On a practical note, are you including a basic sewing repair kit in your preparations? Whether you’re aiming towards self-sufficiency or a large scale disaster, there are some basic tools that you need to keep on hand. I’m talking about more than a few pre-threaded needles, a button, and two safety pins! I keep a basic sewing repair kit with the above items in my emergency bag, but my supplies at home provide a multi-purpose repair kit, as well as supplying what will be needed to make and repair clothing and pack items. Are you ready to repair, reuse, recycle, and re-design?
What needs repairs?
- Backpacks and straps
- Tents and tarps
- Leather items- belts, shoes
- Clothing- patches, buttons, zippers, rips and tears
Backpacks and Straps
Depending on the construction, this could require carpet or nylon thread and a heavy duty needle; or, if a nylon webbing strap pulled through, you’ll need a butane lighter (or a candle) and pliers to melt and crimp the end before re-stitching. You can re-stitch through the same holes if they haven’t pulled through.
Tents and Tarps
Again, you’ll need heavy duty carpet or nylon thread and a heavy duty needle and a thimble. Tent zippers can be replaced and resewn by hand. (I’ve done it, but it’s not easy.). Seams can be re-stitched; grommets can be reinforced and redone. If your tarp grommet fails, reinforce it, and put in another one. If you have a heavy duty machine that will sew the seams or zipper, make sure the tent is brushed as clean as possible, or hosed down and dried. Sand in your sewing machine can ruin it.
Those with animals that use halters and saddles probably have plenty of tools around. For the rest of us, a good multi-size hole punch is great for leather belts and straps that need another hole. (Are you anticipating losing weight or gaining weight in a grid down situation?) Do you have a leather needle, awl, slotted punch, lacing, and/or waxed thread to repair shoe/boot stitching and strap problems?
Children grow. Seams and stress points wear out; damage happens; and holes will appear. Socks get holes, buttons break and fall off, and zippers fail. Are you ready to repair by machine or by hand?
What is needed in a home maintenance/repair kit?
- Sewing scissors. Get them in embroidery size  and also fabric scissors . Never use them on paper; the wood fiber will dull them quickly. Include a scissor sharpener, if one fits your scissors.
- Needles . For basic sewing, have multiple sizes; and yarn needles, both sharp  and blunt .
- Home repair needles . This is an assortment of heavy duty needles of different shapes and sizes for repairing items in your home. (Some are labeled: curved mattress, carpet, packing, sails, upholstery, bookbinding, tapestry, …)
- Extra machine needles  of different types and sizes.
- Thimble . This is especially useful for heavy duty work!
- Thread. Have basic thread  in neutral colors for repairing rips and tears and sewing on buttons; monofilament thread  or light fishing line, floss , and heavy upholstery/carpet thread , waxed thread  for leather and shoe repair.
- Pins  and safety pins . Obtain these in multiple sizes (including diaper pins ).
- Grommets . You’ll also need the grommet application tool for each size grommet you have, plus a hammer , hole punch, scissors, X-Acto knife, interfacing or extra fabric for reinforcing, and a 6” piece of 2”x4” wood for a work surface
- Basic sewing book . When you repair items, it helps to know the steps that were taken for the basic construction. If you can’t figure it out from the directions the seams run and which ones overlap, you’ll need a book with basic instructions. Most books will cover basic home decorating instructions as well as how to follow patterns for clothing construction.
- Ruler/yardstick/tape measure .
- Seam ripper . This makes the work much faster than picking stitches out with scissors. There’s also less damage to the fabric than just yanking it apart and hoping the thread is weaker than the fabric.
Consider having a treadle machine cabinet, and a machine (straight stitch Singer) that works (and fits the cabinet), plus extra belts. The older sewing machine models included instructions for adjustments, oiling, and lubrication. (Newer machine models aren’t even made to be opened easily!) Don’t forget tools and supplies: small screwdrivers , oil , lubrication  (for gears), and bobbins  that fit your machine.
When repairing or patching an item, make sure the fabric you apply to cover any holes has been washed and won’t shrink again. Iron-on patches  don’t seem to work as well now as they used to, so after using a hot iron on them, I stitch around the edges to reinforce. Patching seems to be needed more with knees and pockets. To reinforce knee fabric, rip out the simplest seam (not the doubled-over flat fell seam) on the jeans, so you can sew on a flatter surface; add a patch layer; then re-stitch the seam. When you’re repairing a pocket, you’ll need to re-inforce the area behind the pocket first. Then try to match your repair stitching on the other (not torn) pockets, so it looks like style more than repair. Speaking of pockets, add a new one to cover a split side seam!
Does anyone remember how to darn (repair) socks? If you get that desperate, use a bottle inside the sock to provide the shape, then weave your thread/yarn back and forth across the hole from side to side to maintain the shape, catching the loops on either side before they fray more. (Every home used to have a sock darning tool . They look like maracas, but they’re solid!)
Zippers are usually one of the first items sewn, especially in pants or a skirt, because it’s done while the fabric is still flat, and it’s usually reinforced with a bar tack at the bottom. This means the item must be deconstructed carefully to get to the area. There is no easy way to replace one; hand sewing is one option since it’s hard to fit constructed pieces under a machine needle, but the look will be dramatically different. In considering replacement, one must weigh the time spent versus the value of the item. On the other hand, a zipper with teeth missing at the bottom can be stitched together above the damage if it still allows body access when the length is shortened.
To secure your stitches by hand, if you don’t think a knot (hidden between the layers) will hold sufficiently, start out several inches and sew back to your starting point and then forward. At the end, sew back over your stitching again (just like using the reverse/backstitch on a sewing machine to lock your stitches).
Re-Use and Hand-Me-Downs
When you read about colonial living, you hear that they “turned” (or replaced) cuffs and collars to extend the life of a garment; remade the father’s old coat to fit the son; and passed on a lot of hand-me-downs. Any pieces left over were made into quilts or rugs. Extra buttons were never thrown out but were saved for the next garment. That’s why Grandma always had a button jar in her sewing basket.
Recycle worn clothing into area rugs. In a grid-down situation with no vacuum power, carpet will be pulled up and throw rugs (which can be shaken out or beaten) will be the norm. They can be made from woven fabrics or even old t-shirts cut in strips and braided together and stitched or crocheted.
Have you ever visited St Augustine, FL? The period clothing was simple for women: a (neckline) drawstring loose garment (similar to peasant blouse  styling) with long sleeves, and a vest or jumper with a lace up front. The garment could be worn as a nightgown, or with the vest/jumper, for the daytime. It also adjusted sizes easily for all stages of pregnancy, and the drawstring made it suitable for nursing. The sleeves could be rolled up or worn down. I’m sure we’d all want more options than the garment offers, but with several garments (one to wash and more to wear) you’d have enough. Of course, aprons were also worn for animal chores and kitchen work to keep the clothing clean longer.
Items For Advanced Sewing
For more advanced sewing, you’ll need:
- Dressmaker scissors  and tailor shears  (for working with heavy fabric/canvas or layers)-
- Rotary cutter , clear rulers , extra blades , and mat . (As long as I have sharp blades, I will use them! They are such a time saver, and the fabric stays flat.)
- French/fashion curve . (These have built–in curves that work for re-drawing armholes, crotch lines, and neckline curves.)
- Sewing notions, such as dressmaker pins, tape measure, marking pencil  and pencil sharpener, tweezers, pattern weights (2-3” washers work well), elastic  (1” and ¼” at least), and closure  items.
- Interfacing . This is very important in collars and cuffs; learn how to use the variety available
- Paper. This can be newsprint or grid paper  for tracing patterns
- Extra machine needles of different types and sizes for basic woven, knit, denim, and leather.
- Seam ripper. You rip what you sew! My sewing improved immensely once I decided to rip out mistakes and re-sew instead of giving up on an item.
A collection of multi-size basic patterns will help immensely, especially for children  and basic dress , shirt , and pant  patterns in several sizes. Don’t cut up the multi-size patterns. Instead, trace them onto newsprint or other paper before using.
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been part one of a two part entry for Round 73 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest . The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:
- A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator  from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course  (a $1,095 value),
- A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses , excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
- DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper . These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees  in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product  from Sunflower Ammo,
- Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value), and
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses .
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4  Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
- A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
- A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
- A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value), and
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of  Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners , donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections , a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord  (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).
Round 73 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail  us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.