The contestants on Naked and Afraid probably wish they had taken a crash course in textiles before they shipped out. I don’t know about you, but I was raised with a little modesty, and enough smarts to avoid the casting calls for stupid reality TV shows.
But if the money was right, and I decided to display my bare buttocks to the world while attempting to survive in a harsh environment, you can bet my derriere wouldn’t be exposed for long. I’d find the best local materials to twist into string, and then weave the string into some clothing and footwear. We’ll talk about how.
First, collect some fiber. Hundreds of species of plants, vines, and trees around the globe have a fibrous inner bark. Strip off a large amount of this fiber and shred it into long strips. Grab a long strip with a small diameter and twist it until it kinks. Hold the kink, and keep twisting each bundle of fiber.
If you twisted clockwise to begin the cord, then keep twisting the fiber bundles clockwise, allowing them to encircle each other counter clockwise. It is the opposing force that make will make the line strong. Splice in new fibers to continue twisting as long a line as you need.
Once you have dozens of yards of string, you can start thinking about weaving and looms.
You might imagine knitting and crocheting to be the domain of sweet little grannies, but those skills allow you to crank out hats, socks, sweaters, and pretty much anything else you’d need from the clothing department.
However, knitting and crocheting aren’t easy skills to master. Creating a primitive loom is a lot easier for most folks to accomplish, and the squares of cloth they produce can be sewn into almost anything.
To make your loom, tie four softwood sticks together to make a square or rectangle. Use small metal nails, wooden pegs, or sharp hardwood thorns (like honey locust or hawthorn) to create pegs on opposing sides of the frame perimeter. This could also be done with stakes in the ground, or lines hanging from another line (as in net making). For the loom, wind some of your string back and forth between two opposing sets of pegs, tying off each end of the line.
Now tie off a new line to the first line, and start weaving the new line over/under—back and forth, just like you did when making that potholder for mom at summer camp. Each course should be pushed tight to the prior one.
In ancient times, the weaver would make the cloth and a second tradesman, the fuller, would tighten the cloth. But if you’re in survival mode, you’ll need to take care of it all yourself. Remove the textile from the loom, tie off any loose ends when finished, and use it as you see fit.
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