From a pure gameplay perspective, tailoring is an extremely valuable skill early on. It provides armor, inventory space, and warmth. The raw materials needed for early recipes are easily found in abundance. It often makes sense for your character to grab a few curtains and a piece of splintered wood and hide out in the woods for a few days training to become a master tailor because the risk is low and the benefits great.
I think the reasons why this is silly is plain. From a gameplay perspective, it definitely discourages exploration because you can eliminate risk and still get what you want, and all it costs is some time. From a realism perspective it’s also silly, because I can’t imagine who would try and prioritize sewing with a wooden needle when the apocalypse hits.
I think the main issue the game doesn’t take into account is just how agonizingly slow and tedious sewing by hand is. I can’t stress this enough. There’s a reason that sewing machines took over the world, and it’s because the difference in speed versus hand sewing and machine sewing is huge. Basically the only benefit to sewing by hand is tight precision and control within a few niche circumstances. Hand-sewing just a few inches of straight stitching can take a few hours, but can be done consistently and precisely by machine in literally just a few seconds. Machines also punch through thick material like heavy fabric and leather without issue, but this is very fatiguing to do by hand and requires either specialized hole punch or (slower and less consistent) an awl.
There’s good evidence that hand stitching leather is much stronger because saddle stitching (hand) is much stronger than lock stitching (machine). But saddle stitching doesn’t appear possible for non-leather fabrics, and lockstitching done by machine is the clear winner here.
With that in mind, my concrete suggestions would be:
Sewing machines! These should be extremely rare, and would accordingly have significant utility in a world where one can no longer rely on an infinite supply of manufactured clothing. I see currently that there’s like 3 recipes for flour, and they vary only in terms of time based on which tool is used (food processor, quern, mortar & pestle). Does this mean that the current infrastructure of crafting recipes would require multiple recipes to take into account the presence of a sewing machine? I’m not a coder, but it seems we already have a way to vary crafting time with proficiencies. Would it be possible for a sewing machine to just grant a “Sewing Machine Proficiency” that is otherwise untrainable?
Wear & Tear! Right now you can craft “tough leather boots” using only a few leather patches and some thread/strings, and these would never wear out no matter how many miles you walk. Real leather boots are usually built with a cork or rubber sole, and that’s usually attached with metal nails, and those actually do wear out after a while. It’s highly unlikely that clothing sewn together with primitive tools from multiple rags would ever have the same level of durability than one factory-made, absent some very high tailoring skill. Currently, making your own clothing is often the superior choice because they already fit, they’re just as durable, you (basically) only need to build it once, and it’s customizable to your own circumstances. Past a certain point, there’s basically no reason to raid clothing stores, which doesn’t strike me as realistic.
As far as I know, there is currently no way to vary an item’s durability ‘cap’ based on its progeny. If so, even if accepted this change is far off from ever being implemented.
- What exactly is reinforcing? It appears to be a ‘free’ boost to clothing’s durability, but it doesn’t appear to add weight or encumbrance. This is in stark difference to a tailor’s kit modification which grants benefits but adds encumbrance costs. Reinforcing in contrast turns into a no-brainer, especially for clothing made with commonly found materials. If reinforcement is supposed to indicate the highest level of hit points a piece of clothing can have, why not just make the current default damage level the maximum? This strikes me as the same as “these go to 11” designation.