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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Guest Post: The Survival Sewing Kit

Sewing needles that are used in this magic trick.
Julie Eason, of Serious Sewing.com wrote to suggest a guest post on what to include in a well-stocked survival sewing kit.  As some of you may know, I included sewing needles and heavy-duty Dacron thread in the checklist at the back of my book, Bug Out.  I've also mentioned needles and thread as part of the components of an ultra compact, minimal EDC bug out kit.

Knowing how to make simple repairs with a needle and thread is essential to maintain your gear and clothing.  You can progress way beyond that if you take an interest in it and learn to make your own gear, probably better than most of what you can buy.  Among other things, I've made my own buckskin moccasins, archery quivers, hats, rifle slings and cases, water bottle holders, canvas bags and even the sails for my boats, including the one I'm building now.

In the following article, Julie Eason goes into detail about what to include in a minimum survival sewing kit and why.  This is cheap to put together, weighs almost nothing and will take up little space in your bug out bag, so I think it's very good advice:

The Well-Stocked Survival Sewing Kit

Guest Post by Julie Anne Eason of Serious Sewing.com

When most people think of things they need to survive an emergency, a sewing kit isn't usually at the top of the list. But whether you're in a long-term TEOTWAWKI or a short-term natural disaster, things are going to need sewing. Obviously, your clothes need to stay in good repair. But don't forget about other fabric or leather based items as well--tents, sails, shoes, water skins. Some form of rudimentary sewing skill is necessary for a comfortable existence, and you're going to need supplies. Here's what you should have on hand in a survival situation.

Several sizes and styles of needles: Not every needle is suitable for every purpose. Fortunately, needles are cheap and small, so stock up on a package of different sized sharps and ball-points. Sharps are used to sew woven fabrics (the kind that don't stretch) and ball-points are used for knits (stretchy fabrics.)

You'll also want leather needles (called glover's needles.) These have a special point shaped like a triangle. It slices easily through leather (and skin-so be careful!) Speaking of skin, a few suture needles are a good idea, too, in case you need to perform medical stitching.

Curved needles, sail needles and large-eye harness and tapestry needles will also come in handy for all kinds of projects.

Several sizes and types of thread: Now is not the time to buy wimpy thread. Invest in several large spools of thick mercerized cotton thread, called "hand-quilting" thread. Also, you'll want several thicknesses of waxed linen thread for sewing heavy-duty items in canvas or leather. Some silk thread is also advisable for suture sewing.

Sharpening stone: Needles may be difficult to find, so you'll need to take good care of the ones you have. You should have a sharpening stone on hand anyway for honing knives and axes. The same one can be used for keeping needles in good working condition.

Scissors: Yes, you could use a knife to cut thread. But cutting fabric and leather is much easier with a pair of scissors. These can do double duty in the kitchen, too.

An awl: An awl makes a hole without cutting the fibers. This is especially important for repairing broken grommets in canvas or anytime you need to sew leather.

Small containers of beeswax and pine pitch: Run your sewing thread through a cake of beeswax a few times before sewing and your seams will last much longer. The wax conditions the thread and makes it less vulnerable to light damage and abrasion. Also, the wax will spread out a bit and fill your sewing holes, making a more water resistant (not water proof) seam.

Pine pitch is great for sealing a patch on shoes or anyplace a repair won't have to bend. It's flexible when warm, but will crack in cold weather if you bend it. You can make water-bearing bags and cups with pitch-sealed leather as they did in Europe 600 years ago.

Straight pins and small spring clamps: Pins hold your fabric together while you're stitching. But sometimes you need to work on a thick seam. That's when the spring clamps come in handy. Just a couple will do.

1/4 to 1/2 yard pieces of fabric: If you're not on the move, you can stockpile larger quantities of wool, linen, cotton, canvas and leather for making clothing and household items. But for an emergency kit, just roll up a few pieces of canvas and linen. Not only will these serve as patch material, but you can also strain liquids through them and even use them for bandages if necessary.

Small container of strong shoe glue like Barge cement: Your shoes and boots are going to wear out and need patching at some point. Barge cement is designed to hold shoes together without nails or stitching. Have a small tube on hand; it's useful for all kinds of repairs.

If you're not on the move and there's room in your kit you can add things like zippers, buttons, hooks & eyes, grommets and elastic. But usually these items can be recycled from other cast-offs. One pair of worn-out blue jeans can be a gold mine of recycled materials--fabric, buttons, zippers, pockets--just cut 'em up and reuse the parts.

Obviously a heavy-duty sewing machine and serger overlock machine are great to have on hand if you have the room and have electricity. But be prepared and learn some basic hand sewing stitches, too.

As with any survival kit--pack what you need and can carry. You never know when your skills with a needle will come in handy. They could even save a life.