Homesteaders, Here’s How to Get the Skills You Need

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Homesteaders who grew up on a farm, or whose family lived in a rural area, are very likely to have many survival skills in their arsenal.

If that’s you, things like milking a cow; butchering a pig; fixing a tractor; repairing a chicken coop; sewing, mending, and washing clothes by hand; and many others could have been part of your education growing up. Parents and grandparents were likely your teachers, as they wanted help with these chores and an extra pair of hands comes in handy.

If you did not have this opportunity because you lived in urban or suburban areas or your parents were busy working outside of the home, you can still get the skills you need to homestead.

Homesteaders, Start Here

The first place to start is the Internet. Search for any skill in which you have an interest, and there is likely a video online of someone doing that. Even if this is not “hands-on” learning, it will still give you an idea about what you may be getting yourself into.

Some videos are better than others, so you may have to watch a few to find one that features a good teacher.

This will usually take you to that person’s website and other written resources that may be available on that skill.

Gaining Skills Through Hands-On Learning

While online tutorials can be a great way to learn the basics about a particular skill, there’s no doubt that the very best way to learn a new skill is “hands on.”

Connecting With Locals

When I started researching resources for our property, I found people in the area who were already doing some of the things I wanted to do: raising goats, raising ducks, and growing vegetables and fruit trees.

You can always ask someone questions about how to do what they are doing, so that’s exactly what my husband and I did. One woman gave us free goat-milking experience. A local fruit tree grower gave us useful hints on how to successfully raise fruit trees and bushes in our area.

Taking a Class

A more intensive way to connect with people who already have the skills you want to learn is to take a class in a specific skill.

Recently, my husband and I attended a weekend at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina. He took a class in beginner wood turning and I took a beginner class in weaving on a loom.

We both had a great time and enjoyed working with the instructors in our respective classes.

Weaving New Skills

Our classes started on Friday evening, right after dinner, so that we could get as much done as possible over the weekend.

In my class, the instructor helped us to pick out the yarns we would use from an extensive collection they had in stock. Every color of the rainbow was represented in a few different fibers, and each person was allowed to choose a palette.


Homesteaders Weaving Loom 1 KT


I was amazed at the number of technical terms that are used in loom weaving and asked the teacher for a glossary, which she provided to all of us. We learned how to measure the threads and get them set up on the loom so that by the second afternoon we could all start weaving.

Preparing the loom is the most time-consuming part of weaving, and proper preparation makes all the difference in the final product.

Learning to Turn

For my husband, the first night included basic instruction on the tools and a demonstration of safe wood-turning technique. The teacher made sure that students had proper tools at the work stations before they made some practice pieces on the lathe.

By the end of the weekend, my husband had made a honey dipper from apple wood, plus a pen and a pizza cutter handle with different colors of wood.

Sunday, after breakfast, everyone was given an opportunity to show off what they had learned. It was incredible to see all the end results.


Homesteaders Weaving Scarf KT


The other classes for that weekend included beekeeping, making a kaleidoscope, basket weaving, iron forging, playing a native flute, three-dimensional paper folding, wood carving, felting, and journaling with watercolors. Amazingly, that is only a tiny sample of the various classes that they make available throughout the year.

Only the Beginning

When we returned home, my husband researched local classes with an eye toward improving his wood-turning skills. I also located a local weaving guild that I can join.

Taking the class was just a beginning. Lots of practice will still be needed to hone our skills, but now we know how to start and can add to our knowledge as we go.

The post Homesteaders, Here’s How to Get the Skills You Need appeared first on The Grow Network.

101 Homesteading Skills We Need To Teach

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We’ve heard a lot the last few years about homesteading skills, vintage skills, and pioneer skills. I don’t know about you, but I can do all of these and I bet you can too. Now, I have always pictured different farms growing vegetables, fruits and raising chickens, goats or cows, etc. I remember visiting dairy farms. It seems now people are calling themselves homesteading families. I remember growing up and hearing the word, homestead. Well, the word homestead according to The Merriam-Webster Dictionary is defined as “the home and land acquired by family” and “to acquire or settle on public land.”

I think what we really need to do is explain what a homemaker is, those people have homesteading skills. They run a house, hence the term “the home and land acquired by family.”  I have recently started to wonder why so many blogs have become homesteading blogs. These are basically homemaking skills, maybe they are trying to bring back the skills most of us have used our whole life.

I remember churches teaching these skills as well as schools. Somehow, the teaching of these very important skills needs to be rekindled. What do you think has happened? We can’t continue to eat processed food, eat at fast food places and eat food at restaurants every day, it’s not healthy. Plus, it’s so expensive.

Whatever sex you are that heads your home to keep it running smoothly, I tip my hat to you. It is hard to be a homemaker and homesteading family. I decided to break down the different areas of life we all have to deal with each day. I’m not talking about backyard chickens, ducks, goats, and rabbits. I have a blogger friend, Janet Garman, who has a farm, called Timber Creek Farm (.com). She is truly a role model if you want a farm. She dyes the yarn and knits the most beautiful hand warmers, I have two sets. I love them! Today, it’s all about the homestead, as in our home.

If you understand and use any of these skills please teach them at your church, schools and neighborhoods. Trust me, people need to know these skills.

Homesteading Skills

These are the things I learned growing up, how about you?


  1. I learned to make bread in a big old stainless steel bowl like this one: Stainless Steel Bowl
  2. Learn to grind wheat
  3. Learn to make whole wheat bread
  4. Learn to make bread with flour you can tolerate
  5. Learn to make natural yeast
  6. Learn to make white bread
  7. Learn to make dinner rolls
  8. Learn to make cinnamon rolls
  9. Learn to make biscuits
  10. Learn to make crackers
  11. Learn to make crepes
  12. Learn to make tortillas
  13. Learn to make pancakes and waffles from scratch
  14. Learn to make a cake without a cake mix
  15. Learn to make frosting without a container or box
  16. Learn to make pies from scratch (thank you, Jeanne)
  17. Learn to make homemade pasta, it tastes so yummy (thank you, Bebe)


  1. Take a Master Preserver Canning course to keep up with the newest safety measures required to preserve our food. Four Foods You Should Never Can by Linda
  2. Only use mason jars designed for canning
  3. Watch for chips or cracks-discard the jars if damaged
  4. Never can eggs
  5. Never can milk or cream
  6. Never can bacon
  7. Never can butter
  8. The new rule (2015) when canning tomatoes (they are not as acidic now) please add 2 tablespoons lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon citric acid to quart size jars. Pint size jars use 1 tablespoon lemon juice or 1/4 teaspoon citric acid.
  9. Always remove the rings after the jars have been canned, cooled and ready to store. This will ensure if a lid does pop up and become unsealed, it will not go back down because the ring was left on. You may never know if the seal popped up after storing it.
  10. When lifting your jars out of the hot water, never tip the jars, keep them upright
  11. Pressure canners have the weighted gauges, dial gauges, regulators, and rings, they should be checked yearly (replace as needed)

Cleaning Your Home

Make a schedule to keep on top of your cleaning, a clean home is a house of order, a house of peace and serenity.

Share the cleaning projects

  1. Bathrooms
  2. Kitchens
  3. Living Room
  4. Bedrooms
  5. Closets
  6. Cupboards
  7. Fans
  8. Dusting
  9. Vacuuming
  10. Mopping

Cleaning Your Garage

I love a clean garage:

  1. Blow the dust and debris outside and put in trash can
  2. Keep the garage doors oiled and lubricated
  3. Vacuum the entrance rug between the garage and house once a week

Cleaning Your Yard

Trust me on this one, I love a clean street. Is this a homesteading skill? I don’t know but it’s important to me.

  1. Pick up blowing trash in your yard and adjoining neighbors yards
  2. Pick up dog poop your neighbor’s dog has left, try not to be bitter because you always take a poop bag
  3. Clean the street gutters if you have them, it makes all the difference in a clean tidy neighborhood
  4. Keep your bushes trimmed
  5. Keep your trees trimmed so people can walk safely on the sidewalk in front of your home


  1. How to make a roux
  2. How to make a white sauce
  3. How to cook from scratch
  4. How to make rice without a rice cooker
  5. How to make gravy from meat drippings
  6. How to make/cook beans from a bag
  7. Buy good pans the first time, this is one I use all the time: Farberware Saucepan
  8. Learn to make soups, stews, chili and anything that will fill the belly for less money and still be healthy
  9. Exchange recipes with friends that are foods you can make that are frugal and healthy meals

Dehydrating Food

  1. You can dehydrate food on window screens or on netting
  2. I have had two dehydrators in my life, they run non-stop. The one I have now is similar to this one: Excalibur
  3. Dehydrating your own food is for short-term storage only, one-year maximum
  4. You can dehydrate frozen vegetables you find on sale and you don’t need to wash, slice or cut them


  1. You can feed a family with 6-8 people if you have a garden, I know I have done it on 1/4 acre. My family canned and preserved all the food for one year. No animal meats, just fruits, and vegetables. Gardens for Two by Linda and  How to Grow A Garden by Linda
  2. Find the best area to plant a garden, watch for sun and shade spots.
  3. My favorite items you need to start your garden, I have to use these items because I have rock hard clay soil: Miracle Grow Soil, buy at your local hardware stores.
    Azomite Micronized Bag, 44 lb
    FibreDust Coco Coir Block
    Unco Industries Wiggle Worm Soil Builder Earthworm Castings Organic Fertilizer, 15-Pound
    Miracle-Gro Nature’s Care Organic Bone Meal, 3 lb.
    Espoma VM8 8-Quart Organic Vermiculite
  4. Composting, I confess this is the only one I do not do. I buy my organic compost.
  5. Learn to trim your fruit trees correctly
  6. Buy Non-GMO, non-hybrid seeds and plants

Heating Your Home

  1. Learn how to use a good chainsaw, we taught our girls to cut down trees, they cut and split the logs to heat our home together as a family. We used a woodburning stove to heat our home for six full years. This was a skill we all need to learn. It’s hard work but totally teaches a family to work together as a team.

Home Maintenance

  1. Change your smoke alarm batteries at least once a year before they start to beep
  2. Change your Carbon Monoxide Detector batteries at least once a year: Carbon Monoxide Detector
  3. Change your furnace air filters often (thanks to Janet for the reminder)


  1. Keep up on your laundry, nothing is worse than having a power outage and you need clean underwear, etc.
  2. Consider starching and ironing your own dress shirts
  3. Save money and make your own laundry detergent: Laundry Detergent by Linda

Money Management

Make a budget with your net income, write it down, then write your bills on the other side of the paper. Put some in savings each month even it’s only $1.00. (thanks to Debbie for reminding me about this topic)

Personal Hygiene & Health

This one is critical to our well being and learning to stay healthy.

  1. Eat healthily, we are what we eat. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
  2. Clean remotes to all TV’s and cell phone, etc.
  3. Clean light switches
  4. Use the cleaning wipes at the grocery stores on those shopping baskets
  5. Wash your hands frequently
  6. Stay home from work if you are really sick
  7. Keep your child home from school if he or she will spread a virus or bacterial infections
  8. Keep a jar of Vicks VapoRub on hand at all times (rub some on your feet and cover with socks-helps with a cough)
  9. Use essential oils to soothe a cold or influenza


  1. Learn how to thread a needle
  2. Learn how to thread a sewing machine
  3. Learn how to make a bobbin
  4. Learn how to clean and oil your sewing machine
  5. Learn how to sew a straight line on your machine
  6. Buy a good sewing machine, not a cheap one, a good one, it doesn’t have to be expensive
  7. Learn to use a fabric rotary cutter and board
  8. Buy a good pair of fabric scissors
  9. Buy a good seam ripper
  10. Buy a good tape measure
  11. Buy safety pins
  12. Buy good sewing machine needles
  13. Buy good pinning pins
  14. Get a pin cushion-they make magnetic ones that are great
  15. Learn to sew aprons, then kids clothes and move onto harder things
  16. Learn how to sew on buttons
  17. Mending can save lots of money
  18. Recycling thrift clothes can be fun and save lots too
  19. Learn to make your own starch and iron your clothes when appropriate


  1. Learn to tie a quilt with yarn knots and fluffy batting
  2. Learn to piece a quilt with leftover fabrics
  3. Learn to hand quilt a quilt
  4. Learn to bind a quilt
  5. Learn to use a fabric rotary cutter and board
  6. Buy a good pair of fabric scissors

Clean Laundry When We Lose Power by Linda

Thanks again for being prepared for the unexpected, we need to know all of these homesteading skills and much more. May God bless you for your efforts.

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How Many Of These Vintage Skills Do You Know?

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How many of these vintage skills do you know? Could you teach your family members or neighbors how to use those skills? This list is very short but it’s very important to make sure these skills are not lost or forgotten. Some people may call them pioneer skills, some call them vintage skills. It’s kind of like the phrase homesteading or a farm, is there a difference? I have never raised animals to eat on my homestead or plot of land. But I have raised a garden, sewn all of our clothes, lived on a budget, pressure canned food, dehydrated food, and water bathed foods. I cook from scratch and have my whole life. The largest lot we have ever owned was a 1/2 acre, but we produced enough fruits and vegetables to preserve for our family for a year.

I can still remember hearing people tell us we had the biggest garden on the street in every neighborhood we have lived in. It wasn’t for competition, it was for survival and to teach my girls to learn to work. And work, they did. I could not have canned 4-5 bushels of peaches, pears, apples, apricots, spaghetti sauce, and salsa. I also couldn’t have snapped that many green beans or made all that delicious purple grape juice. We made apple pie filling, don’t you love apple pie? These are just a small amount of the items we preserved to feed our family of six. I guess what I am trying to say is, you don’t need 15 acres to be self-reliant, you can do it on much less land. I know the word homesteading has become very popular the last few years, but people my age have been doing these vintage or pioneer skills for over 60 years.

It is not new to some of us, it was a necessity as we raised our families. We did not have food drive-thru’s to pick up dinner. We made dinner at home. We did not have access to all the processed food available to families today. I’m hoping I can help a few families realize they do not need a lot of property to be self-reliant. We did it with a half acre and sometimes less acreage.

We made pancakes from scratch, made homemade cookies ready for the kids when they came home from school. We wanted to pay off our house instead of getting a soda around the corner every day. So, my question today is how can we get people to go back to what we have been doing for years. Here are just a few vintage skills we must teach our kids and grandkids. Ten acres isn’t going to help you much if you don’t know how to use these few limited skills.

Vintage Skills


If you can learn how to save seeds, plant seeds and balance your soil with good organic products you can grow anything, anywhere. Learning how to use different soils found in your particular neighborhood is critical to be successful with growing a garden. I have had many good years and very few years that I couldn’t grow some vegetables in this desert where I live. I had better soil up north, but it’s taken a few years to get this soil where I want it to be the most productive.

Bread Making:

I know there are a lot of people with gluten issues, but try and make sourdough bread or natural yeast bread. Sometimes it’s not the wheat at all but the commercial yeast. Very few people in Europe have any gluten issues because they use zero commercial yeast, only natural yeast. It’s your gut and you must follow what is right for you, but I have families come to my house to get natural yeast and their gluten issues have disappeared.



I grew up making my own clothes, so a sewing machine has always been a mainstay in my home. I remember dreaming about owning a Bernina sewing machine one day after I worked at a Bernina shop in Logan, Utah. It took almost 50 years but I finally got one, thanks to the money my mom left me after she died. I will never part with that machine, it means too much to me. I grew up using a Singer machine, even a Singer Treadle machine, then a BabyLock. They were great machines and served me and my family well for many years.

Cooking From Scratch:

If we can teach our kids that a tube that snaps on the counter with premade biscuits is not cooking from scratch, we will win! If we can teach them that vegetables and fruits really are more filling than a drive-through hamburger or chicken nuggets we will win too!

I know, I can hear some of you say “but that’s why I use coupons, they save me money.” In the short term, this may be true, but our health is at stake, I promise. I confess I eat way too much. Ben and Jerry’s ice cream is my favorite. Is my cholesterol, high? Of course, it is and I know better. It’s an addiction, I’m trying to stop, including eating unhealthy food.

Please tell me I’m not alone. How can we teach our kids and grandkids how to make things a white sauce, homemade pizza crust? I’m thinking it’s by example, maybe or maybe not?


I truly believe we need to teach people to budget their money. If they write down what the net is that they bring in and then make a list of expenses that have to be paid, then they are well on their way to forming a family budget. If you have to cut those daily sodas, then stop it. I love Starbucks, but I also want to purchase another car in a year or two. Mark and I live on less than we make, if we can do it so can others. Is it hard, yes it is. But, it’s been a way of life for us. I would rather eat at home, but I also realize I need to splurge to go on a date with Mark from time to time. But I try to use a coupon for a two for one. I tip on the REAL full amount because I know how hard those servers work.

These are simple vintage or pioneer skills anyone can accomplish. We can’t depend on the government to take care of our families. We are responsible for feeding and clothing our families, not the government. I have known families over the years that have been on food stamps for over 15 years now and some still live in low-income housing. They have strong healthy bodies and could raise a garden or find more gainful employment, this needs to stop. I understand if they are going to school or have been out of work for 3-4 months, had some health issues, etc., but not 15 years. It’s become a way of life for them, plus they are teaching their kids that this is acceptable. In my way of thinking it is not. Okay, I will get off my soapbox. We need to teach people these vintage skills at the very least. Please teach these skills or have someone teach you, we will be a better world, I promise!

Danish whisk-my favorite

Hand mixer-my favorite

Other ideas by Linda

Ideas for kids over 12 years of age by Linda

Pioneer ideas by Linda

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Sew Your Own Carbon Air Filter for $10

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Sew Your Own Carbon Air Filter for $10 This is such an interesting technique to learn that I had to include it. The survival use is not clearly defined but there are so many directions you can go once you understand the basics of this creation. Are you keeping carbon on hand? I recommend keeping …

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10 Reasons To Have A Sewing Machine

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Survivopedia Resons to have a sewing machine

If you visit any department store or second hand store, you are bound to find more clothes than you know what to do with. No matter where you look, it seems like there is no end to cheap clothes that can be used for every occasion.

As a result, most people see sewing as a “hobby” or a skill that they don’t really need to learn. But many clothes will vanish very quickly after a disaster, so you might have a reason to buy a sewing machine and learn how to use it.

Here are ten things that may just change your mind on this matter.

What Kind of Sewing Machine is Best?

If you sew on a regular basis, choose a good quality, heavy duty sewing machine. Personally, I have always preferred Singer over any other brand. Modern sewing machines can be programmed for embroidery as well as many other complicated tasks. Do your research to make sure that the internal parts are sturdy enough to meet the challenges of stiff, bulky, or very thick material.

There are also many vintage models that still have metal gears and motors powerful enough to last for decades more. Just make sure that you have a finger guard installed if the machine doesn’t already have one.

It can be very dangerous if you don’t pay attention to where your fingers are in relation to the needle. As dainty as the sewing machine and needle may look, the motor is strong enough to push the needle right through your finger.

In addition, sewing by machine can also be a very hypnotic task. It seems simple enough to keep your fingers away from the needle, but it is all too easy to loose track and wind up with a serious, and very painful injury.

As a prepper, think about what you will do with devices that require electricity. It does not matter whether this loss comes from an EMP or a hurricane. The fact remains that modern sewing machines require electricity in order to run. If you are not confident in generators or DIY power generation methods, then look for foot or treadle powered sewing machines.

Today, you can choose from antique machines as well as newer ones. For example, the Janome 712T does not have a motor and runs without electricity. It is more expensive than motor powered machines, however the expense may be worth it if you want to be sure you can sew regardless of the electricity situation.


As Clothes Wear Out You can Remake Them

Not so long ago, you could buy a sweater or pair of jeans and expect them to last for several years. Today, even more “rugged” garments wear out in just a year or two.

Since you will not find new garments in the post collapse world, you will have to find some way to make your clothes last a bit longer. In this case, you can take apart old clothes and use a sewing machine to piece together parts that are in better condition.

Here are some things you can do with a sewing machine that are difficult, if not impossible to do by hand:

  • Many fabrics today have a good bit of stretch to them. When these fabrics are sewn by machine, it is much easier to create sturdy overcast stitches (a stitch commonly used to prevent fabric from raveling) that will not come apart. Even though it is possible to make overcast stitches by hand, it is hard to control the spacing and tightness of each stitch when dealing with stretchy fabric. No matter whether you are trying to sew together pieces of jersey knit, spandex, or some other stretchy material, a sewing machine makes the job much easier.
  • When people make garments with elastic in them, they usually fold the fabric over and then sew the seam so that a column is left to draw the elastic through. If you look carefully at commercial garments, you will often see the elastic is sewn directly onto the fabric. Since there is no margin or extra material to work, it will be impossible make a column for the elastic to go through. This, in turn, means that you would have to try and resew the elastic onto the garment by hand if you did not have a sewing machine. I can tell you from personal experience that there is no pin in the world and no elastic stretching device that makes this a comfortable, let alone feasible task. On the other hand, when you have a sewing machine, the weight of the foot and the tractors beneath the fabric easily keep the fabric in position while you manually pull the elastic so that it fits properly on the material.

Easier to Darn Socks and Other Items That Develop Holes

Have you ever just tossed a sock in the trash because it developed a hole? If so, then you may also be very unhappy with the fact that modern socks really do seem to wear out a lot faster than ones made just a few years ago. While it is not especially difficult to darn sock holes by hand, this task is also much easier to accomplish with a sewing machine.

You will also find that it is much easier to use a sewing machine to patch small holes in other kinds of garments without using additional material to make a patch.

When you use a sewing machine to stitch across a flat piece of fabric, you don’t worry about the fabric bunching up or becoming uneven. If you have never done embroidery on thinner fabrics by hand, you won’t realize just how hard it can be to repair holes on garments without a sewing machine.

Even if you try to put the fabric in an embroidery hoop to keep it from bunching, you will have a hard time getting good quality stitches that don’t rub at your skin when wearing the garment.

Sew Heavier and Coarser Fabrics

Before sewing machines were invented, our ancestors routinely sewed together furs and other thick, heavy materials. If you have denim garments, or clothes made from other heavy, coarse materials, you will find it very hard to make, let alone repair them without a sewing machine.

You will face problems associated with manufacturers that compensate for using less fabric by using stronger stitches or patterns of stitches to make a durable garment.

During crisis, you’ll face constraints on the nature and amount of fabric that you have on hand to work with. If you’ll be using old garments as a pattern for new ones, then you can also use smaller margins and come out with a functional garment.

If you try to duplicate these stitches by hand, you will find that it takes more fabric. Since sewing machines also use two threads (one under the fabric from the bobbin, and one from above on thread spool), the stitches will always be stronger and tighter than ones done by people who have limited experience with sewing.

Many people feel they can sew heavy fabrics by hand as long as they take their time and focus on making even stitches. In most cases, it will take 2 – 3 times longer by hand, and leave you with both eye and hand strain.

You won’t have time to spare in a survival situation. If you don’t have time to mend clothes or make them by hand now, don’t expect to do it then. A sewing machine would solve this issue and leave time for other tasks.

Make Money as a Seamstress or Tailor

There is no question that people are becoming more frustrated with commercial garments that do not fit right (since when does a petite woman of 5’3” have an inseam of 32 – 36”?!), look hideous, cost a lot, and do not last for very long.

The cost of fabric, patterns, and notions aren’t as cheap as they used to be, but many people are taking up sewing in order to have nicer clothes. If you become proficient as a seamstress, you can make money now as well as after a social collapse.

Custom Design Clothes that Meet Your Needs

When you go on a shopping expedition for prepper clothes, you are bound to be overwhelmed by all the coveralls, heavy jackets, Thinsulate gear, and camouflage prints. What happens when you are in an actual disaster and find out that you need to move to a warmer climate, or that most of the clothes in your stockpile won’t meet your needs?

A sewing machine can be used to make any kind of garment, including camouflage. Store away patterns in different sizes as well as a range of fabrics to meet all your needs, rather than completed clothes. From waterproof fabrics to denim and fleece, it is easy enough to add these items to your stockpile and then use them as needed.

Being able to design clothes is also very important if you have children or expect to have a baby after a major crisis. Given how many growth spurts children go through, you’ll need clothes that can be let out at the seams, or adjusted as needed.

When you buy modern clothes, there is no extra fabric let alone a way to modify larger garments for smaller sizes. And if you look at modern patterns, you will find many places where you can cut the pieces a bit larger, and then simply leave more fabric at the seams.

As a prepper, you know that your body is going to change a lot after a major crisis occurs. If food is scare, or you get very sick and lose a lot of weight; or you may wind up putting on a lot of water or edema.

Either way, all those clothes you stocked away may not fit properly, and worse yet, may restrict your movement. It is very important to have a sewing machine and fabric on hand so that you can make new clothes that fit properly.

Make Blankets and Quilts for Many Purposes

Do you have blankets and quilts hanging around that have been part of your life for decades? If so, then you may not give much thought to the availability of these items during crisis. Both novice and advanced preppers have been known to only keep a foil emergency blanket in their bug out bag.

But what happens when disaster strikes, you are on the road, and need something a bit warmer and sturdier? Even if you can find fabric and some kind of filler to make the blanket warmer, it can take days or even weeks to sew a quilt or blanket by hand.

In most cases, however, you can sew the exact same blanket or quilt using a sewing machine in just a few hours. You can use anything from worn clothes to fabric set aside in your stockpile to make blankets and quilts with ease using a sewing machine.

Here are just a few situations where you might wind up needing more blankets than you have on hand:

  • If you are trying to shelter animals that no longer have a building to live in. Blanket can offer warmth and comfort to stressed animal. They can also be used to temporarily restrain the movement of animals that need medical care, or for other reasons.
  • As a temporary shelter when there are no materials available for a tent.
  • To cover supplies or anything else that needs to be protected from dirt and dust.
  • All the blankets in your stockpile were stolen, burned in a fire, or ruined in a flood involving municipal sewage or other contaminants. At the very least, if you had a few clothes or some fabric that escaped the destruction, you can still sew them into blankets or quilts with a sewing machine.

Get More Out of any Fabric You Come Across

Surviving a social collapse is going to involve a lot of innovative thinking and action. Regardless of how much you have in your stockpile, or how well run your homestead is, just about anything can come out of the blue and send you into a tailspin.

Once you are in the situation, the things you underestimated are apt to stick out like sore thumbs and hurt just as badly. In this case, not having a sewing machine can make it difficult or impossible to make use of any fabric that may be available.

Consider a situation where you are moving through an area with very little vegetation. You have a sewing machine with you and a portable power system that can be used to run the motor. As you pass through an abandoned junk pile, you find a stack of clothes that cannot be worn; but not the rope that you so desperately need.

To resolve this situation, all you have to do is cut the garments up into strips and sew them together into longer pieces to make a rope. When you have a sewing machine, you can make use of pieces that are only a few inches long and about 2 inches wide.

If you tried this same task with hand sewing, you would not be able to consistently make strong enough seams in a reasonable period of time.

Make Or Repair Furniture Covers

Do you have an old couch or recliner that either needs to be thrown out or reupholstered? As trivial as this problem may seem when compared to others, it will only get worse after society collapses.

In particular, if you are bugging in, there is a chance that floods or other disasters may ruin your furniture to the point where you can no longer use it. For example, if you have a couch, the cushions and any other soft parts will have to be discarded.

Rather than throw the entire piece of furniture out, you can at least try to salvage the wood or metal frame that supported all the soft parts. Once the frame is repaired and safe to use, just about any fabric and soft stuffing can be used to “reupholster” the furniture. If you have a sewing machine, you can also sew much heavier fabrics or layers of fabric in order to make something more durable.

Similar to many other things, there will be a time in the post crisis world when people will do as much as they can to make pre-existing items last for as long as possible.

This, in turn, means that you can barter or trade your furniture repair skills for other things that you might need. As time goes on, you can also shift your furniture repair trade to actively making furniture from raw materials that others begin putting together in larger quantities.

This is the only ultra-precise machine that can spit-out personalized pieces of woodwork!

Build Shelter Covers and Carrying Aides

One of the worst things you can do as a prepper is think that bugging in means you will have shelter and that you won’t need to bug out for some reason or other. It is very important to understand that a crisis can come from where you least expect in.

For example, while the vast majority of preppers focus on problems that will affect the entire society, something may come along that affects only you or your family. This may include job loss, illness, or the sudden passing of a family member that enabled you to have shelter and security.

Even if you do a minimal amount of research on homeless people, you will find that it became impossible for them to afford shelter and the basics of life. No matter whether these people suffer from illness, addiction, or just plain bad luck, the fact remains they were not prepared for personal financial collapse.

Given the angst in our society these days against our incoming president, sabotage by those who dissent is entirely possible. Under these circumstances, you may find that one disaster after another will arise that leaves you without shelter.

Let me be clear in saying that a sewing machine won’t solve all your problems. However, you can use it to your advantage while you still have some assets to work with.

You can take old garments and sew them into blankets, carrying aides, and anything else that will make it easier for you to travel. If you can find a safe place to store the machine, then you may also be able to make some money with it and get back on your feet.

There is also no question that many homeless people today live in cars and trucks. While this may not seem like a good place to have a sewing machine, you can still use it to make shelters outside of the vehicle. If society does collapse further because of internal or external pressures, you will still have a viable trade and an important tool to work with.

Make Toys and Other Items for Children

When I was a little girl, the battery powered toy craze was just getting started. I remember my parents being unhappy about all the “plastic battery powered junk” that cost a lot and didn’t seem to last.

lot-of-8-original-vintage-cabbage-patch-kTo this day, some of my fondest memories are of my mother sewing little stuffed toys for me.

From iron on appliques to furry teddy bears, I spent hours watching these creations unfold on my mother’s sewing machine.

Later on, we did these projects together and had far more quality time than we would have had if she just bought me a bunch of plastic toys.

During illness or great distress, it is normal to look back on safer and more peaceful times. These days, it often seems like our children will have no such peaceful times to look back on. Even if they do remember their childhood, it is likely to be filled with violent video games, nonstop social pressure, and all sorts of other worries.

Sewing toys with your children is a simple, inexpensive way to give them, and you, peaceful times to look back on. While that may not seem important right now, just think back to the times when you were in crisis and what memories like this meant to in terms of helping you get through the situation.

Making toys for children isn’t just something that works well in a time of social collapse. It is something you can start doing now that will build bonds and give you and your children a chance to enjoy time together. Building custom toys can also give you a chance to innovate and perhaps come up with something marketable that other children might like to have.
Perhaps off topic, but never doubt the possibility that you can make a fortune with a sewing machine and a good idea for a toy. Anyone that remembers the Cabbage Patch Doll craze can certainly relate to the fact that sewn toys can easily become very popular in a short period of time.

As you will recall, the Cabbage Patch Kids were invented by Martha Nelson Thomas, a woman who learned quilting from her mother. Just remember, if you do come up with something that becomes popular, you will need to copyright patent, and trademark the design so that no one else can steal it and profit from theft of the design.

In the arena of prepping, there is always a sense that time is limited. When you don’t know what will happen, or what challenges must be overcome, it is very tempting to cut corners. For example, when it comes to clothes and other fabric based items, you will more than likely buy what you need or hope that you can make do with what you have.

Even though sewing by machine is often relegated to a “craft” or a “hobby” it is a vital survival skill that you may wind up needing. Today, you can increase the chances of surviving long after a major catastrophe by learning how to use a sewing machine and having one in your stockpile.


This article has been written by Carmela Tyrell for Survivopedia.

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How To Make An Awesome Shirt From A Wool Blanket

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How To Make An Awesome Shirt From A Wool Blanket Have you ever heard anyone say invest in wool? Well I would, It’s getting more and more expensive and it has so much potential when SHTF. Wool is just fantastic… There are several kinds of blends of wool you need to watch out for! There …

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23 (Mostly Beginner) Preparedness Sewing Projects

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23 (Mostly Beginner) Preparedness Sewing Projects While establishing food stores and secure shelter might be on the forefront of prepping, there are plenty of other things we can do for readiness. Sewing is a skill that’s often overlooked during prepping, but becomes necessary when SHTF. Dropping by the store for clothes, curtains, or blankets won’t …

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11 Professions That Will Make You a Millionaire In a Post-SHTF World

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When I look at today’s young people, majoring in things like video game design and gender studies, I have to shake my head. Many expensive degrees today almost guarantee a life spent as a Starbucks barista. As well, in a post-SHTF world, those degrees will be worse than useless. The years spent in classes such as “Games and Culture”, “Gender and Representation of Asian Women” and “The Invention of French Theory”…oh, my. Those hours could have been so much better spent studying things that are real, meaningful, and have true significance in the world around us, as well as having practical applications that might be of some actual help.

But, I digress. In the future, as we see the value of our dollar decline, increased civil unrest (although that may provide occasional income opportunities for gender studies students), and a chaotic world, there are a few “professions”, if you will, that could reap huge benefits and income. Just to name a few:

Gunsmith — In a world where violence becomes more common place, armed defense and offense are going to become the hallmarks of a survivor. Want to protect yourself, your family, and your property? Then your firearms had better be in working order 100% of the time. In a future in which law enforcement agencies are disbanded or barely functional, a citizen’s firearm will be his or her own first line of defense. What better career for such a time, and a cool hobby for right now, than becoming a gunsmith? The NRA has information about the trade and suggestions for gunsmithing schools at this site. If you’re not able to attend a school, then a good manual or two, like this one for getting started and this one for learning advanced gunsmithing skills, and a set of basic gunsmithing tools can help you get started.

Midwife — As long as there are men and women who coexist anywhere near each other, there’s going to be a need for midwives and, actually, anyone with the skills to help birth a baby. In a real TEOTWAWKI scenario, life expectancy will decrease and the lives of a mother and newborn will become more precarious. Midwife training is available across the country, including community colleges. Even a single class to learn more than just the basics of childbirth could easily save lives, and if nothing else, a good midwife’s guide to pregnancy and birth is worth adding to your library.

Herbalist — As Obamacare has made the medical field a virtual landmine for medical professionals with onerous regulations of every type imaginable, many have left the field. Now, imagine trying to find a random physician for a major medical crisis when everything hits the fan. That’s when alternative medicine will truly come into its own. My family has experienced good results with certain herbal treatments — slippery elm lozenges for my daughter’s cough, for one. My wife takes Boswellia to help with a chronic cough during allergy season. It works nearly as well as an OTC drug like Delsym. I’m very aware that herbs can and do cause side effects, which is why becoming a trained herbalist would be a darn good profession in a SHTF world. Additionally, start growing medicinal herbs that help with common ailments, such as headaches, stomach aches, and to boost overall immunity. Right now, my family buys herbs in capsule form, and occasionally teas, but in the future, Amazon Prime won’t be there for that quick 2-day shipment, so one of my goals is to build up our backyard herb garden.

Beautician — Now, hear me out on this one! A few months ago, as a student in Preppers University, I had the chance to hear a Bosnian war survivor, Selco, talk about the realities of trying to live life on the front lines of a war. He was asked if, during that time period, the women still tried to look attractive. He chuckled and said, “Yeah, the women still did their best to look good.” Now, in my own personal, albeit somewhat limited experience, I’ve noticed that women always, always want to look their best. Before the birth of our second child, my wife found an attractive nightgown that would look good in photos and after he was born, she fluffed up her hair and put on some mascara. Crazy? Yes, but you can’t argue with the multi-billion dollar beauty business and chances are, no matter what happens, women will still want a haircut and, if possible, color and highlights. Men, too. (Some of them. Maybe.)

Forager — One other piece of information I picked up from Selco’s talk was the importance of foraging. In his town, one old woman knew how to find a few edible plants and was able to forage for them to provide food. Depending on where you live, start researching the edible plants in your area but be very careful with this. On some plants, the leaves may be edible while the roots are poisonous or, in other cases, the plant parts aren’t edible until cooked. Learn more about foraging in this book, one of the best and written by a local Texas foraging expert. Whatever you can forage can be either dried/dehydrated or canned to preserve it for longer term storage.

Seamstress — If you’ve ever traveled in very poor parts of the world, you undoubtedly noticed the well-worn clothing, to put it politely. Modern laundry facilities aren’t usually available, so clothing quickly becomes faded, tattered, and frayed. In such a world, what if you could alter clothing to different sizes or use old jeans to create a brand new pair. Not many have these skills anymore, and they would be worth learning. It’s also a good reason to stock up on sewing supplies like thread, needles, pins, fabric, bobbins, and a treadle sewing machine.

And now for the vices…

The vice businesses, think gambling, drugs, liquor, and prostitution, have always done well, regardless of economics. There will always be customers for these things and, sadly, as times and people get more desperate, those who make a living this way will thrive at the expense of those addicted to their products.

Obviously, I’m not recommending any of these professions, but it’s good to keep them in mind if and when you see society deteriorating. You’ll see an increase in the business of vice and, along with that, a rise in crimes of all types, including organized crime. Hey, with law enforcement scattered or out of the picture altogether, what else would you expect?

Gambling — People either hooked on the thrill of the roll of the dice or in dire need of just one lucky roll will provide plenty of customers for even primitive gambing establishments.

Drugs — Across the globe and throughout time, people have found ways to get high on one thing or another. Back when I lived in the Pacific islands, chewing on a betel nut gave a good buzz, if you were into that sort of thing. Mushrooms and plants of all kinds have been used to produce hallucinations, euphoria, excitement, and a host of less positive effects. This article explains that homemade heroin may become a reality. TEOTWAWKI absolutely will bring an increase in drug production and sales, along with more addicts.

Liquor — I suppose this may not be a vice, depending on which side of the aisle you sit, but I included it in the category because that’s where it has typically belonged. Back in the 30s, my wife’s hillbilly relatives had a front porch still, and as far as I know, they may still be producing homemade moonshine. However, home brewing has come a very long way since then, and if you know how to make a decent beer, wine, or some other alcoholic concoction, you could be set for life. Of course, historically, organized crime usually wants a piece of this type of action, so that life could be shorter than you might expect.

Prostitution — As a dad, this one bothers me a great deal. I’ve seen the devastating consequences of child prostitution in East Asia and human trafficking here in the United States. In a desperate world, one’s body becomes a form of currency and many families have sold their sons and daughters simply to stay alive a few more months. In many parts of the world, this isn’t a “lifestyle”, it’s survival. Knowing this, prepping and moving toward a self-reliant life becomes even more important. I never want one of my family members faced with no other option just to stay alive. In a SHTF world, you’d better believe pimps and prostitution rings will flourish.

Pornography — Yet another soul-stealing “profession”. I see no reason why it wouldn’t continue to thrive in a world with little law enforcement and individuals of all ages willing to risk anything in exchange for food, water, and shelter.

How will you earn a living post-TEOTWAWKI?

There are many skills and professions that will be in demand in a post-TEOTWAWKI world. I’ve listed just a few





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Making a Wonder Oven…..Pattern

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Hi everyone!  I hope you are having a great Sunday.  
Have you ever loaned something to a friend and can’t remember to whom you loaned the desired item?  Recently, someone asked to borrow my pattern to make a Wonder Oven. When I went to get it….it was gone!  Alas, I had to make one again, which is no small feat!  However, I accidentally stumbled upon a way to create this pattern with a little less pain.  
You can find the directions to make a Wonder Oven on a variety of different sites.  However, the pattern requires you to enlarge it and draw the pattern with a variety of specific angles.
So, I decided to use Wrapping Paper as it was wide enough for the task. Much to my surprise, I found an easier way to make this pattern!

The wrapping paper I chose had a wonderful grid on the back!  I can’t tell you how very quickly the process was done in a short period of time.

The instructions require you to draw lines with very specific angles.  Remember that protractor that you child had to have for a specific class….and now it just bumps around your house?  Yes, get that Protractor and measure the angles.  

As you only drew one side, fold the paper in half.  Measure twice, but cut once!

See how quickly it was to make?  Now, when someone wants to borrow any pattern, I think I will have a little form for them to sign so that I know where my items are. It also avoids the chance that I may have to recreate the wheel……

Try it !

Teaching Your Children to Homestead

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Kids in hayfield

Kids learn fast – this might save their life

Homesteading originally referred to the federal government granting land to families who were willing to work it. In modern times, it does not happen that way anymore and homesteading is about families who have decided to live off the grid and grow their own food. Modern-day homesteading involves cooking, farming and fixing things around the house on your own.

Most homestead parents understand the importance of passing on these vital skills to their children.

Why Should Your Children Know How to Homestead?

Children of this current generation have become over-reliant on the system. They get their food ready-made, their clothes already sewn and their water already piped to their homes with no knowledge of how to get these things for themselves. If the system was to crash then they would be left helpless with no idea of how to survive on their own.

Homesteading instills in them an attitude of self-sufficiency. It gives them the information and experience that they would need to fend for themselves in any situation. With such an attitude, they are well-prepared to cope should the world change in an unexpected manner.

As a parent, it is your duty to ensure that your child has all of the skills required to make it in a world whose future is uncertain. Most parents opt to give them regular schooling, but that education is sorely lacking in survival skills.

What Skills Will They Need to Learn?

Sewing and knitting were skills traditionally left to women, but there is no room for gender bias in the 21st century. Your sons need to know how sew, knit and do their laundry and your daughters should know how to change a tire or learn which way to turn a screw to open it.

Fixing things around the house is another job that both boys and girls need to know how to do. The time may come when your daughter is the only one on the homestead and she can’t afford to wait around for someone else to come and fix the leaky faucet. All it takes is the right tools and the right mindset and she can get it fixed on her own.

Hunting is a tough job and not just as simple as chasing down rabbits. Children in the homestead must be taught how to track animals through the forest and bait them so that they can become efficient hunters. Along with hunting they also must know how to butcher the kill, clean and salt it if necessary so that it can be preserved.

Hunting is good if the animal stocks are low but animal husbandry is there to provide a more convenient source of animal produce. Teach your kids how to milk cows, water them and muck out their stables. These are simple jobs that even a young child can learn to perfect.

Naturally, they will love some chores more than others. Your outdoorsy children will prefer working on the farm, while some will be more comfortable with household chores. This is great opportunity to teach them how to work together. As long as you have taught them how to do each job individually, then you can let them share out the responsibilities among themselves.

How to Get Them Motivated

Children who are born on homesteads adjust easily to the rural way of life. If your family has just moved to the homestead from the suburbs or the city, then your kids will have a hard time adjusting to the new lifestyle.

If your children grew up in the city before they moved to live on a homestead then you can expect a fair amount of resistance to the hard, physical chores. They are used to how their lives were before and probably don’t understand the values of what you are trying to teach them.

Cash allowances will get them motivated at first. However, personal responsibility is one of the forgotten traits that you are trying to teach them so try not to make their learning how to homestead too reliant on rewards. You want them to know why they have to learn those skills so always take the time to talk to them and explain to them why it is important to learn how to homestead.

Hold them accountable for all of their responsibilities and stick to strict ‘no excuses’ policy. If a job needs to get done then it has to be done. That’s the reality of how hard life can be and the sooner they learn it the better adapted they will be to handle whatever crisis comes their way.

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Memory Quilt continued, Embroidering Names on Photo Quilt Blocks

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A few posts ago, I introduced you to a Memory Quilt that I recently made for a family member who was celebrating a landmark birthday.  Just as it is important to identify the photos that you take, I felt it was important to machine embroider family names the quilt blocks.  People change over time, and it is helpful to identify who these beloved family members are now.
Those who are familiar with Machine Embroidery, you know that Stabilizer is a required element to embroider anything.  There are many types to choose from, but I find that I am using this type more often with many of my projects :  World Weidner Self-Adhesive Sticky Peel N Stick Tear Away Embroidery Stabilizer Backing 8″x10 Yard Roll.  What I like about this project is that you can readjust your fabric without taking the hoop apart. this is a very important convenience that saves me time and I feel helps me to quickly get my projects ready to start.
You may be wondering why I am being so specific about the type (not the brand) stabilizer.  Well, it is because I tried to use it efficiently when embroidering on my blocks.  Stabilizer can be costly, so being efficient with its use is just smart.  I tried to embroider on the photos before I made the blocks and it was just too difficult for this quilt. I found that it was easier to embroider on the finished blocks. They were easier to position and center using self-adhesive stabilizer.
I started positioning the first block near the top of the hoop. After your embroidery is finished, I folded the bottom of the block upward.
Slide you next block just under the first block.
Your machine most likely came with a grid tool to help you center your project. I used this tool to center and place my next block on the hoop.  Then I used the settings on my machine to show me the size of the name I wanted to embroider. Sometimes I had to adjust the name up or down using the settings on my machine.
Firmly press your blocks on to the self-adhesive stabilizer.  Embroider your names until you have used the full length of your stabilizer contained within your hoop.
After you remove your hoop from you machine, start removing the bottom block from your stabilizer.  
When you have finished removing all the blocks, your stabilizer should look like this.
Soooo, what is the finished project like?  Here it a section of the quilt in all of it’s glory!  My family member states that she has shown this to many friends and neighbors. Reportedly they enjoy it as much as my beloved family member does.

It’s a Matter of making Memories

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Isn’t it cool?  Just like the phrase in the old commercial….”I can’t believe I ate the whole thing….”,  well I can truly say “I can’t believe I made this thing!”.
One of my family members had one of those “Landmark” Birthday’s recently.  I felt that I needed to make something special and memorable for her.  About 10 years ago, I ventured out and made a memory quilt along with photo’s for my In law’s 50th Wedding anniversary.  At that time, I had to trust my photo’s to a little Mom and Pop shop and they transferred the pictures on to fabric.  Fast Forward a few years and you now can do this yourself at home.  Want to learn more?  Let’s do it!

How To Transfer Photo’s onto Fabric at Home:

Before you begin, you will need to purchase 100% white cotton fabric, which needs to be pre-washed before you begin this process.  I took over a bathroom in my house to do this.  I set out a towel to protect my counter, got 2 containers that were not dear to me, and set out the supplies:
  • Clothespins
  • 2 Pie tins
  • Cotton squares
  • Latex gloves
  • ….and the solutions.
This is Bubble Jet Set 2000.  I purchased mine from Amazon. 
Soak the fabric squares in the solution.
Set up a place to hang your squares to dry.  I was able to use yarn and rig this clothesline over a bathtub.
Once the squares are dry, press them flat, then press them onto Freezer Paper.  Now, here is a quick trick that I learned.  I used my paper cutter and cut several sheets of Freezer paper to an 8 x 11 inch size.  I found that I could re-use each sheet of Freezer paper over and over.  
Place your Cloth-Freezer Paper into your printer.  I learned that I needed to slightly curl the edge of the Freezer paper (that was going into the printer) slightly upward so that the printer could grab it and feed it through.  
If you don’t do this, you get the mess on the right!  It bunches up inside of your printer, or gets stuck.  I have to say that I ruined too many pieces of fabric and freezer paper until I figured this out!  
Next, you will need the Bubble Jet Rinse.  FYI, here are the directions on the Bubble Jet set 2000 and they state the following:

“Print on treated Fabric and let sit 30 minutes.  Take a flat pan or bowl with one gallon of cold water (add 4 caps of Bubble Jet Rinse/gallon).  Wash printed fabric by hand for at least 2 minutes.  Allow fabric to drip dry or lay flat on a towel” 

See how colorful the printed fabric is?
After the squares were dry, I ironed them and made my quilting squares.  Didn’t they turn out wonderfully?  “I can’t believe I did the whole thing!”.

Take Home Points:

  • This can be easily done at home.
  • It is very cost effective to do. When I took my photos to the Mom and Pop shop 10 years ago, it cost over $125.00 to do this.  Also, 10 years ago, the printed fabric was only the size of the photo.  With this system, I could re-size the photo and crop it to fit before printing on the fabric.
  • Cut your Freezer Paper to an 8×11 size and reuse the sheets.
  • I learned that cutting your fabric closer to the 8″ width allowed you to cut the square to fit inside the quilt square in a way that looks the best.  
  • Sometimes photos that are in landscape are difficult to crop or resize. In that case, I left strips of ‘white’ above and below the photos after cutting it for my quilting square. It really looked fine in the finished product. 
  • It’s just amazing!
  • This project will hopefully bring joy to my family member for many years to come.

Getting Back into Sewing As a Life Skill

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Getting Back into Sewing As a Life Skill via The Survival Mom

Back to school is a good time to sew things. Not only are the kids out of the house, but it’s prime season to organize and take some time out for mom. You may have once learned how to sew, perhaps back in Home Ec classes, but the fall is a great season to pick up sewing, again. I’ve found it to be a creative outlet that focuses my attention on producing something highly useful, while learning a practical life skill at the same time.

If you never learned to sew, you’ll want a handy, simple-to-follow sewing manual that will walk you through the entire process. Sewing isn’t rocket science, but you’ll definitely need instruction of some kind.

During this time of year, sewing clothing for the kids is one possibility, but dorm room essentials, school bags, pencil pouches, pillow cases, and a whole host of other small craft items are totally doable as well. I know my kids’ pencil pouches seem to fall apart in the time it takes to ride the bus to school the first day! Fabric pouches, especially those made of heavier fabrics, last sooo much longer and are super easy to make. For a little project like that, I like to use small, inexpensive pieces from the remnants area.

Getting (re)equipped

First, you’ll need a machine. The brand names that come to mind aren’t the best quality out there (best quality is rarely the most common), but they do make some serviceable, inexpensive machines for beginners. These should come with a few basic “feet,” such as a buttonhole foot, to get you started. You will also want a sewing machine case  to keep lint and dust out of your machine. This helps it stay in good working condition. Many machines come with their own case.

There are a lot of considerations when you choose a machine, but the most basic are what you will use it for and how much you will use it. (Here and here are two more sets of reviews; sewing without electricity is not discussed here.) For very light use, a back-up machine, or for younger sewers, the Brother XL2600I is a solid, and very affordable, choice at around $80. If you master hemming pants, it will pay for itself in very short order.

A machine suitable for heavier use, the Singer Sewing 4423 Heavy Duty is a good mechanical machine and still under $200. It looks like the one my Mom used in the 1970s. For more advanced sewers, and those who plan to machine embroider  or quilt, the Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist or a Brother SE400 are both feature-rich and under $400.

You will also want:

Personally, I strongly prefer using quilting pins because they are larger and easier to use. I also have a big magnet wand I can wave across the floor or table to pick up random pins I dropped and didn’t see. It’s like magic!

Sewing School has a great series of articles on what supplies you need to get started sewing and how to set up your sewing area. They even have some basic hints on buying a used sewing machine.

Setting up

Part of what re-inspired my sewing was finally – finally – getting a table and space for my machine. I moved the tubs of material and other sewing supplies out of the basement, and set up the iron and ironing machine near by. (My husband was amazed to learn I actually know how these pieces of equipment work.)

It’s really easy to skip the “iron this” part of the instructions for sewing, but it really does help and it doesn’t take long to do. Most of the time it’s either sewing interfacing so it attaches to fabric or ironing seams so they lay flat and are easier to sew. It really does make the seams easier to sew. Interfacing is a thin but somewhat stiff material that is layered between 2 pieces of fabric to give such things as collars or cuffs a bit of body. Attaching the interfacing by ironing, not sewing, is critical because ironing the two pieces together makes the fabric firmer so your finished garment holds its shape.

It’s also important to have good light and a handy trash can for all the little scraps. A large open space for laying out and cutting patterns nearby is good, but you can really do that anywhere, including a clean kitchen or dining room table.

Fabric, patterns, and notions

Find a pattern you love that’s at your level (I look for the word “easy”) and in your size. A range of sizes are marked on the front. The back of the pattern will tell you how much material you need and it will be different based on size and fabric width. Generally, fabric is either 45″ or 60″. There will also be a list of required “notions” such as buttons, zippers, thread, bias tape, etc. as well as any interfacing needed.

If you read the list of supplies carefully and make sure to buy the correct amount of fabric for your size, you should be ready to sew.

Online, you can buy regular patterns or download patterns in .pdf form. Some are free, others are not. I’m excited about some of the amazing vintage patterns that are available for free, but I think making a .pdf into a useable pattern may be a pain I don’t want to handle. I found some great lots on eBay and also had a friend give me a stack of them.

I was very excited to get patterns for $2 ($5 for Vogue) at Hancock Fabric liquidation sale, but I have heard that they go on sale for about that price fairly often. So keep an eye out for pattern sales. List price for the ones I purchased ranged from $15 to $28 with Vogue having the higher priced patterns. From what I have read, some of the difference is based on how good the instructions are and some is based on how well made the actual pattern is. I have really enjoyed the Kwik Sew patterns I made, but the actual patterns are printed on paper instead of tissue paper, which is just weird, and is extremely simplistic compared to others. (That’s not a bad thing when you are starting out!)

Walmart and JoAnn’s

Don’t dismiss Walmart for your basic sewing needs!  There isn’t a fabric store near me any more so I’ve stopped in Walmart more than once for notions and interfacing I needed to finish a project. They have basic items, such as bobbins and cutting boards as well. I made a fun robe for my little boy from a $5 fleece blanket. My favorite item I’ve made so far is a circle skirt that uses fabric I bought for $1 / yard on clearance at Walmart. In fairness, it’s a bit of a coarse cotton weave, and not nearly as soft as the fabric from better stores, but I love the pattern. And it was perfect for a Retro ’47 Butterick pattern!

That said, I really need to go to JoAnn Fabric for the 14″ invisible coral zipper I need. I will never, ever find that at Walmart. While I haven’t done any real research, I think JoAnn’s may be the last remaining large fabric chain. Obviously, they have a far larger selection than Walmart, and generally higher quality items. Whenever I need something specific, including new patterns, I go there.

Walmart does have a small selection of patterns, but the last remaining major fabric chain undoubtedly needs any help it can get from paying customers, so I will try to patronize them whenever possible.

Sewing as a life skill

Once you have decided on your first project and have all your supplies, it’s time to get started. Fill your bobbin and thread the machine before you do anything else to make sure you remember how to do it and that the machine is in working order. If you’ve never done this before, it’s just a matter of following a diagram that comes in the machine’s instruction manual.

Once you know the machine is up and running, cut out the pattern and start sewing, stopping, as necessary, to rip things apart and say nasty things about the sewing machine and it’s parentage if things don’t go well. The proper tool for ripping things apart is called a seam ripper and is another basic, essential tool. I use mine – a lot. Way, way too much. On one robe, I sewed the first arm in upside down.

The dressmakers chalk mentioned in the Getting (re)equipped section is very handy for transferring markings such as gathering marks and circles onto your pattern. You can also use it to mark the inside of fabrics that are almost, but not quite, reversible. It really is no fun to finish a pair of pants only to realize the sheen of the fabric is different from left to right or front to back because you used different sides of the fabric on different areas.

You can use other chalk if you want, even sidewalk chalk, but dressmakers chalk has a nice little handhold and cover so you don’t get chalk all over the place.

The most important point is that you must follow the instructions on the pattern. With experience, you can be a little more free about modifying it, but not when you are first getting re-started. If you get stuck on some part, YouTube is a wonderful resource. I found the Kwik Sew patterns did the best job of explaining techniques, so they are a good place to start for your first few items.

Pinterest and sewing ideas

There are actually a lot of great looking free patterns and sewing advice on Pinterest. I was amazed at all the different patterns that are available now, in stores as well as online. In addition to basic pants, skirts, blouses, and nightwear, I now have patterns for hats, gloves, laptop bags, and an ironing board cover. You can make anything! I know that sounds obvious, but I found a patterns for men’s underwear and doggie Halloween costumes.

Creativity is important in sewing. I had barely a half yard of a fun polka dot fabric but most patterns require two or three yards, and almost no piece of clothing can be made with less than a yard. My solution was to use it as an accent on a coordinating top and skirt. It came out great! It could also have become a clutch bag, a band along the bottom of a skirt, a pillow case… so many things! When you sew, your options can seem nearly as endless as the stacks of fabric you acquire.

For me, the biggest benefit of sewing is that I can make things I would never find in stores. I love – love – flannel, but I’m not big on lumberjack shirts or floral nightgowns. So far, I have made a lavender flannel tank top, a lavender and black tunic top, and a purple tie-die print nightgown. They feel lovely, and they make me smile. What more can you ask for?

Getting Back into Sewing As a Life Skill via The Survival Mom

How to Repair Fasteners on Field Gear and Clothing

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repair fasteners

Sewing supplies

Hopefully you have stocked up on a good selection of sewing supplies.  So you look in your supplies and find a zipper repair kit.  Instead of having to rip out the old one, which you may or may not have a replacement for, you can save time and money by replacing what is wrong with it.  I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to replace zippers in coats and jackets, even in jeans.

These are some of the types of kits, I found on the internet:

  • Zipper kit for; outdoor gear like tents, backpacks and tents
  • Zipper kit for: clothing
  • Zipper kit for; tab replacement
  • Ezy zipper Glide; helps with sticky zippers
repair fasteners

Zipper repair kits

Now this is just one example of how you can solve a problem with a little bit of preplanning.  Depending on your needs, you may want to stock some or all of the following.

  • Sewing machine needles of the following types: regular point, (fine point) ballpoint, (knit material) and chisel point (leather) Sizes 9 for the thinnest to 16 the thickest.
  • Crocheting needles all sizes
  • Knitting needles all sizes
  • Quilting needles all sizes
  • Hand sewing needles; sizes #1 to 10, plus heavy-duty needles, for carpet, canvas, tents, leather, mattress and furs.
  • Self- threading needles (for bad eyes) yes I have several packages.  Just don’t pull to hard or the thread comes out of slot.
  • Grommets all sizes and shapes (good for canvas and heavy duty material) a good source is Amazon
  • repair fasteners

    Snaps all sizes and needed tools

    Snaps, all sizes – a good source is Amazon

  • Regular and pinking shears
  • Seam ripper, it’s a one in a million tool (I own three)
  • Extra bobbins for your machine
  • Pincushions
  • Threat in all sizes and strengths
  • Buttons
  • Canvas strapping various weights
  • Thimbles, If you are having to sew heavy materials by hand you will need them.
  • Speedy stitcher
repair fasteners

This works great for stitching heavy materials

My husband sometimes comes home with military surplus that he finds in garage sales.  We go through and look for damaged items, if they are beyond repair; we remove any usable straps and fasteners before throwing them out.

Think about what items you need to have on hand to repair fasteners on your clothing and field gear.  You need to try to repair a few items now before and emergency, this will help you to develop your skill and help you decide what to put in your preps.

Preparedness Mom

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Survival Mom DIY: Homemade Sewing Patterns

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DIY sewing patterns-

Sewing is a great skill to know and some people are extremely skilled to the point of artistry. I’ll be honest, though, if you have a needle and some thread, you can eventually figure out how to sew. It may not be something you can sell on Etsy, but you could create simple things with enough time and patience, especially if you could make homemade sewing patterns.

I’m a mostly self-taught seamstress (and I might be going a little far calling myself that), but I can sew pillows, skirts, simple dresses, pajama pants, nightgowns and simple dresses for dolls with my sewing machine. I can patch up clothing and stuffed animals (a very important mom skill). I had one lesson from a friend on how to use my machine and make a skirt and since then, I’ve been on my own.

I’ll make a confession: I don’t really know how to sew with a store-bought pattern. I’m sure I could learn, but I’ve been making my own homemade sewing patterns and it’s a nice skill to have. Imagine being able to make clothing for your growing children, new babies or pregnant women if the stores were not an option.

If you want to try sewing with homemade patterns, you’ll need:

  • Fabric and thread
  • Good scissors
  • Sewing machine (or needle and thread)
  • Pins
  • Butcher paper or blue washable fabric pen
  • Measuring tape
  • Original item to base pattern on

Basic instructions to make homemade sewing patterns

The secret to creating your own pattern is knowing that sewing involves a ½” seam allowance. That means that when you sew two pieces of fabric together the thread is sewn ½” from the edge.

The first step is to take the item you are basing the pattern off of and trace it on butcher paper or on the fabric you are going to use (with the blue pen). You will need to trace it by each piece of fabric that is sewn together, such as tracing the sleeves separately from the shirt (you can do this by tucking in the sleeves when tracing the shirt). If there are exact duplicate pieces of fabric like the front and back of a skirt, you only need to trace one copy.

Either you want to make an exact copy of the item you are sewing or change its size.

If you are doing an exact copy, you will want to add a ½” between the item and where you draw your line wherever you will sew. When I say to put an extra 1/2” wherever you sew, this includes hems, although you may want to do 1” for a hem to give you more room to fold the fabric under. You will not want to add any space for any place the fabric will be continuous. Pajama pants and sleeves have a place where the fabric is traced, but not sewn. You will usually go about this by tracing the continuous part on a folded edge of fabric.

To change an item’s size, you will want to measure how much bigger or smaller you want the item to be and after you add or subtract that amount to the tracing, add ½” allowance for where the fabric will be sewn together.

Pajama pants (elastic waist)

Pajama pants are one of the easiest items to use to learn how to make your own pattern. I have done this for my children and they are easy to adjust. I found a pair that was very comfortable for one of them and traced it. I added some length and width for the older ones and subtracted a little for the youngest. I added ½” on the outside and inside of the pant legs and 1” at the bottom for the hem and 2” at the top to create a pocket for the elastic.

I cut out two pieces based on the pattern, sewed them together, hemmed the bottoms and then folded the top over to create a pocket, leaving an opening for fishing elastic through. Measure the elastic based on a waist measurement and add the ½” allowance to it. Get a big safety pin and pin it on the end of the elastic to easily fish it through the pocket. Then, pin the ends of the elastic together and sew it and then sew the pocket opening closed.

This same technique could be used for a simple skirt with an elastic waist.

Nightgown or simple shirt (sleeves)

A nightgown or simple shirt involves the body of the shirt and the sleeves. For the body of the shirt, you will need to add a ½” seam allowance to the sides and the sleeve holes. Add 1” to the bottom for hemming. For the neckline, you can either add no seam allowance and use bias tape or add 1” and hem it. Bias tape is when you cut cloth on the bias (diagonal) to give the cloth more stretch, like around the neckline. You cut it four times the width you want and fold each side in to the middle twice. You then attach the fabric to the middle of the fold and sew it on.

When it comes to attaching the sleeves, you will want to know how to do a gathering stitch. You sew a stitch along the edge of the fabric where you attach it to the body set at the longest width. Then you can gently pull on the thread at the end and gather the fabric a little bit. This can allow you to attach the sleeve and keep the fabric smooth.

If you need more help to try out this skill, you can also find free basic patterns with descriptions and instructions online. These are different from the patterns you can buy in the store. Many of the online versions will take you step by step and show you how to alter it for a different size.

You can create your own homemade sewing patterns out of anything you have in your house made of fabric. In my house, we have made clothing for dolls, mattresses for doll bunk bed, purses, bags, animal-shaped pillows and different items of clothing. The more you practice creating your own patterns from items you have, the more confident you can get in your sewing abilities and can probably start creating patterns from your own imaginations and drawings to either create things you need that you don’t have or just for fun.

DIY sewing patterns-FB size

Sewing Supplies, You Need at Least a Minimum Kit

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sewing suppliesWell folks our grandson is getting married in a few weeks, so of course we are having the round of bridal showers for his fiancé.  I thought this would be a good time to fill a new sewing box I had picked up.  I couldn’t tell if she was kidding or not but she looked at it and said, ”what is this for.”  Everyone laughed, but how many girls out there don’t know how to sew or what sewing supplies they need..

Over the years, I have had many friends ask me to fix their clothes for them.  Sewing was taught in school when I went to school.  The schools don’t teach any domestic skills to the girls any more.  Sewing, cooking, darning socks, mending clothes, it’s all a lost art.

If you have children, they should know the few things that would get them by, instead of always paying someone to do it.  Even the boys and I know a few that can sew and it has come in handy for them.  I know it’s easier to go out and have someone else do it, but there will come a day in which you may not have that option.

I fixed a sewing basket for her to help her get started.  Every family should have these items as a minimum in their preps,

This is a list of the sewing supplies I got together for her.

  • Thread all colors, lots of it
  • Needles of all sizes, they are very inexpensive and would be hard to get after an emergency
  • Darning needle for socks and a light bulb or a wooden darning egg
  • Thimble, this is very important to protect your fingers especially using heavy materials
  • Sewing machine needles
  • Bobbins for machine
  • Seam ripper
  • Elastic, all widths
  • Iron on tape for hems (Temporary)
  • Straight pins, a good selection of all sizes
  • Iron on patches
  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors, both regular and pinking shears
  • Tracing paper and tracing wheel, for use with patterns
  • You should consider finding basis patterns in the sizes to fit your family.
  • A sewing book “How to get started” is very important.
  • A bag of buttons different sizes and colors
  • Material, I didn’t give her any material, but you should have stock of heavy and light weight materials

These sewing supplies should be handy in all households especially in any emergency.  Of course, I also have a treadle sewing machine for when no electric is available.  These machines can be found pretty reasonably.  I have seen them in antique stores for $70.00 of course they might need a few belts but you can get them on the internet, they have a lot of parts for old machines, on the internet.

If you can’t buy food, you probably won’t be able to buy clothes.  If you don’t know how to sew, it is time to learn, you might want to find a mentor or class.

Preparedness Mom


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7 Ways to Re-Purpose Old T-Shirts

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7 Ways to Re-Purpose Old T-Shirts via The Survival Mom

The t-shirt is probably one of the most ubiquitous articles of clothing in American society. People like them because they are comfortable, easily customizable in terms of graphic design and color, and inexpensive to manufacture. Ninety percent of my husband’s wardrobe consists of t-shirts given to him by his old employer. As such, they tend to accumulate, as I discovered a few years ago when we were moving house. Why did we have so many? How many t-shirts does one human being need, for crying out loud?

T-shirts do wear out, but more often than not, we just get tired of wearing them. But what if a given shirt represents a cherished family event, or a favorite vacation, or some other treasured memory? You wouldn’t want to throw it away or give it away, but if if it’s no longer the right size, you can’t exactly wear it any more. The only recourse is to stash all these old articles of clothing in a box in the attic for some unspecified future date, mouldering and forgotten.

I invite you to consider another option: re-purpose the fabric to make a whole host of useful items. Scads and scads of ideas are at our fingertips, thanks to the Internet. It would be impossible to make a truly exhaustive list, but here are some of my favorites:



T-shirt quilts made by the author.

I can’t think of many situations where an extra quilt would be a bad thing. (Consider, for example, reasons to stockpile blankets.) I’ve made several, both for myself and for my kids, and they love them. Quilts made from t-shirt fabric are warm, cozy, and have a really nice weight to them that makes you want to snuggle under the covers with a good book.

It takes me about 7-10 shirts (depending on the size) to make a twin-size quilt. If you’re using smaller blocks, like what is shown in the picture, you won’t be limited to full-sized t-shirts; any knit fabric will do. I have been known to use old baby onesies for these. I like to use t-shirt sheets sourced from second-hand stores for the backing. The t-shirt quilts that I have made are hand-tied, but it’s also possible to use traditional quilting methods as well. For more ideas on t-shirt quilts, check out this tutorial.

If you like the idea but don’t have the time or know-how to make your own quilt, you could outsource the job to a company like this one.

Other Clothing from T-Shirts

The possibilities for this category alone are truly endless. (I’m serious – check out this wedding dress someone made out of Hanes shirts!)

Baby shirts

In 2004 I bought a commemorative shirt as a gift for a family member while I was touring a foreign country. Unfortunately, it didn’t fit him. Or anyone else, for that matter, until I cut down the fancy foreign tee shirt to fit my son, who was one year old at the time. It turned out so well, I made several more, mostly out of those free shirts my husband got from work. These were a huge hit with his co-workers. I happened to have a pattern for a child’s tee, but if you don’t have one lying around the house, you can check out this tutorial, which includes a pdf for a pattern. As another option, you could trace a shirt that you already have on hand.

Yoga pants 

Mine are made from a size XL t-shirt of my husband’s. The elastic waistline is such that I was able to comfortably wear it as pajamas whether I was pregnant or not.

A little girl’s nightgown or kid’s nightshirt

I did this for my daughter, and it was a hit.

What if I don’t have a serger?

This is a question I hear a lot when I tell people about all the crazy things I’ve sewn from old t-shirts. Sergers are great for making really nice, professional-looking, finished seams, but owning a serger is not a prerequisite for sewing with knits. I, myself, do not own one and have had zero problems putting together anything I wanted to make. Some helpful tips for sewing with knits can be found here and here.

If sewing of any kind is not really for you, consider some t-shirt projects that do not require – at all – the use of a sewing machine.

FREE: Download The Survival Mom’s mini-guide to handicrafts: sewing, knitting, crochet, and quilting with many, many more ideas and links to projects!

Re-Purpose Old T-Shirts into Rag Rugs

Perhaps not perfectly oval (it was the author's first try) but perfectly functional. Made from t shirts and blue jeans.

Perhaps not perfectly oval (it was the author’s first try) but perfectly functional. Made from t shirts and blue jeans.

Ok, I admit it – this option is not really a good way to memorialize a treasured article of clothing. I mean, it’s a rug. It’s going to get stepped on and if you’re lucky, your kids will only ever spill chocolate milk on it. I include it anyway because a) it’s something you can do with scraps of fabric (any kind – doesn’t have to be from t-shirts!) and b) rugs made from t-shirt fabric feel really nice on your bare feet.

The traditional method of rag-rug making involves braiding strips of fabric for about a mile or so, and then sewing them up in a spiral. I’ve tried this several times and it never works out well for me; the edges curl up and I end up with a braided fabric bowl.

I prefer this no-sew version, which involves braiding the next row into the previous one as you work in the round. This method also has the added benefit of allowing you to see in real time the exact size of your finished product. I’ve made two rugs in the last year and a half and they are holding up quite well. When they get dirty, I can toss them in the wash and they come out fine.

Shag rugs are another possibility, whether you are thinking of making a hooked rug out of a burlap sack, or this other version that uses a sewing machine.

Tote Bags

If it’s good enough for Martha Stewart, it’s probably ok for you, too. Alternately, see this tutorial here. This project is simple enough for a child to do, and would make a good group activity.


I’m not talking about a small mountain lake (thank you, Internet dictionary). I’m referring to
yarn made from t-shirts
. This can then be used to knit or crochet items of your choice. Dishcloths are a popular option. Check out this pinterest board for additional inspiration.

Have any of you explored the many things that can be done with old t-shirts? We’ve love to hear about it in the comments!

7 Ways to Re-Purpose Old T-Shirts via The Survival Mom

It’s a Matter of Fixing Mistakes When Sewing Machine Embroidery Projects!

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Fixing Machine Embroidery mistakes!
Yes, I have been playing and learning more about my Embroidery Machine.  I promise, there have been several ‘mess-ups’ and some were beyond repair.   Case-in-point, I have some dish towels hanging in my kitchen that are the left-over-beyond-repair-projects.  They work just fine…..they just look a bit funny.
Yesterday, I was using my machine to embroider a design on a little pull-over for my Grandson.  He loves Minions, Trains, and Angry Birds……which gives me plenty of material to try!

How to Fix Some Mistakes When Using Machine Embroidery!

As I mentioned before, I am still in a learning phase with my Embroidery Machine, mostly because I don’t have a tremendous amount of time to focus on it.  I have attended courses and read about embroidering on ready-made pieces of clothing.  I’ll be honest, some of it seems like too much time to invest in a little person’s garment! So, I purchased a fleece pull-over yesterday from the local membership club.  It made a great blank canvas to try something new.
First, I decided to unpick one side seam to open up the garment. This way I could lay it as flat as possible.  The seam was coming apart so well that I thought I could rip the seam apart.  BIG MISTAKE!!!!  I ended up ripping the fleece!  Luckily it ripped along side of the seam!  I knew I could fix that bit of poor judgement later.
Fixing Machine Embroidery mistakes!
Well, trying to entertain a 4-year-old with Lincoln logs and a Lego Car Wash while attempting this was quite a distraction.  Any errors that I made were not his fault, they are totally mine.  I love his desire to include me in his play.  I ended up having a the Car Wash on my counter as I sewed.
Here is how I began.  I used a ‘sticky back’ stabilizer that allows me to hoop the stabilizer, score the ‘wax paper top’ and pull this layer away.  This allows me to carefully place my garment on the ‘sticky’ layer.  The Fleece was a bit thick to hoop.  I began stitching my design.  As I mentioned, there was a cute distraction nearby, and realized I had uploaded the wrong design!  Initially I removed the hoop and tried to unpick the microscopic stitches.  Then, I decided to upload the correct design and see how much of the error I could cover.  Yes, I know….this is LAZY!  However, I saw it as a way to save my sanity…..and the garment.
Fixing Machine Embroidery mistakes!
Well as luck would have it, many of the ‘errors’ were being covered by the correct design.
Fixing Machine Embroidery mistakes!
Even when the image was complete, there were still stitches from the 1st (error) design.  See the arrows, they show the remaining errand stitches.
Fixing Machine Embroidery mistakes!
Okay, for round two of my mistake-making.  My little 4-year-old visitor wanted to try the ‘Engine’.  (That is his word for my Embroidery Machine as he says it is loud like a Train Engine).  I was letting him use the touch screen to enter his name.  I positioned his name above the embroidery pattern and cued my little visitor to push the ‘green go button”.  It started stitching nicely….until I ran out of bobbin thread. (Isn’t that they way it always goes?).  My little friend ran off to play until I ‘fixed it’.  I then discovered that we had put an ‘a’ instead of an ‘e’ in the program which would mean that we would be spelling his name wrong.  
Here was my dilemma, if I cancelled the ‘pattern’, I would lose the correct placement of the letters I had already sewn.  If I let it continue, I would not only have to unpick the wrong letter, but also have to try to line it all up again and insert the correct letter.  (Didn’t I tell you this was a series of errors?).  I finally decided to try to ‘skip’ the error letter by cuing my machine to move to the next letter in the series.  Do you know what?  It worked!

Now, I had a missing letter.  I deleted the pattern, and just entered ‘e’.  I used the arrows on my machine to try to line up the letter to fit where it should.  Initially when I tried to embroider the ‘e’, it was too low and the horizontal bar of the middle part of the ‘e’ was where the bottom of the letter should be.  I repositioned and touched the needle in the middle until I found the place where it should go.  Eureka, I worked! An added bonus was that the stitching of the “e” covered my initial lettering mistake. 
I did have to unpick the areas that were not covered. However, the task was much less than it would have been if I had tried to remove the entire stitching error area before adding the correct embroidery pattern.  It only took a few minutes. I always try to unpick from the underside. With a material like fleece, it was easier to see the stitches and remove them.
Fixing Machine Embroidery mistakes!
Next, I had the issue of the torn fleece.  As I noted before, it tore along the seam line.  I used a straight stitch to reestablish the seam.
Fixing Machine Embroidery mistakes!
Then, I serged the edge to make it look as clean as the other edges inside.  So, how was it received? 
Fixing Machine Embroidery mistakes!
“I wove it Nonnie!”  Translation:  “I love it Nonnie” (I am his Grandmother and that is my ‘grandma’ name).  He almost wore it to bed. He has already ate a Tootsie pop (which his Grandpa gave him) and got a few pieces of sucker stuck to it. A true sign that he really loves it.
  • Even with the best plans, mistakes happen.
  • Try to do things like this without a cute distraction!
  • Even errors can be overcome if you catch them soon enough
  • Covering errors with a design is a viable option
  • Skipping part of your design (when in error) is a successful strategy.
  • Using ready-made clothing is so great because you don’t have to assemble the garment as well.
  • This has taught me: 1) have PATIENCE (which is often in short supply with these types of tasks), and 2) I can do this again and may try something a little more difficult.
  • Even with the drama, I enjoyed the antics and precious time I had to spend with a cute little 4-year-old Grandson!

It’s a Matter of an Easy Neighbor Gift!

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Are you finalizing your Christmas plans only to find a few friends who may not have made the list?  If so, here is a fun and easy gift you can put together rather quickly!

Making a Treat Bag from a Dish Towel:

I saw this gift option at my local sewing store.
The instructions are published by Brother.
I am blessed enough to have a  sewing machine that can do Machine Embroidery.  The Instructions from Brother direct you to embroider your design near your hem border.  If you do not have such a machine, you could cut a square of holiday fabric and applique it to the towel.  The design that I chose is an “Anita Goodesign” entitle “Christmas Pot Holders”.
Fold up each edge and sew along the sides (at the 8″ mark) with “Water Soluble Thread” in the needle and traditional thread in the bobbin. 
Next, open the corner of the towel and sew across it to form the corner (at 3 and 1/2 “). Press.
Using Safety pins, secure them from the inside of your Treat bag on the back and sides.  Turn the bag inside out and thread your ribbon through the ‘loops’. 
Place all your fun goodies in the bag. I am including Bread (made from my Bread maker), Hot cocoa packets and a couple of ornaments for the recipients.
Bring the flap down over your treats and tie it up with the ribbon you have threaded through the safety pin loops.
The Instructions from Brother included a poem that should be attached. I didn’t particularly care for their version so I decided to get poetic and write poem. 
“As we celebrate this Christmas Season
Let’s remember that He is the reason.
He gave us life and the gift of choice.
He gave us redemption that we may hear his voice.
Like the gift of forgiveness, this bag can transform 
Just wet the seams to give it a new purpose to perform.
A towel will emerge where a treat bag once was
To serve you and yours, have a  Merry Christmas!”
Merry Christmas From Our Family To Yours. 

25 Ways People Earned Money During the Great Depression

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great depression earn moneyIn a previous career, I was a history teacher, and I’ve always loved learning about the past and gleaning whatever wisdom I can from the words and actions of others.

A couple of years ago I found an excellent book with dozens of first-person accounts from the Great Depression, We Had Everything But MoneyI’ve spent hours reading through anecdotes, touching, humorous, and poignant, and one thing that struck me was the ingenuity of the Americans who lived through those tough times. Many continued to find ways to earn money, even when their own circumstances were dire.

I put together this list. Feel free to add any others that you know of.

To earn money, people:

1. Caught and sold fish, clams, and crabs

2. Made homemade fudge and sold it

3. Sold newspapers on the corner. Kids earned a little extra if they were promoted to “Corner Captain”, a sort of Great Depression multi-level marketing program where a kid brought in other kids to sell papers and earned a bit extra himself.

4. Started a lunch truck/wagon

5. Grew, picked, and sold berries

6. Road work

7. Shoveled snow on roads

8. Multiple part-time jobs, including housecleaning

9. Chopped wood or harvested driftwood

10. Made and sold handwoven baskets

11. Mowed lawns and other kinds of yard work

12. Door to door sales of things like shoes or sewing notions

13. Made deliveries for stores

14. Made and sold quilts

15. Sold homemade baked goods, like bread or pies

16. Sold eggs for 25 cents a dozen

17. Childcare

18. Rented out rooms

19. Mended or altered clothes

20. Washed windows

21. Would purchase produce and re-sell door-to-door

22. Sold apples

23. Loaded coal

24. Piecework sewing

25. Sold homegrown produce

In every case it was a simple matter of looking around to see what people needed, what they wanted, what made them feel good about themselves and about life. Years ago a hairdresser friend of mine said, “Lisa, even if the economy collapsed tomorrow, women still want to look pretty. I would do business out of my home and probably continue to earn pretty good money.”

This is why some people who have lived through economic collapses say that beauty products, such as lipstick, eye shadow, and lotions, are good items for barter.

In addition to these creative entrepreneurial efforts, don’t forget that many people found work in the various Depression-era works programs as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, and keep in mind that these people had practical skills that folks today just don’t have. Perhaps some of these might be good additions to your own skillbank:

  • Rendering lard
  • Caring for livestock of all kinds
  • Smoking meat, poultry, and fish
  • Butchering all types of animals from squirrels to hogs, cattle, and other “varmints”
  • Foraging
  • Sewing by hand or with a non-electric sewing machine
  • Raising flourishing gardens
  • Preserving food by canning
  • Tinkering — Knowing how to fix all kinds of things.

As you can see, many of these skills go hand in hand with the money-making ventures of our Great Depression-era grandparents and great-grandparents. Today, so few of us have any of these skills. We are generations removed from farm life and homesteading.

How will YOU earn money in the next Great Depression?

One of the main reasons for studying how people survive, whether economically or physically, is to find lessons we can apply to our own lives and circumstances. For many years, some economists have been predicting an economic collapse here in America. If you are one of the 93+ million of Americans who are out of work, your own personal economy has already collapsed.

Now it’s time to consider how you will earn money, whether or not you are currently out of work. In the days of the Great Depression, it was common for grocers and landlords to provide credit to their customers. Today? That would be a rare occurrence.

From the Depression days there is an abundance of stories of neighbors and church families showing up at the door, laden with bags and boxes of food for a needy family. When one desperate mom was asked by her daughter, “Mama, what’s for dinner tonight?”, the response was, “Whatever the neighbors decide to bring us!”  I wish I could imagine that happening today, but our communities and families have become so fractured over the past few decades that it would be a rare event.

So, what skills do you have that might offer a service during a severe economic downturn? What knowledge do you have that would be helpful, even vital, to others? What products can you produce? What skills can you teach?

Ingenuity is something that can never be stolen by thieves, confiscated by a government, or lost to flood or fire. It is possible to survive during a Great Depression and there is plenty to learn from those who lived through the last one.

Want to learn more about Great Depression survival?

great depression earn money


Sewing to Save While Times Are Tough

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No matter which country, state, or city you live in, many may be experiencing hard economic times. Experts report that things are expected to get worse before they get better. With many struggling to put food on the family tables or clothes on their backs, they are putting more thought into how they can still enjoy their hobbies without spending their life savings. If sewing or crafting is your hobby and you find that fabric and notions are quite expensive, here are a few tips and pointers that will ease the burden on the pocketbook.

1. Recycle. Before throwing out clothes that are too small, showing signs of wear, or aren’t the latest style, think about how you can repurpose the item. Zippers, buttons, and elastic can all be used again and may be just the perfect match for future endeavors.

2. Use up what you have. Most people who sew have accumulated fabrics over time through bargains, coupons, or the fabric that you just couldn’t live without. Dig through your stash and revive those fabrics, patterns, and pattern books that have been accumulating dust and use this opportunity to be creative.

3. Take advantage of bargains and coupons from sewing centers and websites to purchase patterns and designs that you have been eyeing for months. Check the clearance corners for phenomenal deals on fabrics and other items. Thrift stores, garage sales and exchanging with friends can turn up fabulous sewing finds. However, thread is something that you will want to pass on at garage sales or thrift stores, as thread weakens over time and will not produce quality stitches.

4. Freebies. Free items are always the best! The internet is a treasure trove of free patterns and tutorials. You just need to be willing to hunt and search for them. Pinterest is the latest and greatest site to find ideas, patterns, tutorials and numerous other visions.

5. Used sewing machines are a great way to get started. You don’t need a machine that costs more than your car until you see if you enjoy the hobby and are creative and capable to follow-through and finish projects. You may lose interest which also means your investment is lost. The more simple the machine, the less to break or go wrong. And simple machines can last for many years.

6. Do your own alterations. Simple alterations can make ready-to-wear clothing fit much better by adding simple darts and seams to blouses, dresses, and pants. Hemming pants or making simple dresses can be very beneficial to a budget. Introducing the craft of sewing at a young age can also be advantageous because there is less intimidation of a sewing machine and a sense of accomplishment when your project is complete boosts self-esteem.

7. Be resourceful. Thrift stores are phenomenal sources for fabric. For instance, menswear has become a huge trend in home décor items. Items such as a plain or pinstripe men’s shirts can be made into a cute throw pillow or a white canvas crafted into a couch slipcover. Buttons and zippers can be removed from old clothing to save on the cost of sewing notions. Bed sheets can be used for pattern making, and oftentimes garage sales have bags of fabric and other items for a few dollars.

8. Enroll in sewing classes, tutorials, or teach yourself. Many sewing centers offer classes for all levels and often give discounted rates with the purchase of a sewing machine. It is important, however, to remember that there are many free online sewing tutorials to view. Once you learn the basics, you may be able to teach yourself.

9. Buy basic and embellish. Buy a simple shirt at your discount store and embellish to fit with the times. Beads, buttons, and ribbons can do wonders in making something look flashy, classy and up-to-date.

10. Sew your basic needs. We all need a few basic accessories such as scarves, hats, towels, blankets, and mittens. If you find discounted fabric, you can make a blanket in 15 minutes or less and, if the fabric is durable and of good quality, it will last for many years. Make up some items to give as gifts or re-engineer some older stained shirts or jeans into a t-shirt or blue jean quilt and gift it as something they will treasure and use for many years to come.

So, instead of always stepping out for retail therapy, try a creative, crafty therapy instead. Create your own clothes or household items. Buy from thrift stores and make an old drab shirt come to life again, or snip and stitch for an afternoon and make up some Christmas gifts for your sister-in-law, mother, husband, or kids.
It’s a tough world out there and a penny saved is a penny earned. As an alternative to spending your afternoon shopping at the Gap for the perfect color of a t-shirt, reclaim your fabrics, fashion-forward and embellish your garments for the latest retro fit and design. You’ll be glad you did and you’ll save money while you energize yourself with some creative juices. Who can argue with that? is an online fabric store featuring collections of quilting fabric, flannel fabric, specialty fabric, notions and batting.

Try a treadle!

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By Michelle Foster

singerSo you’ve got the food and you’ve stored the water. You have bug out bags and a resupply plan. You have learned how to bake bread and have chopped your firewood. Great! You’re way ahead of the game. May I suggest another skill you might want to add to your repertoire? Try sewing!

Sewing is an often overlooked skill that is very handy to have. Whether you just want to make repairs, hem a pair of pants or sew an entire outfit from scratch, you have to know how to sew.   With a little practice, you can make quilts to keep your family warm, repair a tent to stay dry, craft curtains to stop drafts or make pillows for a sick room. Knowing how to sew can mean the difference between staying warm and comfortable and being miserable.

While you can certainly sew by hand, it’s a lot faster and easier to use a machine. If you live off-grid or if the grid is down, your best bet is a treadle sewing machine. Many of these iron ladies are going on 100 years old but still can provide reliable service in almost any environment. I have seen costumers for re-enactment groups drag them into field tents so repairs can be made on-site. They are made almost entirely of cast iron and are extremely durable. They are easy to use and maintain and require very little care. Interested? Here’s how to get started:


  1. Shopping

Singer.Model27.TreadleTableYou’re first job will be to find a treadle sewing machine. Etsy, Ebay and Craigslist are all good places to start. You can also try flea markets, thrift stores and antique markets. Take your time and you should be able to find the complete package of legs, cabinet and sewing machine for less than $100. Many cabinets have been destroyed so that people could make tables with the legs. Often, the machine itself was just discarded. Finding a complete set can be tricky but is often easier than piecing together all the components you need a bit at a time.

There are a few things to consider while you are shopping. Make sure you pick a well-known brand that was popular. Singer and White are both good choices. Choosing a popular brand ensures that you will be able to find replacement parts and accessories. Try to get a machine with a bobbin, not a shuttle. Shuttle machines are quite a bit older than bobbin style machines and can be hard to maintain. Try to get one without too much pitting or rust. Push the treadle and see if it still moves and turn the wheels to see if they move. Avoid anything that is too bound up.

Finally, look for machines with straight, low-shanks. What is a shank, you ask? It is the bar that sticks down out of machine itself that you attach sewing machine feet to.   Most Singers and White are low-shank machines. Feet are attached with a thumb screw from the side. Avoid slant shanks (running at a diagonal) and machines that have feet that snap on from the back. Both are very hard to find feet for.


  1. Supplies

indexAfter you find a sewing machine and bring it home you’re going to need machine oil, some rags and maybe some kerosene for the clean-up. You can buy the machine oil at a fabric or craft store or you can buy 4-in-1 oil at a hardware store. First, dust the machine, cabinet and legs well. Use a stiff brush on the treadle to dislodge any dirt or chunky stuff. Put some machine oil on the rag and rub onto any metal you see in little circles. Resist the urge to use stronger household cleaners! These will ruin the finish and lead to more problems down the road. Use orange oil or another moisturizing product on the wooden cabinet.

If the machine is really dirty, you can use kerosene to clean it. You can moisten the rags and rub the machine just like you did with the machine oil. Or, if it is filthy, take it out of the cabinet and soak the entire thing in a bucket or tote filled with kerosene for a few days. No, I am not kidding. I have seen this method recommended on a number of sites as well as in Singer sewing machine manuals from the time period. Once everything is cleaned, make sure each joint is oiled well.

For ongoing use, you are going to need a small screwdriver for adjustments, two pairs of small pliers (one with smooth jaws and one with teeth), extra bobbins, a package of rubber O-rings and a length of leather sewing machine belt. An awl would also be handy. You should be able to find everything except for the belt at a craft or hardware store. I had to order the belt for my Singer 66 from Amazon.   For most machines, you will need a belt that is 3/16” thick and rounded on both sides. If you have room to store it, you can buy a 100’ spool of belt for a very good price. The belt should come with some hooks you can use to attach the cut ends of the belt.


  1. The basics

A treadle sewing machine only does one thing: make straight stitches. You accomplish this by pushing the treadle up and down with your feet. This moves the large wheel attached to the legs which, in turn, moves the small wheel on the sewing machine itself. The first task you must accomplish, then, is to figure out how to put the belt on and connect these two wheels. In general terms, you wrap the belt around the large wheel, feed it through some guide holes on the top of the cabinet and around the little wheel on the right hand side of the sewing machine itself. Punch holes in both ends of the belt and feed the hook through. Test for fit, crimp down the ends of the hook and you should be in business.

The second thing you will need to do it learn how to oil your sewing machine. Put a drop or two of oil on every joint you can see. Don’t forget the treadle! There are also little holes along the top of the machine and on the flat bed that are for oil. Put a drop in each hole. If you aren’t sure where to put the oil, you can use Google to find the manuals for most sewing machines. These manuals should show you what to do. Make sure you keep extra oil on hand since you’ll be using it a lot. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of oiling each time you have finished sewing for the day.

Another task you will need to perform on a regular basis is to run bobbins. In case you are a complete novice, here is a brief explanation: a sewing machine has two threads, one on the top and one of the bottom. The bobbin goes on the bottom. Whatever machine you buy, make sure you learn how to run the bobbins and use the bobbin winder. I recommend you buy extra metal bobbins, not plastic ones. The plastic ones crack and break too often for my taste. There are bobbins that are flat and those that are slightly domed so make sure you get the right ones for your situation.


  1. Extras

2d9a462There are a lot of extra things you can buy for your treadle sewing machine once you have the basics down. There are lots of different feet for different purposes and accessories that will expand greatly what you can do on a treadle machine. These extras can usually be purchased at the same store you bought your sewing machine from. Some of the most popular feet include zipper, cording and quilting feet. There are also hemming feet that are great for finishing edges. A company called Griest makes a very nice set that is appropriate for most people.

There are also more complicated “feet” called attachments. These include zig-zaggers, buttonholers, darning attachments and more. Most people will probably want to get a buttonholer and a zig-zagger because they are used so frequently and on so many sewing projects. One word of warning: attachments and feet are made for particular shank styles. Make sure that you know what kind of shank your machine has before you shop for any extras.


  1. Parts and service

As I mentioned above, there are some supplies you’ll want to keep on hand. These include oil, tools, belts, O-rings and extra bobbins. These are just the basics. Having a treadle machine won’t do you any good if you don’t have the consumables. Keep a selection of items in your sewing kit to be prepared for a variety of tasks. At a minimum you’ll need thread in a variety of colors, fasteners like snaps, buttons and zippers, interfacing, a seam ripper, scissors, replacement sewing machine needles, hand needles and a decent how to sew book. It might also be a good idea to keep some extra bolts of an all-purpose fabric on hand along with some patterns for basic pieces of clothing.

I also recommend that you stock a few replacement parts. One way to do this is to buy a second machine that is identical to your primary machine. Then you can just switch out parts. If you don’t have the space for this, another option is to order parts and keep them in a box in a closet. If you choose this option, I would recommend getting extra tension discs and springs, clamp washers (inside the little wheel on the sewing machine), a few thumb screws, feed dogs and an extra bed slide. You will not find these at your local fabric store but there are places you can order replacement parts online. Just Google vintage sewing machine parts to find dealers.

If you are lucky enough to have a local sewing machine repair store or sewing center, they should able to service almost any vintage machine. You might get some odd looks but most technicians can handle the kinds of repairs you would need. For the purpose of being self-sufficient, though, I really recommend that you try to figure out problems yourself. One nice thing about old sewing machines is that they are relatively simple. If you are patient, you can usually locate and correct most problems.



I hope I have convinced you of the value of keeping a treadle sewing machine on hand and given you the basics you need to get started. They are awesome, hard-working machines that are great for everyday use. They will work in any environment and require only minimal maintenance. Consider adding one to your household and you will be rewarded with years of happy and reliable sewing. If the worst happens, you will have the means to cloth your family and will have a skill to barter with. With a little practice and a little patience, you will be churning out projects on your vintage machine in no time!


This article first appeared on American Preppers Network and may be copied under the following creative commons license.  All links and images including the CC logo must remain intact.




Bio: Michelle Foster lives in Kentucky with her husband and cats. She has been sewing most of her life, thanks in large part to her patient mother. She takes great pride in cultivating old-school skills like sewing, knitting and cooking. She has written a book called Sew Like Your Grandma: Using the Singer 66 that is available on Amazon and provides more details on using and serving a treadle sewing machine.



The post Try a treadle! appeared first on American Preppers Network.

It’s a Matter of Raggedy Ann…… and a Sweet Gift for a Precious Little Girl

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Aren’t these so sweet?  These were gifts for a sweet little family member who just turned 1! I have always made Raggedy Ann Dolls for my little family members, and hope that they will be a keepsake from the Rooster Senior and I.
When I give these to sweet little family members, the adults often ask me how I made the hair look so good.  
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How To Sew Hair on a Raggedy Ann Doll….

See how tight and thick it is?  I have never liked the directions that come with the pattern that basically ask you to tie a knot and leave short pieces of yarn to make the hair.  I feel like a Raggedy Ann with hair like that looks like the doll needs a hair transplant.  Sooooo, would you like to see how it’s done?
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First, I wrap yarn around my hand until I have a ‘clump’ that looks about like this. Clip the clump of yarn from the skein.
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The pattern that you can purchase comes with an iron-on transfer to help you see the lines the hair should be sewn upon.  Lay the ‘clump across the line and sew a straight stitch through the middle.
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This is how the hair around the face will look when you have finished sewing around the iron-on transfer line.
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In order to sew on all the lines on the back of the head, you will need to hold the hard out of the way with your fingers.
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This is what the back of the head looks like after sewing on all the iron-on transfer lines.  Look how curly and thick it looks.  
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Now this is where you have to deviate from the pattern’s instructions.  Because of the bulk of the yarn, you will need to pin the back and front pieces together and most likely sew them together by hand.  I use a back-stitch and double-knot it on either end to hold the pieces together.
Next, you turn the head inside out.  Here is the most challenging part of the head and hair.  It will be a little difficult to turn it inside out. I have found starting at one side and carefully turning it inside-out is most helpful.  Halfway through the process, the whole thing will pop around and you will be good to go at that point.
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Now, you can see that I have two different faces on the dolls in this post.  Most of the dolls I have embroidered by hand.  However, I downloaded the pattern for the face for my Embroidery Machine at the suggestion of my good friend.  I still am undecided which I like better.  As of late, I have been embroidering the name of the little recipient on the Apron as well.
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I chose to make a little sleeveless dress to match.  This can be worn year-round either as-is in the summer or with a long sleeved blouse in the winter.  I also wanted to point out the flower.  I cut the flower just under the umbel and hand-sewed the flower to the rough side of Velcro.  I sewed the companion smooth side of the Velcro on to the ribbon running across the bodice of the dress.  Sewn this way, the flower is removable for washing.
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Last, but certainly not least, is the headband.  Honestly these are very simple to make but it sure adds another level of cuteness to this outfit.  I used a ladies knee-high and tied the ends together in a knot.  I then hand-sewed the flower on. These are silk flowers so you can push a needle through the silk petals.
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This is the end result….and aren’t these items just so sweet?  It didn’t take too long and this little one and her Momma seemed to really like the doll (and the dress).

Take Home Points:

  • Sewing is a useful skill.  To purchase a Raggedy Ann doll costs about $30.00 on-line.  A similar dress on-line also runs about $30.00. The fact that they are matching would increase the price as well.  I hate to admit this but I made all of this for under $18.00.
  • The doll only requires straight stitching. The Apron takes some zig-zag stitching for the gathering. These are very, very basic stitches that even the most inexperienced sewer can do.
  • The enjoyment of this little one can not be measured.  It was also very fun to be so creative. 
  • The pattern for the doll can be purchased on Etsy for $4-10.00.

Try it!