I am not a sewer.
Not one bit.
I can barely sew to save my life let alone a button to save a coat.
I come from a line of aunts that are wonderfully thrifty with thread, needles and the like. My grandma sews admirable patches on jeans. My mom used to sew me little darling outfits when I was a young child. Even my sister is marvelously creative with a sewing machine–churning out funky pillows and window coverings.
However, when God was handing out the sewing gene, he forgot about me. I’m all thumbs. Or rather the needle likes to end up in my thumb.
Mending is always a painful experience for me that usually ends up with me cursing throwing the object at the wall and then buying a new one from a store the next day. But you can’t do that in the backcountry. There are no stores.
Knowing how to mend things is a necessary skill in the bush. Something is always in need of repair. Bridles will need mending. Jeans. Coats. Tarps. Saddles. Packbags. Sleeping Bags. You name it. At some point, something will need stitched and you can’t just run to a store to buy a replacement; you can only hope you have what you need on hand to fix it, or you improvise.
Most the guides I worked with carried some sort of mending kit on them. Some of them carried a stitching awl, some carried little sewing kits and most carried duct tape. I was given a lesson on a stitching awl once. I was supposed to mend part of a harness. It’s much more difficult than it looks! I swear! I guess I did a really bad job of it. I was never asked again to use it. Though it’s one item and skill I hope to pick up now that I’m older and see the wisdom of having one of this babies on hand.
I did carry a spool of heavy thread and a little kit of needles, but I rarely used them for myself. I carried them to pass on to hunters or trail riding guests or other coworkers who needed to mend something themselves.
Instead, I turned to good ole duct tape. Like Red Green and all that. I would patch rips in my down vest or wrap a broken bridle up in a swath of that silver/gray tape. It worked like a charm–for a few days. Maybe even a week if I was lucky. Then out came my “mending” tape to re-patch.
Until one day I gashed my down vest open and I didn’t have duct tape handy. I was losing feathers fast. The situation was dire. I couldn’t afford to lose anymore insulation. Then I thought of my first aid kit. I dug through it and found the roll of medical tape. I tried that. It didn’t work. Then I ripped a Band-Aid open and slapped it over the cut in my jacket. And ten long hard YEARS later that Band-Aid is still holding that cut closed!
I was on to something!
This was going to change the world!
In the name of fashion and all I graduated from the ugly old Elastoplast fabric Band-Aids and upped my game with state-of-the-art Tegoderm Waterproof Transparent Dressings.
Now these puppies are THE GREATEST thing to have in your wilderness first aid kit. Not only are they wickedly awesome if you have a burn or a bad cut that needs to heal without getting dirty in an unsanitary environment (like most camps), but they make THE BEST patches for clothes!
I ended up having these Transparent Tegaderm Bandages in my first aid kit as a carryover from a burn that had gone septic on me while I worked in a kitchen in Calgary. The hospital gave me a bunch and I kept the leftovers in my kit and ended up using them more on clothes than anything else. And what I patched with those Tegaderm’s, I’ve never had to replace, even after sending them through the washer multiple times. They’ve held my clothes together for years.
Furthermore, they are just as good for wounds and I was very thankful I had them on hand when that propane stove blew up in my face. I ended up using it on my forearm where my polypropylene shirt had melted to my skin. You can read that story here. It kept the burn from getting dirty and allowed the new skin to grow up underneath. It was the only way the nurses were going to let me come back to work so quickly.
The only thing to be careful of when using these Tegaderm type dressings is to make sure there is no chance of infection happening before you put it on. You leave it on and don’t mess with it until new skin has formed. With my burn in the backcountry, I did have to change it daily. But I could leave it there for the whole day without worrying about getting it wet or rubbed off by my clothes, which is handy compared to gauze and tape-type dressings. And it healed up with hardly a scar!
But you don’t need expensive or highly advanced Band-Aids to patch clothes with.
Sometimes, I have used those fancy decorative Band-Aids with superheroes or helicopters on them to patch my son’s winter jackets when he rips them on barbwire. He thinks it’s cool.
My sister thinks I’m crazy though. She thinks it’s a total fashion faux pas. She thinks I should be embarrassed to walk around with Band-Aids all over my jackets and vests. Maybe I should be. Maybe everyone else reading this is thinking that this girl is one stitch short of crazy.
But dang it! If it gets me out of having to break open the needle and thread or having to wait for a time when someone-who-can-sew is able to do my mending . . . Well I think I’ll continue using Band-Aids to patch my clothes. Besides you can’t wait very long with down-filled coats or sleeping bags or such because you’ll loose all the insulation–and you can’t have that!
So there you have it.
Band-Aids beats Duct Tape hands down in both the clothes-mending department and in the wound-healing department.