When I talk to friends about preparedness, the conversation usually focuses on food storage and self-defense. I’m the one who brings up topics like water collection and filtration, medical supplies and knowledge, and the one subject that makes them either laugh or yawn: clothing related to sewing, knitting and quilting.
I’ve stopped trying to make the argument with them, but I’m going to take another shot at it here. A full 97 percent of our clothing is imported from other countries that depend on a reliable supply-chain distribution system. We don’t even have the infrastructure in the US to mass-produce clothing because it has all been outsourced to other countries. In other words, if we experience a natural or man-made crisis and the grid goes down, things are going to be very different.
So where are you going to buy your next pair of jeans, socks, shirts, sweaters, hats and gloves? I suspect the lines will be long and the inventory very limited. But hey, who cares? Real men can wrap themselves in sack-cloth and milkweed down and survive the cold, right?
In a difficult environment when we’re all off-the-grid, responsibilities and tasks must be shared. This includes the ability to take new fabric or recycled fabric and determine how to create new clothing. Everyone needs to pitch in.
It also involves knowing how to take raw materials like wool and turn it into yarn, and then manipulate that yarn to create functional clothing. Some people call it knitting. Sure, it’s traditionally a skill utilized by only women. Maybe we men should call it “spun-wool engineering.”
Introduction to “Spun-wool Engineering”
This approach to clothing fabrication requires some fundamental tools, supplies and information. It begins with spun yarn, two long needles and some instructions. The most common result from a first effort with “spun-wool engineering” is a scarf. With time you can create stocking caps, gloves and with a bit more skill a sweater or sweater vest.
What’s interesting is that the knitting needles can be as simple as two pencils or two carefully carved pieces of wood. This is self-sufficiency at its best. Of course, you might want to pick up an old spinning wheel and raise some sheep, but let’s assume you have a stockpile of yarn and actually put a couple of knitting needles aside.
I remember watching a friend of mine who was a former Army ranger who had served in Vietnam sitting on a couch knitting. A few of us were sitting with him watching a football game and we knew better than to make any comment. When he finished the stocking cap, he sewed a Ranger patch on the front and wears it to this day. It takes a really tough guy to knit in front of a bunch of guys during a football game. He was a really tough guy. He also taught me how to knit. I guess it’s what he did in Vietnam in between missions.
All anyone needs to create any variety of clothing is yarn spun from wool and some knitting needles. It’s essentially a discipline that comes from creating nets for fishing, which combines knots and a simple tool to complete the knot to the right size. Knitting is much simpler but you have to understand the basics.
There’s great instruction videos on the Internet and books that can help.
You’ll need to think about stockpiling yarn, needles in a variety of sizes and types, and if you real want to go self-reliant, a spinning wheel. There are new models but even an antique wheel will do — assuming you have access to raw wool. A few sheep and some sheep sheers should do the trick, but that’s up to you.
Even if you don’t choose to sit down anytime soon to learn the craft of knitting, having a good stockpile of tools, yarn and books might come in very handy if your find you’re without socks. Necessity is the mother of invention, and you may find that learning some knitting basics is easier to do when you really need something to wear.
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