene.

Mine’s 16 1/2″ by 4″

Next, I’m going to get out my 4 lb test fishing line/ Fireline and a strong needle, ready to do a simple seam to join the headband:

For the headband, I cut the bottom into a bottle neck shape so it will narrow on the back of my head so I won’t have the extra bulk at my neck.

Bottom of the headband into a bottle neck shape.

I used a whipstitch on the seam, quite close together to ensure it won’t tear. You may wish to go back over the seam again, to ensure the strength, especially since it should be quite snug on your head.
Here’s the finished product on me:

Stylin’.

It’s really warm over my ears, and I think it will work to block the wind well. Gotta keep the air in my head, ya know?