Economic Multipliers (14)

Do you know what these are?

They help CREATE wealth in systems.

Thread is an economic multiplier.


The concept of economic multipliers — the things which create ‘multiplying’ wealth (Note: the term usually refers to a number that shows just how 'much' multiplication of wealth could or did occur) — is actually quite broad.

If I say thread is an economic multiplier, then (if you’re interested in economic multipliers), you must say WHY?

In my mother’s and grandmother’s generation, it was almost always cheaper to make clothes than to buy them and you were a lucky kid if you had a talented seamstress or tailor in the family. My generation is what I call the ‘rollover’ generation. The material, buttons, lining and thread for the blouses that I sewed when I was young cost a little bit less than what it would have cost to buy a blouse new but I didn’t get paid for my time (AND you had to already have all the equipment: sewing machine, needles, scissors, measuring tape, pins, pattern, ironing board etc. – usually courtesy of a parent who already sewed).

Today (except for ‘designer’ clothes), I believe it’s MUCH cheaper to buy clothes than to make them: the advantages of mechanization and economies of scale. Not only that, buying ‘premade’ clothes takes no time or equipment.

Schools (fortunately) still recognize that even if most kids aren’t going to make their own clothes, it’s very handy to have skills: a $30.00 shirt that needs a button sewn on is worth nothing to the wearer if they can’t wear it to work. Simple things like being able to sew on a button are worth money.

Now interestingly, even if you have a skill (like being able to sew on a button) and you have the button, the shirt will only be worth $30.00 again (to you – because you won’t have to buy another one) if you have a needle AND the right color thread.

For that reason alone, I believe that ALL junior high schools and high schools across the nation should have a ‘thread keeper’ – a person that keeps boxes of LOTs of different colored thread (see P.S. regarding doing this through the libraries). Most repair jobs take less than 4 feet of thread and spools of thread normally have 150 to 200 yards. (I usually use a ‘doubled up’ strand of polyester or cotton-covered polyester thread.)

Since color is ‘critical’ (Note: always go slightly darker if you can’t match the color perfectly), if the resource limited but MOTIVATED kids in a community could start ‘harvesting’ the things that just needed simple repairs and had access to the ‘right tools’ to make the repairs, many communities (and these kids) would end up with greater bases of wealth.

Likewise, if sewing classes taught to kids focused on repairing some of the things in the community that needed repair, you’d end up with even greater value.

Just as my generation was the ‘rollover’ generation when it comes to buying versus making clothes, this generation is the generation which has the opportunity to ‘harvest’ all that thread sitting in grandparent’s and great grandparent’s closets and put it to use.

I think it would be a shame if resource limited but MOTIVATED kids didn’t have the opportunity to create greater bases of wealth for themselves just because they didn’t have the right color thread (or the right ‘a lot of other things’).


I started a ‘tool’ album at my Picasa photo site (downsize100) and showed sleeves which needed new elastic. (OPEN) Of course I believe the USE of tools creates economic multipliers and in this case, featured a ‘fat needle.’ The orange thread that I used was ‘too dark’ but I considered myself lucky to find orange in my thread box at all. I did the repairs on the seams on the insides of the wrists so you’d never know unless you were looking for them.

I put a photo of the jacket in an “‘OLD’ to ‘NEW’” album so you could see what I ‘salvaged.’ (OPEN)

This jacket may not be ‘your style’ but that’s irrelevant: you would have selected something that was.

And, when it comes to the value of ‘bases of wealth,’ I already had leftover elastic from another ‘project’ sitting in a box (and pick up ‘stuff’ at rummage and estate sales if I think it might have a future use – where I got some of my thread from). You might be surprised by the ‘stuff’ you’d find in your parents, grandparents or great grandparents closets if you asked them.

Prior generations HAD to repair things: many people could barely afford to buy ‘stuff’ in the first place.

As an example, when I was a kid, socks were so expensive (relative to income for most people) that many people (including my mother) mended their socks (called darning). I learned the skill but never had to rely on it. Sewing kits for travelers in those years included darning thread (multi-stranded thread specifically for mending socks). Even people who had the income to travel thought socks were ‘worth’ mending.

The world has changed A LOT.


I only sewed 3 blouses in my youth and don’t sew them anymore. Mine never did look as good as the store-bought ones – partially because I was not willing to take the time to pull out and resew the seams if they weren’t perfect: Never underestimate the time it takes to develop a skill so when you do it the FIRST time, it’s EXACTLY what you want. But I also don’t hesitate to repair something that I believe is worth salvaging and occasionally my artistic and even scientific endeavors require sewing skills.

Some patience comes with age: If I took the time to sew a blouse today, I’d rip out a less than perfect seam and redo it (I’ve decided that it’s only worth doing things if you PLAN to do them well). But interestingly, because I’ve taken the time to repair many things over the course of many years, it’s pretty likely today that I’d sew it right the first time.


P.S. Libraries (from my perspective) are the best places to distribute things because they are permanent and easy to access. If it were possible to permanently ‘check out’ up to 10 to 15 feet of a certain color thread, most hand repairs and alterations (fixing seams, shortening pants or hems, sewing on buttons, etc.) could easily be done. And, if a sewing lab was open once a week (so those resource limited but MOTIVATED kids had access to equipment), I believe that communities would be absolutely amazed at what kids could accomplish.

One of my neighbors sold a $35 backpack for $2 at a rummage sale recently that needed minor repairs – a 4 inch repair of a zipper seam. Fully repaired, guess who’s using it now?! (Even my niece thought it was 'cool.')

And a P.S. to the P.S. regarding that backpack: I removed some ink doodles with hair spray (well rubbed in) and standard laundering. This doesn't always work but did for this.