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Glovers Needles and Thread
Quality supplies for sewing buckskin.
Text adapted from Participating in Nature:
Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills
There are a number of ways to sew buckskin. The simplest way is to punch holes through at intervals of every few inches along the seams and tie knots at each spot with buckskin lace. In this method you leave several inches of extra hide around the pattern so you can cut fringe out of the excess material. The fringe and lace hangs down together and helps block breezes from blowing through the open spaces between the knots. Alternately, you can use a buckskin lace as thread and just make big stitches in and out every inch or so along the seams.
My clothes used to be tied together they way I first described, but I changed that after Renee and I got home from our walk across Montana in 1988. The fringe swept the ticks off the bushes along the way, and without tight seams they just crawled right inside my clothes. I found fifteen ticks crawling on me in a single day during the peak of tick season. Now I stitch all the seams tightly together with nylon or polyester thread or sometimes real sinew, using the method my cousin learned in the Navy.
The most important sewing aid is a glover's needle. A standard needle is round, and doesn't penetrate buckskin the way a glover's needle does. A glover's needle has a razor-sharp triangular tip. The ones we sell are fairly heavy (17 gauge), unlikely to break like some of the smaller needles. The needles are available in two lengths, "0" (2 inches) and "000" (2-5/16 inches). With a glover's needle you can push through three thicknesses of average buckskin without an awl. Although I sometimes use real sinew, I usually use a heavy thread, about the thickness of stout fish line. Just one of the 1/4 lb. spools we sell will keep you sewing for a long time.
Two other helpful items include a leather "ring" to put over your middle finger and a "rubber finger" to put over your index finger. Use the leather finger to push the needle through the leather as shown in the picture, and pull the needle out the other side with your thumb and rubber index finger. The rubber finger makes it easier to grip the needle. The finger I use is recycled from a rubber work glove. If I don't have a leather ring and rubber finger, then I usually have to push the needle through with a piece of wood, and sometimes pull it out the other side with pliers. With this sewing kit you can stitch a garment very quickly, and it is relaxing too; I have sometimes stitched away most of a day without tiring of it.
In this sewing process the patterns are normally cut to size and any fringe or other ornamentation, if desired, is added as an additional piece called a "welt". In the photo I am sewing together two pieces of buckskin, the front and back of a shirt. The third piece of buckskin shown sandwiched between the others is the welt. The welt covers up the threads in the seam; this protects the thread from wear and tear, and it keeps them out of sight. The welt can be done in a variety of ways for ornamentation. The most common style of welt is fringe. Cut your patterns out to exact size; then attach the scraps from the edges of the hide back in as welts. For fringe the welt can be made of scrappy material. The uneven edge will not show once it has been cut into fringe.