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The Most-Overlooked Survival Skill You’ll Need In A Crisis

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It may seem laughable, but clothing and shoes may have more to do with your ability to survive than you think.

Imagine that you have enough food stored to feed a family of six for months and years. You have more ammunition than anyone in the county. Your medical supplies and equipment could accommodate a field surgeon. And six months from now you’re going to be out of socks and your kids will have outgrown their shoes. How did we miss that?

It seems against our instincts and nature to worry about anything beyond the basics. But clothing is as basic as food, water, medical supplies and self-defense. Yet we sometimes take it for granted or forget that our clothing has a life-cycle measured in months or short years.

And why do we sometimes assume it’s woman’s work? My grandfather was a logger in Michigan in the 1890s and in his diary he recorded the quiet time at the end of the day when the men would “darn their socks,” “knit stocking caps and leggings,” and “re-sew buttons to shirts and trousers.” These were tough guys and they quietly and patiently took care of their clothing and repairs.

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In the event of a catastrophe, many of us might find ourselves in the same domestic roll – cobbling some new shoes for our kids, or sewing up a hole in a shirt or a ripped zipper.

In case you haven’t thought about stockpiles of materials and tools for your clothing needs, here’s a quick list. Add to it where you see fit and then we’ll talk about basic skills.

  • Needles for sewing (they’re cheap so get a variety)
  • Needles for pinning (also cheap)
  • Thread (get a variety of weights and colors – black and white are best)
  • Fabric (bolts of cotton, flannel, felt and wool)
  • Yarn (variety of sizes and colors)
  • Knitting needles
  • Spinning wheel (antique stores are a great source)
  • Sewing necessitiesButtons and zippers
  • Elastic bands
  • Manual sewing machine with a good stock of needles
  • Patterns for various types of clothing
  • Tailor markers
  • Batting for insulation and cushioning

Shoes and boots

  • Leather and tools for making belts/shoes (leather punch and bobbin)
  • Leather fasteners (rivets)
  • Leather spindle and heavy duty leather-thread
  • Shoelaces (fabric and leather)
  • Hard soles for shoes
  • Cobbler’s tools (Shoe anvil, cobbler’s hammer, cutting and punching tools)
  • Cobbler’s nails

This list can be longer depending on your needs. You also could use the time-tested technique of patch working. This is where you take fabric from old clothing or rags and knit them into usable clothing, quilts or sheets. They don’t have to have a kaleidoscope of colors either. If you have a number of old shirts or pants of the same color think of them as fabric resources, rather than rags or trash.

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From a cobbling or shoe-making standpoint, you can easily cannibalize old shoes or boots and refit, rework of reuse materials.

If you have never taken the time to master some basic skills related to creating and maintaining your clothing, boots or shoes, there are some books and DVDs you should have on hand to guide you through the process.

Here’s some useful titles:

Homestead Blessings: The Art Of Sewing (DVD)

Owner’s Guide to Sewing Machines, Sergers, and Knitting Machines (Creative Machine Arts Series) 

The Sewing Book: An Encyclopedic Resource of Step-by-Step Techniques

Also, read Off The Grid News’ article, “Make Your Own Boots? It’s Easier Than You Thought,” here.

If you know someone in your family who is very good at knitting or sewing, you probably will make their day if you ask them to teach you. The fact of the matter is that we all have to eat, drink water, defend ourselves when challenged and care for each other when sick. And we don’t want to do it naked or dressed in rags. Take the time to learn the skills related to making and repairing textiles and shoes.

What would you add to this advice? Share your tips in the section below:

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