Making Clothes After TSHTF – Question From A Reader

I received an email from a reader recently that gave me pause for thought.  It was one of those subjects you should be thinking about, but you’re probably not.  After all, getting your AR15 ready for TEOTWAWKI is a hell of a lot sexier than darning a pair of socks or sewing a new pair of pants from scratch.

So this reader put the question to me and since I don’t so much past repairing a rip or sewing a button back on I’m going to put it to the wicked smaht readers of SHTF Blog.

Read the email below and let’s see what we can come up with for an answer.

-Jarhead Survivor


First of all, I am not native english speaker (I am spanish, old Europe), so please, forgive me if I do not write correctly.

I have been reading about preparedness for a while and I have found it interesting. Your blog is a goldmine. I would like to ask you about something that does not receives much attention and I think it could be as important as food: clothing.

sheepI am not talking about “best pants for bugging out” or “How many socks in your bug out bag?” I am thinking in long term SHTF scenario. How would you get your clothes? Wool + knit? furs?

Lets imagine it:
– Global outbreak, there are just a few survivors (all of them preppers, of course). You are in a community and food /safety is not an issue.
– Current resources are no longer available at all. That includes clothes, all current, easy access, clothes are unreachable. There may be tons of jeans and coats in some warehouse not far but they contaminated or whatever. Not an option.
– You have no access to information that you do not have today (you can’t learn how to create fabrics).

At this point, I would like your opinions and plans about what should you do now. The main problem I see is that while growing your own food is business as usual, I have never seen anybody creating all his clothes.

I would like your senior preppers opinions. Do you have a sheep? Have you learned how to shear? Or how to make felt?

Would you recommend me growing cotton (or linen or…)? Do you have cotton seeds (or linen or…)? Do you know what are climate or water requirements and have planned/reserved land for these crops? What hardware is needed to create threads/strands/fabrics/clothes (apart from the sewing needle and scissor that is common ins bug out equipments)? What hardware is needed to create felt from wool?

On the other hand, I do not think you can make ALL your clothes with furs…

Could you please give me your opinions about long term clothing? What about long term clothing for children?

Note: Please, bear in mind related items: ropes, bedclothes, pillows, diapers, nets…

Note 2: Sheep… or even better a mangalitsa pig!! please, check



28 comments… add one
  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. March 5, 2014, 7:32 am

    I’m guessing by the time all clothing has worn out or has been destroyed, many materials that could have been re-purposed for clothing will be in short supply as well. Your environment is a major factor how much insulation you will need to maintain core warmth. I guess storing some bolts of fabric would be a very good idea.

    As will shoes, which are also going to be difficult to make. Tire sandals perhaps ?

    • Calamity Jane March 5, 2014, 10:05 am

      Yes, but don’t tires break down in sunlight? By the time you wear out your shoes, many of the tires lying around will be degraded by exposure.

      • irishdutchuncle March 5, 2014, 1:30 pm

        I’ve been thinking a bit about tires lately. they become unsuitable for highway use just as “Jane” says: they become degraded from sunlight, oxygen, dry rot…
        and worst of all, potholes. I have never seen the roads as bad as they are this year. I have one truck tire carcass in my storage (yeh, I’m a hoarder) that I thought might make several pair of tire sandals. by the time a tire is ten years old, that’s about all it’s good for. (or shreaded for “playground” surface, filled with dirt and stacked for “earthship” housing)

      • j.r. guerra in s. tx. March 5, 2014, 1:34 pm

        Perhaps, but it might depend on the degree of exposure. Years back, my brother’s 1st car, handed down by me to him was a ’66 VW Beetle. After he bought his truck, the VW was parked outside for at least 10 years, no car cover or anything. When he finally decided to sell it, the car was towed off using the original tires. Tires may degrade, but they won’t be holding air, they’ll be cut up into sandal shape.

        That is a good thought though – I hadn’t considered that point. Investigations underway. And all of those tires found in alleys / dumps – they could be cut up NOW for preparation for this. Would extend the life of what you have immensely.

      • R.C. March 5, 2014, 2:07 pm

        Some of you are thinking about tires in terms of auto use. Your feet will not put them through those extremes. While time, and age destroy many materials, your feet will be covering them. They will work, they will hold up, but you need to use tires that are on sports cars (pirelli, yokohama, etc) the reason being is that they are a denser, harder rubber, and will (in my opinion) last the longest. There are plenty of auto tires that are soft, and if you sew that on top of the harder tires, be more forgiving.

        But hey, I am just talking off the top of my head here. :D

        • Calamity Jane March 5, 2014, 3:28 pm

          That’s true. I may have even heard that caution in relation to building houses out of tires and rammed earth. Shoes wouldn’t need a tire at 100%, even degraded it would probably protect some toes.

          • Ray March 6, 2014, 6:54 am

            Jane, I have made moccasin soles out of tires made in the 80’s -They work just fine. The only big problem in useing them is cutting thru the steel + Kevlar belts embeaded in the rubber with hand tools. The rubber itsself will last longer under a human foot than the leather will. As to the question about clothing; You will need to learn tanning-spinning / thread making -weaving-cutting and sewing, and then memorize or collect the patterns you need to manufacture clothes. None of this is really that hard , our ancestors did it for thousands of years.

    • NoSox March 5, 2014, 1:02 pm

      For the boots i’m about to buy melting rubber [gas mask required] would work great to replace the soles. Its very similar to the process they use to create them now.

      I’m about to start raising rabbits next week and one of the things i’m going to learn is how to use the hides to make whatever i need. Mainly shoes/moccasins/hats and etc.

      Decided that my post apocalyptic trade with will be raising rabbits for meat, fur products, rabbit fertilizer, and worms.

      Native American Indians lived like this so why can’t we when modern tech fails. As with everything else it just requires forethought and practice.

      • irishdutchuncle March 5, 2014, 2:35 pm

        wabbit fur is not vewwy stwong, hehhehhehheh.
        you will need tougher leathers for the mocasins, and glove shells. very soft and warm though…

        • NoSox March 5, 2014, 5:10 pm

          Thanks! I wasn’t sure of the strength but figured they could used for something.

      • JSW March 5, 2014, 11:34 pm

        For thin skinned animals like rabbits, think ‘under clothing’, such as would be worn in cold weather with the fur next to the skin. Boot/moccasin liners, glove liners, shirt liners, etc. And hats. There’s not much to wear out a hat so long as it’s handled like a hat rather than a pair of boots.

      • irishdutchuncle March 6, 2014, 3:13 pm

        how does the “melting rubber” compare with a
        “room temperature vulcanizing” (RTV) silicone?
        (time to add a “chemistry set” to my stash)

      • irishdutchuncle March 6, 2014, 3:22 pm

        No Sox: how does the “melting rubber” compare with a
        “room temperature vulcanizing” (RTV) silicone?
        (time to add a “chemistry set” to my stash)

  • Ken March 5, 2014, 8:42 am

    I have been pondering this for a while now. I have a 12 year and 9 year old sons and if the SHTF for a few years or so, how will I clothe them. I have been meaning to talk to my wife about hitting up some second hand stores and buying some extra clothes in larger sizes. I am curious as to what other readers have to say.

    • NoSox March 5, 2014, 12:49 pm


      I’m on that same note. We’re about to move and my wife is going thru all our clothes but i’m gonna start putting a good amount in accessible storage just in case. I’m looking to buy some GREAT boots (15 year average life span) here next week and will buy a 2nd pair just to put away.

      We hit the 2nd hand stores Monday and got 14 articles of clothing for about $70. Get the clothes bigger and learn basic sewing to bring the waist in.

      So many aspects of life to ponder…

    • Chicken little March 5, 2014, 7:21 pm

      I was at thrift store yesterday and they had 50percent off the winter clothes. Long sleeve shirts and coats. Made out real good. I am buying clothes for my new grandson. I also buy for my nephews good quality shirts and pants for them to have in the future. Great place to get wool blankets too. Found a set of fox fire books I have been wanting there too.
      Another place I get clearance stuff is Kohls. End of season for next year. Great prices especially with a coupon. You can call around to find out the best sales days. salvation army has half off all but one color tags on clothes on Wednesdays here. I buy shirts for my husband that I can wear too. Wouldn’t hurt to get suspenders for the family at thrift shop.

  • Leon Pantenburg March 5, 2014, 9:14 am

    Karla Moore, of Heart of Iowa Soapworks, cards wool, spins and does all sorts of cool fiber things. When everything goes down, the ability to spin thread or yarn may be invaluable. Check out her site, Karla’s a wealth of information, a long-time prepper and knowledgeable about all things related to preparedness.

  • R.C. March 5, 2014, 2:17 pm

    The person who wrote the email said they didn’t believe you could make very much from leather.

    Our own history in America tells us that Native Americans did in fact make much of their clothing, as well as sleeping gear, from the leather, pelts, and hides of the animals they hunted and gathered. Cotton clothing is purely a manufactured process of clothing, whereas leather goods are a more natural use. (

    the intestinal tracts of your kill have been stretched into sinew and used to hold the materials sewn together. (

    Right now I am making leather shooting tabs for archery, because I used to make sword carriers for kicks (long story)… any way, I couldn’t see spending $15 for something I am crafty enough to make on my own.

    I simply have to stop for a second and think “can I make it myself, can I do without” and generally come up with a solution one way or another.

    :) Carry on, learn to sew, if not, get a lesson or two. I know many people who have taken the time to show me a thing or two. Share what you know with others.

  • irishdutchuncle March 5, 2014, 2:21 pm

    growing cotton is rough on the soil, supposedly. in some places, linen might be viable. (I don’t know anything about it) any uncontaminated soil (see death by garden) will need to be used for vegetable gardens, or feed crops: cows and sheep are what they eat also. more of the land which is now forest, will need to become pasture.
    the best felt was made from beaver hair, I believe, so I wouldn’t be looking at the sheep to supply that. lama and alpaca may be more able to defend themselves against predators than the sheep can. every road killed deer will need to be picked up for the “buckskin” also.

    • irishdutchuncle March 6, 2014, 4:37 am

      … and Jesus, I agree they are very important questions you are asking. I have my old clothing in storage (from when I was thinner) but that doesn’t mean I will still have it by the time I will need it. as JSW suggested, (see below) it would be wise to stock up on good winter underwear. wool is not as comfortable as polypropylene…
      if you manage to get a few sheep after the “event” you will need to guard them with your life. lamb will be off the menu for years until the herd is established. you will need to be prepared to fight off predators of every type. (I think the sheep would be a better choice than the woolly pigs, however. you need very strong fences to keep pigs)

    • irishdutchuncle March 8, 2014, 5:46 am

      … yeh, I should have thought about it, more than I did. wool felt is very important. I’ll need to read-up much more on the felt making process.

  • Steve suffering in NJ March 5, 2014, 7:52 pm

    To the tire sanded idea, has anyone tried to cut a car tire? There imbedded with steal bands. There going to be pretty damn tough to try to cut into sandals. Can it be done, yes, but there pretty damn tough. One would need a saws-all or similar. Not to mention the opportunity for the bands to stab your feet.

    • lateToTheParty March 21, 2014, 3:20 pm

      On the metal bands – you’ve never seen a tire throw it’s tread off the belts? Round here we call the left over tread from a truck tire (especially on highway) ‘gators.’ The tread lies over and around but not through (last I knew) the plies/belts; It’s poured over the plies below. Once you cut through a certain amount of tire, that tread peels like an onion.

      I’m confused, I thought our ancestors used whatever grew naturally nearby – sometimes it was cotton (rare), some times wool, sometimes linen, sometimes leather/pelts, sometimes alternate plant material (woven reeds etc.) Other long haired (not fur) animals can be substituted for wool. Animals include dogs, horse, some cats etc. For non-leather clothing, whatever it is almost always needs to be spun into thread, woven via hand or loom into patches of cloth, then sewn together by tailor or seamstress. All of the jobs can be done by one person, it’s just a jack of all trades, master of none kind of thing.

      For the past 6 months I’ve been watching the hand loom market and trying to figure the best choice for my use. Years ago my grandmother and I would spin the cotton she had carded and then she would show me how to work the loom. She made some really nice blankets and ponchos etc with the cloth we made. I think it was also a way to escape from her 4 noisy boys.

      I get the feeling that a lot of people (preppers included) just think they’ll be able to loot us either clothes or cloth, not thinking someone else has that idea. Much like “I live in the city, but I’ll leave to hunt and come back to the city.” Really? You and at least 3 million other people think that. Good luck with that.

  • JSW March 5, 2014, 11:27 pm

    I’ve given the clothing issue some thought in the past and couldn’t get beyond hide tanning, with brain and petro based tanning agents- with the brain tanned being the best solution since it requires zip for cost.
    Shirts, pants, and shoes can be made from hide. But let me tell you, wearing hide next to your hide in cold weather is c-o-l-d! The idea I had is that either I’ve got to stock a huge supply of long johns or tan some hides special to be worn against the skin, such as rabbits. For sox- well, you really just gotta ask yourself, ‘How important are sox, really?’ And honestly, I know people who don’t wear sox summer or winter and have no foot problems because of it. The biggest reason I can come up with for sox is insulation value- and again, we have fur.
    Growing cotton or flax. I’d not thought about it other than knowing it’s going to be very labor intensive. Both growing and spinning, weaving, et al, to make a single piece of cloth. Not something I’d be either interested in or apt to do regardless how nekky I was.
    Animal fur- sheep, alpaca, some dogs, beaver, et al, would be the most simple way of weaving a cloth material, IMO- again, I’m ignorant of the process(es). But something I am likely to undertake should the need arise.
    Wild plants, such as milkweed, have long fiber stems that can be broken down and woven into a reasonable cloth facsimile, as can the inner bark of some trees, cedar being the one that comes to mind. Again, not something I’d be likely to try beyond making a lamp wick but perhaps worth knowing.
    In the end, I think we as a species are going to begin using our brains in ways we’ve never before imagined- but no more than our ancestors did in their efforts to live beyond today.

  • Schatzie Ohio March 6, 2014, 7:28 am

    Granny Miller’s blog had a posting about making flax into linen a while back.

  • Diana March 6, 2014, 8:46 am

    I’ve been saving old serviceable clothes for awhile – tees, sweatshirts, jeans, etc. – items that may be stained or too worn to wear now, but would be very welcome in SHTF.

  • Jason March 6, 2014, 10:03 am

    Quite frankly if the S ever does hit the fan to the magnitude being discussed here, no clothing would be totally appropriate because it would complete the circle, taking us back to the days before Eve bit the apple – how ironic.

  • Chuck Findlay March 7, 2014, 1:46 am

    I really don’t see the problem, buy extra items now. I usually get 7 or 8 years out of good quality shoes. But then I refuse to buy Wally-World junk shoes. Also go to thrift stores and stock up on clothes and put them away. Buy good ones and you will be fine for years. Growing kids may be harder, but then you can buy them ahead or buy used ones at thrift stores.

    I always look at thrift stores for shoes, I find a few like-new ones every few months in my size. I have managed to put away at least a dozen set of shoes. I also have 6 sets of boots. A few months ago I bought a set of (Looks to be new) Rocky Boots for $5.99. These are $100.00 boots.

    Stock up on extra cloth now, as for a place to store make or buy some zip up pillows and instead of batting, fill them with the cloth. this way you get double duty out of the cloth.

    I think clothes will always be made. We may not easily afford them as the dollar goes down in value.

    Looking at all but the poorest country’s in Africa people around the word seem able to clothe themselves just fine.


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