How many times have I wished I had an extra hand when sewing? A hand to hold the far end of a seam or a fixed point to tie the end of a braid? More times than I can count… so I have now made one.
I first saw a sewing aid, called a sypige in Danish (Norwegian: sypike or little seamstress), in this article a few years ago. It is a small cushion that clamps onto a table, giving a secure place to fasten one end of the work in progress. A neat enough idea, but something I had mentally filed away the idea for later.
A few days ago I realized I had the perfect raw materials to finally make my own ‘sypike’. An old wooden umbrella swift I had acquired at a flea market was lacking one of the wooden screws and had a couple of broken slats. Pretty, but useless for its task.
I started by stripping off the slats and loosening the wooden cup/finial at the top. I then shortened the shaft and trimmed the diameter a few centimeters from the top edge to make a new tip for fitting the finial. The finial is cup-shaped, perfect for holding a small cushion. A fine drill bit quickly made holes around the lip for making a secure attachment for the cushion. I chose to leave a bit of a shaft below the cup to give enough space to tie on for working braids.
The cushion itself is made of a circle of handwoven cloth and stuffed with carded wool, much like an oversized button. I backstitched a guideline one centimeter larger than the size of the cup which later allowedmeto attach the cushion with fairly regular tension. By first sewing the cushion on with some slack, I was able to work my bent needle through the holes. Yay for period needles!
I have no documentation for this as a historic sewing tool, but it is practical and I had fun making my little sypike.