Clothing Maintenance Pre- and Post-SHTF

Today we present another article in our non-fiction writing contest – by Diana R. Smith

At work the other day, I noticed my co-worker’s uniform pants were separating at the seam.  Fortunately, not in an embarrassing spot.  When I commented that I could mend them if he wanted me too, he casually replied “Nah.  I’ll just go to Wal-Mart and get some more.”

This attitude about clothing has become common.  Hardly anyone mends, hems, alters or patches clothing anymore.  Not even me, and I’m a seamstress.  We are a throwaway society.

However, if the S ever truly did HTF, it is my belief we may last only a few years before we’re all running around naked unless we learn to maintain our clothing again.

I know how.  My parents both grew up in the Depression.  I knew from an early age how to darn a sock, sew on a button or patch, turn a hem or close a seam.  Even my Dad sewed, often mending his own clothing.

I had originally thought of this article as post-scenario clothing maintenance, but seriously, there are some things we can do now to keep our clothing intact and get into the swing of things.


One, is that we can keep our clothes clean.  The fibers in material are fragile by themselves.  Leaving substances on them that can be abrasive or caustic can wear on those fibers and cause them to wear thin or break.  It can be hard to totally clean some things—especially for those people who work hard, dirty jobs all day.  Many of my husband’s old shirts still smell like oil and grime, or carry the stains of cement, paint and industrial substances.  We don’t need to clean things everyday if they aren’t that bad, but just doing so will extend their life and our continued usage of them.

Another is to keep them hemmed.  This is a constant struggle in our house because we are both short.  The fashion industry has somehow decided that all women are 5’9″ and all men are 6′.  This results in many, if not most, people wearing pants that are inches too long.  Then we tread on them, trip over them, tear them, fray out the bottom and wonder why they look bad.

Another thing is to keep them mended.  When we notice a hole developing in the knee, or in the back regions by the pocket, it is far easier to darn a small hole than patch a large one.  Seams are better if they are caught and reinforced before they rip out all the way down the leg or provide us with some embarrassing air conditioning.  It is better to catch a button while we can still see where it goes, or before we lose it and have to replace it with a white button among all the blue ones.

The same things go for socks, coats, shirts, gloves and hats.  Also underwear.  If we can keep our clothing clean and in good repair before the SHTF, it will still be there for us, and last us through some troubling times.  It doesn’t matter if its just a personal SHTF moment or the big one.


Post-scenario, life gets a little more interesting.  For one, (and I am using a severe scenario here, just for discussion purposes), we won’t be able to just run down the road to the store to go get new clothes or shoes, or even a needle and thread.

Cleanliness becomes even more important at this time.  In order to maintain the health of you and your family, keeping things clean is the first line of defense.  Some of us may be lucky enough to have acquired manual washing machines.  The rest of us may be beating clothing on rocks, which I actually don’t recommend.  The abrasiveness of rocks and scrubbing boards was notorious for wearing cloth thin back before washing machines.  Far better to use a large tub and find someway to agitate the clothing in the water.  Some may balk at this idea of using so much water just for clothing, but remember, the gray water can then be used on plants when you are through.

One method of agitation can be done by mounting a barrel or bucket on a pivot of some type, closing the lid, then manually moving it back and forth for about 15 minutes.  Another method is to use a washing plunger such as those used for handwashing woolen or silk garments.  A servicable plunger can be made by taking the smaller bathroom plungers (new and clean, of course) drilling 4-6  quarter-inch holes in the top and plunging up and down on the clothes in a large tub.  Move the clothes about periodically so they can all have a turn.  The only use of a rock that is actually beneficial was shown to me by an old Korean gentleman who owned a motel I worked at.  Nasty stains of a questionable nature were first soaked in stain removers, then spread out on a rock and the edge of a credit card used to gently scrape away at the stain.  Our fingers didn’t touch it, and the stain usually left.  For this purpose, a washing rock may be very effective, and there is still a use for all those old credit cards and driver’s licenses that will no longer have a purpose.

With laundry, hot water brings a sterilizing power.  Underwear, sheets, babies diapers and towels should be sterilized.  Bleach is useful, but if you run out, hot water is one option.  Sunlight is the other.  Sunlight breaks down many proteins and amino acids.  Many mothers used to hang their cloth diapers in the sunlight for an hour or two to sterilize and deodorize them.  Sunlight also fades cloth, though, so I wouldn’t keep your regular clothing out for any longer than necessary.


Let’s talk mending now.  For some folks, this sounds like too much work, but if you can catch things while they’re small, it’s not so bad.  And, let’s face it—after stuff happens, you’ll have time to mend things, especially during the winter months and when it’s storming or night falls at 4:30.

Some folks think hemming a pair of pants is hard work, and it can be if you don’t have a lot of hand strength to pull a needle through heavy material.  This is why I recommend a pair of needle-nosed pliers in the sewing kit, along with a small piece of 1×4 wood.  The butt of the needle can be pressed against the wood to force it up through the material, and the pliers pull it the rest of the way through.  Strong button thread or quilting thread is what I like to use on pants.

A good way to tell the proper length of a pant is to find where it touches the floor when the pants are worn with the top of them at the person’s waist (actual waist, guys, not the fantasy waist that lets your unders show.)  This is where they should be trimmed off.  The material you cut off can be saved to use for patches if you need them later on.

Turn the leg up half an inch, and then again and pin in place.  Use a double thread in your needle, and tie a knot in the end.  I find it easier to start with the knot near the seam.  Sew from the inside of the pant leg.  Catch a few threads of the cloth of the pant, then the edge of the folded-over part, then back to the cloth, etc., back and forth about 3/8ths inch apart until you get all the way around.  Tie a knot in whatever way you can to end it and secure it and it is done.

Hemming shirts is done the same way, but you can use finer thread and a slimmer needle.  To find the proper length of a long sleeve, extend your arm out before you.  Mark the spot where your wrist bone is.  That is where you will fold it under, so you must trim it below that point by about an inch.  This doesn’t work on cuffed shirts.  It is useful for suit coats and other coats that have a plain edge on them, though.

If the needle and thread seem to be too much to deal with, there are some very usable seam glues and hemming glues to be found in most sewing stores.  It acts like a super glue, almost, but is for clothing.  Actual superglue is caustic to the fibers.  Elmer’s won’t stay in.  Haven’t tried Gorilla glue, but it isn’t flexible after it dries.


Mending holes is another thing that can seem frustrating.  A friend of mine announced to me that she intended to just have a large selection of iron-on patches available to make it easy.  I asked her where she was going to plug her iron in for power.  She just stared at me.  It hadn’t occurred to her that the iron wouldn’t work without electricity.  This is why darning them closed when they are small is preferable.

Darning and patching should be done with the clothing clean, unless you are afraid the hole will fray open too badly during the washing process.  Sometimes a running stay-stitch around the edges of the hole will prevent further fraying.  Patches should be of a similar material, similar in age to the item being patched, as weaker material may not hold, and heavier material may pucker.  Also, newer material hasn’t been shrunk in the laundry, so when the item is washed again, it may pull and pucker at the stitches.

There are darning threads available on the market, and several colors may be found.  These are a cotton blend, non-mercerized (not smoothed) and come in four strands.  Generally, work is done with all four strands and a heavier needle, though it can be separated into 2 and 2 strands to use for lighter material.  In the absence of darning thread, several strands of regular thread will do.  In a make-do situation such as the world may find itself in, any thread/yarn/string will do.

My grandmother always sewed around the outside edge of the hole in a running stitch before darning.  If this is a sock, hat, glove, etc, and you don’t have an old fashioned darning ball, something hard and slightly rounded should be placed inside for you arrange the hole upon as you darn it.  Lightbulbs, cue balls, even a wooden cooking spoon will work (the handle will work for the fingers of a glove, too).  The reason for using this is that it will help the darned area lay flat.  If this is a sock, you will understand how important it is to be walking on a flat spot!  All stitching is done from the outside.

I usually don’t knot the end of my darning thread, but after the first few passes of the thread over the hole, I tie one in it.  The work lays flatter that way.


Starting on one side of the hole, a quarter inch from the edge, put your needle in underneath and bring it up.

Take the thread across the hole to the opposite side, and from underneath, a quarter-inch from the edge, bring your thread up on that side.  Do not pull tight.  Leave this thread as long as it needs to be to cover the hole.

Return to the first side and repeat, each time, bringing the thread up from underneath near to the last stitch on that side until your threads go across the entire hole.

Turn your work a quarter turn and begin to weave the thread under, over, under, over each set of four strands until you get to the other side, again, bringing your needle up from underneath to the top.

Criss-cross your work until the hole is covered by the newly woven patch.  Anchor your thread and breath a sigh of relief.  You have just darned a hole!


There are limits to how much a darned hole can cover.  After a certain point, a patch must be used.  As with darning, the hole must be laid flat.  Sometimes I have used a hard-cover book, a board or even a plastic pencil case underneath.

Trim the hole of any long threads or frayed areas.  Measure the width and length of the hole and add about an inch all the way around.  Part of this will be turned under to keep the patch itself from fraying, and part is to overlap the edges of the hole so there is sturdy material for catching the thread.  Be sure to measure past where the material may be too thin to take a stitch.

People like to do patches in different ways.  Some people like to place them inside, so as much of the original material shows on the outside as possible.  This is probably the best way to do it for nicer clothing, as you can trim and turn the edge of the frayed material so that it looks nice but is still secured to the patch from both sides.

For work clothes, however, it is better to have the patch on the outside.  First of all, it’s easier to tack down.  Second, it protects what’s left of the original material from further wear and tear from outside, and keeps it from being caught on boards, brambles, equipment, etc.

Once the patch is turned under at the edges and pinned in place, use a strong needle and either heavy button thread or two strands of sewing thread to tack the patch down.  Stitches should be no farther than a quarter-inch apart, and for finer material, a little closer is good.  Remember, your stitching will have to take on part of the work load of this material, so you want it to be strong and even.


Even if you’ve never sewn before, it isn’t a difficult skill.  Many people state “I have no patience for it.” but if you need to do it, here are a few ideas to remember.

1)  Never be afraid to make mistakes.  Mistakes in sewing do happen.  I have caught other parts of the garment in hemming, or sewing on a button myself.  The great thing is, most mistakes can be undone and things turn out fine.  Don’t let this possibility make you nervous about sewing.

2)  Take your time.  Unless you need something patched in a hurry, let yourself take the time you need to do the deed.  If you must hurry, and find yourself taking bigger stitches, come back later and reinforce those stitches with better ones.

3)  If it’s getting on your nerves, walk away, do something else, and come back to it.  Even if all you can make yourself do is sit down to do an inch at a time, it will still be done.


Clothing maintenance and mending is a never-ending task.  It may be hard to get in the swing of it now, especially when we can simply replace something torn or faded, but it is a necessary habit for when the SHTF.  It will be important to keep our clothing usable for as long as necessary, until we can discover ways to replace that clothing.

For those of us who already know how to sew garments, I would challenge you to put together a “go-kit” just for practicing this craft.  For the rest, a simple sewing kit in your BOB should keep you clothed until you can get somewhere.  Until then, keep your clothes in as good a repair as you can.  It will safe you money (for more preps!) in the short run, and may save embarrassment in the long run.

Prizes For This Round Include: (Ends July 29, 2016)

First Prize:

Second Prize: 

Third Prize:

Please read the rules that are listed below BEFORE emailing me your entry… my email address can be found here – please include “writing contest entry” in the subject line.

The more original and helpful your article is, the deeply and less basic it is, the better the chance, that I will publish it, and you will win. Only non-fiction how-to-do-it type articles, please.


  1. If you look in thrift stores you can often find metal thimbles, to use to push needles thru, and sometimes darning eggs – lightbulbs will be hard to find as most are those squiggly kind of LEDs or compact fluorescent.

    Now, while you can, check out Youtube for instructions on mending, darning, and even regular sewing. It can be very helpful. Also, check for altering clothes like men’s shirts to kids clothes. Sometimes the library will have a book on that.

  2. If you think you might have to make all your kids’ clothes, you might want to purchase KwikSew’s “Sewing for Babies”, “Sewing for Toddlers” and “Sewing for Children”. They each have a full set of patterns for everything you might need from newborn to about 12 years old. When my 21 year old daughter way little, she wore nothing that was bought from a store – I made everything from underwear to outerwear to shoes.

  3. Good info! Our small town fabric store is closing, so I am stocking up on thread, muslin and rotary blades. Now the closest store is 30 miles away ( irrelevant, of course, in a SHTF situation).

    When you buy clothing now, buy as good quality as you can afford. My niece bought a tee shirt at a trendy store and ripped a small hole in a seam almost immediately. I showed her the difference in the weight between my cotton tee and hers. And showed her how to repair it.

    Personally, I love to sit and mend. I find it relaxing and rewarding.

    One final note: My 86 year old Dad often speaks of his ultra frugal cousin. So frugal, she would even save basting thread! Waste not, want not!

    • American pacrat says:

      If you are not using the material and thread right away, I would suggest you may want to vacuum seal them for preservation.

  4. IdahoBob says:

    For washing clothes by hand a washboard cannot be under estimated. They work by pushing soap and water through the fabric. This is contrary to what appears to be working by abrasion. They are extremely effective against stubborn stains.

  5. I’m sending this to my wife, who is the one with the interest in sewing. However, I will be working up a manual washing machine of sorts…for just in case.

    Plus, it could be far, far better to use when you just need that one shirt or that one outfit washed, rather than use the washing machine for such a small load.

  6. mom of three says:

    Todays clothes, seem to wear out faster, I’m always on the look out for thicker jeans, thicker socks. Shoe’s, are even cheap now I bought our son, a pair of Nike, the whole sole of one shoe just started to come off after a few day’s I ended up using gorilla glue, to get it on and stay on so Gorilla glue, may be a great product to stock up on too. I have a few shorts, that I need to re do a button on them. Thank you for a great article sewing, is becoming a lost art. Jo-ann store’s are starting to hold classes that may be a way for sewing, to start to pick back up..

    • Chuck Findlay says:

      Stocking up on glue sounds good, but in practice it doesn’t work long-term.

      I do handyman work and use a lot of glue, calk, wood fillers, epoxies, floor levelers. And all of them have a relatively short shelf life. 2-years out most of them are not too useful as they harden up in the tube or separate.

      The only glue I have found good for long-term storage is powder based stuff that can be mixed as needed.

      • Almost There says:


        Do you think any of them would last longer if they were kept in a mason jar with the air sucked out?

        • Chuck Findlay says:

          I don’t know if they would last longer doing that. It seems that if it’s a wet glue (has water in it) it is only good for a few years.

          I have had several containers that were factory-sealed (never opened) kept in my basement (so they don’t freeze) and still they don’t last more then a few years.

          What I do is when I buy any glue or calk I have a label maker and I print a label for it with the month and year I bought it and make sure to rotate my stock.

          I am a garage sale guy, I love to buy things at them. But I have found that it’s not worth buying old (even factory-sealed) glue of tubes of calking. They almost always are next to useless.

          Being a person (a prepper) that likes to build up a stock of everything I will need down the road I find this a problem as (a self-employed handyman / home repair guy) I use several tubes of construction adhesive, calk and putty every week. I want a large supply of these on hand as I can get.

          The way I deal with it is to just buy a bit more then I need and make sure I rotate-out the older stuff that has the oldest time stamp on it.

          One thing I do buy and store is Durham’s Rock Putty. It’s a powder that stores well. It’s like a 90-year old product that has stood the test of time. But it’s a filler / floor leveler type of product, not a glue. You can find it
          at any home / hardware store for a few dollars. Here is what it looks like.

          What I really need to do is to research how glues were made in the past. But I’m sure the old stuff won’t come close to what modern glue can do. There is a lot of chemistry in glues to get them to do what they do. And while old-school home made glue won’t hold a candle to modern glue, it may be the only choice if it we get a SHTF situation.

          Glue making is one more thing I need to research and print out.

          PS: Another easy glue to store is “Hot-Melt Glue Sticks” to use them all you need is a heat source (any flame like a camp fire, Bic or Zippo lighter) to melt them and then just coat the item needing to be glued and push them together for a min till it dries. But Hot-Melt-Glue is not a very strong bond. But a glue stick will store forever if you don’t let it get so hot it could melt.

          • Almost There says:

            CF, wonder though, if the packaging from the factory would be as airtight as a quart jar with the air sucked out of it and an OA inside? Some things need to be repackaged to last longer, like cereal… And, if it dries out, you have to buy more… Isn’t that the plan?

            Yes, glue from glue sticks don’t hold up well. I have done craft fairs for years and if I’ve made something with the glue and the air temp gets warm, i.e. sitting in a hot garage or in the car even for a day, the floral arrangement falls apart.

  7. I found a round piece of wood at Hobby Lobby, which I will use to help me with my darning. I used to use my mother’s Mt. St. Helen’s Ash egg for darning, but that’s at her house, not mine (LOL). It stays in the bag, which is in my BOB, because it would do some damage to a person’s temple if wielded correctly. No multi-taskers, as Alton Brown would say.
    I am grateful I had a mother patient enough to sit with me and teach me mending skills, especially when I was a single parent with small children, and had just enough money for the essentials, which occasionally included second hand store clothing, or hand me downs from some nice folks.
    Good article!

  8. Very good article! Thanks Diana S. Fewer & fewer people know how to sew anymore. Also, a month or 2 ago, there was a good article on the value of an old treadle machine that could be used after grid down. Sometime after a disaster or crash, there will be a need to clothing- new, used, mended, etc.

    • I bought a new Janome treadle about 18 months ago and never use my electric machine any more. I fit the new machine into an old treadle case and it works beautifully. I do lots and lots of sewing and patching for my 6 kids at home and also sew all our historic clothes for our reenactment addiction.

      • Curley Bull says:

        Do you make any re-enactments in Louisiana or Arkansas? We might have met. I’m with the Bloody 19th (19th Louisiana Voluntary Infantry). I’m the cook, medic, and chaplain (unable to take the field anymore).


        • Curley, we’re are about 1500 miles from Louisiana but, we have been thinking about road trips – just not quite that far. Perhaps Fort William in Thunder Bay Ontario, Canada this summer… Found 3 pairs of the most awesome lace up boots – good for 1850’s through to 1910ish at a second hand store today. We most often represent a Metis (half french half Ojibwe) family from 1812 but will likely do more from 1860’s in the next year or so. How did you get into reenacting?

          • Curley Bull says:

            My buddy Jack (we met in 2002) spent 5 years trying to talk me into it and when I finally gave in, I enjoyed it. I love history (true history) and for me it’s mostly the people. The members of the 19th are my second family. I’ve gained a half dozen brothers, 3 sisters, and 11 grandchildren.

            • And with the wonderful people comes a set of survival skills. You’re set to go. Got the community and the know how. Can’t beat it!

  9. Northernwolf says:

    For me with items that wear out its socks,have not figured out yet to mend holes worn on the heel of them.and if I wear them with the hole I get my heel rubbed enough to get my heel rubbed raw from the boot.

    • Northernwolf, If you wear regular sweat socks, the easiest thing to do is to patch them… Cut a patch from a sock that has lost its mate, sew it over the hole of your injured sock using a whip stitch and voila! you have patched your sock. If you wear wool socks, check out darning videos on youtube before SHTF

    • Chuck Findlay says:

      For me with items that wear out its socks

      Buy wool socks, they last a lot longer then synthetic socks. They still will at some point develop holes, but they longer.

      Problem is to find ones that are mostly made of wool and don’t scratch your skin. I find Merino Wool to work well, but they can run $10.00 for a set of them. And they are hot in the summer.

  10. Babycatcher says:

    Another good skill to have is to know how to make your own patterns! I have been doing this for many years, and, except for strange design features( which I don’t wear anyway) most clothing items are easy to make. There are a few good books on pattern making, from the 50s and 60s which might be good to have on hand. You would have you own business going in no time!

    • Everybody’s had such good responses. I will probably make another article on basic pattern construction and basic alterations as soon as I get a chance.

  11. Babycatcher says:

    A darning egg, for those who do woodworking, is a wooden egg shape, with a shallow hole drilled on the narrow end, and a wooden handle with a matching tenon turned to fit the hole. The egg is about 3 inches long, and the handle about 4 or so. You might be able to find them at yard sales or thrift stores since most people don’t know what they are or what they are used for.

    • dageneral says:

      Some “antique” stores may have a collection of darning eggs, that you could get for a couple of dollars apiece. I got one for a buck and the owner was a bit surprised that I even knew what it was and I’m not that young. When my little sis, who is a fantastic tailor(her hobby) came for a visit, she jokingly told me to check her suitcase when she left ’cause she’d been looking for one and might just snark mine. I had another one so I gave her that one and now she can darn socks and not have to use a light bulb or hard boiled egg as she did in a pinch once.

  12. Good article! I was also taught to sew by my mom and used to make all my clothes except unders. I made suits and dresses for work in colors and styles that suited me. I got out of the habit because it got so expensive. I dress out of the thrift stores mostly. I do consistently repair my clothing, and hem for my short legs, I am not 5’9″! I have a pretty good accumulation of thrift clothes. I have been collecting cotton fabric and quilt. I think quality is very poor. Now I am retired, I may make clothing again, keep it simple. I do knit and it is cold here!
    For horrible greasy work stains, rub chalk on the stain, give it 15 minutes, brush off and wash. Works on collar stains too. I don’t buy chalk anymore, I have some pure calcium carbonate on my property and set aside the whitest ones. Works perfectly. I just saved my old suede jacket by powdering the “chalk” and letting it sit 24 hours. Used a suede brush and it is good for more years.
    I am eyeballing native plants suitable for spinning and weaving. There are about 1000 fiber plants in the US. I added making a Navajo loom to my list for building this summer… about $25 if you buy the material. I will be practicing all winter.
    Because I work pretty hard outside in my garden and food forest, mending and knitting are my rest breaks.

    • Red Tower says:

      Good for you on looking at naturally found fibers and building your loom. I have a small one, capable of making something up to 3 by 4 feet, if I crowd it. I put folding legs on it and made a stand so I can collapse it and lean it against the wall when not in use, but I don’t HAVE to have something to lean it on if it’s free-standing.
      The chalk think works really well. Thanks for sharing that, I’d forgotten. In Victorian days they used it a lot, as well as a mixture of baking soda and salt on woven rugs. (Obviously not the high pile ones, just the heavy woven rugs.) Good luck with your loom. If you have questions, just ask.

  13. Almost There says:

    When I worked at the race track, the grooms used to wash the cloth linen that went under the saddle with a plunger type thing similar to this. It worked really well. Sturdy, made of metal and wooden handle.

    New version made of plastic –

    And here’s the whole kit and kaboddle…

    Looking on Amazon, this looks like it could also be useful for spots.

    And possibly even this

    Might want to get a hand wringer too.

    Don’t forget to use our host’s Amazon link to purchase.

    As for sewing, I was in 4-H and my mom was the 4-H leader for this particular group where we learned to sew. This is one skill that has been most valuable throughout my life. Even though we sewed with a sewing machine, and if electricity is still available, would recommend all you folks (guys and gals) out there that don’t know how to sew, take a class at your local craft or sewing machine vendor store.

    Then for the manual mending, next time you find a hole in something, learn how to patch it or hem those pants with the whip stitch Ms. Diana spoke about. Perhaps those craft stores will also have basic mending classes available. Socks are tricky to mend (called darning). Best not to let the hole get too big because the mending, if not done correctly, could make a bump and rub a spot on your foot.

    Here is a “Sewing Awl” for repairing leather.

  14. Excellent article! I have cloth from my mother’s stores still. I think my grandkids will forever remember me from the patches on my pants. One trick I use when patching a large hole is to work the underside of the hole with stitching as well…just to give extra support. Thanks for the sock darning info…never done it, but could if I had to from that explanation.

    • Lurker Judith says:

      Great article! Also a good skill to take to a barter fair. If you live near me I will be your first customer. I failed sewing class in high school and my skills went downhill from there.
      I think you should definitely win because of the tons of useful info in your article.

  15. Louis Rucci says:

    Outstanding. I’ve only started storing items but many of the things I’ve read about here have already occurred to me. This is one of them. It was obvious that clothing is something always needed and the ability to make/repair them is essential. I’m on the lookout for a treadle powered sewing machine I can add to my preparations. From there I’ll know what supplies I’ll need to keep it operable/usable. There’s the advantage of a skill/product that can be traded for items in short supply.

  16. Ardelle Wachter says:

    This article has so many good points, Thank You, I found a darning ball with handle from Lehmans on the internet. Not sure if they still have them but they will sometimes get them back in stock if enough people request them. I am working on sadd Irons these days.

  17. You mentioned the need to keep clothing as clean as possible which is good. I would like to add an additional thought – proper grooming will also be important – keeping toe nails clipped and feet as smooth as possible will also help to keep our socks and our shoes in better shape for a longer period of time.

  18. I haven’t read all of the comments, so forgive me if I’m repeating anything. You can get darning eggs on eBay very cheaply, like $2-3. Also wool felting- a very simple craft is an excellent way to patch wool socks that get a large (or small) hole in them. You really can’t tell much difference and it is very fast to do, plus very durable.

  19. M. Biccum says:

    Well, just to start with…I hate darning socks. I can, but don’t like to. Have been looking for a treadle machine for a long time. Around here they are sold as antiques and the prices are pretty outrageous… or at least to my mind. Also, it has been mentioned before…keep a button jar. New buttons are expensive , too. I also save all good zippers. If something does become beyond repair cut off the buttons or remove the zippers. And yes, it was a good submission.

    • Anonamo Also says:

      look up Janome brand treadle…they are new ones, if you just want to treadle.. you will still need to find treadle base.

  20. akaGaGa says:

    Thank you, Miss Diana, for sharing your knowledge with us! This article is well-thought-out and full of useful information. I’ve been sewing for decades, but an expert adds a new perspective to the same old things.

    I was raised with an electric machine, and soon got one with a built-in hem stitch, so I’ve never been much for hand-sewing or repairs. I always said my machine only worked on new fabric. 🙂

    But that’s not a prepper attitude and maybe I’ve acquired a little more patience than I used to have. A couple years ago I picked up a treadle machine for $25, which my db cleaned up and put on a new belt. It works great, when I can keep it going forward instead of backward!

    Now I need to get a darning ball and, because of your clear directions and positive attitude, I’ll attempt the impossible.

    Thanks again!

  21. I picked up a darning egg pretty cheap at a second hand store a while back. It is made of a,pretty wood. I haven’t used it yetthough. I do not wear wool socks – they make me itch!

    Taught my daughter to sew some. She took a sewing/repair kit to college and repaired items for herself as well as roommates. One roommate was going to throw away a pair of shorts because a button came off – DD sewed it back on in just a couple if minutes. I need to pratctice sewing. It is a handy skill to have.

  22. Thinking of teaching my son how to turn darning eggs on the lathe. He likes woodwork, and we are trying to encourage him. If I can get him too, I may take orders for them from folks. Anyone interested?

  23. Almost There says:

    Diana, without being exact, what area of the country do you live?

    I would like one, and also, I would like a kraut presser. Our local expert fermentater has one and the guy that made it locally has been sick. It has a bigger end for wide mouth and smaller end for regular mouth. I would have to get a pattern and picture for you if this is something he would make. The ones on e-bay, I’ve been told, are too short. These are perfect. I can get more details if you think he might want to make them.

    • I remember seeing kraut pressers. My aunt had one. I roughly live in SE Wyoming. Let me talk to my son. He works, so he’s hard to catch, but I’ll bet he’d be willing if he had the pattern of what you want. If that becomes possible, I’ll have MD give you my email and we can go from there.

      • Almost There says:

        Thanks Diana. The one the guy uses is about 12″-14″ long, very nice.

        • Red Tower says:

          What diameter would you need on either end?

          • Almost There says:


            I am going to a meetup tomorrow evening and have asked my friend to bring theirs. I will take pics and measurements.

          • Almost There says:


            I have the measurements of the kraut presser and pictures. Not sure how to get the pics to you
            Length – 13 1/4″
            small end diameter (placing vertically on paper and drawing a circle) 1 3/4″- used for regular mouth jars
            large end diameter – 2 1/2″ used for wide mouth jars
            center handle diameter – 1 1/4″
            center handle length – 7 1/4″
            the ends are tapered towards the center handle
            small end tapered to 1″ in diameter over a distance of 3″
            large end tapered to 1 1/2″ in diameter over a distance of 3″
            made of poplar because they said it doesn’t absorb water…

  24. Matthew Wooddell says:

    That was a very informative article. I enjoyed reading it. I had not tried darning holes before, just using tiny patches. I will use this technique the next time I have an opportunity, which comes up often.

  25. I’d like to thank everybody for their amazing comments and helpful suggestions. Have a wonderful day and God bless, everyone!

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