This guest post is by GaGa and entry in our non-fiction writing contest .
Most references to having clothing to wear in TEOTWAWKI call for buying some warm, outdoor-type things on sale, stocking up on socks and undies, and having a little sewing kit for repairs. A better way is prepping to sew clothing yourself.
I’ve been sewing for about 40 years, and in most cases, home-made items last much longer than store-bought. Sewing also gives you the flexibility to choose fabric, style, and size for particular people in particular climates. Practice now while their are people around to give advice, so you can keep sewing when you’re on your own.
The first thing to buy, and the only costly one, is the sewing machine. When my old Singer electric crapped out after thirty-some years, we got a new one. It’s a heavy-duty utility machine that doesn’t have all the extra bells and whistles. I expect it will keep me sewing for another thirty years. I got it on sale, which JoAnn’s has quite often – you just have to wait for the model you want.
If TEOTWAWKI doesn’t include electricity, I might be able to keep going with this machine, powering it with batteries charged with our solar (or a wood-gas generator my husband has in the planning stages). If there’s not enough power in those dark days of November and December, I’ll turn to plan B.
Last summer when I went to pick blueberries, the berry farmers had some furniture for sale, including an old treadle sewing machine. I snapped it up for $25. My brother, who repairs treadle machines for the Amish in our area, cleaned and oiled it, put a new belt on, and I’m in business. They’re quite common at garage sales, so keep your eyes open.
I confess there’s a knack to using these things that I haven’t quite mastered. You give the wheel a little push, set your feet in motion, and sew. But sometimes in that process, it decides it wants to sew backwards. If you have someone who can teach you, I suspect they would have good suggestions on how to get past this problem. In my case, I’ll just keep practicing every now and then, and eventually it will follow my directions.
Once you have a machine to sew with, you need some other tools of the trade: good, sharp scissors, a tape measure, seam-ripper, pins and pin cushions, various styles & sizes of machine needles, extra bobbins, a tube-turner, and a thimble. A small plastic organizer for all the little doodads is very handy. Mine has 6 little drawers that keep things easy to find.
Sewing requires good light. Set up your station by a bright window, and have a good light available when needed. Because my eyes are getting old, we invested in an OttLite – pricey, but we got it on sale and it’s worth every penny.
Thread – Again, watch for those sales and stock up. Unless you want to get into spinning, you’ll need thread of various weights and colors. I advise against picking up thread at garage sales, or even the collections of various colors that they sell new. The thread tends to be older and weaker, which doesn’t make for good seams.
Patterns – These are often on sale and can be picked up at garage sales, too. Look for sizes and styles for the people you’ll be sewing for. I have some patterns that will work for lots of people. Pajama patterns, for instance, come in one pattern with various sizes and both sexes. I can make pajamas for anyone from one pattern. Again, a good plastic container to keep them clean and organized is helpful.
Buttons – Buttons are expensive, even when they’re on sale. The best way to get them is at garage sales. Sometimes you’ll find a button jar full of them that can be had for a fraction of buying new. You can also cut them off worn-out clothing that you’re getting rid of, or even buy cheap worn-out clothes at garage sales just for the buttons.
Zippers and seam binding – These can be purchased at a good 50% off sale, or again, salvage them from old clothing.
Fabric – This is the big one, both in cost and storage space. I have several large, plastic tubs full of fabric. Again, there are almost always some fabrics on sale. Find the fabrics you want, and stock up when the sale is on. For instance, instead of buying blue jeans in various sizes for the whole family, which can add up quickly, I buy a bolt of denim when it’s on sale. Some blue and gold thread, a few short metal zippers, and a handful of metal buttons I’ve pulled off old jeans, and I can keep the whole family in jeans (and jean jackets) for a long time.
If you’re a novice, it’s easier to learn to sew by having someone teach you. Watch for classes at your local fabric store, or ask around. I bet there are some older ladies who would be glad to help you learn.
If you’re more of a do-it-yourself-er like I am, choose easy patterns at first and read them! They generally have clear directions that are easy to follow. You might also want to invest in one of the many how-to-sew books available that can simplify more complex techniques.
From blue jeans and winter coats, to cool cotton shorts and shirts, sewing can keep your family covered and comfortable in any weather. Your skills will make for good bartering in TEOTWAWKI, too.
This contest will end on August 7 2012 – prizes include:
First Place : 1 Year Subscription to AlertsUSA, 1 Radiation Safety Package consisting of the following; (1) NukAlert Radiation Monitor and Alarm (5) Radsticker Peel and Stick Dosimeters (1) Box Thyro Safe Potassium Iodide. All courtesy of AlertsUSA. A $150 gift certificate for Federal Ammo courtesy of LuckyGunner Ammo. And a British Berkefeld water fillter system courtesy of LPC Survival. A total prize value of over $700.
Second Place : A six pack Entrée Assortment courtesy of Augason Farms, a Nukalert courtesy of Shepherd Survival Supply and a WonderMill Grain Mill courtesy of Kitchen Kneads. A total prize value of over $550.
Third Place : A copy of each of my books “31 Days to Survival” and “Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat” courtesy of The Survivalist Blog dot Net and “Kelly McCann’s Inside the Crucible Set” courtesy of Paladin Press. A total prize value of over $200.
Contest ends on August 7 2012.