There is nothing like being outside working on a barbed wire fence and hearing ‘rriiiipppp’. It means you have once again caught your blue jeans on a barb. You look down and see several tiny holes, and the one big gash. And money is tight, so new jeans aren’t in the budget. Rats.
One of the basic tenets of homesteading is being frugal. One great way to be frugal is to learn to mend. Buttons pop off. Hems come out. And yes, barbed wire just loves the taste of denim. Instead of tossing the otherwise good clothes in a trash bag, grab your sewing basket and repair them.
A good sewing basket has everything you will need to make simple repairs. Here are a few of the items that are absolutely necessary:
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• Scissors – In my case, I have a large pair and several smaller ones. The larger ones are used to cut fabric, especially when I want to patch a larger hole. A medium size allows me to cut turns and notches in fabric easier than a larger pair. The smallest one are used for snipping thread.
• Thread – Keep an assortment of colors in your basket. You don’t have to have every color in the rainbow, but choose the colors that you need the most. Or, you can just use basic colors, such as navy blue, a medium shade of blue, black, tan, white, and gray. These colors will mend most any basic clothing you have. If you wear a lot of a certain color, such as red, then toss in a spool of that, as well.
• Straight Pins – Straight pins help to keep seams together as you sew. They hold patches in place, and also can be used as markers. When you buy straight pins, you want to consider quality. Choose stainless steel if they are available. Cheaper pins are made of tin or aluminum, and they have a tendency to rust. There is nothing worse than getting rust stains on your clothes. A pincushion is also good to have to store the pins while they aren’t being used. I love my magnetic one. I don’t have to worry about spillage, and they are easy to grab and use.
• Needles – There is a long list of types and sizes of needles – from fine needlework to heavy carpets. Choosing the right one for the project is important. A small needles (size 11 or 12) will work well for fine, lightweight fabric, such as linen. If you are trying to mend denim, choose a larger needle, such as a 2 or 4. If you aren’t sure, check out this great site I found from JJ Needles. It also has a Needle Chart Download that would be perfect for someone who does a lot of sewing, mending, quilting or other craft-type needlework. For your mending basket, purchase a package of assorted sizes. That way, you will always have exactly what you need.
• Measuring Tape – A fabric measuring tape and/or a plastic 6” ruler is great. They also make a sliding gauge ruler for sewing that is more than beneficial. With it you can measure once, slide the gauge where you need it, and never have to search for the correct size again. These work especially well when having to let out a hem.
• Seam Ripper – No sewing basket needs to be without one of these. If your hem needs repairing, you may have to remove a bit on either side to keep it lying flat. Or, if you are like me, you find yourself ripping out your mistakes.
• Notions – A sewing basket should have an assortment of various necessities – safety pins, buttons, hooks& eyes – all of these things are great to have at your fingertips. A smaller safety pin can hold two pieces of fabric together. A large one can be attached to a drawstring and used to guide it back into place. A thimble helps to protect your finger from pushing on a needle. A needle puller helps to pull it through heavier fabric.
• Lagniappe – Small scraps of colorful fabric are great to use as a patch for larger holes. You can simply sew them into place or do decorative stitching around the edges with embroidery thread. Embroidery Thread can also be used to simply mend a tear, but add a bit of flair with the stitching. A darning egg helps you to repair a hole in socks or gloves. Just be sure to have a darning needle on hand for easier work!
Basket or Container?
Once you have your equipment gathered together, you can store it in any size, shape or type of container. I love the square basket that my Aunt Dot used for hers. It’s shallow, but large enough to hold what she needed and a few small projects. But when I inherited her ‘real’ sewing basket, I quickly began using it. My Dad repurposed an old round cheesebox. He cut the lid in two and added hinges. Then he added legs. From there, he stained it, and now it looks like a side table. But lift the lid, and all of my sewing supplies are close at hand. You can use a basket, galvanized bucket, plastic container, a cardboard box, or you can just order everything you need in a ready made kit.
Creating and having a sewing basket means never having to search for that elusive needle and thread again. Keep it next to your favorite chair, so when you sit down in the evening, it is ready for you to replace that button, or mend that rip where the barbed wire tried to eat your blue jeans.