For some years now I have been longing to get hold of a 1940’s mending machine, “Stoppapparaten Perfekt” (the mending apparatus Perfect), also known in English as Speedweve. This week I won a bid for the mending apparatus at Swedish eBay (Tradera). As soon as I had got it out of the box I searched the house for holes to mend. I found plenty.
The Stoppapparaten Perfekt is such a great little tool. Small, portable, lightweight and with everything you need to mend holes, except for the hole itself and the mending yarn. But it is so much more than that. It is a piece of history in a little cardboard box.
The mending apparatus
The mending apparatus was produced in the thousands in the 1940’s. The Swedish version was made in a welding workshop in Stockholm. The daughter of the owner writes in an article that she and her brother used to put them together in the workshop for 5 Swedish öre a piece. Street vendors stood in every other street corner of Stockholm, demonstrating the mending process in the speed of light and sold box after box.
A tantalizing textile tool treasure
Most people have no clue about this apparatus when they see it. But among textile people this is a highly sought after item. When it happens to turn up at an auction lots of people bid lots of money. The box says it cost 3 Swedish kronor in 1940. In today’s money it would be around 80 kronor/$8.5/7.5€. My winning bid at the auction was 800 kronor, a normal winning bid for the mending apparatus. I am aware that it is a crazy sum for a small piece of metal. At the same time it is a cultural heritage. Even if they were sold by the thousands in the 1940’s the supply isn’t endless, especially considering that most people who find it in their attics or dusty old boxes have no clue what it is. So I’m happy I got mine.
Another piece of history in this cardboard box treasure chest is the instruction sheet. Or, to be more precise, the language in the instruction sheet. As a linguist (and ex interpreter) I am truly fascinated by the way every sentence is made in a most fascinatingly complicated and heavy fashion. Loads of passive phrases, obsolete expressions and unnecessary words. It takes a long time to read and even longer to comprehend.
Quick, artful and no previous knowledge required
The funny thing is that the manufacturer advertises the use of the apparatus with the exclamations “Quick! Artful! No previous knowledge required!” Well, once you manage to get through the instructions it may be sort of quick if you have basic weaving skills (that were most probably considered common knowledge among housewives in the 1940’s). But instead of getting you stuck already at the instructions, I invite you to watch this beautiful video where Kajsa Larsdotter methodically explains how to use the mending apparatus. After that you will be all set to mend.
Cultivated, simple and comprehensible
In my day job I work as an administrative officer at a Swedish authority. Every day I make and write decisions. One of my most important jobs is to make the decisions understandable to the receiver. They have the right to know what we grant, what we reject and why. As a government official I need to follow the Swedish language act that states that the language in the public sector should be cultivated, simple and comprehensible (vårdat, enkelt och begripligt). In the beginning we wrote horrific texts that weren’t even comprehensible to our law department. However, since then we have made quite a journey in writing the decisions in a cultivated, simple and comprehensible way.
Reading a text like the instructions to the mending apparatus makes me gasp for air at the first sentence (or the first quarter of the first sentence since they are a mile long). Here is a translation of one of the sections in the instruction sheet:
“7. Insert the pin in the loops and remove the darning mushroom, when enough transverse threads have been threaded that the hole is covered, and turn the frame so that the longitudinal threads fall out of the hooks, and weave in the ends in a regular manner and the work is finished.”
I could go on. But I won’t. Instead I will mend.
I chose a cashmere sweater I have worn to pieces. I actually bought it for my husband a few years ago. It was quite cheap for cashmere (and I do understand why now). Unfortunately he accidentally felted it in the washing machine. Fortunately it shrank to a perfect size me.
Quite quickly though, seams unraveled and the yarn thinned at the elbows. Note to self: Don’t buy cheap cashmere sweaters. They will 1 cost more for someone else who don’t get paid and work 8 days a week, 2 break and 3 need mending (which is kind of fun but not the point of buying the sweater in the first place).
I had already mended the elbow and now it was time to take care of the hole at the underarm. Securing the hole on the darning mushroom with the elastic band was a bit fiddly since the hole was rather large. But after a few trials I got it reasonably centered.
I used handspun yarns for the patch – a pink and orange wool/silk blend that I had got as a gift at some point. It is one of the first yarns I ever spun on a supported spindle and a dear memory.
Warping and weaving
After having sewn a security seam at the bottom of the hole, I sew the bottom end of the warp threads below the security thread and placed the top ends around the hooks. The width of the hooks make the shed possible. By sliding your finger across the loops the shed will change. One of the ingenious parts of this invention. I made a stitch in the sweater after each shuttling.
When I got to the top of the warp the weaving got a bit fiddly, but with a little patience and good glasses it worked out. After having removed the warp loops from the hooks I stitched each loop individually in the fabric and wove in the ends on the wrong side.
Using the mending apparatus was a lot of fun. I have lots of holes to practice with. Dan is also keen to use it. I will definitely mend by hand too, but options are always welcome. And as all cultural heritages, tools techniques need to be used and handed down to future generations.
Mend your clothes with love and pride. I do. I see thin spots under the other arm. Perhaps I will take the mending machine for a second dance later today. I do have the same yarn in yellow and green too.
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