MacGyver Mending: In the desert, try agave

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MacGyver Mending: In the desert, try agave

Jonathan Johns, a coworker of ours over at O’Reilly Media and a frequent volunteer at Maker events, sent us a great little maker story that we think everyone will enjoy.

My son, Christian, and his two roommates were on spring break in Arizona. As they were climbing up and around the hills, Christian’s cargo shorts tore out at the knee, and at the pockets. They all proceeded to put their heads together and decided to fix them up.

Using a multi-tool and some Agave, they stitched up the shorts and pocket, and solved the problem. This may or may not be Makezine’s cup of tea, but in my circle of friends, it was pretty exciting to see 19- and 20-year-olds having a MacGyver moment.


Thanks, for sharing the story, Jon. It’s great to hear about inspiration when faced with adversity of any kind, at any age!

6 thoughts on “MacGyver Mending: In the desert, try agave

  1. Brave Baker says:

    Some agave can cause a nasty rash. Also, the plants grow slowly, flower once, and die.

    Please don’t tear up a plant just to try this out.


    1. Marc says:

      I agree, no one should ignorantly maim plants for any reason. Just as no Arizona native should go in their backyard and hack down their Agave plants to put this article to the test, neither should anyone cut down a tree for no reason.

      However, it is important to learn and practice this technique if you hike in desert climates like Arizona, even once. Testing this article with the intent to learn is on the same level as a company cultivating these plants to manufacture shirts and rugs, so people should feel free to explore. Just explore intelligently with adequate research, not ignorantly with a machete.

  2. Marc says:

    I am one of the roommates that climbed this mountain with Christian, and just wanted to add a few details to our hike.

    The Agave plant’s vascular system consists of longitudinal fibers extending from the center of the plant to each leaf, culminating to a sharp spine. In other words, each leaf consists of “thread” and a “needle” at its tip. To safely and humanely remove the needle and thread from the plant without maiming the leaf or damaging the flowering body, I put my mouth over the needle (careful not to stab myself in the gums or tongue though I did anyway) and bit with my molars hard and started pulling. It took awhile to get it going but then a beautiful threaded needle came out of the plant. After that, our other roommate Felipe sewed Christian’s pants with the help of the aforementioned multi tool (since the needle was very thick). I sewed the pocket. Though, rather poorly.

    Surprising to all of us, the tread has held up in multiple washings and normal wear. Although, Agave has many commercial uses including a particular type of hemp used in clothing and rugs. It seems as though the life of the thread is only related to the ability of the sewer. We’ll see how my pocket job will hold up!

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Sometimes helpful editor and digital media director at MAKE and CRAFT.

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