Neoprene is a water and temperature-resistant material that is used in a variety of products. Scuba gear, orthopaedic braces, mouse pads, can coolers and laptop bags are just some of the items made from neoprene. Varying in thickness from 0.5mm to over 7mm, neoprene can present a challenge for the home sewing machine. Here are some tips on sewing neoprene.
Lay neoprene fabric on a clean, flat working surface. Attach the pattern to the fabric using T-pins. For thicker pieces of neoprene, it may be easier to trace around the pattern with your fabric pencil, remove the pattern piece and then cut. Once you've pinned all the pattern pieces, cut out each piece. Use the fabric pencil to mark all notches and other pattern requirements on each piece.
Attach the walking foot to your sewing machine. This type of foot allows for a more even feed and prevents slippage during stitching. Insert a 16/100 jean/denim needle into the needle casing. Smaller, weaker needles will cause tangles and break during stitching because they are not sharp enough to pierce through the layers of neoprene. Wind two or three bobbins and thread your machine with 100% polyester or heavy-duty nylon thread.
Set tension and stitch length and work on a scrap piece first in order to find the best settings for your machine. Longer stitches work best with neoprene, and a looser tension will prevent tangles, or nesting, on the bottom of the fabric.
Begin construction, following pattern or design requirements. Lay pieces together so that edges are even and all markings or notches are aligned correctly. Hold the two pieces of fabric with even pressure, making sure not to stretch the pieces as you feed them through the machine.
An industrial sewing machine is recommended for neoprene that is thicker than 4mm. Use a fabric glue to glue seams together, before stitching, for added durability. Experiment with different stitches (zig zag, double) to learn which works best with your pattern and your machine.