Making clothing

It's interesting how people jump to spinning and weaving as a response to the threat of energy decline. Both seem poor investments to me (I should speak softly here, my wife is currently away at a fibre crafts fair). They are fun, but are only ever going to be hobbies.

Consider that a spinning machine (that draws the fibre and spins into even thickness multi-ply yarns) is something that can be built by a knowledgeable blacksmith or carpenter in a day or two. A mechanised weaving loom can be built with 18th century technology. Automated knitting is 19th century as are sewing machines. But what we still haven't made machines to efficiently do is make clothes.

So it would seem prudent, while we have a supply of cheap fabric, to learn how to efficiently make efficient clothing. And it's actually fun. What got me started is the fact that I am very long in the body, so off the shelf clothing is either baggy or midriff. I've made tee-shirts, underwear, polar fleece tops and bike riding clothes using nothing more than a bottom of the range sewing machine and some simple long life low tech tools such as the humble stitch unpicker.


TheArchDruid: that depends on just how badly disrupted public order and transport networks become. The technical ability to build a factory isn't the only issue; you also have to consider the economic viability, which depends in turn on how wide an area you can use reliably as a source of raw materials and a distribution region for your products. Below a certain geographic scale, the old-fashioned drop spindle spinning local fibers becomes a more economical way of providing yarn to knitters, crocheters and weavers, simply because you can't pay for mass production with a very limited market area. Will we get there? To judge by past examples, yes, but probably not in our lifetimes -- which makes it all the more important to preserve skills like spinning now, so they don't have to be laboriously reinvented a few centuries from now.

Laura: about spinning ==> clothing manufacture: Oh, I dunno, England in the Middle Ages successfully supported an international trade in fine wool cloth with an army of housewives wielding drop spindles. IIRC, it took sixteen drop spindles, or four walking wheels once they were invented, to keep one weaver supplied. Handloom technology has improved since then, but interestingly so has handspinning technology -- we now have treadle wheels, which can replace about six drop spindles. As for the most efficient way to make clothes, that is complicated by the fact that no two humans are exactly the same shape. Efficiency of time and cloth can be achieved by making clothing out of (almost) nothing but rectangles and triangles. (The biggest non-rectangle is the crotch seam on a pair of pants.) But then your fashion choices are rather limited.

njh: TAD: I think you're being pessimistic; _I_ could build a pedal powered wooden automatic spinning machine using nothing more than some wood and hand tools. My father built an automatic loom using wire and basic metal parts when he was at school. Certainly the efficiency and output will be less than a modern computer controlled system, but far better than a drop spindle and hand loom. Of course we remember Gandhi's Chakra, the rallying cry for his not entirely failed movement towards the independence of India. They were mostly made by villiage craftsmen.

Heck, a pair of bike pedals and a belt can spin a lathe, and equally a spinning wheel. Building something like that is well within the ability of a single craftsman without power tools and high speed steel.

Laura, I'm merely suggesting that those improvements will persist past any decline. And yes, making clothes is easy, though making clothes that you'd be willing to wear to a party less so. :)