Making fabric/clothes without industry

Submitted by heckthepolice in permaculture

Hey, not sure if this is the best forum for this, sorry. I've just been thinking a bit about how we might go about making clothes (and other fabric items) after the collapse of civilization. Obviously it won't be as urgent as food, water, shelter, etc. since civilization will leave behind a lot of clothes and fabric to make use of. Nonetheless, I think it's worth learning about some (ideally vegan) ways we can produce clothes without murdering the environment and relying on slave labor.

There are a couple fibers that I think should be able to fulfill most of our needs in most places: hemp, flax (linen), and cotton. Climates similar to my own (temperate with cold winters and hot summers) could use hemp (to make canvas for durable, warm outerwear) and linen (for undergarments and light, breathable summer clothes). These days, canvas is usually made from cotton but I suspect hemp (which was used historically) would be preferable post-collapse outside of tropical and subtropical regions since cotton grows best in warm climates and hemp is super hardy. Plus certain strains of varying legality could be dual purpose. Linen meanwhile, is a lot more labor intensive to make, but also cooler, more breathable, and more comfortable on your junk.

For additional warmth, winter outerwear could be lined with some sort of insulator (maybe leaves?).

People in warmer climates could rely more on cotton, since it grows well there and is pretty cool, breathable, and versatile.

Of course, as climate change continues, these climate-specific ideas will probably become less accurate. By the time this information is actually relevant, it could be totally outdated.

Of course, there are also some non-vegan options. I don't think these would really be necessary in most places, but polar regions without much vegetation might need them. Wool could be very useful, but I think in such polar climates buckskin would be even better. It's relatively simple to process, warm, and durable, as attested by its historical importance to many indigenous peoples of North America. Furs of various animals are also an option. Leather could be used too, but requires much more processing.

What do y'all think? This is only really based on pretty cursory research so I could be totally wrong about a lot of things.


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RedEmmaSpeaks wrote

I don't know if clothing is something we'd have to worry about in the event of a collapse. Industrial Civilization has produced a glut of clothing, enough that everybody on Earth could wear a new outfit everyday for the rest of their life, and still have plenty of clothing leftover. When you operate under the meme of Constant Production for the Sake of Production, you wind up with massive amounts of product, but scarce amounts of resources. Probably what we'd really need to do in the post-collapse, is learn how to mend and sew, take care of what was leftover.

I do believe that going completely nonvegan is impractical, especially for some environments. Cotton and many other vegan substitutes are much more labor-intensive and rougher on the environment than nonvegan stuff. They leech nutrition out of the soil pretty quickly and require an extensive amount of labor and pesticides. Plus, they tend to produce a poor quality product. A good pair of leather shoes will last longer; in the time it takes a pair of leather shoes to wear down, you probably will have had to purchase five pairs of PETA-approved gear. Considering the amount of labor and resources that go into manufacturing, leather footwear is probably friendlier to the environment and again, it lasts longer.

Though if a culture uses leather, it would be kind of bizarre to kill the cow and leave the rest to rot. Maybe in the post-collapse world, we should approach butchering animals by doing it Kosher-style. It is considered one of the most humane ways to butcher animals and there are many stringent standards it has to pass in order to qualify as Kosher.


heckthepolice wrote (edited )

You're probably right about it not being very important to be able to make clothing; it's just an idea that occurred to me and I figured it might merit some discussion.

And yeah, non-vegan options like leather definitely have advantages over the vegan alternatives, especially for footwear. That's something I find interesting, that sometimes following strict veganism might actually end up being more harmful to animals and the environment than a technically non-vegan option and there may be cases where you have to take a more holistic approach rather than just following a simple rule like "no animal products". I hadn't really considered footwear much when writing the post, but now that you mention, I've realized that footwear is probably the one think that we actually would have to make post-collapse since it gets worn down through use, so that was kind of a silly oversight. I think it might be viable to avoid non-vegan footwear in some places, like where sandals are viable. And we could probably repurpose various scrap materials (rubber from tires for soles, fabric and leather/animal products that are already laying around, etc.). That said, we may very well end up having to rely on nonvegan footwear in many places.

My personal inclination regarding animal slaughter to get materials would be:

  1. Don't raise animals to be slaughtered; either hunt or use what you can when the animals you take care of die (or find animals that have died in the wild, though they're likely not to be usable).

  2. Only kill animals when you have to.

  3. Kill as painlessly as possible.

  4. Make use of every part of the animal you possibly can.


heckthepolice wrote (edited )

I feel like it might be cool to have a specific forum for this kind of stuff. Maybe something like f/lifewithoutindustry or f/lifewithoutcivilization or f/postcollapseskills or f/primitiveskills or something? idk. Is there already such a forum that I'm just unaware of?

edit: sorta like the intersection of f/permaculture, f/diy, f/wild, f/green, f/anticiv, f/vegan, and f/collapse that doesn't really fit into any of them