Can You Hem A Wetsuit?


When it comes to wetsuit alterations, there are various options available to you. For example, you could seek a professional to do the work for you. Or you could be reading this article trying to find out if it is possible to hem a wetsuit yourself.

Well, the answer is yes, you can indeed hem a wetsuit. However, the final solution is more nuanced than just yes or no.

This article will look at the various topics related to the question ‘can you hem a wetsuit? Such as:

  1. What happens if your wetsuit is too big?
  2. How can I make a wetsuit shorter?
  3. How much does it cost to repair a wetsuit?

So keep reading to ‘unravel’ the mysteries of wetsuit hemming.

When can you hem a wetsuit? 

Knowing if you should get professional alterations done will depend on: 

  • What part of the wetsuit needs hemming.
  • What type of stitching does the wetsuit use.
  • And how thick the suit is.

Generally speaking, the arms and legs will be easier to hem yourself than the torso or neck areas. First, however, you need to be sure of the direction the wetsuit has been stitched in. 

For example, stitching that begins from the wrist towards the armpit (and the wetsuit is blind stitched) will not unravel if you hem a section from the cuff. But if the manufacturer started the stitching from the opposite direction (armpit to the wrist), it will unravel if you hem the cuff.

Hemming the torso or neck areas is also possible. However, having a professional do these areas is recommended. Typical modern wetsuits now use more advanced stitching methods in the torso, and you run the risk of destroying your wetsuit if you are unfamiliar with how to do them. 

Type of stitching in the wetsuit:

Alterations are more straightforward when the wetsuit uses flatlock or overlocking stitching than a suit using glued and bling stitching (GBS). 

If you are unsure of which type of stitching your wetsuit uses, then have a look at the seams. 

  • Flatlock: If the material has been stitched on both sides, then it is a flatlock. 
  • Overlock: If the neoprene has been rolled together and stitched, that’s an overlock. 
  • Glued & Blind Stitched: And if you can see the stitching on one side and a seal on the other, then yours uses GBS.

That’s great, but what does that mean for hemming the wetsuit? Well, you will find it easier to sew a wetsuit yourself if it is a flatlock or overlock. 

Why is it more straightforward? Because a GBS system uses a hooked needle to avoid puncturing both sides of the material. And unless you have professional sewing equipment at home, it won’t be an option to alter yourself. 

The thickness of the wetsuit:

Neoprene is rubber sandwiched between polyester, and it comes in various thicknesses such as 2mm, 3mm, 4mm etc. Most home sewing machines can handle a thickness of 2-3mm. Anything thicker will require a heavy-duty sewing machine. 

So if you want to alter your winter wetsuit (typically 4mm-5mm), it may be best to hire a professional. However, most suits employ a different arm & leg thickness to the torso. So a 4mm torso thickness could mean 3mm on the legs. If that is the case, then your home sewing machine can handle it.

Pro tips from

When using a home sewing machine, you need to ensure that the feed dogs and presser foot only contact the fabric side. You won’t have much success if you are trying to go through the rubber side.

Make sure you use the stretch stitch on your machine settings. A straight stitch will break over time. Added to this, let the machine do the work and avoid pulling the neoprene through.

What happens if your wetsuit is too big?

A wetsuit that is too big will result in too much space inside the wetsuit. In turn, that translates into the water being able to enter and then escape again. And the warm insulation layer of water will be unable to form.

This is known as flushing, and it is far from an enjoyable experience, especially during cold water sessions.

And another far more uncomfortable side effect of having a wetsuit that is too big is the potential to develop wetsuit rash.

For a deeper look into how a wetsuit should fit, read this article

How can I make my wetsuit shorter?

Making the arms or legs of a wetsuit shorter is relatively straightforward if your manufacturer has made the allowance for this. An example of this is the Xterra triathlon wetsuit.

Before you make any alterations, you should double-check the manufacturer’s warranty and their advice regarding hemming of any kind.

If you have a wetsuit that does not feature cut strips, hemming the arms or legs will require you to glue the cuts with neoprene glue.

How much does it cost to repair a wetsuit?

The cost of wetsuit repair depends on what part of the suit needs an alteration.

Shortening the limbs is cheaper than getting the wetsuit torso section tailored, and added to that, taking a wetsuit in is more affordable than adding material.

You can alter any part of your wetsuit from the zippers to adding knee/elbow pads and even replacing every panel.

Knee pads (pair)£37 ($65)
Alteration to Arms & Legs£10-£29 ($15-$40)
New Arm Replacements£25.00
Cut Off Legs & Turn Up£9.50 – $40.00
Take in excess Torso width$45.00
Take in width of the whole Jumpsuit$80-$100
Repair/replace the zipper (back)l£14.50 $25
Replace chest zipper$60-$75

Final Thoughts

Hemming your wetsuit is cheaper than buying a new one. However, some alterations are easier than others to do than others.

We recommend only doing so if the alteration is to the arms or legs if you are looking to adjust yourself.

If you need to hem a wetsuit in the torso or neck area, then seek a professional who specialises in wetsuit tailoring. More often than not, a quick trip to a wetsuit shop will put you in contact with the right person.

Professional services to get your hemming done are affordable and even more so when you compare them to the cost of a brand new wetsuit. Helping extend the life of your wetsuit and avoid having to break in a new one. 

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