The Ultimate Sewing Kit?

Walker’s Haute Route - 07-75

When I had a pair of shoes suddenly need repair halfway through the Haute Route I was very glad that I’d got a good sewing kit with me. So I was pleased to find out that you can now buy Kevlar thread quite easily.

Using Kevlar means that you don’t need to use so much thread to repair whatever you’re repairing.

For example, using the polyester thread to repair my shoe I needed to hold the top lace in place for at least another week’s walking so I kept sewing until I’d built up a considerable thickness, about a 3mm gear cord’s worth I reckon. Each stitch had to be punched through the plastic lace-grip that had blown as well as the tough shoe material. I had to use a Swiss coin as a thimble and managed to badly bend a “leather” needle. Luckily I had a thick “darning” needle as well which finished the job.

Sewing for ages to get a strong repair is fine if you’re sat looking out over a nice view eating lunch. Which we were. But even then, after twenty-five minutes of sewing, my fingers were sore and cold and everyone else was starting to shiver. Using Kevlar I know for a fact that I could, and would, have used far less thread and spent far less time doing it.

The fact that the leather needle bent surprised me but it wasn’t the sharpest thing I’ve ever used. So I also had a good search around for a strong and really sharp needle. The best I could find are Wenzel needles that come as a kit with some dyed linen thread for sewing leather. I got them from an eBay seller who currently isn’t trading but a search for “Wenzel thread” on eBay turned up several listings.

As for the Kevlar thread, I got mine from an eBayer in the USA: Primitive Originals were a pleasure to deal with and sell a set of five colours. FindingKing also sell just plain black Kevlar thread but the first one got ripped from the envelope by a sorting machine before it arrived. But they’ve since posted another one with no quibble at all.

Kevlar thread holding up a housebrick
Another supplier that I’ve found has a limited amount of thicker Kevlar thread. He has one huge reel and is selling it off a length at a time for a reasonable amount – but once it’s gone it’s gone. 50 metres would probably last a lifetime of gear repair but he will do any length you want. He also has a rather nice picture of it suspending a brick (tied to thicker polyester string) and reckons the breaking strain to be about 5.7kg.

Once I’d got the threads and needles I wanted I cut up a bit of card to spool some the Kevlar around. Add in the darning needle that saved the shoes and a curved upholstery needle that looks like if you need one nothing will substitute (both from a cheap sewing kit) plus a couple of safety pins and you’ve got a complete kit.

Repair Kit - Kevlar Thread Finally, to hold it all I cut the corner from a plastic document wallet, with a spare flappy bit to fold over to make a closure. Taped the edge then covered the tape in Seam Grip (which wasn’t necessary! I was just repairing something else at the time). A piece of Magic Tape or Gaffer Tape over the flappy closure to hold it shut, chuck it in a waterproof bag and you’re done.

Total weight – just 4gms.

I reckon you could put a wheel back on a Land Rover with that.

Update Edit 12 July 2011: The sewing kit above has been very handy on a couple of occasions. But here are a couple of tweaks:

I’d use a couple of “nappy pins” (“diaper pins” if you’re from the US) because they are very strong, very unlikely to ever come undone and can be used to help keep socks securely attached to the outside of the pack when drying a pair!

An eBay search for “nappy pins” always turn up a brand that I find is pretty tough (we use them to keep throws on the sofa). They are the ones with green or white coloured plastic heads made by “beautiful beginnings”

I’d also make an addition of some plain black polyester thread. Why? Simply because the black dye always ends up wearing off the Kevlar, leaving a sort of faded yellow. For items where there’s some aesthetic consideration rather than just strength it’s handy to have the choice of a neater repair. Conversely, for light coloured items the black Kevlar isn’t a bad choice for the same reason!


3 Replies to “The Ultimate Sewing Kit?”

  1. Where do you get your needles from? I have struggled to find a needle that has a large enough eye for the thick polyester thread I have (which will now be replaced by kevlar!).

  2. Really good needles are a bugger to get hold of.

    I’ve just searched for “Wenzel thread” and turned up several of the needles that come with the leather repair thread (as I mentioned above ;).

    I carry two of those at the moment. It’s not a cheap way of getting needles but until I can find a better way of getting really tough needles I’m happy to part with £3 or so for a one-off set-up cost.

    The eye on them isn’t huge but does fine for the Kevlar. If it’s a real problem try searching for “needle threader“. The little flat metal ones probably don’t weigh more than two grams and make threading a needle very easy indeed.

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