Sew – a needle pulling thread

This is a guest post by Vicki C  and entry for our non-fiction writing contest.

When I am cleaning house or doing the laundry my mind roams but eventually comes around to a SHTF scenario. When I consider the most common immediate needs, to me the order of importance would be — water, food, weapons, fuel, tools, medications and so forth, but what about…Material? The following is a small list with a smaller list of usage ideas, use your imagination, walk around and look at materials in your home. Better yet spend an hour and go to a fabric store and look around, this will give you an idea of what is out there to use and what possible purposes they could be used for.

Fabrics and notions (buttons, thread, elastic, snaps, etc)

So many to choose from, what is most important and what can I use it to make?

1. Wool or fur to be used for blankets, jackets, socks

2. Cotton/muslin/linen for bandages, clothing or heaven forbid, wrapping a body (human or your pet) for burial.

2. Leather for moccasin type shoes or repairing shoes or jackets, making a sling shot

4. Denim to patch your jeans, make a vest, carry all bag

5. Stuffing material to insulate your jacket, make a pillow

6. Waterproof fabric for ground cloth or lean to

7. Black out fabric in case you need to cover your windows

8. Netting for catching fish or making bags for hanging food or carrying things

9. Cording or heavy string, uses for these items alone are endless

10. Yarn for making caps or scarves. Over the last year I learned to use the “quick knit” looms just as a side hobby, I have made over 100 different size cap for foster kids and a few scarves. I can make a knit cap in about 2 hours. No electricity needed and you might be able to use these for trading.

How about a durable or water type glue for sealing material when you can’t find your needles?  I found this website on what types of glue works on what materials.

Then of course you need thread, elastic, buttons, needles (many types/styles, different uses, get an asst pkg), scissors, etc. These can also be used for bartering items. Think, think, think.

Threads come in all types of weight and strength as well, buy an assortment for your different types of fabrics, you don’t want to use cotton thread if you are sewing a tarp. Maybe fishing line would be stronger for that and your type of needle needs to be appropriate size and strength as well.

Material for clothing, you need to consider is it breathable or too hot for your environment, how thick or heavy does it need to be to patch something else

Even though I took 4 years of home economics in school I couldn’t begin to make a suit but I can do repairs and make some basic items.

This list could go on and on, the area you live in or plan to bug out to would make a difference on what your needs might be. While we might like to think we could take our house and all supplies with us that probably won’t be the case so you have to think/plan ahead.

Most of us wouldn’t think of raiding or stealing from a fabric store, good heavens what good would that do you?  You might just want to think again to locate and remember where you saw the last one. If you have room to store a few yards of such items to get you started before they are needed, even the better.

Prizes for this round in our non fiction writing contest include…

  1. First place winner will receive – Two (2) Just In Case… Classic Assortment Survival Food Buckets courtesy of LPC Survival, a $150 gift certificate for Remington ammunition courtesy of LuckyGunner, aWonder Junior Deluxe grain mill courtesy of Kitchen Neads, a one year subscription to the Personal VPN service courtesy of unspyable and a Survival Puck courtesy of Innovation Industries, LLC.
  2. Second place winner will receive – One case of Future Essentials Canned Organic Green Costa Rican Monte Crisol Coffee courtesy of and Solo Stove and Solo Pot Courtesy of
  3. Third place winner will receive – a copy of my book ”31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness“ courtesy of, a copy of “The Survival Medicine Handbook” courtesy of and a Wolf Pack Coffee Mug Jumbo Mug courtesy of Horton Design.

Be sure to read the rules before entering… This contest will end on January 15 2014

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. When i realized what the subject of this article was,i stopped and opened another tab that i could hit if my wife walked past and saw this. Thats all she needs is another reason to add to her hoard of yarn,material,batting, craft supplies. Her hoard has slowly taken over an entire bedroom and is slowly working its way to my paint and tool storage room in my shop.(but in her defense,she is a quilter)

    • Thomas The Tinker says:

      Why you galloot (spelling a slang term is hard to do). This post is an outstanding reminder for me and mine. We… pick up close out bolts of cloth at Wal-Mart. Garage sale sewing gear and the eternal supply of odd threads and gadgets and material. Get on board fella and patch yer own dang coveralls.

      • I’ll have you know that i revel in my Galootness!

        • Babycatcher says:

          You should be made to go naked, out of spite! Lol just kidding. I’m a seamstress too, never had home EC, but have been sewing since I was 7. Men’s and ladies suits, underwear, bathing suits, wedding gowns, theatrical and historical costumes, I’ve done it all. But I’ve never made a full size quilt. Your wife has inspired me! You better be nice to her! Hehehe….

  2. Thanks for an interesting article, Vicki. Can you tell us a little more about quick knitting on a loom? I’ve been wanting to learn how to knit, and this sounds like it might be easier than using needles.

    • I posted a link below in a comment on the loom. it is very easy

    • judy, another one says:

      Lantana, I learned to knit several years ago; best money I have spent on myself in ages. It was easy to learn. I went to the local yarn shop and took classes. Once I got started I have used you-tube to build on my skills. I reached my goal of knitting socks, mittens and gloves within two years. The looms are fun, my sister uses hers all the time, but I like the versatility of two sticks and a string better.

      • How hard is learning to knit socks? I can knit a flat piece and seam it up to make a hat, but I have not been able to teach myself how to use dp needles to make round things.

        • Schatzie Ohio says:

          Check out the for instructions for making socks. They have a good tutorial for beginners..

      • Thanks for the encouragement, Judy. Socks would be my goal project, too–I’m glad to hear that it wouldn’t take years and years to get to that level.

  3. Very good article Vickie. This is a subject that a lot of people never even think about. I learned at an early age to sew buttons on, fix a ripped seam ,patch my jeans and even darn socks. My kids were always bringing their loose buttons and torn stuffed animals to Daddy for repair.

  4. Although we do not currently sew we have (both of us) in the past. We also pick up needles, thread, and buttons when they go on sale. We also save buttons and keep iron-on patches for the knees of pants.

  5. Donna in MN says:

    Good reminders! You can stretch a lot out of the material you suggested.

  6. Thomas The Tinker says:

    ananothrthingBC…… This could be good cross training for ya. I kinda like to sit up in attic watching a movie.. sewing up my own jeans.. and I have been working on an old WWll wool sleeping bag liner patching the moth holes…….. get my patchs out a surplus wool blanky.

    The detail work rather calms me some cause ya just have to be to get a consistent lock stitch.

    • For some reason, the picture of you sitting in a darkened attic sewing reminds me of a line in a movie. “it puts the lotion on its skin” uhhhhh,,,,, you havent said that lately have you? truth be told, i learned how to sew in the army, and do my own laundry. Thank god every thing was green.

    • Fabric glue guys , not good for everything , but cheap and will help keep seams and stitching from breaking .

  7. You know what Vicki? You have given all of us something to think about! I have a box of hides in various sizes, of antelope, elk and deer skins that I inherited from my dad when he passed a way. Am so glad that I’ve been insistent in keeping them! Just when you think you’ve soaked up enough information that will allow you to sit down and catch your breath, an article like yours is posted, and I then understand that there is much more to learn. Your article was very informative and educational! It just proves to me, that I still have a lot to learn! I do have dental floss and thread in my BOB, but I see now, that I’ll need a bit more than that when things go south! Thank you!

    • my husband’s old boy scout book pre 1950’s shows how to make moccasins et cetera out of deer hides. see if you can find a similar boy scout book. very clear and good drawings.

      • Donna in MN says:

        I have that book. I used to produce a line of apache mocs and boot mocs out of moose and elk- up to 4 layers on the sole, but punching the 400 holes per pair and sewing the thick layers gave me tendonitus and I had to quit making them. I modified patterns from Tandy Leather Co. because they had various shoe sizes available.

  8. mom of three says:

    I don’t have much material, but I do have a beautiful box that my MIL gave me from her mother from Denmark, so I’m thinking it was her grandmother’s box, it even has Danish writing on the bottom. Needles, thread, you name it I have it. I even collected the thread on the wooden spools, plus clothes pins. Buttons, I read an artical in Mary Janes Farm, magazines on old buttons, if the buttons when pressed to your cheek are cold they are made out of oyster shells. Check out Mary Janes Farm magazine, she has so many neat articles on farm life, natural foods, organic cooking.

  9. Great post, Vicki, and I’d like to say that it’s articles like this that keep me coming back here. I’ve seen a couple other ‘survivalist/prepper’ sites over the years, and most all of them focus on guns, ammo, and knives rather than the ‘nuts and bolts’ of living.

    I’m not the greatest at mending stuff, aside from darning socks and maybe some field repairs (had to stitch up a backpack strap once on a hunt, using dental floss) and once fixing a pair of split jeans with 4# test fishing line. It’s these quiet and unassuming skills that can make the difference between surviving and thriving if the balloon goes up and helping to get by day to day. Thank you!

  10. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    Pushing a needle through leather can be a real challenge, but a 1/16″ drill bit really helps speed things along. I use one of those hand cranked pistol grip drills by Fiskars. And the Swiss Army Knife eyeglass bit (that unit that fits inside the corkscrew for storage) is a pretty nifty little drill bit for this as well.

    My projects are very simple DIY , very utilitiarian but they do serve a need and when you want a custom product for specialized use, being able to accomodate them is useful knowledge. Thank you for the reminder – good article.

  11. thanks for the comments. here is a link and video for the quick knit loom. you can get them at any hobby store (Michaels, Hobby Lobby) I have done hats and scarves.,default,pg.html

  12. Well done, Vicki! My DW is a sewer. She does it to relax and has all the stuff she needs, although she would disagree with that statement 🙂 She has a high powered sewing machine, 4 tons of needles and enough thread to stretch around the world several times. She always buys carpet thread. Strong stuff!!

    1. Learn to brain tan critter hides. It’s simple and has been around for thousands of years. You can tan with or without hair. Large or small hides. Makes durable, warm, waterproof leather for a myriad of uses. Youtube has many shorts on this. Invest in a fleshing tool, or make your own because without it, it’s a lot of work.

    2. Save every scrape of cotton, muslin and denim you can. I have 3 cardboard barrels with tight fitting lids where I throw old tshirts and jeans after washing.

    3. & 4. See #1 above.

    5. Cat tail heads make excellent stuffing material as does goose and duck down. When using cat tail, use thick batting or double line it because it will cause hives on your skin if the material is too thin.

    6, 7, & 8. See #1 above

    9. There are several methods of making cordage out of things like cedar bark, hemp, animal sinew, leather….Youtube has many shorts on this.
    In the days of iron men and wooden ships, Wednesday afternoon was designated as “ropeyard Wednesday”. The entire crew except for watchstanders and officers sat around the decks taking apart old rope, hausers and small stuff, They would then weave it into new usable lines. Some Navy ships observe this practice today by letting people off 1/2 day on Wednesdays to get haircuts, do laundry, sleep…. Ropeyarn or yarn is gossip the sailors engaged in while working. You’re heard the phrase “spin a yarn”?

    10. Stock up on this unless you have sheep and a spinning wheel.

  13. Swabbie Robbie says:

    I bought an industrial sewing machine from Sailrite ( some years ago when I wanted to sew some sails. It is an Ultrafeed LSZ-1. It is a walking foot straight and zig-zag stitch machine that can sew through many layers of canvas, or Dacron. A very tough machine. It can also be hand cranked – handy where and when there is no electricity.

    Sailrite is a great source for heavy threads of many colors from V29 through V250. I usually use V-69 and V-90 for my sail work. They also have items like Speedy Stitcher Sewing Awls, and sail makers palms. Worth a look.

    Besides our home sewing machine (a Bernina Record from the 1970s) I also have had a ancient Singer treadle machine with all the attachments and spare belts. That will come in handy if we ever have no options but going without power – long term. These are worth picking up if you trip over a working one.

    • Yes! This is the kind of thread to repair tents and to make useful things like canvas buckets. You just reminded me – I’m out and need to order more!

  14. I have been sewing all my life and find it very satisfying and I have made a few dollars at it over the years, only because I was asked. It is my first hobby (of many), but I do know that I could make a living off of it if needed.

    One thing on threads, they do get old and brittle. Before sewing with a spool that you have had for a long time or not sure how old, take a small length between your hands and pull, if it breaks easily, don’t use it, your clothes will fall apart at the seams. That may not be pretty.

    I inherited some from my husbands grandmother and while they were beautiful colors, they broke. So I have used them in a frame, instead, in my sewing room.

    • judy, another one says:

      “One thing on threads, they do get old and brittle.”

      The same goes for old pieces of fabric. Any quilt maker will tell you to be careful when picking out scrapes to make a quilt with. Some fabrics with shred when washed and dried. Experience can be a painful teacher.

  15. Good comment I find that true with with sting and twine. I had some in the cabinet for a year, went to hang decorations and it snapped.

  16. Vicki, thanks for your article. We rarely if ever, hear about stocking material like this.

  17. This is a reminder – it might be good for us to get a small travel-size, sewing kit for our bug out bags.

  18. worrisome says:

    I only give away clothing that is non useful for other things. Any good solid fabric gets cut up into one of three size squares…depending. 6″, 9″ and 12″. Anything left over that can be cut into long 6″ wide strips also gets done. I have a friend that makes up lovely quilt tops and after sewing on a liner, does a separate liner so that you can put a down comforter inside. She has made them for all the members of my family and her family and sells them at fairs. The 6″ strips, if they don’t get used in the quilts somewhere, gets used for making rag rugs. I take my fabric supplies to her once a year as do most all her other friends. We are all blessed to know her. She was in a terrible auto accident many years ago, this is her avocation, her real job is doing accounting for small businesses around the area. Love her!~

    At the present time, she is making me some for the bunkhouse. In that case I bought the fabrics and helped her cut them up as there are 12 beds in there. 8 twin bunks and 2 doubles and 2 kings.

  19. I have always had a small repair kit in my camping gear, now I have one in each car/truck bags and one in m BOB. I keep a fresh bottle of CA glue in the kit also. In the camping kit I have leather needles, duct tape, safety pins several colors of heavy thread, buttons, velcro sets and one zipper. I have a small scissors and a small nail clipper, and a spare pair of reading glasses!

  20. patientmomma says:

    Vicki, very nicely put together. I learned to sew when I was a teenager and learned to tailor when I needed business clothes. Over the years there’s not much I haven’t made. It only takes time!! I frequent off season sales, buy large sizes of good quality items at yard sales or thrift stores, bring it home wash and dry them and seal them up in a space bag for future use.

    thanks for the tip on quick looms; I’ll look in to one maybe I can get a 50% off coupon from JoAnns and get one to try out.

  21. Nebraska Woman says:

    Good article. Brought me back to the good old days when my then husband threw a fit because I spent $200 in a fabric shop once.
    About the thread…unwaxed dental floss is the best for sewing buttons. And do not forget sock darning thread or yarn if you prefer.

  22. Love another reason to add to my fabric, sewing tool, notion, and yarn stash!

    Recently I have been working on scarves, shawls, and afghans from yarn. Also working on my sewing skills. I have several projects in mind to help my skills.

  23. Vicki (and all our other talented ladies), how useful do you think crochet would be to pick up? Would you recommend a newbie start with knitting or crochet? I also wonder whether there are certain types of projects that are better suited to one or the other. . . . .

    • For me crocheting is a lot easier than knitting. There are a lot of online videos that show how to crochet. I knit using the looms after I tried learning with knitting needles and got frustrated and gave up. With a loom I didn’t need to be coordinated or count stitches, the beginning projects are easy and fast and with accomplishments it is easier to get better.

      As for sewing, if my family has to rely on me for clothing, we better move somewhere warm since they will be naked.

    • Babycatcher says:

      I do both knit and crochet, and I like crochet for bulkier items- hats scarves,sweaters, jackets, slippers and baby and household items. Depending on the stitch, you could knit those items as well( thinking of Aran sweaters). I like knitting for more delicate items -shawls, socks,undies, camisoles( in the days before brassieres) and pantaloons. They could be made of fine wool or cotton so be light, breathable, and easy to clean( in the case of bloomers/ under drawers)…. Also knitting is great for dresses!

    • I prefer to crochet blankets, throws and afghans because with knitting, you are holding the entire width of the object on the needles, and my shoulders get cramped and ache. With crochet, you are only holding the bit you are working at the time.
      For socks and any other round thing I prefer to work in the round on either circular or double pointed needles because I hate sewing up the project. This is good because if you want to re-use the yarn it is easier to take apart. Crochet works fine on round projects. Adjusting a pattern from flat to round means you have to change the stitch count to eliminate the seam stitches.

    • I learned to crochet about 9 yo. I am still working on learning to knit. Crochet is great for scarves, hat, afghans, baby items. Crochet is also quicker to complete than knitting in my opinion. But crochet uses more yarn than knitting in my experience. So, it is a tradeoff. My suggestion would be to try both. Crochet is my therapy, but others find knitting or sewing or quilting is best, but knowing some of it all is helpful.

  24. As one who sews, the best place to pick up inexpensive fabric is from the thrift stores. I have an enormous amount of fabric just from shopping the .99 cent sales and most purchases I am able to get 2-3 yards for the .99cents. It is amazing what can be found, you just have to be patient and look every couple of weeks on the mark down days. I shopped at Value Village on the .99cent days until they closed so now I have to pay a whopping $1.29 at Goodwill for my fabrics.
    Great ideas in this article.

    • This is a great resource. I also pick up large ugly or cheap sweaters. If I find wool I felt them, and others I block and join with crochet to make sweater quilts. That way I can get interesting textures and better patterns and yarn than what I can produce on my own.

  25. Besides thrift store shopping for fabric, I take advantage of the 1/2 off sales on drapery lining fabric. You can choose fabric that ranges from sheer to heavy. It’s wide, usually 60″ or more. If you can only choose one type of fabric for your “stash”, go with the medium to heavy weight liner fabric.

  26. The Jo Ann’s in our area moved to a larger location during their moving sale I purchased hand sewing needles, machine needles, and thread. Knowing that sewing thread can deteriorate I put the spools in the small vacuum seal bags for preservation. I am preparing to purchase bolts of cloth with the 50% coupon, which I will also put into the bags to protect the material from breaking down(vac seal have pleated bags now).
    The guest room is going away to become my sewing room once again. I miss not sewing with everything on my plate it is my stress reliever.
    Great article Vickie, thanks for the reminder of items I forgot to put on my list.

    • Pick up some curved suture needles , they are fairly cheap , and solve some problems when trying to sew or repair things that are hard to manipulate ( I have bulky hands ) or in a tight space , like the inside of a pocket or pouch .

  27. Kevlar thread and string . Its more expensive , but worth it if you dont want stitching to fail , Its ridiculously strong , wont burn . I had a day pack thats strap was starting to come apart , I used a heavy needle and kevlar thread to do a repair ……………its not coming off .

  28. The inner threads from paracord are extremely strong and great for sewing. I have a microfiber recliner that my kids treat like a jungle gym, and tore out about 18 inches of stitching. My 13 year old stitched it up with paracord thread…and now it’s bulletproof.

  29. 1MoreBoyScout says:

    Sewing & upholstery – A Great thing to know how to do. “One of the original industrial art’s” as “Hank Hill” would say..
    A “sewing Awl”, is a mighty nice thing to have, and/or be packing. Good for heavy material like, leather or canvas. I have an assortment of needles for glove, carpet, sail repair. They are a great thing to have on hand indeed. Great prepper logic there, VICK C. ! !

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