This is a guest post by a friend of mine from a yahoo group to which we belong. She's fluent in all things sewing and fabric. This is a SPECTACULAR post about what basics one should have on hand to be self-reliant in providing clothing and mending for your family. Thank you so much Anne!
Essential Sewing and Clothing Repair Supplies
By Anne Lawver
When we hear the term ‘home storage,’ our minds automatically go to neatly arranged rows of edible commodities lovingly stored. However, being truly prepared and living providently should include the ability to not only feed, but also to meet our family’s basic human needs including clothing and shelter.
For centuries, the great bulk of human clothing was produced within the home. If not in the home, then by skilled craftsman who lived and worked nearby. Garments were made to order and, until the invention of the sewing machine, sewn completely by hand. Today, most clothing is purchased from a retail outlet that acquires the clothing from any number of sources. If that supply source were cut short, or if your ability to purchase new clothing were curtailed, you would need to prolong the life of existing clothing by making appropriate repairs and/or create new clothing and household wares yourself. Additionally, a few basic sewing supplies and a dose of knowledge will allow you to make simple repairs, small alterations and even produce clothing, useful items and decorative touches for your home.
Regardless of your desire, or lack of desire, to sew, everyone should stock and maintain an adequate sewing storage. If you take a few moments to hunt for sales, your sewing home storage can be purchased at less than half retail price. Your sewing storage should ideally include at least the following:
- A good pair of sewing scissors that are used ONLY for fabric. An 8 to 11 inch pair of shears is a good purchase. Mark them clearly FOR FABRIC ONLY and store with sewing supplies.
- A small pair of pointed sharp scissors sometimes referred to as embroidery scissors.
- Good quality sewing machine needles that come packaged in a hard plastic case. Needles packaged in paper or thin plastic are often bent during shipment and selling. Even minor bends & chips can cause problems with the stitches and your machine. Schmetz is a widely available and reliable brand of needles. Choose needles that are sizes 10, 12 and at least one package of denim needles. Even if you do not have a sewing machine, store one package of each. Sewing machine needles are very sharp and strong. They can be used to hang signs, framed art work, remove stubborn splinters and even pierce a nail that has blood building up under it (of course, the needle would need to be sterilized and you should understand how to perform such a procedure before attempting.
- Hand sewing needles. Again, it pays to buy quality needles in a variety of sizes. Be certain to purchase short and long needles as well as one leather needle.
- Closures such as buttons, snaps, zippers, hook & eyes, etc. If you are disposing of clothing with buttons, clip the buttons off and store. Learn how to properly sew on a button!
- Elastic in ¼”, ½” and 1” widths. Clear elastic is a good additional choice as it can be sewn through and is very strong.
- Safety pins in a variety of sizes.
- Straight pins
- Measuring tape
- 24” ruler or yardstick
- Iron on patch material. This is sold with the notions and is fabric with an adhesive on the back that is activated by an iron. You can mend clothing, re-enforce wear spots. Etc. with this type of patch.
- Heat activated adhesives. Stitch witchery’ and/or ‘steam-a-seam’ as well as ‘wonder under’. These heat- activated adhesives are sold on rolls or by the yard and allow you to hem clothing, make small repairs, make your patches or embellishments, etc.
- A variety of 22” zippers. You can always shorten a zipper, but it is impossible to make one longer.
- Ribbons designed for sewing, which can be used to strengthen seams, create drawstrings, add embellishments and tie back hair.
- Velcro (hook and loop tape). Do not purchase sticky back Velcro as it will be nearly impossible to sew through by hand or machine. The sticky substance does not stand up well to the pressure of the Velcro being pulled apart. If you need to attach the Velcro to a hard surface, gorilla glue or a similar substance works better than the adhesive supplied on the sticky back Velcro.
- Thread—again, don’t buy the cheapest you can find. Forget the thread in small packaged sewing kits. You want a thread that is tightly wound and never appears ‘fuzzy’ or frayed. If in doubt, run your fingernail over the thread on the spool and see if little ‘fuzzs’ appear. Stick with Gutterman, the newer Coats & Clark or Mettler, which are all readily available. At a minimum, store white, beige, light grey and black in all-purpose thread. Many hand quilters sew all of their patchwork using only those colors as they blend in easily. Also store several spools of white hand quilting thread, which should NOT be used in a sewing machine. Hand quilting thread is sturdier than regular thread and can even be used to suture wounds – again only if you know what you are doing!
- A rotary cutter can make cutting fabric faster. If you purchase a rotary cutter, you will need a sturdy ruler and a cutting mat. Consider purchasing a cut resistant glove (Fons & Porter sells a great one) to protect the hand that is holding the ruler. Rotary cutting blades are incredible sharp and can cause serious injury.
- A good quality seam ripper. Two of my favorite ones are either a curved blade seam ripper or one that has a metal handle with replaceable blades. If you cannot find either of those, or wish to purchase a less expensive one, Dritz makes a small seam ripper that usually has a blue handle. It is one of the best inexpensive seam rippers. A good seam ripper is very sharp, so use caution and store away from children.
- Sewing patterns to include: (Look for patterns without button-down fronts, complicated seaming or set – in sleeves. A raglan sleeve is the easiest sleeve to put in)
- A general women’s wardrobe pattern to include at least a simple skirt, elastic waist pants, simple blouse and jacket
- PJ, scrub or other pattern for men, children and women
- Simple dress for women and children. Some nightgown patterns can be adapted to make simple dresses, especially for children. As you look at patterns, remember you are not looking for your favorite fabric, just the basic line of the pattern.
- T-shirt for children and adults. Again, check the sleepwear section as many pj tops are simple t-shirts
- Basic butcher-style apron. Wearing an apron when you cook and clean is the best way to preserve your clothing.
- Baby layette pattern—multi-sized and including at least a day gown, t-shirt, pants, bib and diaper cover
- Loose fitting jackets for children and adults.
- Fabric! Even if you never intend to sew, a small stash of basic fabrics is an essential ingredient in a prepared home. Consider purchasing on sale, at garage sales, through freecycle or donations the following:
- Flannel. Look for tightly woven 100% cotton that is at least 43” wide. White is your best choice if you are simply going to store it. Flannel can be used for diapering, blankets, lining jackets for warmth, pillowcases and nightware. Flannel sheets purchased on the clearance rack can be a great source of extra wide flannel at a very reasonable price. Be certain to check after-Christmas clearances. I was able to find a set of king-sized flannel sheets for 95% off—the set cost me $2.
- White cotton lawn, batiste, broadcloth, shirting and/or ‘bottom weight’. These fabrics can be used for nearly all clothing needs, including baptisms, blessings and burials. Again, cotton flat sheets, if new or nearly new, are another good source of wide cottons. I would not rely on worn sheets for new garments, as sheets wear very unevenly. You do not want to spend valuable time and resources creating a garment that may wear out in one spot and be perfectly fine in another.
- Denim. Recycle old jeans as well as buying yardage when you can find a great deal. Denim comes in many weights and should be 100% cotton.
- Wool sold by the yard as well as re-purposed wool sweaters and garments. Wool is naturally flame retardant, can shed water (depending on weave), breathes and if felted (which merely means shrinking it excessively) will not ravel. Felting old wool pieces and then sewing with the newly created fabric is quite ‘in’. Felted wool makes wonderful hats, slippers, baby booties, jackets, quilts and decorative items. There are multiple websites with excellent free tutorials on felting.
- Polar fleece—though many new sewing enthusiasts gravitate to fleece for its comfort and ease of sewing, please note that it is HIGHLY flammable. Not only will it burst into flames, it will explode into blobs of molten synthetic.
21. A basic sewing ‘how to’ book. If you can find a copy of the book “Let’s Sew” by Nancy Zieman, it is a great basic guide to the beginnings of sewing. Originally written for 4-H children, it is a good reference source. You may also find classes and willing tutors through the American Sewing Guild, which has groups throughout the country: www.asg.com
Always watch for sales and coupons to acquire fabrics at discount prices. All fibers, but most significantly cotton, are rapidly increasing in price. There are several good online sources for fabric, including www.fabric.com (always check their clearance section, especially the ‘everything’s a $1.95 section) and www.voguefabricsstore.com (they carry many high end fabrics, but also have closeouts). Both of these sites will get designer bolt ends of better quality cottons and wools, then discount them sharply. One way to identify a fabric intended for use in the production of retail clothing, especially higher end retail lines such as Ralph Lauren, is the width of the cotton. Cottons sold in stores such as Wal-Mart and JoAnn’s are usually 45” wide. Many of the shirtings, silks and cotton/polyester blends at www.fabric.com & www.voguefabricsstore.com will be 54” to 60” wide, which is the ‘normal’ for commercial bolts.
Other good sources for fabric include garage sales, thrift shops and freecycle. Be certain you learn a little bit about fabric quality and pricing before paying too much for fabric!
Finally, acquire a few basic sewing skills. Sewing isn’t hard and is actually good for you! At least learn the basics of hand stitching, such as sewing on a button, a snap, hemming a skirt and sewing a running stitch. It takes only a few dollars and a bit of time to create simple and fun children’s clothing. One of the easiest dresses to make is to simply add a skirt to a little girl’s t-shirt.