Thursday, August 14, 2008

Keeping you in clothing

Nope, not stocking you up with a gazillion clothes in even more sizes. That takes up entirely too much space, imo. And one thing you will learn here is that I am all about space.

It is far easier to store the implements for making clothing in various sizes than it is to store the clothing itself. Far cheaper for prepping period, if you do it right. This of course assumes that you actually know how to hand sew. Treadle machines can still be found, but are generally in bad shape. You will find that the ones that are still in good usable shape are most likely out of your price range (at least they are out of mine). At any rate, "you will eventually be sewing something by hand so you may as well learn" to quote my mother.

Now, onto the things you'll want to put by or the things I have put by myself.

Fabric: sturdy fabrics like denims, canvas, broadcloth, muslin and GOOD flannels. All of these are by no means cheap. I suggest you sign up for sales bills from JoAnn's. Not only will you get advanced notice on sales, but you get a 40% off coupon on each flier. It is only good on non-sale items, so keep that in mind. You can also do as I do and keep an eye on the clearance fabric at chinamart (should your's still have a fabric department that is). Every once in a while they will get a wild hair and mark some actual quality fabric down to $2 or $1 a yard. I buy the bolt if I have the money. I never, ever buy anything less than 4 yards of anything I buy...mainly because most of the sizes I make call for at least 2 yds of fabric. That is with the exception of the screamers clothing, but I always make duplicates for them. The point of this huge paragraph is to buy sturdy fabrics, by the bolt or in enough yardage that you are certain you can make two or more of what you are making. The better quality of broadcloth, muslin and flannel virtually ensures that the items you make will stand up to lots of wear.

Patterns: My rule of thumb...find a gender neutral pattern or a pattern that has styles for both sexes included and buy multiples of it. I also do this a JoAnn's during the sales. This weekend for example Simplicity patterns are 5 for $5. Those are the times to get them, in multiple sizes and duplicates. Then use your 40% off coupon to buy some pattern-ease for copying said patterns if you want. It last way longer than the tissue the pattern is printed on and even outlasts brown paper or newspaper (you KNOW that some of you have done that...heck, I have patterns that are 90% newspaper now).

Psst...a favorite pattern of mine for the screamers is New Look (aka Simplicity) #6398. Shorts, pants, vests, shirts, jackets and a skirt (not that we need the skirt here, yet) all in sizes 2-7. I've got 4 uncut and one cut. Seems extreme but this is a really good pattern for rambunctious little ones.

Accessories: Needles, in every possible size you can find, you never ever know what size you'll like or need. Scissors, you can get several pair of el cheapos or a couple of pair of good ones (I prefer Fiskars myself) and a sharpener. Let's not forget a pair or two of pinking shears while we're at it. Measuring tapes are really a must because pattern sizing is not standardized and some are just WAY off. Pins, both straight and safety, be sure to good some good quality ones also. They may have to last a long, long time. Pin cushion is optional, I myself have one of those magnetic do-hickies for the pack I'm using and several unopened packs in storage. You can also pick up some tailor's chalk and all those cool little marking do dads, but I don't have them so can't tell you whether or not they are worth your trouble.

Thread and Buttons/Zippers/Cording: Buy lots and lots of them. I have an old glass juice jar (about a gallon) loaded down with buttons that I've pulled off of unrepairable clothing over the years. I have a gallon sized ziploc that is full of cording and drawstrings pulled out of that same pile of clothing, in addition to a couple of rolls of cording in different sizes. Zippers, storage there is a LARGE box of zippers gifted to me by a friend that frequents estate sales. I don't have any clue as to why she bought them, she paid a dollar for them...there is roughly 250 in there. All in lovely shades of avocado, mustard and all those other cool '70's colors. Now thread, can do as my mother and buy some of every shade on the market so that you are guaranteed to have matching thread OR you can be like me...white, black and that lovely clear quilter's thread. I too have thread to match every fabric, lol.

Elastics will eventually dry rot, even in the best of situations. You can choose to replace it with some more (I do have several of the chinamart small packs stored away) or forget elastics all together and go for drawstrings and lacings.

For those just curious about my fabric stash, here's what I currently have:

2 20yd bolts of denim (one semi-stretchy, one not)
2 15yd bolts unbleached muslin (quilter's heavyweight stuff)
2 15yd bolts bleached muslin (again, the heavy stuff)
1 20yd bolt each of black, blue, white broadcloth (heavy again)
way, way too many 4 and 5yd cuts of flannels in various colors and prints
1 15yd bolt canvas (lightweight)
1 16yd bolt canvas (midweight)
1 12yd bolt canvas (heavyweight)
way too many 4-6yd cuts of various woven cotton prints and solids
roughly 20yds worth of cuts of various knitted cottons
1 20yd bolt of cotton gauze (this makes for nice airy skirts and doubles as bandaging)

That's just off the top of my head as I know I have more including corduroy, some odd polyester stuff mom gave me and upholstery fabrics. It sounds like a lot, I know. The bolts fit nicely in those big, plastic storage bins and the others are categorized into smaller bins. All stacked, out of the way, in a closet. It all takes up considerably less room than clothing purchased in multiple sizes for my growing monkeys. I replace as I use, when money permits, and I use often. I also very rarely say no to someone offering up fabric that they "just can't use" as I'm sure I'll be able to use it.

Now, I know there is likely something somewhere that I've missed that someone will find vitally important. Pop it in a comment and share your knowledge.


Stephanie said...

Right off the top of my head, look in the home or crafts section for the polar fleece blanket pattern that can be folded/stored as a pillow. Great to have in the car or van and handy for more than a pillow & blanket. Flannel makes very nice diapers. When buying thread buy the name brands - the cheap stuff frays, knots, breaks too easy and makes sewing difficult. If you have trouble with the stitch lenght on a machine staying right cheap thread is the reason. A good pair of shears that only cuts fabric makes things really nice esp. when cutting heavy fabric. A good basic sewing book. For machines singer or a "sewing with nancy". I have a link to an old book on learning hand sewing if you are interested. And a basket or tackle box to keep the supplies together. Did you mention a thimble for sewing those heavy fabrics?

Ozark Momma said...

Totally agree Stephanie...go for the good stuff! Fabric, scissors, should all be the best or better quality, none or very, very little of the cheaper quality. You do want it to last after all!

I would really appreciate the link, if you have it handy. I couldn't find one suitable enough for me. I know how to hand sew already (wasn't allowed to look at a machine until I could sew by hand first) but I'm certain others would find it quite useful.

Thimble...nope, forgot that one! You can tell I've not hand sewn heavy fabrics in a good long while.

Thanks for the suggestions!

Stephanie in AR said...

This first one is from project gutenberg and is more than just sewing. Handier as it is easier to print off.

The second is a teaching program from way back. It can be printed off too but is more work.

or go to google books and look for Idabelle McGlauflin. It can be printed as a pdf or by right clicking on the image on the page. I've just been printing off the pages as I wanted them.

judyofthewoods said...

Another source of cheap fabric is thrift shop garments, very large sized with few frills and pockets and seams. It may be easier to buy clothes of the right size, but what fits now, may not fit after tshtf (likely too big). It is a lot easier to start from scratch (even cutting up an old garment) than it is to make changes to a garment.

When buying fabric, a fabric which is very tough and lasts long would be a good investment. Even if you have to pay more, you save in making less garments and it is also less work as a result. For trousers hemp denim or canvass has to be the best choice. The original blue jeans were made of hemp fabric, designed to be very rugged for gold prospectors. Hemp is a very tough fabric (and rot resistant), and you can also get it in lighter weights for shirts, though most likely as a cotton mix. Yet another fibre I just discovered and find fabulous for some purposes is bamboo. this website gives more information on bamboo, hemp and more. As for bamboo, I bought some cloths for drying off anything from a rain-soaked cat to dishes or hands (not the same cloth) and find it absolutely amazing. Anyway, that just by the by.

I have sewn most of my life by hand, and for sewing tough fabrics I discovered the value of a leather thimble. A strip of medium weight leather glued into a slight conical shape, or the finger of an old leather glove will save your fingers whilst still giving a lot more feel than a metal thimble.

Ozark Momma said...

Thanks for the link and the tip on the leather thimble Judy...I totally agree with the hemp and bamboo. I have several hemp and hemp/cotton tshirts that have lasted quite a long time with very little wear. I've "outgrown" them but have kept them on hand for recycling into smaller shirts for my little people.

Thanks again Judy!

Sena said...

Sewing supplies are a great thing to find for cheap, usually tucked off to the side somewheres at estate/yard/garage/boot sales. Often a bunch of things are dumped in a bag for like a buck or something.

Also, don't discount treadle machines so fast. Most older machines were made really well and not not take as much work as you think to recondition into working order. Some Evaporust, fine sewing machine oil, a new belt and a copy of the manual will get you up and running in most cases. is a great resource.

Some research into historical clothing can be insightful as well - while much of it reflects the fashion cultures at the time, some of it is just efficient and functional. A peplos is just an edge-finished tube of fabric that with a few ties/pins and a lightweight fabric becomes a great summer dress. Wool/linen layered tunics are surprisingly warm, yet breathe/wick well while working outside in cool/cold weather.

Ozark Momma said...

Thank you, thank you Sena! That link will be a big help for me. I've come across several machines that really needed some serious repair. I'm sure there is someone around here that does it, but I'm a do-it-yourself kinda gal that hates forking money over for something I know I could do IF I had the materials. That link will let me do just that!

And I completely agree with the historical clothing bit. Tunic style shirts and lace-up trousers are a favorite around here. The littlest being in diapers wears quite a bit of wool, even in the summer.

Thanks again!

Bustednuckles said...

Get SEVERAL needle threaders!
Those little wire doo dads that you stick through the eye of the needle to pull the thread back through with.
Anyone over Forty knows how much fun it is trying to poke a thread through the eye of a needle with out one.

Ozark Momma said...

Thank you bustedknuckles...I would have never thought of that. Perfect example of an "I don't use them, so I don't think of them" item. (psst...I'm about 8yrs short of 40, lol)

Nancy said...

Want to make your own treadle machine? In Mother Earth News Issue 70 - July/August 1981, "Make a New Foot-Powered Sewing Machine," author Glenn Jacobs gives basic directions, including diagrams to convert an electric machine to foot power (it helps if the pulley is on the outside of the machine).

While looking for the article on sewing machines, I also came across a treadle-related one that woodworkers might be interested in. Issue 38 has an article on "The Parker Treadle Jigsaw."

You can buy their archive 4-CD set (1970 - 2007) at

Disclaimer: I don't work for MEN, know anyone who does, or will in any way benefit from their sales.

Nancy said...

Want to make your own treadle machine? In Mother Earth News Issue 70 - July/August 1981, "Make a New Foot-Powered Sewing Machine," author Glenn Jacobs gives basic directions, including diagrams to convert an electric machine to foot power (it helps if the pulley is on the outside of the machine).

While looking for the article on sewing machines, I also came across a treadle-related one that woodworkers might be interested in. Issue 38 has an article on "The Parker Treadle Jigsaw."

You can buy their archive 4-CD set (1970 - 2007) at

Disclaimer: I don't work for MEN, know anyone who does, or will in any way benefit from their sales.

Nancy said...

Apologies--I didn't intend to post my comment twice.

Ozark Momma said...

No problem Nancy...and holy cow, thank you for the info. Hubby and Dad are wood workers and would love that set...I'd love a treadle (since Mom isn't dead yet and won't let me have hers).

Very much appreciated!

Mayberry said...

My Grandma had a treadle machine.... Wish she still did! My wife can sew pretty good, "sew" we'll be alright in this department (get it? "sew"! Ha ha, I kill me). Thanks for the link to the do it yerself treadle machine Nancy!

The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedience, and by parts. --Edmund Burke