Should we be planning a new approach for producing clothing?

"Should we be planning a new approach for producing clothing?" sounds like a strange question. Should we even be thinking about it?

If the economy declines slowly, surely someone, somewhere will be manufacturing clothing, and all we have to do is buy new clothes. Besides, clothing lasts a long time. Most of us could get along with our current clothing for ten years (perhaps with a little swapping around for children's clothing). So why worry about clothing?

But it seems like we should at least do a little thinking about the subject. A transition to a new approach for manufacturing clothing would take a long time. Fossil fuels are declining, and some folks would like to phase out fossil fuels because of CO2 and other issues. Furthermore, collapse related to financial issues is at least somewhat of a possibility.

If we should be considering new methods for production of clothing, it seems like there are a whole host of other items that might also need new methods of production, for example:

a. Paper
b. Writing implements
c. Fences needed for farming (or hedges to substitute)
d. Containers of various types
e. Hoses used for transporting water

In this post, though, we will think about some of the issues to do with clothing.

Several different types of plans might be made for manufacturing clothing, considering the likely decline in the availability of fossil fuels:

1. We might get along with whatever clothing factories currently available are able to produce, plus reusing whatever clothing we have now. Hopefully, any serious downturn is far enough away that someone else can figure out the details later, if another plan is needed.

2a. Individuals interested in sustainability might attempt to grow their own linen, or cotton or hemp, or raise sheep, and start from scratch gathering the supplies they need to first make thread or yarn, then weave it into cloth, dye the cloth, and make it into clothing.

2b. If there is a village of interested people, the functions in 2a might be divided up a bit, with some growing the linen, cotton, hemp, or wool, some making yarn from the materials, some dying the yarn, some weaving the yarn into cloth, and some making clothing from the cloth. Necessary tools and equipment using local materials would need to be figured out now, well in advance of the decline, and workers would need to start now, practicing their new skills.

3. We might set up some factories powered by wind or water that would make cloth, using technology that has been around for centuries. Nearby, we might start training individuals to grow the inputs needed for these factories, such as linen or hemp, using approaches that do not require fossil fuels. Some method of transportation of the goods to and from the factories would also need to be put in place, perhaps using animal power. All of the tools and equipment would be made mostly out of wood or other local materials, so they could be easily replaced when they wear out.

4. We might set up some factories powered by solar PV, and enlist some farmers nearby to grow crops that could be used to make the cloth, using electric vehicles (golf carts, or something fancier, if available) for transportation and for work in the fields. Solar panels might be used for recharging the electric vehicles as well. We might stockpile three or four sets of solar PV panels, plus a few batteries, so that the factories would have fairly long lives, even if no replacement solar panels and batteries are ever made again.

5. We might set up a network of fossil fuel powered factories around the country, first to make cloth (perhaps make synthetic fabrics from oil), and then to make the cloth into "local clothing". We might make obtaining fuel and parts for the factories a priority, and hope the factories would be able to stay in operation for quite a while.


1. Should we even be thinking about a new method for producing clothing?

2. Is there a better approach for handling the clothing problem that I have left out?

3. What approach would make most sense to you?

4. In your selected approach, what would be needed in terms of land? Equipment? Training in new skills?

5. How would such a big undertaking be funded?

6. Extra Credit: How would handle one of the other issues besides clothing, listed at the beginning?

I think we are a long way off needing to retool the clothing industry: Clothing is one of the few goods most westerners have way too much of, and in any case manufacture of clothing would be prioritised once the downslope really kicks in: Clothing is a necessary good to live in many climates therefore it will get made, albeit at perhaps a high price.

I used to live down the road from the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford,UK. Some of you may be familiar with this place, a treasure trove of artefacts from all cultures and all periods of time. There is a large clothing section there which shows how inventive humankind has been in making garments through the years. The gorgeous fur gear made for Siberia by one tribe stands out in my memory, as does the seal intestine raincoat (Inuit?). I would be happy to wear either.

Anyhow, clothing will happen alright in even the bleakest future. We will obviously have less of it but vast amounts of fabric already exist and can be worked and remade into garments, certainly for the next 50 years or so, even if it means cutting up the cushion covers. Even a dummy like me can make effective low-tech fabric like felt given some sheep, shears and some time.

I am more worried about long-term retooling stuff like dental material supply and medical supply chains to be less fossil fuel dependant: I want antibiotics and pain-free dentistry for my great-grand children!

The Pitt Rivers also has a section of medical instruments from a wide range of low energy societies and civilizations: I would allow none of these near me; to say they are crude and ineffective is an understatement. The complex drug and instrument manufacture for modern medical care are going to need to be carried forward into a low energy future, but this is hardly touched upon at present.

I don't know whether this fits Gail's classification, but I consider shoes/boots/etc as clothing. As such, they're probably the "most important to be able to replace relatively frequently" item of clothing (you can patch clothing/wear multiple layers if you don't care about the look, but "repairing" footwear is muchmore difficult, particularly since poor repair has a big chance of damaging your feet). I find that I have maybe three pairs of shoes/boots in use at once and on average each pair lasts 8 months to a year before needing replacement. (The fact that I walk to and from work, shopping ,etc is a factor in this, so if a post peak world requires us all to do more of this expect your shoes to wear out faster.) And it's not about the lack of cobbling -- in modern shoes/boots I find that either the "weird undersole rubber springing" will collapse or the stitching will go long before theres wear on the sole worth worrying about.

As to what the best thing to do about it, beyond setting up a robust network of manufacturing firms and trying to redesigning them for robustness rather than "lasts 6 montsh", I haven't got any brilliant ideas.

yes, with PO is the primary issue with regard to clothing with FF decline; ask an serious backpacker.

we've bought boots for all family members which can be resoled... a rarity in the US market; & these were of course made overseas- Italy.

this will be a very important skill/vocation.

I agree that shoes are very much of an issue--and probably before clothing.

I have some shoes that I have bought but for some reason not worn very much. Rather than giving these away, I have been keeping them. If I don't need them, perhaps someone else will be able to use them.

"I am more worried about long-term retooling stuff like dental material supply and medical supply chains to be less fossil fuel dependant: I want antibiotics and pain-free dentistry for my great-grand children!"

I've just in the last couple of weeks met a local peaknik who is a dentist. I plan to ask him today how he thinks his practice will cope with oil depletion.

I am a dentist. IMO Peak oil also means peak dentistry.

Modern dentistry is very dependant on energy intensive and exotic materials and finely tooled devices that are often supplied a long distance from the end user. A constant supply of spare parts keeps the dental equipment working. There may be only one global manufacturer for a particular item type, so there is no resilience in the supply chain. We have seen this already where the dominant manufacturer of dental local anaesthesia experienced production problems causing a global shortage of the most commonly used dental anaesthetic. Dentists without a good stockpile had to make do with less appropriate alternatives.

A single bankrupcy could render a key item of expensive equipment obsolete due to a lack of certified spares. Financial effects of peak-oil are worrying as many dental companies have weak balance sheets. Setting up a replacement supplier and chain requires capital that may not be there in future.

Increasingly it seems to me the ultimate destination for low energy dentistry will be an increase in extraction of teeth, which will requires relatively simple hand tools. Maintainance of high tech dentistry such as implants, crown and bridge is already expensive and could become prohibitive for the man in street. No one wants to end up like Tom Hanks in Castaway with a toothache and no dentist, making do with bashing the tooth out with a rock! But that is what happens today in the Third World if you cannot afford dentistry. We should take note and act to take care of our teeth to prevent problems, and maintain some means of obtaining decent dental care.

One question that interests me is the post peak diet: Sugar is cheap and causes tooth decay. As we get poorer will we eat more sugar or less?

I think initially we may find we rely more and more on the very cheap imported cane sugars as a food source due to their cost when compared with local food sources like vegetables and fruits. Certainly that has been the trend in the West for some decades. At what point will the costs of transportation increase to make this untenable?

A general population with a diet low in sugar would require less dentistry for sure. But I don't think that we will see this for many decades to come. The dental needs of the current generation of sugar addicts will keep me busy for the rest of my working life for sure.

Will dentistry in the far future post peak still exist?
I think that it might perhaps return to its roots as an artisan trade that is passed down more by local "apprenticeship" rather than relying on expensive and lengthy university courses that are often geographically distant from the hometown. Certainly that is the case in the low energy past and in many low energy societies today. Historically the profession of dentist arose from the practical "barber-surgeons" rather than the great universities. However there is rather a lot of materials science and physiology, biochemistry, anatomy and microbiology required to become a rounded and competent modern dentist. How do we pass this down the centuries to future post-oil practitioners?

The volume of hydrocarbons needed for making tooth fillings, anesthetic and plastic tools is small.
It could be provided with tar sand oil, old running down oil fields or renewables such as wood chips.

The supply chain need to retool and perhaps integrate vertically doing more of the processes near to each other. But they should not be in a hurry since people are willing to prioritize fixing problems that actually hurt and can skip something else to afford dentistry.

Dentistry supplies along with other medicine should make very god trading goods in the post peak oil future since they are compact and high value.

I bot agree and disagree: The needs of dentistry are small, but the overall medical sector energy/hydrocarbon use is significant. Clearly using vast quantities of resources to make single use disposable medical items is not going to be sustainable long term without some serious attention to switching the resource base to renewable energy and feedstock. I just cant see any way a far post peak world can maintain current supply given what we know/believe about peak oil right now.

Difficulty with many medical items as a trade good is shelf life: in our litigious world no Western medic would use something like a medicine that is out-of-date, despite it being functional. It is too much of a medicolegal risk. Stuff like surgical drill burs may not go out of date, but might corrode or become too shelf-worn to be able to validate a sterilization cycle, again a medicolegal risk.

Current medical guidelines regularly require use of high embedded energy items.

In some ways high energy use is seemingly embedded in the law: The legal frameworks around modern Western medicine assume that the medic has the correct gear and drugs, with the corrollary being if the supply is not there then the medical procedure should not occur: What will happen if that access to medical supply is impaired? Does the doctor improvise? If he does not improvise the patient may suffer or die: If he improvises, uses the out of date medicine he risks losing his right to practice if the patient has a poor outcome? It is an all too real catch-22 situation that could arise.

Ultimately, to avoid this situation, maintaining manufacturing capability and quality-assured just-in-time supply chain to ensure freshness of medical items for patient safety reasons is critical under the current aggressive legal environment. In a post peak world perceptions of risk may change, but right now defensive medicine is where it is at.

in our litigious world

That must change, or reality will change it a decade later in a needlessly poorer society.

Hi Wizard,

Very interesting comment - thanks for your insight. I have felt for some time now that us older folks are going to have a very difficult time with medical care once FF shortages start. It would seem prudent not to delay medical procedures that are necessary but not urgent time-wise.

A friend and I were talking about legal issues today, and we both agree that legal issues will change in the future.

The whole legal profession will change just like everything else, it takes money and oil to fund lawyers, I would be willing to bet that a lot of the things we see in the courts today, won't even be bothered with in 50 years or less.

But it all depends on what sort of world you have to look at in the future. And that is anybody's guess.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed future.

There are a huge number of applications that, by themselves, appear not to use very much energy, but I think we are kidding ourselves if we think we can somehow keep these segments going by themselves, as others go under.

One of the issues is that there are a large number of interrelated segments that must be kept up to make the system work--for example, high tech manufacturing requires computers; international trade at a high level is required, to get all of the raw materials transferred to where they country where the manufacturing is done, and then to the place of final use; as Welsh pointed out, the manufacturers must not go bankrupt. If there is an overall drop in demand, and the manufacturers are highly leveraged, this may not be possible.

Theoretically, some government can bail out necessary segments. But I find it hard to believe this will actually happen. Governments are having difficulty themselves, and are having to lay off workers. They are not going to stop and analyze too closely which needs are most critical, and what all of the sub-paths need to keep these critical needs satisfied. In fact, dentistry probably wouldn't even make the first cut--probably food, water, electricity, and emergency medical would be bigger issues.

Hi Gail,

large number of interrelated segments that must be kept up to make the system work

In my working days, we provided computer based automation in the supply chain. We all knew that if our computer systems failed for any significant period of time, we would be "seeing the judge". Meaning that we would be sued because huge financial losses would result. I have vivid recollections of long lines of tractor-trailers backed up on the highway because they could not move into a warehouse until the computer systems were back up and running properly.

Have you seen the book 'When there is no dentist', if so what do you think of it?

I've got no idea on how modern anaesthetics are made by I know John Snow was experimenting with ether in the 18th Century so I assume its not so complicated to make???

Interesting book: Good in parts, clearly aimed at a Third World audience. There were a few bits I disagreed with; one example was sterilization of instruments was discouraged following fillings which is a cross infection hazard in my opinion. The recommendation for a rinse for gum disease was hydrogen peroxide which will work, but I believe most here will be able to get hold of chlorhexidine rinse which is perhaps better. This book could be a useful primer if one was unable to access dental care in the Third World and needed first aid options.

It is really worth emphasizing again that prevention of dental problems is key: Fluoride toothpastes and rinses, sensible diet and twice daily thorough brushing plus flossing make a huge difference to your risk of dental disease.

I can say from experience it is incredibly difficult to operate on your own teeth. I really would discourage it. Far better to let a dental professional sort out the problem rather than attempt it yourself: They have the tools and the experience to do a quality restoration, plus they can pick up early signs of serious disease like oral cancer that can be lifesaving. It is possible future dentistry might be more unaffordable than today if peak oil leads to further financial chaos and increased material costs, so it makes sense to sort out dental problems with your dentist as soon as possible. Delaying treatment may be a false economy as disease can spread and be more difficult to fix in future. So please make an appointment!

Manufacture of medical grade lidocaine is not something to be attempted at home:

Dental LA typically has around 1:100,000 epinephrine added to give vasoconstriction. I have no idea how they synthesize this component.

The Tom Hanks character in Castaway (named Noland!) was shown extracting his own painful tooth in a clever way, not bashed out with a rock.

Lots of preparation was portrayed, with a wad, a poultice, of something with seawater presumably. The character used the back end of an ice skate from a fedEx package that had washed up from the plane crash, one of many. This and the other skate were his prime survival tools.

He placed the point of the back end of the blade on his troubled molar and carefully but with gusto knocked on the serrated front end of the blade with a coconut, "One, Two-o, Bonk!", using his propped up elbow as the fulcrum of an arc for a measured blow. Voila! He passes out, the tooth drops on the floor of his little cave with a few drops of blood, then he emerges four years later (heads up, students!) as a spear fisherman, tanned, lean, rested and ready to attack the heavy surf, winds, ocean currents, and exposure on his sailing raft to put himself hundreds of sea miles away in a shipping lane. What a movie!

surely you are kidding with this post. As an old man i will never purchase anymore clothes for myself. I wear mostly dimim(sp) overalls, jeans and cotton shirts. i plan to live a few more years, and have found the secret is to preserve them is to keep them out of washing machines and clothes dryers. Data that i have collected myself is that overalls washed and dried in these new modern energy intensive machines last 3-4 years. When i wear the same clothes into the shower and soap the dirty spots and allow to soak overnight in the bath water before i rinse and hang them out to dry the next day last a minimum of 10 years with a little patching. Next time you turn on your washer and dryer stand by and listen to the sound, which is similar to a turtle trying to climb out of a wash tub. no, i am convinced that automatic washers and dryers are the reason our clothes wear out so quickly. I have numerous shirts, shoes, and pants that are 40 or more years old. Stylish I ain't. Suggest others get use to it. You folks in the future, after I am gone, ought to get use to sack cloth and a little nudity. the latter I am sorry to say I will miss. but that is the way the cookie crumbles. Edward Bernays and his cohorts tricked us into believing style and super cleanliness would get us laid. It ain't so. Ladies can see past the stained clothes into your soul in a flash. My clothes are clean but a stain now and then is just a badge of some work that's been done.

a little nudity. the latter I am sorry to say I will miss.

*looks at self*

Naw, you ain't missing anything

(Goes back to looking at the 1920's vintage patents on plant fiber seperators VS sticking the plants in running water and beating the fibers loose)

Patents on plant fiber separators VS running water and beating the fibers loose? Eric, are you telling me I am wearing dirty clothes? I always knew i was ahead of the times. Learned the washing technique back in my professional days when delays occurred and the hotel laundry was inconvenient and expensive. I ask you what is all that stuff one gets from a dryer filter? Looks like cloth fiber to me. got to go, date with a coed tonight. (Dream on. Delusions are a definite benefit of old age.)

Patents on plant fiber separators VS running water and beating the fibers loose?


The water and beating comment was about the processing of the plant and extracting the fibers. The traditional method is called retting.

Pond retting is the fastest. It consists of placing the flax in a pool of water which will not evaporate. It generally takes place in a shallow pool which will warm up dramatically in the sun; the process may take from only a couple days to a couple weeks. Pond retted flax is traditionally considered lower quality, possibly because the product can become dirty, and easily over-retts, damaging the fiber. This form of retting also produces quite an odor.
Stream retting is similar to pool retting, but the flax is submerged in bundles in a stream or river. This generally takes longer than pond retting, normally by two or three weeks, but the end product is less likely to be dirty, does not smell as bad and, because the water is cooler, it is less likely to be over-retted.

That is quite a bit of work. Access to 1920's vintage metal and tech however:

George W. Schlichten had finally accomplished what hundreds of other inventors had failed to do. He had solved an age-old problem and invented a machine that could separate the useful bast fibers from the plant. Prior to this decorticator, work was tedious in an effort to break, hack, and scutch the tough stalks into shape for spinning yarn -- something that increased labour costs by a factor of at least 100. Although the machine could clean the fiber from any plant, hemp was Schlichten’s favourite.
The twenty-foot long decorticator stripped off the green leafy vegetation of the dry stalks and then crushed them through a series of fluted rollers and flappers so that the hurds and woody pith were broken out. A series of combs and rollers brushed out the short ‘tow’ fibers while the long fibers were massaged enough to degum them. The pectin coatings flaked off and were collected for industrial purposes. The final product, called the ‘sliver’, rolled out the far end of the machine and was ready for spinning into the finest of linens. According to Jack Herer, the invention of the decorticator was a concern to industrialists of the time. It could have revolutionized industry and sparked an economic upheaval similar to that caused by the perfection of the cotton gin a century before. has a list of patents.

Sunflowers have long fibres - but they tend to be weak. Ears of corn have nice thick tough fibres that withstand being in earthworm bins - however they are short. Flax wants you to uproot the plants, if my memory is correct, for best results.

But remember plant fibers don't have to go to clothes:
In the December 1941 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine, culminating twelve years of research, he unveiled his automobile “grown from the soil” - a plastic body made from 70% hemp, wheat straw, and sisal, with a 30% hemp resin binder on a tubular steel frame. The car weighed a third less than its steel counterparts, but demonstrated ten times the impact strength.

Fascinating. Thanks for that, I found it very interesting.

I remember my father mentioning a flax mill in Northern Ireland from his youth. If I remember correctly, he said the women had to work in the mill and the floor was always covered with several inches of water to maintain humidity for working the flax. How important the streams were and also something about the rushes in them, the root of which was used for stomach problems.

I have to agree with you about this being a joke. Being an old man myself I don't understand the fashion industry, but making clothes. The young people I know don't even want to cook a meal. Make their clothes? Ain't gonna happen until there are no more clothes. Golf carts for farming. Give me a break. Just bring back the mule when its needed. A good mule is useful most of the year. In the spring they break the ground for planting. In the summer they are used in the fields to collect the crops. In the fall they can pull logs out of the forest for firewood. On the weekends they will pull your cart to the market. On Sundays they will haul you to church. They are truly a green machine. You put grass in one in and get fertilizer out of the other end. A well train mule will even take vocal commands pulling a slide without a guiding hand. They are hard headed. With loving care they are a wonderful beast of burden.

lineman, i agree. A good mule is hard to beat. Most folks don't know what "gee and haw" means. Walked behind one many a mile. Saw a young filly in the grocery store today and if I could get a mule that walked like that i would go back to farming. Forgive the analogy.


Front loading washing machines will make clothes last much longer and use less soap, water and energy.

Front load is not the key.

Those who've not looked at my profile will note a link to the washing machine company.

To fix one you need a belt. No fancy electronics - just switches.

Speakin' of stylish, my wife last week pointed out that the jeans worn by an early-20's girl who helps us out have holes in the knees, and are threadbare in places... and they are new, selling for north of $60 a pair in just that condition. My wife was chortling that her 35-year-old jeans have exactly the same wear pattern, and she paid $3 for 'em used back then.

It's hard to think that there will be any sort of actual clothing shortage in the coming century, unless style demands it.

My wife was chortling that her 35-year-old jeans have exactly the same wear pattern, and she paid $3 for 'em used back then.

Sell em on eBay.

Hi greenish,

any sort of actual clothing shortage in the coming century

I suspect that loincloths would work in your neck-of-the-woods. But, up here in the frozen north, I suspect that proper clothing could be an issue for some folks. I know people who own very little clothing that could actually sustain them in below zero weather once FF shortages start.

These people live in heated homes or apartments with their cars parked indoors. They jump into their cars in below zero temps with nothing but a light jacket or sweater. They drive to their place of work and again park in sheltered parking structures. They may do short dashes from parking lots to shopping malls or other heated places.

I've asked people like this what they would do if their car broke down in bad weather. They usually say it has never happened and doubt that it will - anyway, they have their cell phone.

Perhaps there is enough warm clothing around that they can change their habits quickly - but, at a minimum, I know quite a few people that will find their life priorities drastically changed just to avoid freezing.

Although this young lady seems to be doing OK

Hi BikeDave.

Yeah, here in the sandwich isles a grass skirt will pretty much do it, coconut bra optional. Though I do believe in swimming trunks to prevent "anglerfish syndrome".

And I may be offbase, but it seems I've seen stories in the past of huge quantities of used clothing leaving the USA on barges heading for the rest of the world, simply due to the fact that we buy more than we could possibly ever wear. Admittedly it isn't the best of stuff, but there's quite a bit of it in circulation. Maybe the government should buy it up one of the upcoming rounds of helicoptor money-drops and start storing it in a nice dry location. Nah, too much foresight required.

Still, good sleeping bags and parkas should be available. And I'd think one could super-insulate at least one room in a house.

My guess is that clothes won't be on many top-100 most important shortage lists in the coming 50 years except for very poor planners, though I agree that shoes will likely make that list. (that leaves a loophole, of course, since a case could be made that 98% of the population are very poor planners...)

If you could figure a way to store it, I suppose you could buy up used clothing by the ton for pennies now and use it for barter later.

You're probably buying "the good stuff" as far as clothing - meaning old fashioned practical stuff most people avoid these days. The majority of clothing is much more problematic right down to the fabric and stitching, it just doesn't last. I've got a bag of examples ready to go out in the trash; year old socks coming apart, shirts with seams undone and no sound fabric to resew, just crap that falls to pieces.

I think Gail is right we need to start to think about it, especially in the US where the textile industry is nearly gone.

on edit, thinking about it a little more: clothes that are made from crap material still can make good paper. I haven't tried synthetics myself, but excellent quality paper can be made from any cotton fabric. Grinding it up is the hard part, but is only a big problem if you want a big quantity. Besides that there are large numbers of plants you can make various qualities of paper from. The equipment is simple and the learning curve is pretty short.

Containers is also an interesting thing; in the process of planning out this year's garden I've been looking at trying gourds to see how they go.

Right now, clothing is low on my list of concerns.

Will peak oil translate into peak fashion? Is this what we can look forward to:

(For a Canadian take on haute coulture:


I like your Wendy's commercial!

If we wait until people really think clothing is an issue to start planning for, I suspect we won't have a lot of resources available to put toward clothing.

I'm glad you enjoyed it, Gail. I was a bit worried it might come across as disrespectful.

Kidding aside, you might appreciate a CBC podcast entitled How to Dress for the Long-term Success of Our Planet. This segment aired on the March 22nd edition of CBC Nova Scotia's Information Morning.



Absolutely, we need to have plans for clothing. For one thing, we will need to be using cotton, flax, hemp, and wool for fabrics. Nylon, rayon, poyesters are all from oil. Fuggetaboutit!

Next, we need to consider how the mills will be powered. Water power was the way of the past... it may be the way of the future as well.

How about sanforizing? And, color dyes are today mostly petroleum products.

So. Land, along a stream with about 12' or so of drop. Equipment: automatic weaving machinery for making cloth. Spinning powered by water as well as cotton gins, and so forth.

A big future crop will be one that our founding father, George Washington, farmed. Hemp! It is used for clothing, for rope, and of course... for paper! It actually makes better paper than cotton or wood; I have heard it costs less as well. The reason it is illegal today? Mead Johnson, the paper giant. They had huge acres of softwood forest, and wanted to use it for paper, but hemp is better, grows faster, and is more versitile. Answer: create fear! Men smoke the leaves and it causes some sort of mellowing out. Ever since the native Americans discovered it, whenever that was, it has been instrumental in the 'peace pipe.' Ever wonder why that particular plant was used, rather than the ubiquitous tobacco plant? I think I can guess.

Of course transporting our newly sewn hemp shirts requires rail transport, so there is another fundamental to think about. Otherwise you would need local mills, local products for spinning, and local sewing. For every locale. Perhaps that will be necessary in a hundred or so years; it depends on how much we can salvage, and of course the numbers remaining.

I am encouraging my grandchildren in learning leatherwork. They would be able to produce tack for horses, mules, and oxen. Or they could become blacksmiths and forge plows, tills and discs for farmers. Woodwork would go well with all of this, wouldn't it.

Other considerations:

dairy - not the cows, that part is easy. I am talking about pasturizing, homogenizing, churning butter, and so forth. First of all, they require energy. The products need to be heated - will wood be sufficient? Churning is hard work by hand. I see a lot5 of industry alongside the rivers and streams, all competing with electrical generation facilities for space.

Altogether we are not prepared, and seemingly are not, as a people, interested. The grandkids listen better than their parents ever did, which does give me reason for hope. Interestingly, a granddaughter just came up and started brushing my hair! Learning a trade at age 3!


Hemp for making clothes, rope, and paper? sounds like making fuels for SUV's out of ethanol from corn, when it has a much more useful purpose in the great scheme of things. I am agin' it! Stuff is too valuable for other purposes. Please explain your rational and excuse my dotage.

Well rube,If I understand your comment about the value of hemp, you need not worry,the VALUABLE part is the flower;the stem is used for fiber.

I have no experience with working the fibers, although I have consumed a few flowers over the years ;but the literature is plentiful, and the fabrics and ropes made from hemp are not only strong, durable, and reasonably economical;the technology required to raise the plants and process the fibers is simple basic stuff as fabrics go.

I know many women who are skilled seamstresses, capable of turning out hundreds of garmets a day on commercial machines , using precut cloth, as I live in textile country-what's left of it, anyway.

Right now cloth is not really mass marketed to the public in an effective way-you can buy a shirt for only a little more, or even less, than you can buy the fabric needed to make it.

But if things keep getting worse,soon women who know how will be making clothing again, as my grandparents generation routinely did.Once cloth is sold at retail under intensely competitive conditions again, you will be able to but enought to make a shirt for a small fraction of the retail price of a shirt.At that time women, and spome men, with more time than money having trouble making ends meet will resume sewing.Millions of people can save a few bucks this way even now, if they are willing to do so.

In my opinion that could be any old time now.

But I believe that industrial cloth production is so much more efficient that hand production that it will be quite some time before hand weaving or small scale local mill production constitutes a significant part of the market for cloth.

You are right. For many years now it has been much more expensive to sew your own than to buy clothes. I really don't sew very much anymore. Although I have wanted to play around with some of the new 'old' fabrics like hemp, bamboo, bark (yes they make fabric from bark now.) Any fiber than can be beaten and turned into thread, yarn or whatever.

But my most recent project was felting. I bought about 20 old wool sweaters to felt and and sew into a throw for the sofa. Felting is hard on the washing machine as the loose fibers get everywhere, lots and lots of fiber.

To be honest, we mostly buy our clothes at the thrift store. Sometimes they even have the original store tags on them. I suspect it will be many decades before our over consuming culture needs to worry about going back to the old ways.

Linda Hug

OFM: If a skilled seamstress can make hundreds of garments a day, it stands to reason that clothes should not cost too much more than their raw materials. Also, to quote a pothead I used to work with "Growing weed is about the same as growing tomatoes. You know how much tomatoes cost per pound?".

hi, Lnc3,

The raw materials at the base end of lots of labor and capital intensicve good manufacturing processes are only a very small part of the final consumer cost.

The seamstress is only one small cog in the clothing manufacturing process.There are truck drivers, forklift operators, fabric cutters, box makers, packers, shipping clerls and laborers, bookkeepers, accountants,mechanics, foremen,secretaries,warehousemen, etc, out the yin yang.

AND all this just gets the item on a truck headed toward a ware house.

As far as the pricee of cloth wholesale goes,it is only avery small part of the price at retail of your clothing for these reasons.

As far as buying things at retail goes in small versus large quanitiies,items that I know can be bought for a dime in large quanitites often cost five dollars or even ten dollars one at a time at retail-witness the special screws that are used in many machines-a typical lawn mower motor has one in the carburetor that is about an inch long,and made out of steel, which wieghs only a few grams-these screws must cost only a tiny bit more to make than the screws that have a slightly different point that sell at retail for five dollars a box, fifty to the box, at any big box hardware store.The last time I needed one it cost me twelve dollars.

I think your friend is a little off base on the price of hemp-industrial hemp for fiber would probably be MUCH cheaper than tomatoes, because it is not perishable and requires almost no hand labor.

Good quality smoking material is labor intensive and probably would sell for at least five or ten dollars a pound wholesale even if it were to be fully legalized, at least until farmers learn how to grow and process it in bulk the way they do tobacco.After that my wag is that it might sell for two dollars a pound in bulk.

If our govt could get it's head out of it's AXX, we could be enjoying tax revenue off of pot to the tume of several tens of billions of dollars a year, and at the same time saving as much or more by doing away with prohibition laws that don't work and never will work.

My first wife made a lot of her own clothes, (hard to fit size). My dad's sister still has the ability to make clothes from cloth bought at the fabric store. Around here clothes get repaired more often than not. Three people live in this house all of us can sew, either by hand or by machine (me and dad).

Most of the clothes that I do buy I tend toward soft cottons. The major trick is not to buy for fashion, but to buy for lasting ability.

My dad was able to sew long before he was old enough to go to war, in his early days in the Army, he and his brother hand sewed their way to lots of extra stuff from all their army buddies. Recently He took out some fabric that we had on hand, and measured and sewed up a few curtains for one our rooms, and was seen just a few days ago repairing a hole in one of my mother's gowns.

Sewing your own clothes, making your own patterns are a bit of a learning curve, but once you know how, it's skill not soon lost, even though you might not use it for some time.

There is going to be a lot of things that Westerners are going to have to relearn, clothes making is one of them. But making of fabric will for a while still be done in a factory just because we have so much of it to be made.

There always seems to be more clothing around than most people use anyway, as long as you can keep most of it dry then rot won't ruin the whole afair. Mositure is a big killer of fabrics.

Like I have said for a long time, skills will get you more places than you think they will, learn a skill, then when you are good enough at it to teach someone else the basics, learn another one. I am glad I grew up in a family that did not see gender as a way to "Not Learn" something. Being a Jack of all Trades will come in handy in the future, as it is handy even today.

BioWebScape designs for a better future.

The products need to be heated - will wood be sufficient?

If you look in the past drumbeats I pointed to a solar dish technology. Would work for small production.

dairy - not the cows, that part is easy. I am talking about pasturizing, homogenizing, churning butter, and so forth.

I pasteurize milk on a wood stove (double boiler to 160 F). Most of my friends do not pasteurize; they use it raw.

Twenty four hours in the spring house and the cream rises to the top. Skim the cream and put grandma, grandpa, or a kid on the two gallon crock churn and thirty minutes later sweet cram butter.

Just a pleasant routine chore.


I know about that part... I was thinking of using small scale commercial dairy as trade for items I would not be able to provide. Barter will prevail.


I wonder if EROEI is a bit like interest rates, in that a small change in the rate makes a huge difference to dampening or stimulating the economy?

The changes in the EROEI of the fuels we are currently using have been trending downwards for some time and perhaps even subtle unrecognized declines create a leveraged effect to dampen economic activity which goes unrecognised so that the drop in economic activity is attributed to other causes or appears mysterious.

Under these circumstances, society will likely fail to perceive the real root causes of decline and rather than rationally attempting to adjust in the ways Gail suggest, it is likely that that everything else except the actual cause will be blamed, there will be a lot of useless attempts to prop up BAU and the window of opportunity to power down gracefully will be lost.

We need to psychologically transition to the idea that we in the OECD countries are inevitably going to have less purchasing power, and understand the reasons why, before we will start taking the necessary steps to change the way we consume.

EROEI is not sufficiently visible. The hedge funds will figure a way to market oil with negative EROEI, using tax writeoffs and the like to show a paper profit, even as they spend more energy than they retrieve. Simply because it is measured in money, rather than watts or joules or calories. Unless and until there is a simple, clear method to translate money into energy units of equivalence, no one will understand it and they will contune to buy into the lies.

Maybe this is what we should be working towards... an easily understood translation of cost of production of oil into oil energy equivelence. Not an easy thing to show... not even all that easy to describe. But without it we will see people investing 100 Billion US to extract 1 Billion barrels of oil, and selling it at $86.00 a barrel b/c the hedge fund says the tax credits make it profitable.


Maybe this is what we should be working towards... an easily understood translation of cost of production of oil into oil energy equivelence.

The Technocracy movement at the head end of the last century pitched that with the eMergy idea.

And I've provided links to the 1937 position paper before.

I think the big drop off will come as much because of dropping debt as declining EROI.

The big issue I see is how much capital is available for investment. As long as capital can be mostly borrowed, capital doesn't look like much of an issue. But once there are huge problems with paying debt back, then the availability of debt will go way down--we already saw the first installment of that. Without debt for capital, it becomes difficult to finance everything from new natural gas drilling to new uranium mines to new factories. Things start falling off quickly. (In effect, what has happened is the increase debt has masked the declining EROI. Once the debt starts falling, the real drop in EROI becomes clear, and we have much less funds for investment than we ever thought possible.)

For people in the country may I suggest Deerskins into Buckskins by Matt Richards, ISBN 0-9658672-0-X

It's about brain tanning. Yup, you whack the skull open, take out the brains (they have lots of oils and can be saved for other tanning projects). It can be used with any animal. My area had a brain tannin seminar a few months ago using rabbits.

Now, for the boondocks: Deer were wiped out almost immediately during the depression so whack your deer now.


PS He used to have a site IIRC I haven't looked at if for a long time and my URL might not be right.

Deerskins to Buckskins actually sounds like a method that might work, for those with little capital, not a huge amount of time, and no money. I thought of including it in my list, but it comes across as sort of rustic. I expect at least some will use this method.

"Now, for the boondocks: Deer were wiped out almost immediately during the depression so whack your deer now."

Didn't discounting the future get us into this shit in the first place Todd?

Zimbabwe is another good example of wildlife suffering heavy losses in the wake of an economic crisis.

Deer were wiped out almost immediately during the depression so whack your deer now

Accounts vary. Deer were almost wiped out by the venison trade in the late 19th century, to the point that the first game laws were enacted outlawing interstate trade in venison then. Accounts vary as to how rapidly their numbers rebounded by the depression, but 1900 is still generally considered the low point in deer populations. Some accounts have them flourishing during the depression, grazing on abandoned farms and the "edges" of second growth timber timber coming back, doing pretty well...

Hey, it was :-^). Ok? But, they were wiped out in my area (northern Mendocino County, California) within 6 months once the Depression hit and they didn't rebuild for about ten years. That was with far, far fewer people.

I've posted many times that people who believe they will feed themselves with game are in for a rude awakening.


And yet, Airdale's 1st posts were about exactly that.

How he was gonna eat off the fat of the land cuz he was brighter than the city folks.

Todd is right about the supply of deer and other large game animals; once the unemployment rate hits a certain level and people are actually looking at an empty refrigerator, the game will be gone in a matter of months or maybe a year or two at he most anywhwere there are significant numbers of people.

In my nieghborhood the deer and bear were driven to local extinction during the thirties;nobody saw a deer in this nieghborhood for decades afterwards.

I doubt that even a dairy cow will have a very long life expectancy unless she is guarded constantly if and when tshtf for real.

My first mother in law, a fine old country woman of considerable wisdom but not much feminine polish used to say that "a stiff xxxx or an empty belly, neither one ain't got no conscience."

I know old chap. You dont realy think that time you told me to ditch my woman and kids I did it do you? :)

In the near term, clothes do not seem to me to be a problem. However, long term thread and cloth production in or near the local community will become a high priority activity.

Many of the women in my community have excellent sewing skills. We have acquired shop maintenance manuals for our high tech sewing machines and we are stock piling some of the parts that seem most likely to need replacement.

There are two small (50-60 ewes) sheep farms less than a mile from my house. Several of the women in the community are skilled and well-equipped spinners and weavers. My nineteen-year-old granddaughter (my wagon train woman) teaches spinning and weaving at the local community college.

I believe work boots, both leather and rubber, and work gloves will be more difficult to produce locally. I wear out a pair of Carhart’s best waterproof, insulated gloves each winter and two pair of cowhide gloves each spring and summer.

Cowhide will be available locally, but I have not located a local tanner, cobbler, or skill leather worker. Those are skills on our community requirements list.


I believe factories will be operating in the United States for an indefinate period of time. I really don't expect to go back to the 17th century, do you T? Even before the industrial age water power operated factories. Knowledge is a good thing to have and pass on. Ancient trade skills should never be forgotten, but do you really expect they will be required? I hope not.

I don't believe mechanical 'fabric fabrication' is going away, and even within that field, we have a couple centuries of evolving machinery that is still able to support this need. But to me, the point is that we have them ALL. We have still got people happy to master the old skills of weaving, quilting, knitting and sewing, etc, on top of the very durable tools that have been added since.

I keep a couple treadle Sewing machines around, partly for the base alone, and partly for the most elegant and durable sewing tool I know of. I can even put a modern Singer onto an old base, if I want to use the more involved stitches that have come along.

But the 17th/19th centuries are still very actively all around us.. plenty of fallback options available.

No lineman.....we are not going back to the 17th century...

Although there are many members of the OilyCan find this to be their most fervent wish....

They wish to be Amish...or possibly in tune with nature with the technology of the 11th century....for they believe that is natural and will make them "happy"...

They also have an insane hatred of their fellow man...they want to see the species number...what?...a billion only? seventh of our current population?...

I really think they believe the following....the geek men here will FINALLY get laid.....the geek females (probably pretty darn unattractive) will finally get laid but more importantly have a male geek to dominate....frustrated dominatrixes....lololol

Let's take Jim ok writer, he tried for decades to make the big time....and he FINALLY has....with doomer books and websites....FINALLY he has garnered the fame he always wanted....But let's not take it tooooooo seriously...I interpret it as his shtick...successful...but real.....noooooooo

As to the oil supply.......

300BB under Iraq

300BB under Iraq

300BB under Iraq

And we all know it is there....the proof?...Uncle U.S. Sam spending
what?...a trillion dollars?....

Newsflash OilCan geeks...U.S.Sam only spends that kinda moolah if there is a HUGE HUGE HUGE HUGE return....

There might be 500BB under Iraq....they know...we don't....try not to pretend you do....also try not to pretend a BONANZA of oil isn't there...

In light of all this....y'all chose to have a demented conversation that now we won't be able to CLOTHE OURSELVES?????????

Yup....this tears it...............y'all are psychos!!!

Yup....this tears it...............y'all are psychos!!!

Speaking for the psychos - it would be best if you go, you don't want to be spending your time talking with psychos do you?

Alice: But I don't want to go among mad people.
The Cat: Oh, you can't help that. We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.
Alice: How do you know I'm mad?
The Cat: You must be. Or you wouldn't have come here.
Alice: And how do you know that you're mad?
The Cat: To begin with, a dog's not mad. You grant that?
Alice: I suppose so,
The Cat: Well, then, you see, a dog growls when it's angry, and wags its tail when it's pleased. Now I growl when I'm pleased, and wag my tail when I'm angry. Therefore I'm mad.

.. Go ask Alice,

If only we had all thought about this!

[screams diving out window on fire]
Fools us ALL! Psychos us -ALL!!!!-
[Blub bulb blub]

Last statistic I read showed Iraq at 115 BB. Did the war create oil? What, did it leak out of the tanks?

Good luck with all the pretty ladies you seem to have all to yourself. And with the bonanza. Just don't plan on driving up to my place in your Hummer and begging for food and clothing, WTSHTF. Remember the Boy Scout Motto.


[full disclosure: Ive bee married to one of the most beautiful women in the world for 37 years, so you must have missed one!]

300 Billion Barrels under Iraq? erm...ok...

but we use 85 million barrels per day at last count. So under Iraq is technically about 9 years worth of oil for the world. At increasing cost as it empties (i.e. you won't still be pumping oil profitably after probably 5 years)

You also need to ask who will be buying that oil at top dollar? The bankrupt U.S.? Poor little England? Or up and coming China?

I'm with the others, shoes and boots are gonna be a nuisance first... but I know quite a few people that still know about sewing and knitting so that shouldn't be a problem for a much longer while. It's also got a wider base of good materials that can be used.

I do however think this is going to be a limited worry for a decent amount of time, just because of sheer volume and lastability of clothes. I think by the time it's a worry, the infrastructure will be so changed it will just be another nuisance.

Before the industrial age, water did in fact power factories, but it would definitely take a lot of investment to recreate the situation again today. In addition, it might also require removing some current uses for water--although these current uses (hydroelectric) might be ones that would work for quite a while, until part wore out, and for some reason couldn't be replaced.

I think the issue is how long we keep the current system going. And if we can't keep the current system going, how we do enough planning in advance (and enough purchasing of capital assets in advance) so we don't take a huge step down.

I think there are a lot of things we could do. But whether people will be willing to forgo other uses for their money, for the purpose of doing preparation for something that sounds iffy and far off is not clear to me.

You might think about finding some treadle sewing machines, so you are not so electricity dependent. They work well, in my estimation. When I grew up, a treadle machine was the only sewing machine our family had.

A person "pumps" the treadle to make the machine go as fast as you want. The head flips down, out of the way, when no one is using it. Ours had a wooden cover which folded over the machine, to make a desk when not in use. When in use, the wooden cover extended out near where the sewing is done, as a place for the piece you are working on to lie. There was a leather belt that extended around the big wheel at the right end, up to the machine.

My treadle sits in my bedroom. Right now it needs a new belt (easily obtained on Ebay, just haven't done it yet). I have lugged this thing all over the country for over 30 years. I'm passing it down to one of my grandkids.

I have done weaving, spinning and herbal dying as a hobby. Very time and energy intensive. If worse comes to worse people will once again have a couple of changes of clothes because that's all the time you have to do it completely from fiber.

Leather making is easier. My husband did a little tanning as a hobby for awhile. It really stinks but ok if done outdoors.

Personally I hope we will not need to go this low tech for a long time.

Linda Hug

Hi Linda,

I taught myself how to use a sewing machine on a treadle (gasp!), 60 years ago when I sewed up a pack for my trap line (I was trapping muskrats mostly) when I was 10 or so. I personally find treadles far easier to use, even as an adult, than electric machines. FWIW, I used part of an old worn out tent for the material for my pack.


our old treadle has sewed heavy canvas, even seatbelt webbing- doubled. this is industrial duty equipment!

I found an electric sewing machine hard to adapt to, after learning on a treadle machine. It would go precisely the speed you wanted. I found electric machines had a tendency to accidentally go too fast.

I for one really appreciate you thinking about such things Gail, for a long time I didn't pay much attention to TOD simply because no one talked much about the real world and what real people should do in preparation for when all those lines on the graph came to mean something, thank you.

Though we do grow and store much of our own food, and I worry about harvesting rainwater and repairing the windmill, have an ongoing battle to make this antique house tight and warm and on and on, I don't worry about clothing. I'm not sure why exactly, perhaps because it is so cheap even new. I wear sweatshirts when it's cold (I freelance from home and do 2-4 hours of chores a day too) my wife and daughter find them for $10 and they are really nice. Go to goodwill and great stuff is cheap!

One thing I'll mention is if you think you can just go out and buy a couple of yards and sew something you are wrong. My wife is a good seamstress but there just aren't any fabric stores left, Wally put them out of business and guess what, they are eliminating fabric from their stores now. The only fabric available here carries a big premium because sewing is a hobby now.

Many of these types of questions I think should be more along the lines of "Will I be able to afford clothing." As the economy trundles to a standstill, clothing stores will fall by the way just like the fabric stores did until Wally is the only game in town. Just because the Waltons are the richest people on earth doesn't mean they don't charge what the market will bear...

Or that's how I see it tonight anyway.

FWIW, Amazon now offers fabric through, which I believe is an affiliate. Somehow this method of shopping for fabric just doesn't seem right, compared to seeing and touching fabric on bolts in a local store.

Besides the issues you mention regarding fabrics, another issue is the petroleum dependence of fabrics. As you know, synthetic fabrics are generally made from oil. Even cotton production, as it is conventionally done, uses a lot of oil-based pesticides. According to Pesticide Action Network:

Conventionally grown cotton uses more insecticides than any other single crop and epitomizes the worst effects of chemically dependent agriculture. Each year cotton producers around the world use nearly $2.6 billion worth of pesticides -- more than 10% of the world's pesticides and nearly 25% of the world's insecticides.

Cotton growers typically use many of the most hazardous pesticides on the market including aldicarb, phorate, methamidophos and endosulfan. Cotton pesticides are often broad spectrum organophosphates--pesticides originally developed as toxic nerve agents during World War II--and carbamate pesticides.

Cottonseed oil could and should be a feedstock for biodiesel. That makes cotton a good dual-use crop. Biodiesel is the right use for the oil; I can't believe that some food processors actually use that stuff for human consumption in things like margarine. Ugh!! Do read your food labels, people. You might just as well take a swig directly out of a bottle of pesticide as to eat anything containing cottonseed oil.

Getting rid of the pesticides entirely would be ideal, but cotton will be a tough crop for that. That might be one crop where I could be convinced to be a little more open minded toward GM varieties if that meant a substantial reduction in the use of pesticides.

I'm upstairs at the computer while my wife is downstairs knitting. As a girl she would sit under her mothers loom to untangle the shuttle (I think its called) as the women made fabric and chatted. And this was in Quebec in the sixties. I don't think clothing is a concern right now. The skills are still there.
There is a lot of talk about the fragility and complexity of our society. Other articles on TOD talk about the esoteric nature of our interpersonal connections and that deadly entropy that will come along and reduce everything to "de minimus" - some sort of caveman brute survival.

Yes we have had a great party for the past hundred years with fossil fuel, but humans have not grown for a hundred thousand years based on some accident. We are tough smart animals who will thrive with whatever we have to.

We are not at all that far removed from survival and thriving at a simpler level.
When push comes to shove, the food producing and house building and clothing making skills are still there.

All the academics like Nate can become community leaders and put thoughts into practice

As a previous comment noted there are Spinning and Weaving clubs in most areas, but they would have to be expanded very considerably.

Communications is another problem seldom mentioned.
While I have never been able to find any study on the effect of depletion
on telecommunications it seems highly unlikely that that telephone systems
except on a local area basis will continue. There would be enough people
with the technical knowledge to keep local systems operational.

However parts for large scale telecommunications systems are likely to
become increasingly scarce.
The internet can expect to be an early casualty.

Local radio amateurs could be expected to keep a restricted message
service operational for many years until they also had problems with
parts availability. Electric power from water or wind generators, and
solar cells would be critical.
It is possible to build batteries using glass jars as was done in the
early days of radio.

Still reinventing the past will not be impossible and will be easier
than when it was done the first time as we have all the old information
available in books and not on non functioning hard drives.

Our sheep supply us with much more wool than we currently use. One daughter has taken up spinning/carding, so we would have yarn/thread to either knit or sell.

It doesn't hurt to learn skills from 80 years ago; they can be a great hobby, and may prove valuable in a pinch. For example, I chopped a tree down by axe today, vs using a chainsaw. Made me appreciate what others before us did as a part of their everyday lives, which we may need to do ourselves someday...

Wool clothing may be worn more in the future, as fossil fuel replacements become less available. I haven't really studied the process of going from wool to yarn to knit fabric, but it would seem like one of the easier processes to do at home. You are right--we should be learning more about it.

It's too bad about Hemp being illegal to grow in the US. It's such a versatile plant for textiles.

Versatile for lots of things -- paper, construction materials, and oil-based paints to name some of them. It is not always the best material for the job, but most parts of the plant can be used for multiple purposes. I'll believe that the US government has bought into localization when they make industrial hemp legal again.

My current wardrobe includes a pair of synthetic track pants purchased in 2002. Being fairly nondescript (navy blue, nothing flashy), they're neither in-style nor out-of-style... not that I care much. Yes, I know that they are made out of oil, but there are most certainly fossil fuel inputs to plant fibers such as cotton and hemp. This synthetic fabric doesn't look any older than the day it was purchased (in spite of hundreds of wash cycles), the color doesn't fade, they wash out well in cold water, and air dry without wrinkling. I can't say that about any of my hemp or cotton garments. I'd bet the farm that synthetic fiber clothing will be in demand for a *long* time even when it's 10X its current cost.


You have a solid point.I used to get ten years out of a rayon or nylon shirt, easy.These shirts were light, stain resistant, comfortable, and incredibly resistant to rips and tears.

But in hot or cold weather , they were not as comfortable as cotton.

A top quality synthetic is probably the best buy in clothing if you are comfortable in it, and don't mind wearing it for a decade or longer on a regular basis.

But I find that the synthetics which are as comfortable as good cotton are a litle pricey for my circumstances- so I own only a few pieces, such as a long coat that will turn rain and snow, and a synthetic down jacket.. I expect both to outlast me by a good many years.

Indeed, it's tough to beat cotton for comfort (until it gets wet). But being a cheapskate, I highly value durability, even in the central-Texas heat.

Another drawback of synthetic fabrics is the 'melt' factor. I wear natural fabrics when traveling... nobody plans on being in a fiery auto (or plane) crash, but the idea of molten plastic against the skin is terrifying.

In any case, if I thought the balloon were going up tomorrow, I'd probably buy 50lbs of synthetic fabric and/or clothing. Not quite my expectation, though, for the immediate months... living in "BAU mode" until I see indications of peak oil and/or symptomatic societal and economic problems. Seems like we are on a plateau at the moment. Worst case, I have 4 acres of family-owned arable land up North w/ lots of nearby fishing/hunting. Do I think it will come to that? Right now, I give it even odds within my lifetime.

ofm & ztex:

Another reason to favor natural fibers over synthetics: They take dyes.

People don't dye clothes very much any more. I can remember that they did it a lot more when I was a kid. This is long before the "tie-dye" fad (which is about all that most dyes seem to be used for these days). When you had a stain that could not be removed, then you would dye the clothing something dark enough so that the stain would no longer be noticeable. Even clothing that wasn't badly stained, just getting faded and dingy, could be brightened up quite a bit by dying. That is how you got more use out of clothing. People used to do that all the time.

We have a 40" 8-treadle Harrisville loom for which I traded a number of fine topaz my wife and I found on our "digs" several summers ago. I have constructed a number of Inkle looms, sent them off as gifts hoping the kids will pick them up someday. There is a singer treadle machine here, though we use the newer bernina mostly. We have a Kromski spinning wheel replacing the frankenstein wheel I made a couple years ago and a great wheel. My wife actively spins and knits in her spare time, I construct the wooden tools as best I can (bobbins and spindles on the lathe). We collect wild bast fibres - and wild beast fibres! Other than a very hairy cat, no fibre animals, yet. Sizeable garden, though. On rented property.

My wife and I are both geologists (!)


Hi Gail,

I'm having a little difficulty with comments to your essay:

Approx population of:

NY Metro Area - 19 Million
LA Metro Area - 13 Million
Chicago Metro Area - 10 Million
Mumbai Metro Area - 18 Million
Mexico City Metro Area - 22 million

Comments about hydro power, sheep, mules, hemp, etc really don't seem very relevant for 6.8B growing to 9+ Billion in a few decades. Maybe these comments relate more to 200 yrs from now.

In the meantime, it might be more relevant to talk about the sharing of clothing with people we are trying to convince that family planning is a good idea. In our area, we have various organizations that share articles of clothing. Our local place is called "Family Sharing". Affluent US folks typically have a huge glut of unneeded clothing. Instead of bombing poor villages, maybe we could drop bundles of clothes as a way to get people around the world to have a more positive perception of the US and any messages about saving the planet.

On second thought, this is a dumb suggestion as there is no potential of this happening.

Why focus on Knitting, etc..? It's probably just that the 'little local workarounds' are the first to come to mind. You raise a valid point, and likely closer to Gail's intent, ultimately.

Maine used to have a lot of Textile and Footwear MFG, since we had such a robust source in hydropower to run these mills, plus Ocean and Rail access.. So did the US now, it's essentially all gone overseas. I think TOD alerted us to the last of the true US made Levis wrapping up a few years back as well.

But honestly, I think we could rebuild that mfg base, if shortages or shipping costs finally made it appealing or crucial to do so again.. as I expect it will.

I can't take on the credit and money supply questions, while I know they're usually central to Gail's Inquiries. I just have to ask 'How would we not rewrite the rules to make it happen, once the pressure to do so was no longer ignorable?'

Ultimately, we have scrapped the old textile machinery, but we still know how they were put together.. we can power them differently, if need be, and the clothes we have shelved at the crux time would make it for a while as we figured out that issue. In a surprise crash or a slower one, it sounds like a WPA issue to me. A big jobs program for the most critical duds.. socks and union suits?

It's worth considering all the supplies we take for granted today, but I think it's the real short-term essentials that we have to be critically resilient with. Food, Water, Phones, Coffee. The undies will hold for a couple days.


LA has a textile factory and it even has a factory making cloths - one of the last in the states making underwear, undershirts ect..

I have a couple of the long sleeved shirts and a hoodies good stuff - if electricity (government provided) is prioritized then I can see them in a position to make a killing in the peak era

Jokuhl, Undies will hold forever if you go commando.
I don't see peak oil as the threat to clothing supply. Far more likely a financial crisis nationally/ worldwide would cause many countries to limit imports of clothing due to balance of payments issues. Devaluation makes local production competitive and textiles/clothing/footwear are all industries that can be low tech, low capital requireing and big employers.
If the US dollar collapses such that a pair of Levis costs a weeks wages to import then Levi would bring production back to America.

Quite a few folks think collapse may bring world population down quite quickly. IMO, voluntarily drastically reducing fossil fuel use would have the same impact.

Planning would be for the ones who remain.

Collapse would certainly have that effect. And, voluntarily drastically reducing consumption would be tantamount to collapse, or else it would precipitate it. In any case, as supply of oil drops, use will have to drop. Including those synthetic fabrics made from oil, transportation of goods produced far far away, diesel tractors for farming, plastics, and so forth. Paying more will not create oil. No matter how wealthy, if there is no oil, there will be no oil use.

The thing is that all we can do today is plan for a dire future. And shrug off the pejoratives I guess. Anyone who wants to listen, fine. And they can take away what they will. To me this site provides hope... the peril is not of our making. Just be ready to duck, Gail, as they try to shoot the messenger!


It's interesting this subject came up now - I am half-way through reading The Industrial Revolution in the Eighteenth Century by Paul Mantoux. This very interesting book has a detailed history of the transition of the wool and cotton cloth industry in England from ancient techniques to the factory system of the nineteenth century. Before 1733, the wool industry was carried out in individual's houses, with some people specializing in spinning (using the spinning wheel) and others in weaving, using a conventional loom. Cotton cloth was also being made, but the raw cotton had to be imported. English cotton cloth was inferior to cotton cloth from India, but to protect the manufacturers, importation of cotton cloth was outlawed. By the way, the "manufacturers" were really more like traders who out farmed the spinning and weaving to the individual operators in his community, often owning the looms in the worker's houses. The workers often also ran their own small-scale farm, with the result that the English textile "industry" was scattered in the countryside rather than in towns.

The first major improvement was the "fly shuttle" by John Kay in 1733. This allowed the shuttle to be quickly sent from on end of the loom to the other with one hand - substantially improving productivity. The first automatic spinning machine was developed by Lewis Paul and John Wyatt in 1738. This was powered by horses, water, or, in one case, a Newfoundland dog, so didn't need a large factory. James Hargreaves developed his "spinning jenny" in 1765, a spinning machine that could be run by hand power. In 1779, Samuel Crompton developed his "mule", an improved carding and spinning machine, which initially was small enough to be used in cottages.

It wasn't until Richard Arkwright patented his "water frame" for spinning in 1775 and Edmund Cartwright made his power loom in 1787 that the machinery was big and complex enough to deserve large factory buildings. They were mainly powered by water, but James Watt's steam engine started to be used to power the factories by the turn of the century. This marks the beginning of the use of fossil fuels in the textile industry.

The thing to take away from this history is that major improvements in textile production were made before the advent of large factories. The fly shuttle, the spinning jenny and Crompton's mule were being used in the thousands of farm houses and cottages that made up the English textile "industry" before the advent of steam and factories. If we had to wind back the clock due to fossil fuel depletion, we would not have to go back to the spinning wheel and ancient loom.

- John Atwood

Thanks for the interesting information.

Small scale clothing manufacturing seems like something transition towns could work on, using the best of the small scale equipment (or even bigger, if they could get the water powered factories situated and operating).

It seems like all of this could be more easily implemented, if we started working ahead of time on the problem.

The three phase electrical generator, transformer and engine is already invented. There is no need for having your factory shaft powered next to a water fall.

This "get back 150 years or more" thinking s bad since it gets people to work on the wrong problems. There are other things that are much more important for getting a working business model and catch the opportunities that $200 oil and economical upheval gives. And getting these priorities straight is the same thing as making a difference and making a living.

The story in this thread about a designer and a mechanic teaming up to buy old machines and make sweaters out of wool from farmers who lacked a market is a good example. They would probably not have made it if they also had set out to find a water fall or tried to make new machines out of wood.

The story in this thread about a designer and a mechanic teaming up to buy old machines and make sweaters out of wool from farmers who lacked a market is a good example. They would probably not have made it if they also had set out to find a water fall or tried to make new machines out of wood

Of course not Magnus ... hopefully the salient point taken wasn't their buying the old machines for pennies on the dollar.

Regarding sewing --- my mother made my father's convocation gown on a treadle machine .... yards and yards of heavy fabric. Doable even if difficult. I still have and wear two pairs of dress slacks my wife made 35 years ago --- does help I haven't put on any weight in the interim :-)

The economical theory of "creative destruction" and the outcome of a collapse scenario depends on people grasping the opportunitis for picking up equipment for pennies on the dollar, starting a cooperative in an abandoned factory and so on. People need to be alert and willing to do something with whatever is available and not make the effort needlessly hard. If people dont do anything, then we realy got a problem.

catch the opportunities that $200 oil and economical upheval gives.

Now there is an optimist. Have you thought about $500 oil? or $1,000 oil? How soon will these levels be reached and surpassed?

$147 oil trashed the world economy. How will trade continue at $200? Commercial farming? At high cost, oil will be available for plastics, for lubrication, for pharmaceuticals. The question here is how will we be making a living? And, for that matter, what does it mean, 'Making a living?" You sound like all that is necessary is to have a few Million dollars at hand, and invest in the right things to magically 'grow' your wealth. Without the credit economy currently at hand, that isn't going to work. It is time to plan what you can do to provide trade goods in a barter economy. Dollar bills and gold might not be worth much in such an economy, while clothing, tack and dairy products do. How do you set you priorities?


Yes I have thought about it and find it likely that $1000 oil is only slightly more expensive then $200 oil since $1000 oil probably indicates that USA also have runaway inflation.

Opportunities are still opportunities even in bad times and you need to nurture all the positive attitude you can get to get the mental energy to use them.

Making a living is about working and making good decisions.

I think the clothing issue is an important one. It is one of the Maslovian basics. I think this is where some reversalism is actually useful. Look at clothes of the 19th century.

There is a favouring of durability.
There is a favouring of quality.

People also dressed differently. You had an "outer shell". You had perhaps a few of them. Suit jackets, hats, vests, trousers for men, dresses, vests, gloves and coats for women.

Underneath, one wore a variety of underclothes which were also durable, but light and absorbent.

Shoes were built to last and to be repairable.

I see a similar thing happening with future clothing. It will be more expensive, and must therefore be more durable. It would make sense to go back to the shell system. Wear an outer shell for a few weeks, change under garments every few days.

I don't think corsets and similar nonsense are in the cards. But cheaply made polyester crap from China / Malaysia / etc will disappear, and people will want things that last.

Do yourself a favour - pick up a copy of the Saturday evening post from the 1890s. Look at the advertisements in back. The clothing focuses on quality of construction and elegance. The other ads are often for "safety bicycles".

This will also change how we eat. People will be much more careful with their food, as stains will be hard to get out, and if you spill on your suit, you will need to wear it for a week or two... People will get reacquainted with dainty things like cloth napkins.

This will also change our expression of wealth. Nice clothing will be seen as a point of wealth, more so than today.

Clothing is important. I would suggest the real problem will be with shoes...


Young people are having a lot of trouble finding jobs now here in Japan.

I saw a program on TV about some young women who had decided to work for a traditional kimono sewer (an older woman who had kept her tiny company going for many years in a small town removed from big costly city). The younger women had decided not to go to college but instead to learn the traditional kimono sewing techniques and work for the tiny kimono company. I believe there are no machines used (or if there are it`s minimal).I think they probably have tiny incomes but stable incomes. There are always people who are going to order a new kimono here. The older woman was a very exacting boss!

I know of one man who runs his own leather craft business. He may not have a huge income but he can manage. His wallets cost less than comparable quality at the department it`s an easy choice to buy from him. The department store has all the overhead---huge costs. He lives in his shop. Tiny costs.

From what I have seen here if you have a good skill and if you can have a low cost structure (small shop where you live in the back, or a small town location, no big loans, if you can teach your craft on the side earning money from these lessons) then you can have a chance to earn enough to eat. No riches obviously. But now becoming rich seems so passe anyway. It`s better to be busy and making something useful.

1. Should we even be thinking about a new method for producing clothing?

Yes and the most intersting parts might be logistics such as locating thread and fabric manufacturing closer to the raw materials and sewing and coloring closer to the customers.

2. Is there a better approach for handling the clothing problem that I have left out?
3. What approach would make most sense to you?
4. In your selected approach, what would be needed in terms of land? Equipment? Training in new skills?

These kind of very complex needs and opportunities with millions of final customers, thousands of sellers and a vast number of combinations of sites and methods is best solved with a free market solution where everybody has the legal opportunity to try their solution.

5. How would such a big undertaking be funded?

By customers buying clothes, competitors with the wrong kind of overhead going out of business in creative destruction and thus making their physical resources available for something else and people investing their time, physical capital and retirement savings.

6. Extra Credit: How would handle one of the other issues besides clothing, listed at the beginning?

Paper a free market, pens a free market, fences a free market, containes a free market and for hoses a free market. This needs to be supported by government and other institutions that uphold contracts, saves people going bankrupt from starving so they can try again, maintains basic infrastructure and gather and store knowledge that is made public. A rich society can also fund research into understand what people are doing, how the world works and how to make things in a better way.

People should be free to try everything but making wooden wind powered machines to process local hemp seems quite nutty.

Why build pre industrial revolution machines when we have steel, ball bearings and electrical motors? These kinds of machines are also working very well in primtive and poor countries and return on investment, energy return on energy investment and longevity of the machines are exellent.
There is more then a hundred year of pre electronics machines technology avialble and it is very likely that we can continue to augement the basic stuff with electronics and computer systems.

And you dont need to do all the steps in the process right away. Start with processing fibers to simple products and work up from that or start to sew and then work backwards into the supply chain as far as it makes sense. Or set up a fabric plant at a logistics crossroad between boat shipping and rail at a location with plenty of electricity and water

I agree about the mix of new tech and a base of older tech. I'm a little amused that you put down 'the free market' as an answer to that laundry list above. I don't disagree that these things do make fine private businesses, but it brings to mind some of the ways that people in latin america have been collectivizing around fallen factories and making cooperatively owned garment businesses for themselves.. similar to the article about Gaviotas the other day.

They're not 'state-owned' industries, and yet it's not fully private either. Certainly doesn't follow the Wall Street model for startup business plans.. Kind of an interesting hybrid of public and private.

Cooperatively owned factories is obviously a free market solution, as long as nobody is forced into the business. For me is a free market about honoring contracts, making the best out of theresources in yor care that you own and cooperating with other people and a cooperative is only another kind of corporation, as long as nobody is forced.

One of the points with a free market soultion is that reality is to complex for any human or organizational entity like a government or corporation and the only proven solution for handling this is having a free market where people do stuff in a chaotic parallell process while trading and having all kinds of interaction. This is extremely important when we have a period of rapid change, we dont want a change process that get stuck with a political agenda or old corporate agendas that exclude other initatives.

4. We might set up some factories powered by solar PV, and enlist some farmers nearby to grow crops that could be used to make the cloth, using electric vehicles (golf carts, or something fancier, if available) for transportation and for work in the fields.

Or water powered. In 1825 Antoine Brutus Menier built a chocolate factory. It was completely powered by the river beneath it:

  • The above texts make no reference to the method of powering the mill but I saw it on ARTE (in German, just babelfish it!):

  • A true work of art!

    The centers of production in those days were the river valleys were water drove anvils, looms and - chocolate factories!

    J. Dähn

    Hi J. Dähn,

    St. Stephen, New Brunswick (,_New_Brunswick) is home to Gagnon's, Canada's oldest chocolate factory ( It was also home to the nation's second largest textile mill and both were powered by the Milltown Dam, the oldest hydroelectric facility in our country.

    A quote from the Wikipedia item linked above:

    Residents of St. Stephen and Calais [Maine] often regard their community as one place, cooperating in their fire departments and other community projects. As evidence of the longtime friendship between the towns, during the War of 1812, the British military provided St. Stephen with a large supply of gunpowder for protection against the enemy Americans in Calais, but the town elders gave the gunpowder to Calais for its Fourth of July celebrations.

    This spirit of cooperation and comradery gives me hope for our future.

    By the way, we Maritimes love Maine and we want it back!


    FTV, someone sent me the link.

    I work in apparel production. My specialty is *sustainable* manufacturing models.

    Only a few of these suggestions are workable in this industry. I don't even know where to start. Whoever mentioned Maslov, you get a gold star.

    Generally, apparel is the first industry started in any developing economy. Because of this, there is a lot of existing technology that is implemented in places off the power grid. Operating machines with solar power? Ho hum, we've been doing it for years. I have a friend with a plant in Nicargua that is totally energy independent.

    Treadle machines are great but save great grandma's treadle to build an agitator or something. You're better off buying a *new* treadle -yeah, they still make them- the technology and efficiency is much better. The Amish do a lot of contract sewing work in the US, much of it on treadles. Treadles have a lot of advantages over the obvious (for the purposes of this discussion). I'd worry more about machining (needles, parts, hook assemblies etc), the means rather than the direct application.

    Re: Textile production, they don't call textile producers "mills" for nothing, the days from when textiles were produced with water mills is not so distant. Textiles continue to be produced on manual looms etc. The only energy intensive portion of fabric production is dyeing and again, that's done with boiling a bit of water.

    Beyond skills, shoes aren't much of a challenge either. You can still take classes on how to make them. Not that I'd want to.

    Thanks for your insights. It helps to have some different perspectives.

    Several years ago when visiting Estonia I came across an interesting small scale business model that ties into this discussion.

    At the breakdown of the Soviet Union a lot of people became unemployed. A machinist and his wife, a clothing designer, both lost their jobs. With their savings and some small amount of outside financial help he bought a half dozen small scale pre 1900s industrial machinery for scrap value and repaired them. They relocated to an island that grew sheep but no longer had a market for the wool. His one man operation could take the raw wool and turn it into yarn. His wife designed sweaters. The yarn was supplied to local knitters and they knit the finished items on piecework to be sold at the factory and by mail order.

    The farmers now had a local market ... many local knitters had an income. All value added through the good designs that sell very well. The machines are electrically driven but easily could be converted to other prime sources of energy.

    You visit a working museum that is profitable. They also have a small cafe plus a retail outlet. Here is their web site showing the machines and their product line.


    Thank you for bringing up such a practical and reasonable question. Textiles are deeply intwined with our modern world. A big stimulus for the formation of the modern international banking system was the need to have a better way to settle letters of credit than packing fabric on donkeys over the Alps. Back in the Middle Ages, fabric was woven and finished in water powered mills in northern Italy. Much of the fiber came from someplace else. Then the fabric was packed over the Alps to the great summer fairs in France. At the fairs, letters of credit that could have been floating around for over a year and changed hands many times were settled in fabric and other goods.

    As an engineer, I am of the opinion that there are a plethora of low to medium tech tools and machines for the many steps of fabric processing. It's like anything else: it's the lack of an appropriate scale business model, not the lack of an appropriately scaled technology, that keeps people who are making their own textiles and footwear in the hobby zone.

    There was a remark by some Chinese minister that went by a few weeks ago, on the effect of the Chinese readjusting the dollar peg to the yuan. He said that a lot of small factories are operating on a 2% profit margin and a change in the exchange rate would wipe them out. It was a most telling remark. Turns out that the result of shipping our textile and footwear industries to China is Chinese factories with a fragile 2% margin. It wouldn't take much economic commotion to get somebody seriously thinking about reviving American manufacture.

    We can always do like the other animals. Go naked.

    Do you know how many times I've been told "For God's sake, man, cover that thang!".

    (Of course, they're referring to my stomach.)


    You mean "wear fur."
    Not many naked mole rats up here in the mid-latitudes. ;-)

    People on this site don't seem to understand the numbers or the technology. I don't know why I bother...but here goes.

    I reason that we will never see a return to the 19th century approach. Here is my logical progression:

    There will never be a shortage of electricity. I know from the numbers that it is purely politics and our greedy desires for sub-10 cents/kWh that we are not 100% renewable energy by 2020. There's simply too much coal in the world before we get there, and even if there weren't, we would get there. So, we will never have an electricity crisis. Thus our machines will run indefinitely. We need 10,000$ oil before steel for our machines become too expensive - we are endowed with unlimited steel on this planet. (We have so much hematite that we could grow at something like 3% a year and still have 50 years of easily-accessible hematite left. By that time, we'll have conquered energy and be mining way deeper into the Earth's crust.) Thus we can make new machines using our existing machines. We can mine using electricity. Finally, the last piece of the puzzle is growing the cotton. We are currently using processes that employ natural gas as the endothermic agent and replacing this with wind power is absolutely perfect, since we effectively create a lowpass filter for wind's intermittency. Plus, last time I checked, we need not use many agricultural steroids to grow cotton. In fact I believe in South America they are not even using agricultural inputs for the most part.

    Before clothes go, the following will have to go first: cars, housing, plastic goods, excessive good, lawns, ...

    And by the time those have been sacrificed, we will have cleaned up and gone entirely photovoltaic. And I consider this view pessimistic.

    Seriously Gail, do some backup research on the processes involved before you post such a naive article.

    People on this site don't seem to understand the numbers or the technology. I don't know why I bother...but here goes.

    Interesting conversations rarely begin with one side insulting the other, but nevertheless, let me try to pull together a reply ...

    There will never be a shortage of electricity. ... So, we will never have an electricity crisis.

    Really? This is based on your personal experience? Your survey of global electrical production and consumption? Your familiarity with the speed and costs of the installation of new generation? Blind faith?

    Rolling blackouts are a familiar feature in many parts of the world. We have seen rolling brownouts in CA and TX in this decade here in the US to deal with insufficient production. So we know that there is already a shortage of electricity.

    Your appeal to the idea that the "only" reason that we won't be 100% renewable by 2020 are because of politics and greed reminds me of those who point out that the "only" reason people starve to death is because of politics and greed - that the world produces more than enough food. But the distribution of those goods (electricity, food) are all about politics and market forces (greed). Without them, there is no distribution at all.

    Thus our machines will run indefinitely.

    The discussion of collapse scenarios are generally framed around the premise of declining oil supplies. In this case, what is the impact to the production of fabric and clothing? Inherent to your premise that there will never be a shortage of electricity is the additional premise that electricity is a suitable substitute for liquid fuels. There have been numerous threads in this forum that have looked at a global conversion of transportation from oil to electricity. There appears to be a significant likelihood that there simply won't be enough metals available on a time scale suitable for a 100% conversion of global transportation to electricity before declining oil supplies put a significant pinch on the global economy. Of course, rising oil prices will send the market signal to initiate that conversion - but if it happens too fast, the batteries won't be available and the economy hits a wall. If it happens too slow, significant portions of the economy may simply be left without transportation options and shut down. Let that happen in too many locations you can get a cascading effect and a breakage in the "Just In Time" global delivery ... ie shortages.

    You argue that the machines will run forever. They will run forever if the support and supply networks that maintain them run forever and there is a market which can afford to buy their production forever. But these are not givens.

    You argue that the machines can make other machines. That's good because the local mills are no longer there. The buildings are closed. The machinery moved overseas or sold for scrap. The 'on-the-job' experience gone with it. This scenario only works as long as someone is willing to risk capital to build not just the machines needed, but also the necessary supply chain, to train the work force, to set up a new milling industry pretty much from scratch. Capital is easy to come by in an expanding economy. It is harder to get your hands on in a declining economy.

    I'm not arguing that the conditions necessary to re-invent a clothing industry not based on an oil economy are impossible to come by. Given a stable economy, access to enough capital, and sufficient time - it will happen. But you seem unusually insensitive to the issues surrounding such a transition for a guy who's handle begins with "Engineer."

    This post ought to appeal to both sides of your handle:

    Gee Golly Whiz !!!....Now you really are a Genius!!!

    Oh you're very good at telling the world why we CAN'T do a thing...

    Why don't you do something real and productive and tell us how we CAN???

    Oh, that's're a DOOMER and there is NO way out!!!

    The oil runs out tomorrow....and there are not now, nor will there EVER be any comparable solutions!!!

    Here's is my analysis....STUPID DOOMER!!!!

    As entertainers and authors have known...those without talent become critics....look in the mirror....THERE YOU ARE!!!

    I really wish the DOOMERs who see NO SOLUTION AT ALL... would just do all the rest of us a favor....and fade away....

    Constructive criticism is great...but ONLY if it includes a viable alternative....

    So hunch over those keyboards........and chomp those cheese doodles!!!!

    At least they aren't resorting to ad hominem attacks. How about you post something constructive rather than "300BB under Iraq because I want it to exist!" Your pie in the sky algae posts from a year ago were much better.

    It's 2010, where is the replacement for my gasoline powered automobile. Why is U6 unemployment actually closer to 20%? Things are just great...

    "where is the replacement for my gasoline powered automobile"

    Have you looked at your feet, your bicycle, an electric bicycle, an electric car, a lightweight electric car that costs less than an ICE automobile?

    No electric car in Amerika! ? Oh..that couldn't be political.

    There are options. Maybe not in Amerika! , but I have no faith in its future anyways.

    Given the types of "jobs" you are talking about, 20% is too low for unemployment. As long as people whose sole purpose is to sell useless crap to other people can apply for jobs, the definition of a "job" is ...fantastical.

    Oh yes, it is 90 degrees outside right now which is just perfect to go for a ten mile bike ride. Those electric golf carts with a 20 mile range and a 30mph max speed are not ICE substitutes and never will be.

    If BAU does not return bad things will happen, 20% U6 unemployment cannot persist.

    Aviator, Calm Down, you're having a seizure.. just breathe.

    You respond with a bunch of ALL CAPS and Exclamation Marks.
    This tells everyone that you have nothing to contribute.

    Ron didn't say there's no hope and nothing can be done. He did say it gets complicated, and the 'Engineer' he responded to was making unnatural claims about 'Machines Running Forever'

    You two need to come up with some more compelling material than 'Cheese Doodles' and Perpetual Motion Machines.

    Don't feed the troll.

    Saying "Machines Running Forever" around me is like saying "The Weather Man is ALWAYSSS Right!" around a meteorologist.

    The matter of the fact is, had you ever spent a minute of your life in machine design or manufacturing, you'd know that machines now make machines, and machines that run on electricity will indeed run virtually forever. But they are usually replaced before they are useless.

    I work in IT.
    You and I must have different concepts of "machine" and "forever."
    For that matter, I just bought a "new" used car to replace the one in which I bent a rod.


    For some time I lived across a lake from a 200 MW power plant. It will last for 30 years and was virtually a one-time fee. Everyone who gets their power from it pays a fixed cost of $8,000 and then gets electricity for 30 years. About 0.0000000000001% (actually, much much less but you get the point) of the wind passing within the first 200 meters of space from the ground over the area of the island is being tapped. If it were physically possible to collect all the forms of energy in this system, we could power all of Canada and beyond. If we would disallow airplanes from flying over certain spaces, we could fly kites and high-altitude wind turbines (EROEI > 100) to collect energy above 200 meters. It's insane how cheap we could collect energy - if only the politics and status quo would be thrown out the window. It really is ridiculous how much inertia there is to change where we are getting our power from.

    So yes, I have actually studied fluid dynamics and I have studied power systems and I know what can and cannot be done. This can be done. Electricity forever can be done. And it will be done...eventually. Your rolling blackouts in California were purely political and as you said, greed, as were any ever in the US.

    All we need is public will, foregoing useless stuff like cars and instead spend those resources (e.g. society's surplus, labour, time) on energy infrastructure. Imagine if we trained 10x the engineers and 10x the mechanics and then motivated them to spend their weekends working on this stuff. Imagine if we made it illegal to build a new house without first putting down a 100-year supply of electricity for it. Wikipedia could be written all over again if every TV-hour spent in the US over one weekend were instead spent writing! It's the same idea.

    We do not need oil to produce machines. We do not need oil to produce materials (we do not need oil to produce petrochemicals, if you don't believe me go take a course in polymers). We do not need oil to run our economy. The fossil fuels we do have and will always have are here as an insurance policy, but we can set ourselves up so that we don't need to touch them. It's all a question of whether we can invest in the change that we will ultimately have to make.

    By the way, yes, machines can make other machines. Google CNC machining. Nowadays, computerized metal machining tools are themselves produced by computerized metal machining tools with little human intervention. Steel is the most significant input, and we can electrify our mining process as I said before.

    Did you know more and more oil platforms are now buying wind turbines to keep their operation going?

    20% unemployment? That's way too little. We should have 50% unemployment - we don't need more people than that working. What we do need is to ensure that those who choose not to work are given enough to live a MODEST lifestyle, but nothing more.

    You only had one good point, and that is that greed, politics, and our evil markets, are what keep our system going. This makes me weep. Especially considering all that I have mentioned is POSSIBLE above.

    "By that time, we'll have conquered energy "

    So in 50 years or less we will have conquered energy. Yet fusion remains around that elusive corner they promised us we would soon turn. And despite promises that Nuclear electricity would be so cheap that they wouldn't bother metering it, we still have lots of meters around. Promises, promises all we get is promises..... You make lots of assertions with no proof. Heinberg wrote a whole book on Peak Coal - a short version here with foot notes and links which you don't bother to use to support any of your assertions.

    Just try supporting one assertion with some data - show that $10,000 oil will make any one machine (say a tractor) not too expensive. Include how much oil is used to refine the steel and build the tractor. Then calculate what part of the price oil is now and how much it would increase the price. Don't forget that the farmer usually has to borrow to buy a tractor so add on interest on that additional money and explain why farmers that are going bankrupt now won't go bankrupt with $10,000 oil.

    Re Cotton: I live on land that was cotton farmed. It destroys the topsoil. The red clay of GA and AL wasn't always on top. There used to be a deep layer of topsoil before cotton farming took it away. Takes years and years and lots of inputs to restore just a small piece of land to fertility. Cotton is particularly hard on soils as the article below describes

    "Soil quality is severely degraded by cotton cultivation."

    I am not into pure physics enough to understand the present challenges of capturing the energy of liberated neutrons. I don't know if Fusion will be the answer but nor do I expect it to be.

    Rather, solar energy will be cheaper than coal is right now. Wind is already so close. But I'm referring to dirt cheap photovoltaics. You'll go to the hardware store and replace your modules the same way you replace a lightbulb when electromigration is through with it.

    Cotton grows naturally in many parts of South America and was doing so before any sort of agricultural inputs became common. Maybe cotton wasn't meant to be grown in the States.

    I'm not saying I agree with modern agriculture. It would be nice to replace our grey cities with embedded agriculture. I picture coming home and picking a tomato on the way in.

    Meh, I'm exhausted debating people on this site. Lack of change to date does not represent an incapacity to do so. But before you go spreading doom and gloom about it, just remember there are already a ton of entrepreneurial engineers working on it, totally behind the scenes. Some of what happens in the next 10 years might really shock you. The whole scare reminds me of the Cold War. In fact, it's exactly the same scare.

    People on this site don't seem to understand the numbers or the technology. I don't know why I bother...but here goes.

    Many people at this site realize that reductionism isn't the whole story, or even most of the story. Systems thinking, phase transitions, nested self-organized criticalities, path dependence, connectivity, resilience and many other things come into play.... not the least of which is the flawed ways humans think about the world. This includes a tendency towards naive oversimplification of problems by the current crop of 'experts'.


    If we are not going to worry about fossil fuel use emitting CO2 and causing global warming, then we hardly need to worry about clothing. We will be shedding our clothing long before the oversupply we now have runs out.

    I've been more-or-less a laissez-faire free-trade libertarian (aka: a lazy consumer). OTOH, I've been interested, even advocating, the whole 'buy local' for food. If food, then why not other products? And is it moral to deliberately direct my dollars towards local producers and away from the poorest of workers? Moral choices in buying blue jeans: Life has gotten too complex when you start down that road.

    Keep in mind, Ron, that by buying the clothes made by the lowest wage earners, you're not really helping those earners nearly as much as you're making such dreadful factory conditions that much more successful, thus guaranteeing (in concert with the whole 'Buy Cheap' market) that they will continue and perpetuate more of the same.

    Finding local suppliers supports the local tax base, the local labor pool, keeps money in the local stream, shows that these businesses can be successful, and so helps inspire more of that model growing..

    Just a thought.

    I think an important suggestion is NOT to buy fashionable stuff but rather things that are timeless and sturdy. And perhaps to acquire a taste for these "old fashioned" things (in Germany, currently there is a so-called "retro" movement among young people who begin to appreciate the "ugly" stuff of the 60s and 70s).
    In fact in my family we almost always keep our things until they become defunct, so we have quite a few things that are decades old - a few even from my grandmother.
    This is completely different from my other grandparent's attitude, who liked to have a full modernization of their furniture every few years. Altough we could also afford an "update" we don't like this wasteful attitude.

    Fortunately more and more people are thinking like us, and there is a growing market for "sturdy" things, e.g offered by Manufactum. Although some of these things are rather for professional users (or rich freaks) and too expensive for "normal" users I think this is a step in the right direction.

    Gail, where did you get the ten year figure? I have many T-shirts that I have been wearing for over twenty years, and denim jeans will last even longer, especially with patching.

    And are you familiar with just how many tons of used clothes a year get shipped to developing countries? I don't know the figure but I lived in Nicaragua for a year and it seemed to me that the entire country was clothed in throw-aways from the United States. People who knew no English would be wearing T-shirts from some Midwest high school's marching band (the school must have ordered too many), or with slogans that didn't go over too well in the US when somebody tried to sell them. I'll never forget the old man in the next village who had on a T-shirt that said, "I Come Quick" in huge letters. I doubt he even knew the literal translation, much less the bad joke. In Managua there were stores that had huge grab bins of clothing that had been shipped in from the US and other countries up north. It cost pennies a pound. I think the world is pretty much awash in clothing (no pun intended).

    The more important aspect of this is drycleaning. We now make clothing out of synthetic fibers that require cleaning with toxic petroleum solvents (or worse... chemicals like Perchloroethylene that are highly carcinogenic). Peak oil or not, we should not be wearing clothing that cannot be washed with regular old water and detergent.

    Emanuel, that was my experience in Haiti as well. However there was one type of clothing that was scarce. I was told by my friend who had been there a few years to NEVER hang my undies out on the line as they would disappear. Well of course people seldom donate used underpants to charities. So folks stock up on underpants. Of course they are not essential and the fancy synthetic ones that many women wear are in fact not good for health of the nether regions.

    Surely if we get to the point where clothing manufacturers are impacted by peak oil, then so are food supplies and other far more immediate and life-critical suppliers.

    You have to look at Haiti to see how short a time it takes before people start to starve to death when the wheel falls off. For those who survive the first couple of months there will be plenty of clothes available in the wardrobes of those who didn't make it. And fashion will be the last thing on our minds.

    Most of my clothing comes from Tilley Endurables... still manufactured in Canada. Expensive in the upfront cost --- not that dissimilar to the upfront costs of wind or solar. Last forever and do not need dry cleaning. You gets what you pay for... no free lunches.

    This site has reached a new low. Gail has deleted my comment about her lukewarm attitude to global warming, as is clear in her "some folks think it is a problem" comment.

    The quote I see from Gail is: "Fossil fuels are declining, and some folks would like to phase out fossil fuels because of CO2 and other issues." It's a true statement.

    Since she brought it up, it is within bounds to comment on it. I guess she may feel that your comment was over the top, just as you feel it's over the top for her to have deleted it.

    Certainly her wording will strike some as a trifle dismissive. Still, the staff here isn't paid anything and does great work, so let's cut 'em some slack. I appreciate the time Gail puts into it, as well as her high intelligence, unselfishness, and unique points of view. She should be under no obligation to write about anything she doesn't wish to write about. She should also be free from feeling personally attacked because of her priorities.

    So saying, this site is theoretically about energy and our future. Climate damage per se is pretty much never offtopic if a rational interpretation of that mission is to be followed. And the time of commenters is also donated, and plays a large part in creating the total value of this site.

    This site has reached a new low. Gail has deleted my comment

    So because something you said got deleted this place has reached a new low?

    And about global warming where the topic is fabric.

    In a place that is the private effort of a few attempting to do a public good.

    Feel free to take the topic to a drumbeat.

    mamaba, I was a bit miffed too because my reply was also deleted. However I remember once before that it was explained that posts may get deleted if not on topic.

    Thus I wrote "If we are not going to worry about fossil fuel use emitting CO2 and causing global warming, then we hardly need to worry about clothing. We will be shedding our clothing long before the oversupply we now have runs out."

    So far that comment has not been deleted - I imagine because I tied it to the main topic. :)

    Well, let's at least hope she buys the book I recommended. I challenge her to read that book and stay vaguely sceptical, the way she is (whether she admits it or not).

    You can appreciate that people who are posting on fairly specific topics will be concerned that the comments are perpetually doomed to descend into prolonged debates about climate, or religion, or whatever.

    Particularly if the comment has an edge to it, and seem especially prone to turn into a HEATED, off-topic debate.

    No, careful pruning is probably essential and appropriate in this environment.
    (And it's called Editing or Discussion Moderating. It would be "Censorship" if they were a government ruling how you lived your civic life.. but they're not.)

    jokuhl, you can appreciate that people who believe that the use of fossil fuels is heading humans to extinction find it hard to see that issue treated lightly. Since the issue of people not wanting to burn fossil fuels because of CO2 problems was part of the original post I think it is not off topic to address those comments. Had that comment not been made it could be said that Mamba's comment was off topic. But it was said. Editing, Discussion Moderating, Censorship will all be irrelevant as will clothing if we make our planet uninhabitable. I think global warming has its place in any discussion whether or not the subject is brought up because the consequences are much more dire than figuring out how to get clothing. Humans have always managed that. What they can't manage is to turn the clock back if positive feedback on warming starts. But global warming is fit to discuss certainly if the main article mentions it.

    If your house is burning do you run it to get your clothes or your grandchildren.

    The topic should be how do we get clothing after we have stopped burning fossil fuels in the hope that our planet doesn't burn.


    Either you are willing to have a 'topic' and use the restraint (or let the Author/Host enforce that restraint) to keep that target in mind for the time being, or you are not.

    I don't think Gail's throwing in of an aside about Carbon/C02 was an open invitation to derail the conversation, and clearly, 'certain' Climate Debates have the ability to do that. ie, STAY ON TARGET.

    It doesn't lessen the importance of CC, but how hard is it to keep her comment at hand, and apply it in a CC conversation at Drumbeat, etc..? Self-restraint and Self-control, discipline- are going to be vital personal tools when we don't have excess energy to fill in the gaps for us.

    There is no real climate debate anymore. How to end climate debate from taking over discussions is to make climate change central to every discussion just as energy is. The the original post would have said "Since fossil fuel use is a dire threat to our existence as a species how can we obtain clothing without the use of fossil fuels. (and given that some climate change will happen what type of clothing will we need)"

    Delete any anti global warming comments with the note that the future of the human species is as risk and we all need self restraint, control and discipline in our use of fossil fuels to prevent that from happening.

    The finding that the climate has warmed in recent decades and that human activities are already contributing adversely to global climate change has been endorsed by every national science academy that has issued a statement on climate change, including the science academies of all of the major industrialized countries.[27] With the release of the revised statement by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists in 2007[28], no remaining scientific society is known to reject the basic findings of human influence on recent climate change.[29]

    I very much doubt that I'm still going to be around much more than 25-35 years or so. Thus, just focusing on that shorter-term time frame, and assuming that we are looking at economic decline and harder times, at least:

    -First priority: Buy clothes (and shoes) that last. We're probably going to have less money to spend on clothes in the future. There may be less available, and what there is available might be more expensive. Thus, it makes good sense to stock up on durable clothing while you can. Forget about "fashion"; today's fashion will be tomorrow's rags, and not even very good rags at that.

    -Second priority: Be able to maintain your clothes. First that means taking care of them properly: hanging clothes up (except things like sweaters that should be folded; keeping woolens in a cedar chest or closet; keeping shoes polished and on shoe trees; and laundering clothes in a manner that is least hard on the fibers (see other posts above).

    You also need to be able to repair clothes. This means having a good sewing machine in your household, and someone who knows how to use it at least for mending. You can do some repairs just by hand (and some are better done or are only possible by hand), but being able to use a sewing machine sure helps. I'd recommend shopping for an older mechanical Singer in good condition, rather than buying the newer electronic models. The old machines were built to last, and you are not really going to need most of the bells and whistles that the new machines do.

    As for shoe repair, if your town still has someone who does shoe repair, you have a treasure; patronize them frequently, encourage your friends to do so, and help keep him in business. This is a good reason for buying and wearing leather shoes that CAN be repaired. They may cost a little more, but view that premium as an insurance policy you are paying for to assure that there is someone in your town who can still do shoe repair when you need them. (Of course, you can always learn to do your own shoe repairs. If you are handy enough to do that, more power to you.)

    -Third priority: Make your own. Right now, as some have noted, the comparative prices of raw materials and finished goods do not make this as much of a money-saving proposition as it used to be. However, that may change in the future. A lot of clothesmaking is pretty difficult and requires a pretty high skill level, so this isn't for everybody. Using the experience of yesteryear as a guide, the clothing that would most typically be made at home was children's clothing (which did not usually need quite so fussy tailoring), and some women's clothing, especially skirts and dresses (which again can be a bit less tricky). If you are at all serious about making any of your own clothes, then you really do need to invest in a very good sewing machine. (People have talked elsewhere on this thread about treadle sewing machines. If that is what you like, fine. However, I am going to assume during the time period in question that electricity is going to be available, at least often enough to allow some sewing to get done. No electricity at all and most of us are not going to be around, regardless of what type of sewing machine we have and how it is powered.)

    People also used to do a lot of knitting for sweaters and such, which can sometimes be just a bit more forgiving when it comes to getting things to fit.

    I just don't see most of us really needing to produce our own fibers and to spin and weave them into cloth during the time window I am addressing. If things get that bad, I'm probably not going to be around anyway.

    If Gail wants a more on-topic comment from me here it is:

    I have stockpiled enough new clothing to keep me and my wife in shoes, underwear and outerwear for the remainder of our lives. Since we'll be on a small farm growing food, fashion is not part of the equation.

    Gail, spend the $5:
    Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future

    Greetings from Czechia.

    I´ve been reading TOD for years and 2 years ago I started up a Czech-language clone of the Energy Bulletin but I haven´t been active at TOD yet because of my poor English and for having lots of other worries anyway. However, this topic is something I hope I am able to comment usefully because I´ve been a long-term (> 30 years) paper industry insider.

    Peak paper? :-) This comment is a trial to explain (not only) Gail the Actuary that there is no reason for fear of peak paper even in the conditions of successive deindustrialisation of our society.

    So, you should have no trouble trying to make your own paper using "kitchen-grade" devices. Try yourselves: Take a kitchen blender, tear to pieces a couple of pages from your yesterday newspaper and mix it with ten or twenty times as much water. Pour the mixture (paper stuff) on anything similar to a close-meshed screen or sieve and shake it until water flows away through the sieve. Try to make the stuff layer as thin as possible. Then take a piece of thick fabric (felt is the best), put it on the layer of the wet stuff and press it as strong as you can - e. g. you can use a rolling pin. The wet paper sheet should get stuck to the felt. Carefully remove it from the felt and let it dry overnight - if possible hang it on your clothesline. Next morning you will see your first hand-made paper sheet.

    Well, yes, I do not solve here sizing and glazing paper necessary for ink writing and lots of other issues. On the other hand, for getting pulp in handicraft scale you can use more suitable materials than waste paper - before inventing industrial mechanical groundwood and/or chemical wood-pulp production there had been rags used for making pulp. Simple rags-treating machines (stampers) driven by water wheels can be built very quickly anywhere at the water stream using various junk and scraps and wood.

    (To be more exact, the first who invented chemical way of paper production from wood were wasps: Carefully check a wasps´ nest - an empty one, please, if possible... But we humans do not produce necessary biochemicals so this is not the suitable way of papermaking for us...)

    The most important: Basic raw materials - not only wood but also bamboo, reeds, hemp, cotton linters, straw and many other annual plants or their parts applicable to stuffmaking - are everywhere around us and are 100% renewable. For example in the Netherlands they boiled pulp suitable for boxboard production from straw in very simple boilers using slaked lime yet in the 1950s.

    My opinion is that a paper making craft older than our Western civilisation (probably you know paper was invented in China 4 or 5 thousand years ago...) surely will survive any stage of a western civilisation collapse.