Monday, November 8, 2010

The Willcox & Gibbs Chainstitch Sewing Machine

 

The Willcox and Gibbs Chain stitch Sewing Machine is one of those vintage sewing machines that are seen frequently and used rarely.  That's a shame.  It's a really fun machine to use.  They are very different than your more common lock stitch machine so it's no wonder they get little use.  I had a tough time even threading mine at first.  Because of this, I thought I would try to shed a little light on this little lovely for those that may have one but are unsure of what to do with it.

The Willcox Gibbs has been made from the 1860's through the 1930's with very little change.  They have a distinctive circular shape that was treadle and hand crank then later fitted with a very fast electric motor.  That is the kind I will be showing here.  The advantage for use first would be cost.  It is cheaper to buy and uses less thread as there is no bobbin to add thread to.  The lack of bobbin also makes this a very quiet machine too.  It makes a humming sound and a treadle would be nearly silent. 
The stitch is a chain rather than two threads hooked together top and bottom like a regular lock stitch.

The Willcox Gibbs has a very handy function that would be useful to any seamstress today.  The chain made on the fabric can unravel if broken mid seam.  To a person who  is making a mock garment - or muslin - it is an advantage that can save time and improve accuracy.  Clip the last stitch and pull the tread.  No seam ripper needed and it comes apart very fast. 

Another thing that it does well is the chain stitch itself, as a decorative feature.  On the top side of the cloth there is a small line but on the underside the chain is very visible.....and very lovely.  It can be used with embroidery thread or regular thread to make a decorative line.  I used this as tone on tone edging to great effect.   It has an effect of embroidery, like redwork.

To help those who are unsure of the threading, here is an example.  A manual is a good idea, but this part still seemed a little hard to understand from the illustrations contained in it.  It's the part where the thread goes through the arm of the machine.  You will need a crochet hook or long needle for this.  Don't try and poke thread through like I did for an hour before getting the idea.....

Here is a video of the process of making a seam beginning to end.  Note the part where you raise the needle (turn the wheel away from you) to the top and then pull a bit of thread.  The length is then pulled through under the presser foot and cut, leaving a about 1" tail.  Then the presser foot is lifted and work pulled back.  Doing this is very different from the normal lock stitch and this way will save a lot of tangles. 
Enjoy your WG!





30 comments:

  1. Google pointed me to your blog again! (Last time was the gauge presser foot.) I found a lovely W&G electric chainstitch machine today at a travelling antique show. Great condition and I've been keeping an eye out for one. I love that you use yours regularly, but wonder how you handle the fact that the needles are no longer made? Needlebar (requires registration) gives suggestions for removing the pin that fits into the groove on the needle, allowing use of 24x1 needles. What do you do? I have to decide tonight whether to buy this one or not-- she is a beauty!

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  2. We are on the same wavelength, sounds like. Nice to know I am not alone! About the needles: I just bought some online. They do not wear out very fast and I have never (gasp) broken one. When I got this machine some years ago I got a few of different sizes and still have plenty left. I can email sources if you need some. The one that I have trouble with needle-wise is the Wheeler Wilson. This one is not too bad- rare, yes, but not impossible. When they become unavailable I will then have to do what Needlebar recommends.

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    1. I have a wonderful, new (to me) Willcox and Gage chainstich machine, but only one old needle. If you can suggest any sources for needles, I would love to have them.

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    2. I have some, how many do you need?

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    3. Susan I would love to buy some needles from you. How can I contack you? Thanks,
      Angela

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    4. I should say that I live near Woodbury, MN.
      Thanks Susan!
      Angela

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  3. Thanks for your reply. I decided against the W&G today for a few reasons, but am going to keep my eye out. So nice to see someone putting these machines to good practical use. I look forward to seeing you post about some of your projects!

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  4. what needles does the Wheeler Wilson take?

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  5. The Wheeler Wilson takes a very rare curved needle made by the company for their model #1-4 sewing machines. They have not been made for 100 years, my guess and there is no reproduction needle. I wish there was!! Email me for a source if you are in need of one.

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  6. I just thought, are you asking about the Wheeler Wilson type I wrote about or a different model? The later ones (#8, #9) take needles that are much easier to find.

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  7. I may have those curved needles. I know I have some W&G ones I can sell.

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  8. can you tell me if there is a source to buy a motor for the W/G chainstitch machine? I was thinking about converting my machine but I havent a clue where to begin. I've looked on the internet and only come up with a machine with motor. I don't want another machine. Thanks, Tanya

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  9. I would think any treadle motor convert would work unless you want an original W?G one with the cute little foot on the foot control. I found a generic on ebay http://www.ebay.com/itm/Treadle-Sewing-Machine-Motor-SERGER-9amp-motor-Complete-Set-pedal-/200665882979

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    1. I'm back, with another question. The chain stitching machine fly wheel turns toward the back in order to sew; would any motor work, like the one you directed me to, or do I need to get a specific one? I think I can install it myself, I was looking at various photos and it doesn't look that hard. thanks, Tanya

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  10. I too suggest looking on Ebay. Often the motors and machines get separated over time so get sold apart from each other by those who find them. The motor comes apart from the machie very easily and so putting one on again is also a snap. To use any other motor, you would have to run a belt and mount it all to a base of some type. I would keep looking for an original, be patient it will come.

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  11. That is a tough one. If the fly wheel turns away from you then makes sense to have the motor do this as well. Most turn towards the operator so just getting any motor will not work, along that reasoning. A possible hint for help may be for motors made for very old White machines. They also turn away. I use several types of industrials and there is one that turns away....a Brother coverstitch.

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  12. I bought the motor, clockwise motion, and mounted it on an old drawer and my little chain stitcher is perfect. The web address for the motor was found at the above address. The seller has clockwise or counterclockwise motors. After thinking about the mounting, you could use either, but the motor would have to be turned around in order to turn the flywheel clockwise for the counterclockwise motor. I hope that makes sense.

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  13. Good information, and I am sure it will help others who may come here looking for a motor. Thank you for the update.

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  14. Hi,

    I know this is a long shot, but does anyone know where I can get the geared handwheel so my W&G can be used as a handcrank? Thank you so much for your consideration.

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    1. I do not, unless you can find a WG handcank that has one and is bad enough shape to be a donor. You can try this....
      http://www.treadleon.net/sewingmachineshop/wilcoxgibbscrank/wilcoxand%20gibbscrank.html

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  15. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  16. Hi all, I asked about this a couple of years ago and John Langdon answered
    me, but then I had other needs and didn't follow through. His contact Ray
    Rushton hasn't responded to my emails. I guess he's out of business by
    now. I need a new bobbin case for my Wilcox & Gibbs High Speed Lockstitch
    machine Type 10. Do any of you have one to sell or know where I can get one?
    The one I have has a chunk broken out, so the thread catches. It was my
    mother's machine. She brought it home after working at a factory for several
    years. It has a tucking arm, etc. Neat huh? It was the machine on which I
    learned to sew! I had the motor serviced back when I asked earlier and it
    has been patiently waiting for some fun.

    Judy Lyon
    judy@meadowlyon.com
    Kansas USA

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    1. I took a look around the internet and could not find your part, but that does not mean they are not out there. You may need the help of an industrial sewing machine supplier. Industrial machines seem to be a bit easier to find parts for as they are in use for a long time in some shops. Now, yours is a bit older than most making it difficult but what a cool machine it is! My suggestion to you is to narrow your search to industry dealers and it may take a phone call to some guy who has tons of parts in his shop...find him.

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  17. I just purchased a W&G chain stitch machine. From my research it was built around 1898 with a westinghouse motor and base. the only thing missing that i can tell would be the spool holder and the little nut that holds the needle. any parts available?

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    1. I think you can find those parts. The WG did not change much over the years so many parts are around. Try Mr Mike Anderson, he had a needle clamp for me. His contact information is on this page:
      http://www.treadleon.net/fleamarket/ongoing.htm

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  18. How do I find out what model my W & G hand crank machine is so I can try to find some needles? Thanks for any info you can give me. Serial # is A499,087

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  19. Glad to find this discussion, do you still have any needles left for the W&G. Thanks, Cathy in Nebraska.

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    1. Yes, I do. My email is SusaninStPaul@gmail.com. How many do you need?

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