Do It Yourself

Sew What?!



When we think about prepping, preparedness and living a more self sufficient life, we usually start out with food storage, long term, short term and everything in between. Then we may move on to filling out our medical supplies, get home bags, gardening supplies with lots of heirloom seeds and even padding an ever growing library with books on appropriate topics that may help us in the event that we ever need to rely on what we have so carefully put back.

We worry about being able to feed our families, keep them warm, keep them healthy and keep them clothed. I know many people in this community who have made sure that they don't ever get rid of good clothes, decent shoes etc, when they are cleaning out their closets.

In my house, we put those clothes and shoes in bins in our attic so that we will have them to fall back on in the event that we cannot easily purchase clothing. What happens if goods stop flowing? What happens when local stores close and we are no longer able to procure goods via the internet? We will have to rely on skills and knowledge to make sure we can clothe our families. That begins with sewing!

A basic sewing kit is as important to have in your possession as the food in your pantry. How will you mend and repair the clothes that you have if you can't even sew on a button? Basic sewing skills are necessary to our preps as well as the tools and supplies to carry out those skills. Sewing can be a frightening prospect for those of you who may not have thought about having to do it, but I am here to tell you that it is not hard and it may actually turn into something that you love.

Not to mention the fact that it could actually become a way for you to support yourself in hard times, by helping others mend and repair their clothing. You don't have to be a seamstress or a tailor but you do need to know how to sew on a button and even mend a hole in a pair of pants. Everything else simply grows from there.

Before you learn to sew on that button, you will need to build yourself a simple sewing kit. Your kit should be in the container of your choice and can be as simple as a plastic shoe box, an old holiday tin or even a cheap toolbox! You don't have to spend a lot of money on a fancy sewing box, you just need something simple to start.

What you will need to put into the box is important! You should have the following in order to have the basic tools needed to mend and repair your clothes:

1. Scissors: Have two pair, one that is reserved just for fabric, thread and ribbon and one that is used only for paper. My husband says you can never have too many pair of scissors, and I agree with him!

2. Sewing Needles: Get a few packs that include a variety of sizes. Needles come in varying sizes for hand sewing, darning, embroidery etc. You might want to pick up a package of needles that are used for crafting and upholstery. They have large eyes and some are curved. The latter can be very helpful if you ever need to do any type of suturing on the fly. These types of needles are also helpful for sewing thicker fabrics as well as hide and leather.

3. Pins and pin cushion/tray: I prefer the quilters type of pins that have either white or colorful bead heads because they are easy to identify and they are also a bit longer than traditional straight pins with flat heads and are easier to pick up and deal with. A pincushion can be either purchased or made but I prefer the magnetic type of pin tray because when I am sewing I can simply toss the pins on that and I know they are not going anywhere. I can also sweep my work area when I am done, with the magnetic tray and pick up any stray pins that I may have missed.

4. Measuring Tape and Hem Gauge: Measuring tapes can be picked up very inexpensively and sometimes can be picked up for free as promotional giveaways from fabric stores and even local insurance agencies. Yardsticks can also be picked up the same way! I like to always have more than one measuring tape floating around and always carry one in my purse. A hem gauge is a six inch metal ruler that has a sliding button in the center of it. This can help you maintain an even hem and make sure you have the same amount of fabric turned up all the way around on your project.

5. Seam Ripper: Let's face it, no matter how good we get, we are always going to make mistakes. The seam ripper is our friend. It also helps to remove and open up seams for repair or to take apart garments in order to use the fabric for other purposes.

6. Thread and buttons: These two things are certainly important! Start out by getting a supply of basic colors. I like to make sure I always have white, black, brown, red, navy blue and tan as well as a mono-filament or clear thread for all other colors. I also suggest that you get a variety of embroidery floss in varying colors. This is a bit heavier than traditional sewing thread and can be used to successfully sew on buttons and have them stay put. Buttons can be purchased in large containers at the fabric or craft store and have a variety of colors, sizes and styles that should serve you well for a long time. You can also pick up boxes and bags full of buttons at garage or yard sales, when people are downsizing.

7. Sewing Books: Finally I suggest that you scour your local used book store, thrift shop and yard sales for books on sewing. I have some books that I have had since I was a child, they were my mothers, the one that serves me the best is “The Singer Sewing Book” The one I have is circa 1966, but this book has been reprinted several times over the years. It can be a good resource for you to refer back to when you get confused or feel helpless when it comes to sewing.

I hope that helps you to be able to build yourself a simple sewing kit. Once you start with the basics, the rest fall into place. I promise not to leave you clueless when it comes to other basic sewing skills. I'll be back soon to show you how to sew on a button, mend a seam and even darn a hole in a sweater! Once you know how to do these simple things, the world of sewing is your oyster! Like I said before, you just never know, it may become something you really love, but you are never going to know until you try. Doing something that you love turns a task into a craft!

Noreen Lambert has been a paralegal by profession for the last ten years. She is wife to Rick and mom to 15 year old Molly and 13 year old Micah, the loves of her life. She has built a successful YouTube channel inviting thousands of subscribers into her kitchen each and every day sharing things from how to roast the perfect turkey to baking, home canning, food storage, sewing, crafting and gardening.

You can find her recipes on Noreen's Kitchen website: and you can hear The Homestead Honey Hour blogtalk radio show which Noreen co hosts with three other amazing women each Thursday night 8:00p.m.central time on Prepper Broadcasting radio

Want more sewing tips? Check out these related articles from our friend at DIYReady:

20 Simple Sewing Projects That Any Beginner Can Make

25 More Sewing Hacks To Make Your Life Easier

25 Sewing Hacks You Won’t Want to Forget | DIY Sewing

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  1. Mariowen

    December 13, 2012 at 12:44 PM

    This was one of my first considerations when I thought of being a well rounded prepared person. Since I was a young child, I have sewed. My mother really didn’t sew, but she had an old treadle sewing machine that was in the house – probably from my grandmother who sewed. I learned to sew on that. Now I have a treadle machine, too, and it will work even if there is no electricity. I have everything I need to make clothes for myself, my family and others – even the skill to use it. That is my value in the barter system.

    • Richter

      January 3, 2013 at 3:45 PM

      was your machine, by chance a SINGER, We had one in the Basement when i grew up in central Michigan. Great machines & they were built to last with only minor maintenance.Had I known then what I know Now?
      I have a suggestion for your Thread Choices That can Increase your Barter Power as well.
      1. Purchase a Good Sewers Awl, and a Good supply of Waxed Cord for it. As well as a Good Stock of, ” Fishermen’s Mono-filament Line of at lease 5 different weights. And As many boxes as you can afford of, SPIDER-WIRE Fish line. This stuff is great, I’ve used it in mending Shoes, Belts, car seats, coveralls, Denim & Leather Jackets & work Pants. It also makes some of the best animal traps (Both 4 & 2 Legged)
      I’ve ever sat.
      As with all thread, Keep it Dry & away from Heat or hot cupboards.

  2. Sally

    December 13, 2012 at 3:19 PM

    Seriously, most people in the US have more clothes than they will ever wear out….
    I learned from my Grandfather to braid nylon and make ropes, he also taught me to “hand” crochet, my grandmother taught me to sew and the basics of cutting out material and sewing from scratch. She also had an old tredle machine that she would make us buckskin mittens (with hand knitted wool liners) and patch our jeans and coats with that old machine. I would love to find one in good working order. I have had my grandma’s sewing basket since she died and all the wonders it contained, buttons, small golden scissors, snaps, etc. I have signed up for a knitting class to learn how to make those wonderfully warm socks and mittens.
    PS: one thing my grandma made, and this all made me think of it, was heavy felt window coverings that lined the curtains… blocked cold wonderfully (she removed them in the spring to wash and air out), she also sewed heavy felt or wool tubes that were put into the sills to block cold air blowing in (living in MN in an old house, this was wonderful!).

    • Richter

      January 3, 2013 at 3:58 PM

      Hi Sally, Though your statement is true for today, those Plentiful Cloths could be gone in the Next Fire. Or you could find yourself, Displaced, and left out in the cold, Away from anywhere, or Anyone, Sewing Skills, Let alone sewing Supplies are a Vital Needs Item that You can’t do without.
      While we still Have Some Rights in this country, I’d enroll in several OLD SCHOOL COURSES such as, Black Smithing, Wool Spinning, Weaving & Basket Making, Gardening, or even some minor medical EMT Training would be great. Do You Know how to Dress a Serious Wound? How about treating an Mouth Infection, a course in Herbal Medicine, can go a long way & perhaps save your life!
      So you see, Sewing & supplies can be used for many things than making a dress, when yours wear out.

  3. kdonat

    December 13, 2012 at 7:47 PM

    I would like to suggest carpet thread or upholstery thread for the sewing box as well. They are heavier and can be used on items made of canvas, duck, or heavy denim. Since most preppers won’t have the convenience of a workable machine, new projects and repairs will be done by hand. Now is the time to learn the basic stitches: basting/running, back stich, hem stiches (3 types), and overcast.

    By all means make friends with,or plan to barter with, someone who does sew. Someone who has the skills to “remake” usable clothing into other garments, make patterns, do minor alterations/repairs, and has the resources to do so for others will stay busy.

    • Dave

      December 14, 2012 at 12:25 AM

      Good Idea. I will look into that. Then I don’t have to tear up my paracord all the time. There is also leather “thread” or laces for leather projects. Not sure just what it’s called. Tandy and other hobby places have it.

      • Richter

        January 3, 2013 at 4:06 PM

        Speaking of Leather, DAVE, have you’ve given any thought in how to Make your own Leather Products from Hides?, Have you’ve ever Tanned your own animal hides? Do a Quick study on-line, It’s more involved than most realize.

  4. Dave

    December 14, 2012 at 12:21 AM

    I would add a thimble. Especially for pushing a needle through thick canvas or leather. Not the plastic ones. Get metal.
    Also, save your old clothes that have been damaged. I have ripped out zippers from pants and used them in other projects. That is when a seam ripper comes handy. Same with buttons, snaps, etc. Why buy buttons, when they are free on your old clothes. I have also removed pockets and added them to the inside of jackets.
    I never saw sewing books. I will have to look out for them.
    I remember watching my Mom darn socks and patch my knee holes while I played on the floor. All of us kids learned to sew, including us boys. I have always been glad that I was not dependent on someone else for ANY skills set I have.

  5. Sharon

    December 14, 2012 at 3:23 AM

    My mother had gotten, probably from her mom, a wooden “egg”with handle for sewing and repairing socks.At least that’s what I thought it was used for. Sure beat sticking your fingers. This “egg” has it’s share of needle “holes” to prove a point.

  6. Donna

    December 14, 2012 at 3:30 AM

    Dave, Artificial sinue is what is best to sew leather. It is a waxed nylon string that can be split 5 ways for thinner thread for needles. Also you use a leather needle which is a 3 sided needle for leather. I made deerskin thumbles with extra pads glued on it. It doesn’t slip like metal and pushing a leather needle with the thumble on 4 layers of elk hide like I have been doing tonite gives more strength in the push and glide. If you use a leather lace, the leather has to be punched before it is sewn. (I am making a custom elk hide coat)

    I used to make moose moccasin/boots punching/sewing 4 to 6 layers thick. When shoes wear out knowing how to make them can be a plus. Moc patterns can be bought, and eastern mocs with centerseams are made from scratch using the foot as a pattern.

    • Mariowen

      December 27, 2012 at 2:47 PM

      After a bit your needles can lose their sharp tip. Jabbing the needle into a bar of soap or rubbing the needle on all sides on the soap bar will make it slide easier through the fabric/leather.

  7. MI Patriot

    December 14, 2012 at 3:51 AM

    I remember learning to sew when I was in jr. High. Our first project was an apron. I learned how to hand smock and make handmade buttonholes and how to sew a button on so it never came off. One thing I have in my sewing kit is a needle threader and self threading needles. I wear trifocals, and threading a needle makes me crazy. Also learn how to quilt. That will be a real skill to barter with. That way you will always be warm and have a skill to trade with.

    My mom also taught me to darn socks using a darnimg egg. I still darn socks and quilt. These are the kind of things that my mom and grandmother taught me.

    @Dave…you can find those leather laces at any gun show. That is where we get ours. Louis L’Amour westerns called them piggin strings. The gun shows usually sell them by the pound. You will be amazed at how many of those are in a pound, and you will be amazed at what you can use them for.

    • Richter

      January 3, 2013 at 4:25 PM

      TO:MI Patriot, Here is a suggestion for your Quilt or Jacket making, Take 2 Cotton Sheets & a Few of those Silver space blankets, And some Sewer’s Spray tack,
      spray one sheet lightly with the tack, Spread out one or more of those Mylar Sheets on top of the tack covered sheet & do the same thing to the other sheet, Making a Sandwich of the material, Now sew as you would any Quilt. after your done, Gentle wash & air Dry your now Super-Quilt, Warmer than 4 inches of Down filling, Lighter than your regular Quilts & cost a lot less. Also works very well at blocking any cold wind & in a pinch, makes a warmer Tent Floor if you have a sleeping bag & there is snow on the ground.

  8. Johnny B

    December 16, 2012 at 4:29 AM

    You have some great commenters here. I’ve been sewing almost 52 years, machine, hand, leathers, clothing, and repairs, etc… as for using a curved carpet needle to suture a wound, yea it works but hurts like heck, you can buy suture kits online or at gunshows, even in Ca. I like the comments of the felt curtain liners, and have done the same with blankets between the window and curtain and it really helps. Also the tubes for the slide up windows, or any source of cold breeze, even filling them with sand is good.
    Been “prepping” for almost 35 years now, and “bugged out” in 1976 originally, go to the city when needed. JBG

  9. rustynail

    December 16, 2012 at 6:15 AM

    Look into getting a Speedy Stitcher Sewing Awl. Great for sewing heavier material and webbing. You can also buy heavier thread, waxed, from the same company. Also, look at the various needles that you can buy to augment the basic selection that comes with the basic kit. Their website is: I’ve used one for many years and swear by it.

  10. LesLee Lay

    December 18, 2012 at 1:54 PM

    Don’t forgot a sharpener for those scissors. Safety pens are also a must have.

    • Richter

      January 3, 2013 at 4:29 PM

      LesLee Lay, May I suggest a Fisherman’s Diamond hook Sharpener, It makes ultra sharp needles, Quickly & has a Low price tag.

  11. patti

    December 20, 2012 at 5:52 AM

    I found this article and the comments very helpful. I have an old treadle sewing machine from my grandmother. I do not know how to use it, but will learn the basics ASAP. I have started collecting needles and other basic supplies. What are you folks using to store your kits in? And what sewing supplies should be in your bug out bag? How will you carry these small sharp objects in your bug out bag?
    I am an older single women and still driving an old truck from my farming days. LOL, the truck is my bug out bag! I have a lot of “stuff” in the truck. And am adding more as I learn more. Love this site. Patti in Michigan.

    • Mariowen

      December 27, 2012 at 2:58 PM

      I store my sewing supplies in plastic bins, plastic bags, boxes, drawers – anywhere and everywhere. For bugging out, try a fishing tackle box. It will hold the basics but if you are looking long term, you better buy a moving van! LOL In your bug out bag, think of the things that you might need to sew up – you tear your clothes, you wear a hole in your sock, you lose a button. These kinds of things are most likely to happen if you are in a hurry to get out of Dodge. I carry a small repair kit in my purse at all times. Then of course, I also carry my handgun, scissors, knives, bear spray, spare magazine (loaded), extra cash, can opener, just to name a bit of what is in there. Of course, I need a strong arm and shoulder to heft it around…but I am ready!

      • Richter

        January 3, 2013 at 4:38 PM

        Marlowen, Your on the right track, But that Plastic Bag May not be so great. Threads come in Many different materials that respond to Heat differently, whereas some Cotton threads can withstand High temps, They ROT Quickly in Humid conditions. This may seem nothing more than a minor problem today, But when the Chaos starts, What store are you going to rob to get replacement thread? Yes, It could get that Bad, So being prepared is a Good rule to live by.

  12. Richter

    December 20, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    If your Careful & don’t mind talking with Strangers, You might try going to Farm Auctions. Your Goal should be; Finding an old Self Powered Singer Foot Powered Sewing machine.We had one in our Basement for years & it made many fine jeans for us boys.
    Another kind to find are those Old Mill-End Industrial machines Belt powered by an attached Pulley & motor.. They’ll sew threw almost anything & can be Powered by a Gas Powered Weed Cutter. IF YOU KNOW HOW.

  13. Jeanne

    January 7, 2013 at 2:15 PM

    I looked for and found an old Singer portable hand crank machine. It can be converted to a treadle if you wish. What I like about it is that it is a very simple machine…it sews forward only. With a simple machine there is very little to go wrong and if a part does not work it would be easier to fabricate an new one.

    Another thing that I would include would be a THIMBLE in your sewing kit. It will be awkward to use at first but with practice you will be able to sew much faster. It will also help if you are sewing heavy fabric.

    An awl would also be useful if you are sewing leather together.

    Beeswax is also something that I would include. A piece the size of a large marble would last a long time. Waxing your thread makes it stronger and helps keep it from tangling.

  14. texastwin827

    November 24, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    I learned to sew on a Singer treadle machine when I was 13, however, I have an electric sewing machine now. Finding an old treadle machine can be a daunting task, however, an electric can be operated manually (a lot of work!) if need be. The stitches would be more secure and uniform than hand sewing.

    In the 60’s there were “knobs” you could buy to put on car steering wheels. I’ve wondered if one of those (if you could find one) would work, attached to the sewing machine to make manual sewing easier…

    As for having the materials to sew with, I have an abundance of supplies and do a lot of salvaging on clothes that are not suitable for donations. I always take the buttons & zippers off of any garment that can’t be donated, even thought I have a large supply of zippers in various colors.

    In spite of knowing how to sew, I could not sew without a pattern so I have “stockpiled” some basic patterns, since most come in multiple sizes, now. While most of my patterns are for women, it’s not a bad idea to get some patterns for men, as well. I also keep a good supply of white tissue paper, on hand. That way I can trace the pattern, for one size, without cutting the original pattern. If you don’t wish to do that, you can always fold the cutting lines back to whatever size you need, however, keep in mind, that few younger people know how to sew, today so that skill may also be a source of revenue or barter, for you. Being able to duplicate the pattern on tissue paper, saves your original pattern from overuse and eventual destruction.

    As for material, I have also found that I can often find nice material in large sized clothing, especially women’s clothing, at garage sales. I don’t do this often but, when I do, I bring it home and deconstruct it. The only clothing that I would buy, in this manner, would be the large sized, including large men’s jeans.

    While I no longer have any small children, in my family, since all my grandchildren are teens now, those with small children need to think ahead. Their growth will necessitate the ability to make them new clothes. A full skirt, on a large women’s dress, is often enough to make a smaller dress or blouse and would definitely be enough to make small children, clothing (dress, shirts & blouses). Same with big sized jeans. The legs alone, are large enough to make new pants for small children. Once you have some experience, you can even adapt the cutting out, of the pattern, so that you don’t lose the original blue jean seam (on the outside of leg) so they have a more “store bought” appearance.

    I also have several pairs of inexpensive scissors because, at some point, they would need to be sharpened, if you only have one pair.

    For those who don’t have someone to teach them to sew, quite often Hancock Fabrics or JoAnn’s often have basic sewing classes. While they don’t teach you to sew much beyond an apron, it does provide you with exposure to a sewing machine and basic cutting out instruction.

  15. Millie Hue

    July 19, 2018 at 6:41 PM

    Thanks for listing down the materials that one must have in their sewing kit. I like that you emphasized how it is still important to have a seam ripper even if you are a good sewer already. Like you said, making mistakes is inevitable. I will share this list with a friend of mine who told me that she wanted to start a hobby, and she chose sewing. She also shared that she might even think about starting a clothing line in the future.

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