One of the most versatile and useful item that should be in every reenactors kit is the sewing kit. Its portable, since its compact enough to fit in your pocket, and weights less than a pound. The sewing kit also contains much more than just a needle and thread. Having one can often mean the difference between having a good event, or an uncomfortable one.
Some form of sewing devices have been part of a soldier’s essentials for hundreds of years. When you are in rougher than average conditions, something is inevitably going to break and you will need some way to mend it. During the American Civil War traveling merchants, often called sutlers, sold a sewing kit referred to as a “portable housewife.” This was a “kit”, meaning it contained several different items in a compact organized form. They typically contained the following: needles, thread, spare buttons, and pieces of fabric to use for patching holes or use as backing to repair rips in the wool. This was all contained in a fabric pack that could be rolled up for storage. By the time World War 2 came around, nearly every major army issued a sewing kit. They were based on the same concept, that contained many of the same things, but added more to it. The Germans added scissors and safety pins, as well as expanded upon the thread and needles. They had needles of different sizes, as well as thread of different diameters and kinds.
Just having the sewing kit is not enough. You also have to have the knowledge to be able to mend your uniform. Nowadays, there are vast resources out there to learn how to sew and darn. Youtube is a great resource, as well as Der Erste Zug. Der Erste Zug has a wonderful article, showing you how to properly darn a piece of fabric. The typical use for this skill would be on socks, or even your wool pants.
Having a basic knowledge in sewing, as well as the kit to use it, is invaluable in the field. I personally have repaired countless buttons, shoulder strap loops, tears, etc. I have also loaned my kit out to fellow reenactors countless times. A sewing kit is one of the least expensive items you can buy. However, it is the most useful and will save you a ton of aggravation and money.
By Michael Wilder