When you buy normal items of clothing like a pair of trousers, a skirt, or a suit, you do so in the knowledge that if it should ever need to be altered it can be done so relatively easily. These alterations can be done by yourself or whoever in your home is a dab hand with a needle and thread.
The best way would be to take the item needing to be altered to your local seamstress or tailor. This all good and well for normal clothes, but can wetsuits be altered?
Why Would You Want to Alter Your Wetsuit?
It could be you have put on a few pounds or looking at it positively, you’ve lost some weight, and therefore your wetsuit becomes too tight or too loose. Given that how well a wetsuit fits its wearer is a big factor in terms of its buoyancy and insulation properties, getting it to fit just right is essential.
By the way, if your wetsuit does feel tighter than it used to, it may not be because of weight gain, but instead be the result of the neoprene shrinking, which it can do, over time. Other alterations that could be considered are an adjustment to the arms, the legs or the collar, and it is also possible for fasteners such as Velcro strips to be altered or even changed.
There is also the option to add extras features to your wetsuit like knee or elbow pads, additional fasteners and zippers, or a loop to hold your snorkel. You can even add a zipper for what we will politely call ‘bladder relief.’
Repairing a Wetsuit
If your wetsuit should need a repair, this is often undertaken in the same way, and with the same level of skill and care, as many of the alterations we’ve mentioned. There are several reasons why a wetsuit may need a repair. Some of these may be due to damage to the neoprene, and others may simply what could be described as ‘maintenance.’
Damage can be an abrasion to the surface of the neoprene from rubbing against some hard surface such as rock. Other damage incudes nicks, cuts, holes, burns and punctures.
The sorts of repairs which don’t necessarily mean the wetsuit has been damaged due to any kind of mishap, would be seams needing to be stitched or glued, replacement zips or fasteners and panels being replaced that show signs of hardening or cracking.
Wetsuit Stitching vs Clothing Stitching
One of the issues in terms of whether you can successfully make alterations to wetsuits is the materials used to make them. With normal clothing, the fabrics, and how they are made, mean alterations are very simple, provided you take care when measuring, cutting or sewing. In other words, materials like cotton, nylon, denim, and wool to name but four, lend themselves to alterations.
Most wetsuits are made from neoprene, and this is material that you can’t simply cut and sew in the same way you might adjust a hem at the bottom of a pair of trousers or a skirt. Primary among the differences is the way in which the seams on a wetsuit are stitched.
To ensure the seams in a wetsuit are sealed properly, there are three ways in which the stitching can be applied. These are flatlock, overlock, and blind stitching. Flatlock is used to seal one panel on top the other and overlock involves rolling together two pieces of neoprene and stitching them.
The most effective is the blind stitch, which not only uses stitching, but also uses tape and glue as well. On some wetsuits, a sealant compound is also added, to give further strength to the seal between two pieces of neoprene.
As is the case for all sorts of occasions when you might want to alter or repair something you own, there is the possibility of you doing these yourself. DIY doesn’t just refer to mending fences, putting up shelves or decorating your home. It can also apply to altering or repairing clothes.
When we consider this in respect of a neoprene wetsuit, the level of care required is on a different level, especially as you need to ensure that all the materials, seams and fasteners are in the right place and properly sealed.
If you are happy, willing and skilled enough to carry out the alterations to your wetsuit, you should only do so using materials which meet the standards and quality required. Remember, that neoprene is a material that can be manufactured to many different grades and thicknesses. For this reason, you should ensure that when you purchase replacement neoprene it is of a quality conducive to keeping your wetsuit in the best condition possible.
The last point on DIY alterations or repairs is to ensure the integrity of your wetsuit prior to using it for water sports or activities. You should always test it to confirm its seams and panels are fully sealed.
Leaving it to the Professionals
Where it is possible for you to do so, the recommended way to have your wetsuit altered or repaired is to pay a professional individual or company to carry out the work. A simple Google search for a term such as ‘wetsuit alterations’ with the name of your town or city will give a list of possible options.
Not only will these companies have the skilled personnel to undertake any alterations, they will also have advanced knowledge about how to work with neoprene and the other materials which might have been used to manufacture your wetsuit.
In addition, professionals will be able to offer you a much wider range of services than those you could possibly hope to do yourself. They are likely to have an entire menu of options, in much the same way a local tailor or dressmaker would have.
Other than the normal types of alterations and repairs, professional companies may also be able to offer to customize your wetsuit, if that is something you would like to do.
Another advantage of using a local company is that the work will almost certainly be guaranteed, so you can be assured that when you next wear your wetsuit in water, it will perform all its required functions as they should.