Monday evening we had a class on suturing, and it was as awesome as it sounds. After learning some history and theory, we dove in and some bananas with some pretty serious wounds. Number #1 fact about suturing? It's hard.
During the class, I was particularly excited to learn that the oldest known suture dates to a mummy from 1100 BC, even though historians believe the practice goes back much further, to at least 3000 BC, and perhaps all the way back to 30,000 BC.
So yeah, people have been sewing up their cuts forever. Nowadays, sutures are likely to be made of nylon, but in ye olden days, they could be made of a whole lot of other, more interesting things. Things like hair, flax, hemp, nerves or even arteries.
Nylon doesn't dissolve, which is good for sutures on your face but less awesome for sutures deep inside your body. Good thing we've got absorbable sutures for that.
Today, absorbable sutures are often synthetic (what isn't?), but long ago, they were made of a fun thing known as catgut. It's not the gut of a cat, but it is the gut of another animal - generally a sheep or goat, but if you have a horse or donkey kicking about the house, you can use them too. Wikipedia has a pretty thorough paragraph on catgut production, if you're interested.
One last, random tip. Next time you're sewing up a buddy, make sure the edges of the skin pucker slightly up, like this: /\ and not like this \/.
If the edges are forced together and turn downward, the skin's waterproof nature will interfere with healing, and that's the whole reason you put stitches in in the first place.
And, in conclustion, here's my banana with a running stitch:
This is a quick and dirty stitch, but you wouldn't really want to use it on a wound, because if it breaks in one place, your whole suturing job is ruined. That's why, generally, each stitch is individually tied off. If one breaks, you've still got 6 other ones to hold the cut together so it can keep healing.