Tips sewing neoprene fabrics
- Fabric Content
- Neoprene fabric is a synthetic rubber material that is used in products that are designed to be both flexible and durable. It comes in several foam styles and densities with the most common and least expensive being an SBR foam. Most neoprenes have a laminate such as a nylon Lycra or Velcro loop on one or both sides. It comes in thickness from 1.5mm to 7mm.
- Stitching Techniques
- Any neoprene over 4mm in thickness will be difficult to sew with a home sewing machine and should be glued edge to edge.
- Overlock: The overlock stitch is the easiest, least expensive stitch. It is very durable but when used on a garment may cause discomfort due to the ridges left on the inside. (see edging below to soften ridges)
- Flatlock: The flatlock seam provides both durability and comfort. This technique requires taping to hold out leakage from the seam holes. Gluing the joint adds additional strength. A double stitch will provide a much stronger hold than the single stitch.
- You will have better results using a large needle such as a Universal 16 or 18. The smaller needles will not make a large enough hole to allow the thread to pass through easily. Neoprene is sewn best with longer stitches which depend on the neoprene thickness and your sewing machine. Experiment with stitches until you get the results you want. Your needle will heat up with the friction of sewing through the thicker neoprene so go slow to avoid melting your thread.
- Gluing: Use a seam sealer that is made for Neoprene such as McNett's Aquaseal. Gluing the seams together before sewing will increase the durability of the seam.
- Taping: The pieces are glued or sewn, then a heat sealable tape is applied across the seam. This method insures a waterproof seam. Use a Melco or Bemis seam seal tape, preferably meant for sealing against nylon tricot fabrics. You'll really want to experiment with scrap pieces here as getting the correct setting/time/pressure to get the tape to bind without damaging the nylon cover or neoprene foam.
- Add a strip of Lycra or fold-over elastic that has been folded in half around the rough side of the neoprene edge. This will create a non-chafing surface. The item on the right was sewn together with a flatlock and the raw edges finished with Lycra binding.
- If you have used an overlock stitch to join the neoprene edges then you may also want to “smooth” out the seam by taping a Lycra binding or elastic over the seam like this shown here.
- Chalk or erasable pens are recommended.
- Use a 100% Polyester or a bonded Nylon thread.
Warm water wash and dry. Do not press. Do not use bleach or fabric softeners.