Blog Title Card

Blog Title Card

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sew What!

Dashing to learn to sew!
Hurry, teach me please!
Useful skills to know!
So that I don't freeze! (Brr! Brr! Brr!)

These are some of the lyrics to the popular hobo parody, "Neddle Spells", a take off on the traditional Christmas anthem "Jingle Bells".  It's a lighthearted tune that History Dan (our blog's resident hobo historian) says dates back to at least the late 1940's.

While this song is lighthearted and whimsical, the idea of learning how to adequately sew clothes is very serious business to the modern vagrant. Even at so-called "discount stores" clothes can come at a premium price, so keeping them in good shape and usable is key to practicing the Five Pillars.  That's not to mention the fact that sewing skills can mean the difference between health and disease--or even life and death--in cold climates.

Throughout the years, experienced Leathermen would conduct impromptu classes (commonly called "Sewlas", pronounced "So-Las") to a number of hobo brethren  where they would pay a fee (usually an ingredient in a good batch of hobo chili or gumbo) that the Leatherman would then be allowed to enjoy all by himself if he so chose.  It was in one of these Sewlas that I first learned the song that opened this post!

The term "Sewla" probably only dates back to the mid-1970's, but History Dan says they have gone on in some fashion for as long as vagrants have wandered the earth.

Some vagrants still prefer to learn through Sewlas, but in the event that they don't have something to trade, are on bad terms with the local Leatherman or don't have a local Leatherman at all, there are some modern-day alternatives.

The Internet has brought a wealth of information to our fingertips, and public libraries often provide free limited-time access to the Web.  That's how I am able to transcribe for this blog, and likely how the vagrant audience of this blog are accessing this website.

For a cheaper alternative Sewlas, check out these and other tutorial web sites and videos.  Feel free to bring a pair of pants, needle and thread with you to the library to practice on, or simply stitch what you're already wearing.  In my experience, many librarians or computer lab monitors are tolerant and respectful of this sort of activity, as long as we ourselves are respectful and quiet.  Remember your Five Pillars, friends.

Here is an introductory list of some tutorial sewing websites and videos.  Feel free to send me your recommendations; the mail bag is always open...

Good Intro to Sewing Resources:

These skills also come in handy for repairing or reinforcing sleeping tents, shoes, blankets, hats, gloves and scarves.  As they say "the sky's the limit if you say sew!"

In solidarity,

Train Tom