I have spent a lot of time sewing lately. This includes new buckskin trousers, a cotton shirt, shoes, a few leather bags, and some repairs to older clothes. This has caused me to think about sewing without manufactured goods. Over the last few evenings I’ve been making a better primitive sewing kit. Although I can’t say that bone could fully replace the smallest steel needles in my day-to-day sewing basket, I have been able to make some very small ones indeed from some deer legs I have lying around.
I’ve learned that very small holes can be made with a largish stone flake or knife if it has a sufficiently acute point, drilling from one side and joining it with a hole from the other. From a sewing perspective, the smallest hole possible will provide the strongest needle. during the finishing on the smallest needles, I had a 50% failure rate splitting out the eye. No matter though, as all that was lost will a little time but knowledge and experience were gained along the way.
Despite their fragility, bone needles are found far back in the archaeological record of Europe, Asia, and North America. Small, eyed needles are generally considered, in the Anthropological community, as proxy evidence for tailored clothing or, in a few cases, surgical.
Both the awls above are also based on archaeological examples; the awl being a universal tool in human communities. The metacarpal “knob” on the sewing awl still needs a bit of refinement but the round handle works well for repeated stitching in buckskin.
Making the new needles prompted a new needle case. This is a simple affair made from rivercane with a yucca stem stopper. The cordage strengthens the tube and prevents splitting and the whole thing was rubbed down with pine tar for preservation (hence the dark coloration of the cord).
Finally, with a thin scrap of bone I ground out a bone toothpick to keep in the kit as it is always a handy thing to have in the bush.