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Monday, July 18, 2016

A Few Thoughts on Sewing

Several people over the years have asked me why I'm so intent on basic skills like sewing and weaving and baking as potentially useful survival / preparedness skills.

It's often difficult for me to formulate an answer that doesn't consist of grimacing, pointing, a few grunts, and "but SKILLS!"

This is not an answer that seems to satisfy very many people.

During late May and early June, though, I had to make repairs to my tent. It was damaged back in October, while Evelyn and I were on sabbatical, when a nursing Anatolian Shepherd momma decided to let herself in to scrounge for food while we were in town.

Anatolian Shepherds are a LARGE breed of dog. They're long haired, extremely intelligent, loyal, loving, and good guard and herd dogs. Did I mention that they're huge?


This is Ivan (lying down) and Max (sitting) They are brothers from a previous litter by the same momma.

Just for comparison, and to get a better perspective of their sheer size, the photos below are of Evelyn petting Ivan, myself petting Max, and a photo we took just to show the size of Max's paws compared to a human hand.




Now when you put this all in perspective, its not much of a surprise to know that they can do a significant amount of damage if they really want to -- or even if they just get excited or overly playful or want into something badly enough.

Momma (Ina) apparently wanted into my tent to get at the food stored there, and while she's incredibly intelligent, she can't really manage zippers. Not being able to open the door the correct way meant tearing a hole in the side of my tent to make herself a doggie door. I can't put too much blame on her - she had recently given birth to a rather large litter (13 pups), and nursing moms get hungry.

The Results were Not Pretty.


Needless to say, my first thought was to simply throw this tent away at the end of the trip and replace it when I had the time and money. Then I realized that trying to find the time for shopping before I would need a tent again, as well as the money, was probably asking too much from life. A limited budget due to retirement makes for a lean bank account! 

Replacing my tent would be an expensive proposition. After all, it's a two room cabin tent that sleeps eight people comfortably and 12 in a pinch. Remember when I said that Evelyn's backpacker tent would fit inside mine, and still leave plenty of room for my queen bed? I'd be looking at spending a minimum of $170 to replace my tent with an identical model, or upwards of $1800 to replace it with the really nice canvas period tent that I'd like to have. 

So that was a solid "no" when it came to tossing salvageable equipment.

While I don't have $170+ lying around, coming up with $3.95 for a Coleman Tent Repair Kit wasn't difficult or a stretch. Its a bit more expensive on Amazon than it was at Wal-Mart, but it's still a much cheaper proposition than buying a whole new tent.

I purchased two at the store. The first is currently being used to make the necessary repairs to the tent; the second is going into the tent bag as a permanent fixture in case I find myself needing to make repairs while in the field.

The repair on the upper seam of the rip - visible, but functional.

You can still see where I have more repair work to do on that gaping hole the dog left, in this photo. But I'd made a good start, and each seam only took 15 or 20 minutes to complete. Once I'd done all of them, I hit them with the Seam Sealer that came in the kit, which is intended to finish plugging the tiny holes made by the needle. You can see where I attempted to repair the long vertical rip with the Nylon Tape that is part of the kit. It didn't work as well as it could have, because I didn't clean the area sufficiently before starting - and frankly, that's far too large a hole to use the tape as a repair measure.

Lower Seam Repair - all but invisible and completely functional.

It took me about six hours, spread over the course of a two week period, but I managed to salvage my tent and make it both creature- and (when combined with a single can of scotch-guard) water-proof again, In a pinch, I could have had the repairs done in about an hour, but since I wasn't under any sort of pressure, I took my time, and did the repairs in small sections while I wasn't working on other projects!

So to the question "Why learn sewing?" I reply that being able to make basic repairs -- to your clothing, your bedding, and your tent -- can mean the difference between having functional items and doing without. Having the basic skill to do simple mending can definitely mean the difference between comfort and its lack.

And to "Why hand sewing in particular?" I say that You won't have a sewing machine with you in a survival situation*, and even if you do, you likely won't have electricity to run it.**
Tents that have large holes in them are an open invitation to critters of all types to come in and look around and possibly set up a home.  Holes mean leaks, and leaks mean wet bedding (uncomfortable at best, deadly at worst) and water damaged gear if you haven't made certain everything is in a waterproof container of some sort.

It might seem antiquated and quaint as a skill, but sewing means having a way to salvage a bad situation into a not so bad, or perhaps even livable, situation. All in all, basic skills -- antiquated, quaint, anachronistic, low tech -- are what will ultimately make the difference between Surviving and Thriving if you're ever in a long-term SHTF situation.


* Yes, I do have a Battery Operated Mini Sewing Machine, and yes, its part of my standard gear if I'm going to be out in the field for long periods without a return home. But I'm a freak of nature, and we all know it!

** No electricity means that machine is useless, unless you're the kind of antiques freak I am, and happen to own a treadle operated machine. (Why yes, I have one of those as well!)

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