In a grid down situation, sewing may become quite a valuable skill as clothes and furnishings need repaired, rebuilt, or created. Even in everyday life, having the tools and skills to do some sewing repairs can be extremely useful. There are a myriad of sewing tools out there as evidenced by racks of “notions” in even small town sewing shops. But which ones do you really need? Here’s my short list of essential off-grid sewing supplies, and for simplicity, I’m assuming most of us won’t have a treadle sewing machine and will be sewing by hand.
1. Needles. You’ll want a variety of sizes. The length and thickness of the needle increases as the size number gets smaller. So a size 1 needle will be thicker and longer, while a size 12 needle will be finer and shorter. There are also specialty needles for sewing through leather called glovers needles that are on my essential list. They make sewing leather a LOT easier than trying to do it with a regular needle. Make sure the eyes of your needles are big enough to thread your thread through, and don’t go super cheap here–cheap needles break easier and you want yours to last.
2. Thread. Thread comes in various thicknesses and fibers. For most sewing, the “all purpose” thread works fine. Because you’ll be sewing some tougher items or don’t want your buttons to come off once they’re on, pick up some thicker thread as well. It’s usually called button, carpet, or craft thread.
3. Pins. Straight pins just keep your work straight and even while you’re sewing. Also include various sizes of safety pins. Sometimes sewing can be avoided altogether by using safety pins instead.
4. Tough Sewing Helps. When sewing through thick fabrics like denim or canvas or even through several layers of thinner fabrics, a little help goes a long way toward saving your strength and preventing needle injuries. Some beeswax on the thread helps it slip through easier. A thimble for pushing the needle through, and grippers for pulling it through the other side. Sometimes you may want to use pliers to pull your needle through on the other side depending on what you’re sewing.
5. Scissors. Some nice quality scissors reserved especially for sewing are best. Don’t go cutting hair, paper, and especially pipe cleaners with your “fabric only” scissors. Remember little ones can’t read, so you may just need to do a better job hiding these scissors than I did with my last pair of fabric scissors. If you want a smaller pair for snipping in tight places, add those as well.
6. Seam ripper. Hopefully if you’re hand sewing, you’ll make sure you’ve got your project lined up right before you begin and you won’t need to rip out many of your own seams. A seam ripper will be more frequently used deconstructing other articles so the fabric can be used for something new.
7. Buttons. I am not a fan of zippers as they tend to have a fail point and then are never good again. When was the last time you had a button fail that couldn’t be fixed? Button holes can be repaired and new buttons sewn on. You can start your button collection for cheap just by taking a minute to cut any buttons of clothes that have worn out and are going to the trash anyway.
That’s it. Remember, this is the short list. As you get more experienced with sewing, you will undoubtedly find other sewing tools you want to have in your personal sewing arsenal, but a kit comprised of the seven items I have listed will make an excellent, well rounded, basic sewing kit for your survival supplies. A kit like this would also make a great gift or barter item. Happy sewing!