I held off on this tutorial last week because I was really hoping to be able to give you guys some feedback on how my new neoprene cycling gaiters performed—and it hasn’t been raining.
Not even a little! We’ve had an entire week of cold, misty mornings that slowly dissolve into brilliantly crisp (almost warm) afternoons.
Not even when Nalisha and I rode up to Cowichan Bay on Vancouver Island for a Trifecta weekend. (A what? I’ll write a post about it later.)
See! Pictorial evidence of how sunny it was:
So without any further ado,
How to make steampunk neoprene cycling gaiters
Because you know you’ve always wanted some.
I wrote last week about my solution for keeping my feet from getting sopping wet when I wear my Dr. Martens whilst biking in the rain (among other things). Not being content to merely buy a pair of cycling gaiters, I decided to make a pair of steampunk-inspired neoprene gaiters that would do the double duty of keeping my feet warm and dry, while still not looking like “bike gear.”
Initially I’d planned to make something that just zipped up the back, but when I Googled gaiters I came across all sorts of fascinating Victorian, steampunk, and military gaiters that just seemed So Much More Cool than what I’d planned to do.
I was in particular inspired by this tutorial at By Sidney Eileen about how to draft a fitted gaiters pattern, as well as this pair of antique gaiters I found on Etsy (click to see the listing):
Check out the fastener on those babies. Rather than using buttonholes, button loops or boot hooks, there’s simply a cord laced through a row of grommets. I loved the idea, so that’s what I decided to do with mine.
- About 15″ x 30″ of 2mm or 3mm neoprene (I got mine in the scrap bins at Seattle Fabrics.)
- A pair of boots to trace
- 3 or so yards of fold-over elastic trim (I got mine from Porcelynn Fabric Boutique.)
- 12 grommets plus a grommet setter (I stole my grommet setter from my mom. Did you ever wonder where that went, mom? I have it. Let me know if you need it back, although you probably bought another one after all these years.)
- One busted bicycle inner tube
- 12 buttons
Make a pattern
If you’re feeling precise, follow the drafting instructions at Sidney Eileen’s blog. If you’re feeling like me, lay your boot down on a piece of paper, smash it so it’s mostly flat, and trace it to the best of your ability, adding about an inch for seam allowance and wiggle room.
Draw a line 1/3 of the way to the back, and 1/3 of the way to the front. You now have 3 pattern pieces in 1: the full inside piece, and the overlapping halves of the outside piece.
Cut your pieces out in muslin, sew the front to the front and the back to the back, then try it on for size. If you used the pattern drafting method, it probably fits pretty well. If you used the Bicitoro Method of Estimation, you probably still have some work to do.
You can see in the photo above that although mine fit pretty well through the calf, it left something to be desired in the slope above the foot. I pinned out the excess, then stitched the seam again. Perfect.
While I was tweaking my pattern, I decided that instead of fastening straight up the side, I wanted the gaiter to swoop towards the back, like these Merrell boots I’ve been lusting after. So I cut out a swoopy piece, then sewed it onto my front outside piece.
Now you can see that not only does my muslin gaiter fit better, it’s also got more sass. That white bit near the bottom front is an extra little wedge of paper I fit in there to even out the bottom hem.
Carefully take apart your muslin, and use the pieces as your pattern.
Assemble the gaiters
Note: Sewing with neoprene is surprisingly easy. Make sure you have a sharp needle, go slow when sewing over any seams, and use a longer stitch length (I set mine to 4mm).
Cut out your pattern pieces, being sure to mirror them so you don’t end up with two left feet. Like me when I’m dancing!
Sew the front and back seams, then fell them by trimming away one side close to the stitching, then folding the other side down and top stitching it.
That gives you a nice seam that lays flat, without being too bulky.
Keep trying the gaiter on throughout the process to make sure no adjustments need to be made. Mine was a bit long, so I had to trim about a 1/2″ off the bottom.
When your pieces have been assembled, you can add reflective trim if you like. I just put a strip of it up the back seam.
Edge finish and fasteners
There are other ways to finish the edges of neoprene, but I think the nicest is to use fold-over elastic. Set your sewing machine on a zig-zag stitch, then go slowly, stretching the elastic slightly as you do. It takes a bit to get the technique down just right, so if you’ve never used fold-over elastic before I’d recommend practicing a bit on scrap pieces.
Finish just the vertical edges for now.
Add 6 grommets to each Outside Front edge, spacing them evenly. (Again, practice the grommets on scrap first.)
For the lacing, use a 2-foot-long strip of busted bicycle inner tube, cut to a width of 1/4″. You could use regular elastic, I suppose, but all I had was a gigantic pile of inner tubes. Lace it through as shown below, then tack the ends in place.
(You can see my chalk line on the heel where I need to trim it evenly.)
Mark the places for the buttons, but don’t sew them on just yet.
Finish the top and bottom edges with fold-over elastic. Sew the buttons on.
The last thing you need to do is to sew a strap to go underneath your boot, preferably in that place right in front of the raised heel. Try the gaiter on, and pin a 1″ wide piece of bicycle inner tube in place so that it fits well, but not too snuggly. Stitch it down.
Viola! If anyone makes a pair of these, please be sure to let me know! I love mine–they’re super toasty, and I’m sure I’ll be wearing them all winter.