The Sewing Kit

As I’ve prepared for moving into primitive living, I’ve had to reassess how I’ve worked my skills in the past. Many of us rely on modern tools to practice our primitive skills. I decided to make a sewing kit using only primitive skills and was amazed at how many skills were needed to create this simple kit- to do a task that we often take for granted. In the past I would probably have used artificial sinew, a modern needle, and sandpaper in making this. I have to admit though that I didn’t have a stone knife to cut the rawhide so it’s not completely primitive. The things I needed to do to create the kit were make a bone awl and needle, process sinew, process the rawhide for the various pouches and create a pottery bowl to hold water to soak the sinew for sewing. I had to relearn how to sew with sinew since it doesn’t come in lovely long lengths like artificial sinew! It took a different sewing technique and the process of using the awl to create holes and the needle to push the sinew through the holes was much more time consuming than using modern tools. Making the awl and needle with just stones for breaking the bone and sanding it was actually quite efficient, at least as good as using modern tools.

Although this all took a lot longer than it would have using modern tools, there were some very positive outcomes. For one, I have confidence now that I at least understand the basics of what all it takes to sew! I have a start on technique that I can improve over time. I also had a much better connection, not only to the end product, but to each element of the animal and stone that was used. When we remove the manufactured items we are more in tune to the raw materials given to us from the Earth. This helps us appreciate the gift of having a sewing kit even more! Can’t wait to do more!

Resident Debbie Tremel originally published in 2014

The Love of a Basket

It was a bitter sweet moment when I finished my basket last night. After so long working together, it’s now complete. When you make something with your own hands you have a much different relationship with it than you can ever have from something purchased. I would rather have very few belongings but have this kind of relationship with them than own everything money can buy. 

This basket has been a part of my life a long time. I walked in the woods when these needles were still a part of their tree. I smelled the richness of pine warmed in the sun. I gathered the needles pruned by the squirrels and waited as they dried. Then I have spent countless hours with this basket. She has been with me through the bitter cold of winter evenings and soaking in the first warmth of the spring sun. She has taught me the value of creating an empty space and reminded me to empty my own cup. She’s shown me that you don’t have to be perfect in form to be beautiful. We’ve been through a lot together. 

So I was sad to end this part of our relationship but overjoyed to see her in her finished form. And with a bit of help from some bees wax I hope she’ll be with me frequently as my water bottle. No matter what service she serves in the long run she has been a tremendous teacher and companion and will remain an important part of my life. When I say I love this basket, it is genuine love, full of appreciation and gratitude.

Resident Debbie Tremel Originally published 2015


So we’ve been living up on the hill for about a month now and it’s shifted my relationship with “need”. We are far from living fully primitively yet but that doesn’t prevent “need” from becoming apparent. For example, Indiana has had the rainiest summer and fall on record. With the rich soil and leaf cover the ground and cover stay incredibly wet. When you’re only using fire for cooking, this makes it challenging. Without a shelter, it’s almost impossible to have completely dry wood so keeping a fire hot enough to cook is almost always a challenge. So the question becomes, do I need hot food? Well, when we had volunteers here who worked hard all day and need a hot supper, the answer was definitely “yes”. You have to use your skills to make sure you take care of the community and the need is very real. Other times when I’ve been alone, I can make another choice.

The need to finish a shelter is also very apparent. Not only is there rain, but the nights are getting colder. Yet there is only so much you can complete in a day. As I’ve worked on thatching my shelter I’ve realized how long it will take just to complete this task. Then trying to balance this with the need to deal with the administration of the organization, fundraising and getting essentials such as food and you have to weigh the most urgent needs. We received some fresh vegetables and need to build a root cellar for some, but others such as the summer squash, won’t last even in that. This wonderful food began to rot so the highest need was to figure how to preserve this valuable food that was gifted to us. So I created a drying rack and am experimenting with how well the squash will dry without full sun and in cooler temperatures. Fortunately it seems to be drying okay in the first couple days…and then it rained again this morning, so we’ll see how it’s fairing.

Need has driven what has to made first priority. It’s inspired creativity and experimentation which is one very enjoyable part of this experience. It’s also highlighted where skills need to be improved to make sure we can accomplish what is necessary. Often what we “want” has to be set aside so that we can focus on what we “need”. Trying to plan your day is almost amusing as each day seems to present a new need. Although it can be a challenge, it is also a very positive experience and brings life to a very vibrant place. It takes you to a place of letting go of control and to opening yourself to what is present. It creates an openness as you step into a place of patience and surrender to the moment, just taking care of what is needed.

Resident Debbie Tremel. Originally published 2014