Let’s face it; those silicone Anovos gaskets suck. Unfortunately demand was high and supply was low, so I decided to try making a set of fabric gaskets myself. After a bit of reading and experimenting, I think I have a decent method down. This might look like an intimidating project, but I really think anyone who can thread a needle can manage this.
Materials needed: 1 set of existing gaskets or a long-sleeve t-shirt as a template
1 Sewing machine
3 spools of black thread
2 yards of headliner fabric (available many places; here’s the one I used: http://www.amazon.com/Foam-Backed-Automotive-Headliner-Black-Fabric/dp/B00O5BKN0W/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1448471199&sr=8-7&keywords=headliner+fabric)
2 yards of shiny black spandex/poly blend (again, lots of sources; here’s the one I used: http://hancockfabrics.com/black-stretch-satin-fabric-1704519.html)
1 can of Super 77 adhesive or equivalent
UPDATE 3/31/16: David Rodriguez (TK-11686) discovered this amazing new fabric from Yaya Han (http://www.joann.com/cosplay-by-yaya-han-4-way-ultrapreme-fabric-black/14749170.html). It looks fantastic as the top layer, replacing the black spandex/poly blend I listed above. His gaskets are works of art.
Straight ruler, 1 yard/meter
Quality scissors and/or a cutting wheel
Fine tipped black marker
4-8 yards/meters of double-fold bias tape (for edging)
All told this project took me about 3 days, not counting some restarts, mistakes, and lessons learned. I suggest starting with the knees so you can get a feel for things.
Step 1. Cut the foam
Unroll 1-2 yards of the headliner foam, and lay your gaskets on top. If they’ve already been assembled, gently press them flat and flip them over. Trace an outline, leaving about 1 inch (2.5cm) around the edge for allowances. Cut along the outline.
Step 2. Cut the spandex (making sure to get the orientation right!)
This is critical: take a look at the spandex and feel how it stretches. Unless you got the fancy stuff, it will be much stretchier in one direction. That direction should end up parallel to your pleats; in other words, if you hold the gasket so the lines are right/left, the spandex should be more stretchy when you pull it on the left and right than if you pulled on the top and bottom. I learned this the hard way, as my first set of shoulders didn’t look nearly as sharp as my knees. See below:
(lower left: my knee gaskets, with sharply defined pillows/pleats; upper left: my first shoulder, with poor definition due to mis-oriented fabric; right: the new shoulder, oriented correctly)
As you can see, the mis-oriented spandex doesn’t pucker down well, creating shallow, poorly defined ‘pillows’ in between the stitches.
Ok, so you’ve learned from my mistake and laid the foam pieces on top of the spandex in the right orientation. Cut the spandex, again giving about ½” (1.25cm) allowance around the edge. This allows some slop in Step 3.
Step 3. Glue them together
Take the parts to a well ventilated area with some cardboard or another surface you don’t mind wrecking. Lay the headliner foam down (fabric side down, foam side up) and spray it with the Super 77. Wait a few minutes (3-5 for me, but it will vary with temperature and humidity) until the glue is very tacky.
Roll up the spandex from one end, and carefully lay the loose edge onto your glue-treated foam. You won’t have a lot of chances to re-orient things, as the glue is often stronger than the foam itself, and you’ll tear it. Slowly unroll the spandex onto the foam, smoothing it as best you can.
Wait about half an hour for the glue to fully set.
Step 4. Mark your guideline(s)
Take the parts back to your sewing area. Lay the gasket on a firm surface trace a straight guideline for your first stitch, somewhere part way into the gasket if possible. I put the gasket on a counter, lined the bottom up to the edge of the counter, then measured 6” from there. I used a steel ruler and a fine-tipped black Sharpie marker.
If you can reference a few more straight, parallel lines now, go for it. About every 8-12 inches is best, so you can’t have the pleats drift too far before you get corrected by another guide line. This is also why you put the first guide partway up the piece; you’ll run stitches on either side of the guide, again limiting how badly you can drift.
Step 5. Lay the first stitches
Take the gasket to your sewing machine. Set the machine to a fine stitch (about setting 1.5 on mine, but this will vary by machine) start the stitch with a bit of a zigzag (width 3 for me) for a half inch or so, double back, then forward (so three passes over the one spot with a zigzag). This anchors your stitch. Change to no zigzag and proceed down your guide line. When you get to the end, I found it convenient to leave the needle in the fabric but lift the presser foot, spin the piece, then lift the needle and reposition.
Step 6. Lay all the other stitches
Set the edge of the presser foot on the previous stitch. Run the second stitch, keeping the presser foot carefully aligned. Don’t rush this, or your pleats won’t be crisp and parallel. When you get to the end, repeat the turnaround process and keep going. Every few stitches, put in a zigzag to anchor things in case the thread starts to come loose.
You’ll eventually run out of bobbin thread during a run. Don’t panic, just rethread the machine, back up a few inches, and carefully trace over where you ran out.
Take breaks during this process, as you’ll go a little nuts running every stitch back and forth. Patience, young one.
Many, many stitches later...
Step 7. Trim
You finished the really annoying part! Go have a beverage of your choice.
Trim the edges so you have a clean end with both spandex and headliner.
Step 8. Finish the edges
Use bias tape, scrap fabric, or your favorite method to sew a trim onto what will be the exposed edges of the gasket.
Step 9. Close the tubes
(Depending on your sewing machine, armor setup, etc., you may need to attach velcro now.) Take some time to test-fit the gaskets, making sure you’ve got the diameters right. It’s easy to make them smaller, but no fun to fix an arm or leg that gets too small. Fold the tubes so they’re inside out and sew them closed.
Step 10. Attach velcro, magnets, glue, the Force, etc.
Use your favorite method to affix the armor bits, strapping, etc.
Step 11. Put everything on
Step 12. Dance a jig now that you can move!
Finished knee gaskets: