If you think you have your sewing needs set for SHTF situation with your $2 sewing kit, think again. They can be a lifesaver in your hotel room when you suddenly realize you need to hem a part of your pants or shirt. But for anything significant? Think again.
These kits usually have about 30′ of thread – great for a hem or two, but pretty useless if you need to do anything significant or sew something from scratch. Not only that, it is very cheap, thin thread, and will not withstand any great force (that’s why you can easily pull it to break a piece off in most of those kits). The needles are usually poor quality, and you don’t want to be limited to 2-4 needles incase they break, you drop one or it gets misplaced. But you can make your own kit – even using sewing supplies you can buy right from the dollar store, so you have a much more comprehensive sewing kit without spending an arm and a leg.
Buy a pack of needles – preferably ones in a plastic case – that come in an assorted array of sizes. You want thicker/stronger ones that would be usable on denim and canvas, as well as thinner ones for flannel, cotton, etc.
If you are an avid sewer, this probably isn’t as important, but if you are a casual sewer, this will make it much easier to thread a needle, especially ones with small eyes.
Also better for someone who plans to do a lot of sewing, and those who tend to stick themselves with needles when they try and sew 🙂 Go for a metal thimble instead of a plastic one.
You don’t need to have a wide variety of colors, you will have more important things to worry about then if the thread matches the your red shorts you are repairing a major hole or seam in. Grab some spools of black and some spools of white, and you can grab a few other colors if you want. But don’t feel you need every color in the rainbow. Coats & Clark is a popular thread company. Their 100% polyester thread is a great strong thread. They also have Dual Duty XP Heavy which is designed for canvas, upholstery, sailcloth etc. This would be a great thread to have on hand.
Pins will come in handy if you are sewing more than just a simple seam. You can use these to hold the fabric together so you don’t have to try and both hold the fabric together with your fingers as you are also trying to sew. You can get regular pins as well as pins with larger heads, which might be easier for those who rarely sew.
Get safety pins in a variety of sizes from the tiny mini gold ones to 2″. These work great in a pinch when you don’t have time to sew, and can replace buttons, snaps, clasps, etc.
You can usually pick up a box of assorted sized buttons in either white or a variety of colors for a dollar or so. If you lose a button on a piece of clothing it is handy to easily replace it than try and hunt it down, especially if you lose it outside of your house or shelter.
Pick up one or two zippers so you have a replacement zipper if one breaks. They might be a bit more challenging to put in, but you will be glad you have a spare if you need it. Again, zippers can be purchased for $1-2.
While you probably have a pair of scissors with your prep supplies anyway, throw in a small pair (I prefer a small pair of scissors instead of the small foldable ones) but it is best to always keep a pair of inexpensive scissors with your sewing kit.
For skilled sewers
If you are a skilled sewer, supplement the above with as many extra sewing supplies as possible – and if you sew a lot, that really just means raiding your sewing cupboard/room for extra elastic, trim, zippers, hooks, thread – basically anything leftover that you aren’t using for a specific sewing project you are working on. You might not think that 1′ piece of elastic is useful for much of anything, but using it to sew into a pair of jogging pants that have gotten to big would be super helpful, or to sew onto the outside of your backpack to be able to slip through a jacket/sweatshirt you want to keep easily accessible would be worth it.
Bartering Sewing Skills
If you are handy at sewing, it makes a lot of sense to stock up on even more sewing supplies, especially if you are a hand sewer (many people who consider themselves somewhat capable sewers will find it tough without an electric sewing machine). These are skills that will be especially important when things go south, as you can barter your sewing skills for food or other supplies. Watch for notions sales at your local fabric/craft store and always check the clearance bins – you never know when you will find killer deals on opened packages or a pack of 20 snaps that is only missing one for 80% off.
Old fashion sewing machine
Likewise, an old fashioned treadle sewing machine will also become invaluable, so if you have one or can get one, it would be wise to have one or at least have access to one. Unfortunately, they are collector’s items for antique hunters, so you will likely have to pay a fair bit for one. And don’t forget you need to know how to use it – it won’t do much good if you pull it out when the electric grid is kaput only to discover there are new needles for it.
If you have already picked up a couple of those cheap sewing kits, by all means, don’t throw it out, you will probably still get your $2 worth out of it in a SHTF situation. But just don’t count on it as your only sewing kit for your prep supplies.