Latex Clothing- Making Alteration and Repair Handout!
Latex Clothing Making, Alteration and Repair- Klawdya Rothschild
-Latex is a fragile substance. It is a rubber, that is constantly breaking down. Latex, no matter how you care for it, will not last forever.
-Latex is easily damaged from:
Light, heat, changes in temperature, air, skin oils, cosmetics, jewelry, alcohol, dyes, fingernails, splinters, other latex items, oil-based lubricant, and time.
-Latex is an all-way stretch fabric. Fabrics usually have no stretch, 2-way stretch or 4-way stretch, depending on the weave and make up of the fiber. The closest approximation to the stretch of latex is a 4-way stretch spandex. This is a good material to use when testing out a new garment pattern, however, note that the seams operate differently (explained below).
Vulcanized vs. Welded
-Vulcanized latex is made by dipping a form, or painting a form with latex while it is in a liquid state, and then applying heat to set the latex. This produces a seamless latex item or garment. Latex prepared in this fashion is often more irregular than rolled sheet latex. There is much debate as to whether vulcanized latex can later be used for cold-welding, this can mean that while a bond or weld may be made, it may not be as durable as sheet latex welded in the same way can be.
-Welded latex uses sheet latex, that is rolled one layer at a time, and then agitated ( through the use of a solvent, or in some bizarre instances fine sandpaper) and then glued, and pressed. This method can be used to create garments with complex seams, darts, and ruffles, as well as garments with zippers and other diverse fasteners.
Seams and Cuts
-All seams in latex clothing are made with an overlapping technique. Unlike in other garment methods where a right side is sewn to a right side and then turned inside out to hide the extra fabric, latex is made by welding the wrong side to the right side in a pattern (there is typically not a right or wrong side to the latex, although sometimes latex is more dull on one side) this allows only the right side to be visible, but the pieces lay flat, with ½ the typical seam allowance.
-All seams are a kind of cut. All cuts reduce the strength of the latex, and are a possible source for weak spots to tear, or run like a nylon.
Making a Pattern
If you don’t have any experience making a garment pattern you may want to go buy a cheap simplicity pattern, or look for patterns for stretch fabrics just to get used to making clothing out of flat pieces of cloth.
The easiest way to make a latex pattern is to take a flat garment, whether latex or no, and flatten it out (usually inside out for normal clothes) so you can trace the seams. Remember that instead of a typical seam allowance, which might be 2x 1/4” we are only going to need 1x 1/4”, because they will overlap. Also, unlike typical clothes which calculate seam allowance as an additional amount after your measurement, the seam allowance here should be taken out of your measurement. In other words, if your waist is 30” the latex garment should measure 29 3/4” after glued, with seam allowance, not more. You can reduce size if working with thicker latexes or for a tighter fit as desired.
Take a piece of tracing paper and trace along the seam lines of the garment, noting where the seams connect in a different color than the outline. Once you outline the garment you can cut the tracing paper along all the seam lines and outlines and transfer to a thicker piece of paper, poster board, watercolor paper or even out of masonite or metal for a longer lasting and easily used pattern.
Making Latex Clothing or Objects
Bestene Paper Cement and Solvent, brush, and cotton balls
Metal Edged Ruler (preferably a metal ruler, T-square or L)
Water and light, unscented undyed soap
Drafting tape (usually ¼” or ½”)
Self-healing cutting board
A printmaking roller, rubber or wood
Wash the latex lightly to remove powder, lube or polish. Apply the tape. Apply solvent, and allow to visibly dry, before any glue.
Both the glue and the solvent will cause the latex to curl. Use the tape to reinforce the shape of the latex, and to mark the seam locations and sizes. After applying the glue, give the latex a minute or so to calm down and return to its resting state. Then press the 2 glued pieces together, roll. You have up to an hour before the glue dries to fix position, reduce air bubbles or separate and try again. The tape should come right off, but be careful to not take the latex up with it! If there is any residue from the tape’s glue, use a gentle soap and water to wash off.
-Some hangers melt latex.
-Different colored latex or sourced latex may hurt nearby
-Clean gently with soap and water, and allow to dry, and then store in thick plastic.
-Unfold and refold every so often, allowing to aerate and change positions.
-keep away from heat, sunlight and chemicals
-Use talc/baby powder especially on frequently used or polished latex
-use silicon or latex-safe lube or latex polish to keep moist or to shine up
Making a Zipper
Coat both sides and top and bottom with liquid latex in the color of your choice. You can use a sponge brush, Qtip or cotton ball to apply. Allow to dry between coats.
You need a uniform rubberized texture to all side of the zipper.
Be careful not to gum up the teeth of the zipper with rubber.
To make shapes or designs on the latex you may wish to cut out custom shapes from the latex sheet. Apply tape to all edges of the design, clean, use solvent and glue. Prep the surface you wish to apply the appliqué, clean, tape, solvent and glue. Once both areas are prepped and have calmed down from the solvent and glue apply and roll as usual.
This method should be used to apply reinforcement to seams, any round openings and to boning.
As with any art, there are many tools and methods which can be used, and many of which produce different results for different artists. This is a patient art, requiring practice as well as a communing between the artist and the medium. Take a deep breath, and try anything you come across. Latex wont last forever no matter what you do, so don’t get too attached, but don’t fear the inevitable either. With these tools you can repair, and reuse latex, with only your imagination to limit you.