In the article on fishing kits, I mentioned that a good fish line makes a top notch survival thread. It is a good idea when building your fishing kit, to make it into a sewing kit as well. Why? Well, sewing may turn out to be even more important than fishing. If you have a rip in your clothing or equipment, then you will be exposed to whatever that clothing/equipment is intended to protect you from. Having the capability to repair it could be critical.
What to add to your fishing kit, or if you insist, a separate sewing kit? Well, you hopefully already have the “thread”; that is, your 25 to 30 pound (or whatever weight you have chosen) braided fishing line. In your fishing kit, have extra, to support both fishing and sewing. In a sewing only kit, I’d still suggest the fishing line, since you can choose it based on the tensile strength rating. After all, you are unlikely to be sewing up an evening gown in a survival situation, so having “real” thread does not seem to offer any benefit. But if you must have thread, get the largest diameter, strongest, that you can find.
Update: How to carry your thread/fishing line? Well, I just put 60 to 70 feet of fishing line onto a sewing machine bobbin. In about a minute, using the sewing machines bobbin loader, although I had to hold the wide, flat reel of fishing line on a pencil because it was too wide to mount on the sewing machine. This technique would have been even more effective for actual thread. Another option is to take a tongue depressor or wide Popsicle stick (like from a fancy ice cream bar) cut to length. Make a notch in each end, and wrap. This works well for fishing line although wrapping it by hand is tedious; it probably would be even more so for thread. Finally, http://www.m4040.com has pre-made spools of fishing line in 15 pound (100′) and 25 pound (50′) sizes in case you prefer to let someone else do the work.
The other critical component is needles. You can get huge needles for canvas or leather, common in many pre-made kits, and I do include a couple in most of my kits. But I prefer to also have some more “normal” sized needles for clothing repairs. The trick is to make sure the eye is big enough to handle my fishing line. Thus, I go with “Quilting Betweens” labeled 3/9 for “small” needles, and “Chenille” needles, labeled 18/22 for “medium” needles. These seem to have big enough eyes for survival usage. Where practical, I have a couple of each size, since they are quite small, and even under non-stress conditions I tend to drop them a lot. Since the packs of needles I get have various sized needles in them, I suspect that “18/22” and “3/9” are RANGES of sizes, not specific sizes. Generally, I prefer to use the bigger sized needles from each package. Having a “needle holder” (a small tube) filled with an assortment of needles is a good idea whenever it will fit, since this will keep them from getting “lost”, or damaged, or damaging you, or your other equipment.
Update: If you don’t have a needle holder or it won’t fit, another option is to cut a piece of card stock about 1″ longer than your longest needle. Push each needle into the card, through and back through, with the eyes even with one end of the card. When all are in, cut to width and fold over the long end to cover the point of the needles. Wrap in paper or upside down tape so the needles don’t get sticky, then tape the package closed.
This forms the key components of your sewing kit. You may want to have a needle threader in there, since threading a needle can be a challenge under normal conditions. If if will fit, a thimble may prove to be of use when sewing heavy materials.
Safety pins can be useful. They are available in sizes 3/4″, 1″, 1 1/2″ and 2″, and probably bigger. The box I got was an assortment claiming to consist of sizes 0, 1, 2 and 3, which contained ones of the mentioned sizes. If I am limited to only a few safety pins, I go with 2″ ones whenever they will fit. If space is less of a concern, I like to to have at least 2 of the bigger sizes and 4 of the smaller sizes.
About the only other thing which might be handy is a small selection of buttons. Don’t worry about matching style o color, just common sizes. You are not trying to win a fashion show…
Of course, you COULD expand this into a “repair” kit with the addition of Duct tape or 100 MPH tape, epoxy putty or tape, electrical tape, malleable wire (also used for snares), general purpose patches and zip ties.