Suit Construction Methods
There are many different ways of making suits, we’ll tell you how the suits we sell are made and about some of the different methods and materials of suit construction.
Double glued and blind stitched (available in 2, 3, 5, and 7 mm.)
All of our custom suits are double glued and blind stitched. Using this method, the edges of the two pieces of material are placed edge to edge, adjoining each other. They are glued by hand on the inside and the outside of the seam. When the suit dries, each seam is hand sewn, first on one side, then the other. The stitches do not penetrate the opposite side of the material; they go in mostly laterally and emerge on the same side as the entry point. This leaves no ridge at all.
This method is much more labor intensive, all seams have glued applied to them. When the glue becomes tacky, the edged are joined together. Once dry and, they are sewn, first on one side, then again on the other side. Because of the additional time and labor involved, the cost of the suit is correspondingly higher, although it does make for a finer garment and a more precise fit. In fact, of all the construction methods possible on wetsuits, this is the best method for a better fitting and most durable suit.
Methods Other Than Those We Use
Flatlock sewn suit (2 mm and 3 mm nylon two side.)
Flatlock suits are sewn only. The edges of two pieces are placed adjoining each other. An industrial sewing machine sews through both pieces creating a figure eight looking flat stitch on the inside and outside of the suit. Only thinner suits, 2 and 3 mm, can be constructed using this method. The advantage of this method is it is less labor intensive than many other methods. The suit goes from the cutting table directly to the sewing machine. The disadvantage is the seam leaks and tears easily. If you were to hold up the flatlock seam to the light you will see the light through the seam. The seams are also difficult to repair.
Overlock sewn suit (2 mm and 3 mm nylon two side.)
Overlock sewn suits are constructed in the same manner as most of the clothes we wear. The edges of two pieces are placed parallel to and adjoining each other, An industrial sewing machine sews through one piece and the next one, and repeats the process for each stitch in the suit. This creates a ridge, usually left on the inside, where the two pieces are joined together. This ridge is why only thinner suits, 2 and 3 mm, can be constructed using this method. A 5 or 7 mm suit would have a 10 or 14 mm ridge respectively, which would be extremely irritating and uncomfortable, even if the sewing machine could penetrate that much material. It would probably leave a welt on your body for the length of the seam after each dive. Some people are sensitive to the ridge left by 2 and 3 mm suits.
The advantage of this method is that it does allow for more inexpensive suits since it is less labor intensive than many other methods. The suit goes from the cutting table directly to the sewing machine.
In this method the edges of the two pieces of material are placed edge to edge, adjoining each other, and a fabric tape is placed over the length of the seam. A special sewing machine sews rows of stitches through the tape and the underlying neoprene blend material. Because of the unique properties of this method, repairs are not feasible without this machine. The advantage to this method is the ability to construct thicker suits without gluing the seams. The manufacturing costs are generally lower than with other methods.
We start with nitrogen-composed neoprene. Read all about it on our page Wetwear NCN. After that, you’ll want to choose a style and fabric. The fabric is the outer covering, which is laminated to the neoprene. Fabric does not affect their thermal qualities although it may be an important visual consideration for underwater photography models.
Nylon 1, or unlined nylon, has the bare neoprene, or rubber, on one side. If the rubber is on the inside, the suit is much more difficult to get on and off because it doesn’t slide against the skin easily. It is typically used for topside water sports with the rubber on the outside to diminish cooling by evaporation. It is also used in suits for free divers to reduce drag in the water. We don’t offer it for scuba divers, other than on seals, except by special order; although it is used in some suits we sell for other water activities. Nylon 1 is also available with a coating on the rubber side of the material. This purpose of the coating is to allow the rubber to slide against the skin. There are some disadvantages to this type of material. Once the material get wet the suit becomes very difficult to put on and take off. Also, should the coating delaminate a soapy solution or powder must be use to get into the suit.
Nylon 2 or nylon two side, so called because it has nylon bonded over the neoprene on the inside as well as the outside, is our most popular offering. Nylon two is the most commonly used covering for wetsuits.
YKK plastic zippers are used exclusively in all of the suits we sell. They are durable, can’t corrode, and are the industry standard.
American Efird or Eddington thread is used in all of our wetsuits and neoprene products.
Unlike the early days of diving when color choices were severely limited, today suits are available in a wide variety of colors and patterns. You can get anything from black to pink. Although we can and will make your suit from any color on our palette, we recommend black as the basic color, and one of the darker colors for the accents. There are two very good reasons why. Black shows less dirt and encounters with the environment than other colors. Also, the lighter colors tend to fade at a much faster rate. You may look pretty in pink, but you won’t look like you have a new suit for long. Pink, lime green, yellow and other light colors fade at a rapid rate, even just under household lights. This is true regardless of the fabric.
We sell suits in all colors although we will warn you first of their brightness life expectancy. We do not warranty suits against fading or the effect on the suits due to fading. Fading causes the fabric to become weak. The thread reinforcing the seams will begin to tear through the fabric causing the seam to split open. Severe fading will cause the fabric to delaminate from the neoprene.
Bright colors may look great, but if you want your suits to last black is the best. If you must have bright colors give us a call. We can give you some suggestion on incorporating bright colors without jeopardizing the integrity of your suit
How thick a wetsuit do I need?
This is a common question. There are no easy answers as there are a great many variables that influence the answer to this question and why it can vary from one person to another. Let’s look at some of these variables and how they can affect your decision.
Some people stay warmer than others at the same temperature. Just as we have different talents in life, there are physiological differences among individuals that enable some to be comfortable with a swimsuit while others are wearing wet suits. The same is true of those wearing thin shorty wet suits while their buddies are clad from head to toe in thicker suits. Mother Nature made us with different thermostats. Generally, women will chill faster than men, contrary to what some might assume. It’s true that women have an extra layer of subcutaneous fat, put there by Mother Nature for embryo protection purposes, hence the assumption they should be warmer. However, they also have a higher surface area to mass ratio, or more simply put, a more efficient cooling system. You may notice this principle in effect in office buildings, the women are cold at temperatures that the men find barely comfortable (even if the men are not wearing suits or coats).
Heat loss areas
The three major heat loss areas are the inner thighs (near the femoral artery), under the arms (near brachial artery) and the head and neck. The latter two together account for less than 40% of heat loss as the head is proportionately higher because of the myriad of blood vessels it contains to keep the brain cool.
If you dive in cold water without a hood, it is roughly analogous to having the heat on in the cold of winter and leaving the front door and windows wide open.
Suits that fit poorly under the arms and around the thighs may allow too much water to collect there, robbing you of your body heat. These are areas where plenty of insulation is called for in cold water and where proper fit is essential.
Obviously, the colder the water, the greater the rate of heat loss. Wet suits work by the bubbles in the neoprene insulating you, to varying degrees, against the colder water outside the suit, by trapping a thin layer of water in the suit, which is warmed by your body, and by reducing the flow of water around your body. That flow, along with heat lost through the neoprene, dissipates your body’s heat into the body of water you are diving in. Since your body cannot heat the surrounding water, eventually you will chill. The colder it is, the faster you will chill. Some waters, such as the North Atlantic, are so cold that an unprotected person, such as a shipwreck victim or downed pilot, would die in a matter of a few minutes from extreme hypothermia.
Thickness and fit of suit
The colder the water, thicker the suit needs to be to keep you comfortable. Increasing the thickness of your suit, either with a single suit or layers of neoprene, reduces your body’s rate of heat loss. If your individual metabolism is such that you chill faster than others similarly geared, consider a thicker suit and the additional thermal protection it offers.
If your suit fits well, it will keep the water flow in and out of your suit to a minimum, thus reducing the rate of heat loss. If it doesn’t fit properly, there’s not much value in wearing it. The suit can’t do its job.
Please note the following regarding thickness. The neoprene sheets used in making the suits we sell comes in fraction of an inch measurements. While we use the metric equivalent, it is an approximation and not exactly equal. That is why sometimes you see 1/4 inch suits described as either 6.5 or 7 mm, depending on whether the measurement approximation is rounded downward or upward. For your convenience, here is a chart of approximate equivalency.
|1/16 inch||1.5 mm|
|5/64 inch||2 mm|
|3/32 inch||2.5 mm|
|1/8 inch||3 mm|
|3/16 inch||5 mm|
|1/4 inch||7 mm|
Length and number of dives
It stands to reason, the longer you stay in the water and the more dives you make on each diving outing, the more heat loss you will have. Consider this in the equation. If you will make mostly shallow dives with a lot of bottom time, your heat loss will be greater than that of a deeper dive with its accordant shorter no-decompression time. If you make two or more dives in a day, the heat loss problem is exacerbated.
Depth of dives
The deeper you go, the more wet suits compress because of ambient pressure. The more they compress, the less thermal protection they offer. If most of your diving will be at greater depths, or if you wish to protect yourself against the occasional deeper dive, you will want a thicker suit than would be needed for shallower depths.
The weather in your usual diving locale plays a part in this. If you dive in an area with a wam climate and lots of sunshine, you have a chance to warm up between dives. If you dive in a cold, windy, overcast area, your heat loss will diminish although you may not recover enough heat to make your next dive comfortable.
The more active you are when diving, the more energy and heat will be generated by your body, and the more it will offset your heat loss. This probably shouldn’t influence your choice of suit as a sport diver as it can be extremely variable from one dive to another.
Style of suit
The style of suit you buy has a definite bearing on your warmth and the thickness needed. Styles of wet suits include a one piece jumpsuit, two piece farmer john (farmer jane for women), long sleeve shorty, and short sleeve shorty. Some divers wear a 3 or 5mm short sleeve shorty over a 2 or 3mm one piece jumpsuit, giving them the greatest protection in the torso area, while affording a great deal of flexibility in the arms and legs. You will probably want to wear a hood as 60 percent of your heat loss in water is from your head and neck. You can choose from a standard hood, a cold water hood ( a hood with an extended bib), and a warm water hood, which cover the head but not the neck. These are sometimes referred to as Snoopy hoods, after the canine character from Charles Schultz’s Peanuts comic strip (when Snoopy is the World War I ace on his Sopwith Camel).
You can even get some suits, particularly jumpsuits, with the hood attached for minimal water flow in the region of your neck. Other options include vests, and hooded vests, which if thin enough, may be worn underneath a wetsuit jacket. Consider a spine pad to fill in that space along your spine to prevent cold water from flowing down it.
There are other factors to be sure. However, these used in conjunction with your knowledge of self and the following water temperature/suit thickness guide should enable you to pick the right suit for yourself.
|WATER TEMP||SUIT THICKNESS AND STYLE|
|40 to 60||7mm Shorty over 7mm Jump|
|45 to 70||7mm Shorty over 5mm Jump|
|50 to 60||7mm Jump|
|50 to 70||5mm Shorty over 5mm Jump|
|50 to 80||5mm Shorty over 3mm Jump 7mm Shorty over 3mm Jump|
|60 to 70||5mm Jump|
|55 to 80||3mm Shorty over 3mm Jump|
|65 to 85||3mm Shorty over 2mm jump|
|70 to 80||3mm Jump|
|75 to 85||2mm Jump|
What to do before you buy Some people are sensitive to the chemicals used in some wetsuits, be it either the neoprene itself or the glue used to join pieces together. If you’ve used wetsuits and have found you develop a dermatological reaction to them, we can help you determine if you’re sensitive to our neoprene.
Simply contact us for our allergy testing kit, which consists of some bands of neoprene and detailed instructions. If they are followed, you will be able to determine if you are sensitive to anything used in the manufacturing of our wet suits. We have customers itching to get into their Wetwear wet suits. We don’t want any itching to get out of them! Shipping and handling charge: $6.00 US $12.00 Outside US
If someone told you that you don’t know how to dress yourself, you might be insulted. When it comes to wetsuits, it just happens to be true in many cases and is not meant to be an insult, simply a statement of fact. Even many people who get custom suits labor under the mistaken idea that the suit was made wrong and does not fit properly. To understand why this happens, we need to understand the primary differences in the way the fit of our clothing varies from the fit of a wetsuit, and other differences.
Our clothing hangs on our bodies and touches at certain strategic points and makes casual contact at other ones. Shirts, blouses, and jackets hang from our neck and shoulders and usually hang away from our bodies in most other areas. Pants and skirts are drawn about our waist and often hang loose around our legs. There are a few exceptions and some people do wear tight clothing. Spandex is much like a lycra dive type skin. Those who prefer it should remember that spandex is a privilege, not a right (smile or laugh if you like, this was meant humorously).
Wetsuits differ greatly from this loose hanging concept. A properly fitting wetsuit will make contact over most of the area it covers, leaving as little space as possible between it and your skin. The lesser the space, the less there is for water to enter and carry away your body heat. Spaces where the wetsuit does not follow the contours of your body, such as along one’s back, can be filled in with options such as spine pads. Water cannot enter a space that has already been filled.
The greater thickness and tensile strength of neoprene, coupled with its much closer fit, makes it more resistant to sliding on your arms and legs and over your torso than clothing. This often results in people getting their suits on but not pulled up in vital areas that throws off the fit for the rest of the body. This is the root cause of most people believing their suit does not fit, even if it was custom made to their specific dimensions and measurements. This problem is often worse for women as their breasts and different proportions makes it harder for them to get comfortable unless the suit is worn properly.
Fortunately, there is an easy way to make sure your suit fits you properly and to get it to do so. All you have to do is pull it up and in at various times as you put it on. Using a jumpsuit as an example (a one piece suit that covers all but the hands, feet, and head), you would pull the legs up once you had the suit on your lower legs. As you pull it up over your thighs, make sure it is pulled up snugly into the crotch. If your crotch area is sagging, the suit will feel too tight at the shoulders and chest and you are going to be uncomfortable.
At this point many people will insist the suit was made improperly and is too small. They are likely to be wrong. As you pull the sleeves on, be sure to pull them up once on your lower arms, similarly to what you did with the leg portion. Once on, make sure the armpit area is pulled up snug, similar to the crotch. If not, your chest area is likely to feel cramped from the bunching of the excess material under your arms and from the pull on top of your shoulders and across the back.
Chloroprene Rubber / Cr Neoprene and Cr/SBR/EPDM Neoprene Blends
Commonly referred to as soft stretch neoprene
Most all neoprene sheets are imported from Asia. The sheets are made of 100% CR or a blend of approximately 30% to 40% Chloroprene Rubber and 60% to 70% materials such as SBR (styrene-butadiene rubber) or EPDM (ethylene-propylene-diene-monomer). SBR and EPDM are polymers more familiar to shoe soles, roofing materials and gaskets. The process to create neoprene sheets begins with cooking of the ingredients. Once the CR, SBR and EPDM are cook to a liquid state the CR or CR blend is poured into a mold to air cure. This process creates a very soft material with a great deal of stretch, but at the same time it also reduces the thickness of the cell wall. The thicker the cell wall the more pressure the cell can withstand without losing gas. Because the cell walls of CR neoprene and CR/SBR/EPDM neoprene blends are very thin, they compress more rapidly, reducing thermal insulation.
Some CR neoprene and CR/SBR/EPDM neoprene blends compress to as much as 1/2 their thickness in the first atmosphere of water. The deeper the dive the more compression and less recovery to the original thickness.
CR neoprene and CR/SBR/EPDM neoprene blends will also suffer thickness loss during recovery from very shallow dives of long duration. Thickness loss can be as high as 25% base on 30 dives to an equivalent of 40 feet, with a 24 hour recovery period. When thickness loss occurs, CR neoprene and CR/SBR/EPDM neoprene blends lose their soft, stretchy characteristics making a wetsuit more difficult to put on and take off, not to mention the loss of thermal properties. CR neoprene and CR/SBR/EPDM neoprene blends may completely collapse in as few as 8 to 10 dives in excess of 130 feet. Upon collapsing the neoprene takes on a washboard appearance, exhibiting ripples in the material, especially in the areas of the knees and elbows.
CR neoprene and CR/SBR/EPDM neoprene blends are easily identified by examining a cross section or raw edge of the material. The cross section will look like solid rubber, lacking the porous cell structure of a nitrogen composed or nitrogen blown neoprene. There is virtually no visible cell structure in CR neoprene and CR/SBR/EPDM neoprene blends. When examining a finished wetsuit, it is best to check zipper flaps as most raw edges have been finished with a binding material.