Monday, April 13, 2020

Make a Simple Patch

Fix Those Well Worn Jeans.

There are a lot of ways to fix clothing and even what I am showing here has many variations. I get asked many times how to patch clothing so I am writing this one down as it is also how other things are patched such as jeans knees and jacket elbows. This particular repair is really common and not hard to do so a perfect first sewing machine repair.

Choose your method.

There are two major ways to fix this type of tear. One is darning and the other is patch.
1. Darning: Repair through thread alone. Zig zag or back and forth stitching over the tear. This type good for smaller holes. Can be done discreetly. Not good for large holes or areas of lots of stress like knees.
2. Patching: Covering the area of damage with other fabric. It has the benefit of being strong for places with stress. It can be tricky to do and is visible.

There are variations to these, like what I can an underside patch, but that is for another time. For simplicity those topics are left out but remember there is a whole world of creativity here!

Choose Your Materials for the Fix.

For machine darning use a matching  thread for a less visible mend. Use a a completely different one for a highly visible repair. For my example, it is a close match. 

For patching, choose a fabric for patching that is of similar weight to your garment for good wear. Especially important with knit fabric. In the example shown here, the fabric being repaired is jeans denim so a heavy cotton was chosen. It is not the same color but is the same weight. If you go too light with fabric, the patch itself will not survive much wear and tear from use. 

Keep in mind if a repair was needed, the area is likely to see some rough use. Make your repair just as strong. 

Prep Work Being Done

Prepare Your Work.

It can be scary but you will nearly always have to do some deconstruction to do a good repair. Here I am removing the pockets a bit to access the area below so it can be given new fabric. 
Some general rules from Anne's lesson learning from many mistakes over the years:
1. Give yourself enough room to work. 
2. (a caveat to #1) Don't do too much. When in doubt Don't.
3. Take time and go slow. Making more damage when taking apart is easy to do. Use a sharp seam      ripper or X-Acto knife.
4. If the garment is complex take a photo or two of the work before it all comes apart.
5. Remember to use the right weight needle for the fabric you are working with.
6. Remember "Do no harm" in repairs as well as medicine. If your repair idea damages forever the      garment then don't do it. Repair it another way.

Fixing the Levis.

Get ready:
Get some heavy cotton.
Get some thread in colors you need.
Get a size 110 Needle.

Lift the corners of the pockets using a seam ripper. Go down past the hole about 1". This is easily sewn back together.

We have two holes to fix. One if large and the other small. To fix, I will do one machine darn and one patch. That means we need 3 patches. Two will be placed on the inside of both pockets and the outside of one. Patching the inside makes a strong and comfortable repair. It provides a stable foundation to do machine darning on the small hole. It can be omitted but that is another subject all together.

1. Make 2 inside patches to match holes. The need to be slightly larger than the holes.
2. Make one outside patch. The shape is determined by how you want it to look. I made it bigger so as to go to the top seam. Choose the look you want and then make the patch that shape. Trace with chalk and cut to form.  plus 1/2" for large patches or 1/4" on small patches all around to turn under.
2. Finish the edges. Zig zag or serge is best. Less but also OK is pinking or single row of stitching. 

Three patches needed- Two for inside and one for outside.
Sew Patches to Inside.
Line up patch and pin.
Make sure bobbin thread matches the fabric. 
Setting the location. Make sure to cover the entire hole.

 This is the view from the outside when sewn down.

Outside view.

Patching the Outside.

This patch was made so as to go to the top seam. 
If possible, use an iron to press seam allowance under. Usually the amount is about 1/4 or 1/2". Not needed but sure makes a neat edge. That is what is happening here.
Pressing under a 1/4" seam allowance.

Stitch in place.
Stitched need to be small enough to be strong but not to small as to pucker up. For heavy fabrics like this I use a #3. Stitches are made very close to the edge but not on it.
Stitch again inside for added stability. 1/4" is good generally on a small patch like this. 

For large patches it is good to stitch the center area as well to keep it all in place. Some decorative flair is good here. 

The fun part, stitching it down.

Machine Darn.

Machine stitching the hole closed is done by simply moving the presser foot back and forth over the holeThat can be done different ways depending on the machine. My favorite is using a 3 step zig zag built in stitch. My machine here is great with heavy weight denim but has no built in stitches nor even reverse direction. To achieve the back and forth I lift the presser foot slightly to pull it back. 
Most machines you can just go forward and reverse closely together or use a close zig zag stitch.

Machine Darning with Ol'Willcox and Gibbs

The stitching can be seem better form the inside, as shown here.

Inside view.

Finish It Up.

Sew up those pockets. A nice touch is to use matching jeans topstitch thread for the last part. Not difficult to find and useful for projects like these. It is heavier than everyday thread. Normally I use it for top thread only and match use normal weight in the bobbin. Bobbin tension needs to be adjusted if heavy thread is used.


Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Retro Fit Pocket

If your dress or top does not have a pocket, you can often add one yourself. This is how I add a pocket to an already constructed garment into a side seam.  It looks long and complex but it is not really.  I made one pocket here but you can do two, of course. With vintage garments I try to alter them as little as possible and so one is usually my choice. 

You will need a little sewing experience, a few pins, some marking chalk or marker and some fabric to make the pocket from. 

To choose fabric, it is best to match weight and then color. Use an exact matching fabric or one lighter in weight. You can cut your fabric off grain if you need to. The amount is basically slightly bigger than your hand times two. Don't try to make it too small.

Pre wash fabric to avoid shrinking afterwards!

Make Your Pocket Template

You can take a pocket from a commerical pattern to do this or you cna make your own. To do this yourself, just trace your own hand for size.  If you make one from paper, you can bet it will get used again and again.

Set two layers of fabric out, as shown and do some drawing. Open your fingers slightly and then trace about 1-2" all around as of you were setting your hand inside the pocket. The strait edge is at the wrist. You want to be adding some room for a seam allowance and ease.

Make your pocket shape.

Getting Ready 

Cutting and Finishing the Pocket Bag

Finish edges
Cut out your pocket bag pieces. The edges for the pocket bags need to be finished by either serging, pinked or zig zag stitching on your machine. Don't sew them together yet. 

Choosing a Spot For Your Pocket

Note: Where to put the pocket takes a little planning. Often garments do not have pockets because of fit. There is usually not room for one in the usual location. Because of this it may be good to move it slightly lower on the garment. Not always the case, but a test may be needed to see where. I place a pin in the spot most comfortable and also where a pocket can fit in a loose area.   
The pin is going to be in the spot where your wrist goes. It is the center opening of the pocket.
Choose a comfortable spot for your pocket

 Opening the Seam.

Open the seam with a seam ripper for the length of your cut pocket peices plus 2" on either end.  With  this dress the seams were pinked only but if yours are served or finished in another way it will have to be undone so a little more work. That also means the seams need to be zig zagged finished again before the pocket is sewn to keep everything neat.  I suggest opening seam then zig zag the two separate seam allowances at this point so as not to forget.
Start at the side seam across from the pin mark.

Marking the Stitching Lines  

The lines for stitching is easiest to mark now, either by chalk or with pins. I do a little of both. 
1. Add a pin in the wrist location, usually 3 inches below the top as in this example. Of course there is a place for design creaitivty here. I have made them longer to set into a seam. 

2. Mark the strait edge at 1" below the top. 

3. Mark another at 3" from the bottom. This gives enough depth so as not to have htings fall out of your pocket but also room enough for your hand to go in and out.
Marking the sides.

Stitching the Pocket

Line it all up.
Now is time to do some sewing! Place and match up the strait edge right sides together.  Sew in a 3/8 inch seam. This is for a normal 5/8" seam allowance of the original garment. If it is different than sew this seam slightly less. This will set the pocket inside the seam.
Stitch at 3/8" or a measurement less than your seam allowance.

Press the Seam Allowance

To make sure the fabric is sewn correctly, this step is important. Press the pocket out.
Iron seam allowances out.

Sew the Two Seams and Pocket Together

Line up the pockets and seams being sure everything is matched up perfectly. Pin at the top of the pocket, at the 1" mark and a few on the bag pieces. Pin at the 3" mark and base of pocket. These are all areas that need to stay in place as you work.
Line it all up evenly, especially top and bottom for a nice smooth fisnished pocket.

Sewing it All Together

1. Stitch from the start of the opended seam down to the 1" mark. 
2. Turn around, stitch to 1/2" below the top of the pocket (seam allowance amount). 
3. Turn sideways and go around pocket all the way to the dress seam again and in 5/8".

Note: You want to be sewing on the inside of the original sewing line, where the pocket went onto the dress. It can be seen and felt under the layers.

4. Turn work and go up to the 3" mark. 
5. Turn back again and go down, and keep going along previous line and then onto the dress seam until the end.

Sewing down to 1" mark and turning back. The pin is marking the spot to stop and return.
Finished Pocket

Turn Out and Press

The pocket should be just inside the seam line.

Just for those who were wondering what the whole dress looks like that got the new pocket, here it is.   Vintage Made in Hawaii by Holo Holo. 
1970's Vintage Hawaiian

Monday, March 23, 2020

Home Made Soap

                 Anne Makes Soap...and you can too.

This is a very old time proceedure that has great every day benefit to nearly every one. Making soap is another of those housewifely things people did in our recent past that have a place in our homes today, if we want to take the time. Easier than sewing, in case you are wondering. ;) I have been making my own soap for over 25 years and have been asked many times how to do this and so will do that here.  There are many sources for supplies and many tutorials surely. Seek them all out for more insight. My own favorite is Mountain Sage Soap Makers Supply for start.

Assemble Your Supplies

I have gathered a nice set of supplies over the years and so what you see me using you may not have, or have yet. When I started no supplies such as mould boxes were around, so mine were made for me. I bet you can now find everything. Because of this I will include basics and you can search for extras yourself as needed.
The soap, water and lye bring about a very caustic mixture. All utensils and pans need to be able to tolerate this as well as the heat generated. Leave your favorite kitchen utensils out of this project. No aluminum.

Kitchen Scale
Kitchen gloves
Glass measuring cup Large 8 cup or equivalent.
Small glass measuring cup
4 Plastic tupperware style containers 
Large stainless steel wisk
Large stainless steel or plastic spoon
Large stainless or Glass Pyrex stock pot
2 Shoe Box sized moulds.
Fleece Blanket
Bath Towel

Nice to have if possible:
Pastry cutter
Mitre Box
Wire bakery racks
Long thin fillet knife

My Best Pot for Soap - Visionsware. 

The Recipe

This is my tried and true recipe. I have changed it up many times to make special soaps such as shampoo, creamy oatmeal and antiseptic soaps. You can too but this is the base. The quality is great and is the most economical. It works.  I leave out expensive oils but if you feel creative than go ahead. Many recipes are out there. I mainly like clean clean clean.

12 Oz Lye
32 Oz Cold Water

24 oz Cocount Oil
24 oz Olive
38 oz Crisco

4 oz essential oil

Notes: The olive oil used can be Pomace oil. No need for the best food quality here, and in fact Pomace olive oil is great.  Go off brand for the Crisco too. Hydrogenated cottonseed or soybean oil is fine. I don't use perfume oils for soaps. Lye (sodium hydroxide) is found at hardware stores.

Get Started

Prepare the mould. I use a home made box that comes apart, so htat is what is shown but you do not need that right now. When I started I used two Rubbermaid shoe boxes and so you can start there. Grease the sides with shortening so he soap will come out easier. They will be filled about half way with your soap recipe. I have found that two smaller ones seemed to cure better than one big one for me but be aware you can use one larger one. Just my preference. 

Create a curing location that is draft free for the boxes to sit for 24 hours. I have used different spots for this, being mindful that they ned to be safe from cold and not be knocked over. Place a towel under and blankets with go on top later.

Get all supplies together and pre-measure the oils. Set aside.

THIS PART IS IMPORTANT. Soap is caustic and dangerous when being made.
 Make sure all distractions are gone. Do this only when no children or pets are nearby. Clear the area of clutter. 

Mix the Lye and Water

Lye station is ready to be taken outside.

DO THIS OUTSIDE. There are fumes when water and lye are mixed together. Turn away and do not breathe. I take a breath and hold it for this!

Slowly pour the lye granules into the water. Mix with metal wise. It will get very hot. Set aside in a safe place. Bring inside after a minimum of 15 minutes.

Mix the Oils

Add all the oils to the pot and melt, using the lowest heat. When melted, turn off heat and remove pot from burner.  This helps to cool faster.

Combine the Lye Mixture and Oil Mixture

This part is done when both the lye and oil have cooled down a bit. 

The tempertature should be about 90 degrees, way down from the melting point. How long it takes varies with air temperature and how hot the stove burner was. Usually about 30 minutes or so. I test by touch in the oil, if it feels hot but not burning hot then it is time. Also the oild gets lightly cloudy when cooling. Not too scientific, I know. The lye container should be warm but not burning hot. 

Add the lye mixture to the oil pot slowly. Mix with wire risk carefully. DO NOT SPLASH this mixture. When mixed switch to the hand blender. This device is not essential but sure does a nice job of completely mixing.  After a few minutes the soap will thicken.  This is the chemical reaction beginning and soap being created. It will leave marks on the top as when making gravy or pudding. This is called the trace. When you can drip onto the top of the mixure and it stays on top you are done.

Add in Color if Desired

I rarely do, but many people love this. I will leave that to your own research as to what and how. Lots out there on the topic.

Mix in Essential Oil 

Add in your scent in desired. Mix completely. 

Pouring Time!

Now pour into your prepared moulds. I usually fill two shoebox ones half way. When both are evenly poured I take a spoon and mix one last time to make sure it all is evenly mixed. Cover both and place safely away on top of the towel and place the blanket on top. This is to insulate as the continuing chemical reaction takes place. It will get warm again and then cool when ready.
Warm and Cozy for one day.

Opening the Mould.

After 24 hours, or the next day, it should be cool and ready to open. Open the lid  but don't remove the soap. It need to dry another day or two.  When the time has come and it can come out, have your towel out. Turn over the mould and it should come out. If not, let it dry more. 
Opening the mould. This is a box with door hngles. I remove the pin and it comes apart.

Cutting and Drying

I use an old mitre box to do this and have the bars come out even. You may not need this and can cut soap any way you like. The pastry cutter gives some texture to the cut as well as being easy to handle.  A thin paring knife is another good choice. The soap should be soft but not sticky. If it is too soft, wait. Now that I have been at it a while, have found an old guitar string is best for cutting but it had to go into a wood frame to handle well. I bet there are soap cutters now. Place each bar onto the bakery rack.
Ready to cut!

Now the Wait....

The soap needs a bit more time to dry further and become more mild. Usually two weeks at minimum. Enjoy!

Now, all kinds of things can go wrong. I have had every disaster happen, and yet I also have had it go right too. There is help out there for a better next time. Generally this works and you get about 40 bars of soap. Good, high quality soap. Great gifts too for both men and women and all kinds of people.  I use nothing else now, with the exception of other people's home made soap! You'll be the same I bet. Clean it up people!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Home Canning Soup Broth

Beware! A departure from Sewing today.

There are so many home canning recipes useful for every day cooking but few as much as this one that I repeat over and over: Soup broth. For me, it a favorite because it is a way to use vegetable trimmings and bones from the kitchen that would otherwise be trash. Free! This broth also tastes really good so will add a nice touch to a simple meal. The canning part keeps my freezer clear and gives more  time to use it than refrigeration. You can have good tasting soup or use to make a sauce anytime. 2-3 large jars makes a large pot of soup.

Note: I nearly always add some chicken or vegetable bouillon cubes (or equivalent) and herbs to my broth to give some seasoning before actually serving it in a meal.  Not when canning. You may find this a little bland. I keep it that way so it is adaptable for use in as many recipes as possible.

This is a basic procedure for canning. In the case of soup broth, a pressure canner is needed. No water bath canning for anything like this.  A good idea would be to read up on the basics here: Ball Basic Canning Information

Pressure canner are not cheap but very durable. I have used this for 30 years. Rubber gaskets that fit inside the lid are available if you need a replacement for a used one you might find or if yours is old.
Pressure Canner Gaskets

What you will need:

*A Pressure Canner.
*12 Quart Jars (the big ones)
*12 lids and rings  (tops)
*Jar lifter
*Canning funnel
*Large mesh kitchen strainer
*2-3 Stockpots

Make the Stock

Cook and strain your broth.

Vegetable Trims for Broth

This is a typical batch. Make your stock as normal, by filling the pot with water until just covering.  If this a vegetable only broth then simmer 2 hours is enough to get a good flavor. For bones go three hours. More time is fine. Remove all ingredients and then strain the liquid stock through the wire mesh strainer. Get as much out as possible so as tho have a nice clear broth. If there is a lot of sediment at the bottom of the pot, leave it out and discard that little bit.

If you have a lot of vegetables, use many pots to cook then combine later. I usually use three pots then combine into one big one after straining ( shown at the top of this picture above).

If this takes a long time, refrigerate your broth until ready to can. The next step takes about 1 1/2 hours start to finish with wait time so be ready. The next day is best.

Get Pressure Canner Ready

Fill the canner with water about 3".
Turn on heat. Bring to a boil.

This amount varies with the number of jars that go in so there will be some adding or removing at times.  Keep a kettle of hot water nearby for this.

Get Your Jars Ready
Wash jars and lids thoroughly in hot water.  Keep jars in hot water in the sink.

or.....One trick I have used that will get me in trouble but I will share anyway as it is so helpful: low oven warmer. I place clean jars face down on a jelly roll pan. Turn the oven on to 200, the lowest setting.  When it gets warm, I turn it off and keep the door shut until ready. Generally you do not heat jars in the oven but this has worked for me for years.

Get the Lids Ready
Place your lids in a pan of hot water. This is not to sterilize but to keep warn to as to get a good seal. Do not boil. I place the pan close to my broth pot and it keeps warm with out fussing over it.

Set Rings Aside But Close By.
They will be needed shortly.

Bring Broth to a Boil
Heat broth until boiling. Hard boil for at least one minute. Turn off heat.

Now is the Time to Bring it All Together

Canner is Ready

Broth is Ready
It is time.
Canner water is HOT
Broth is HOT.
Fill jars to 2" below the top.

Now you fill the jars.  Use the ladle and the funnel. The jars will be hot so I use a oven mitt to hold and a ladle with the other hand. Be neat here. The extra space is to allow for the broth to boil and not make a mess or not seal later.  This is a little more than normal canning procedure.

Fill the Jars

Clean Jar Tops.
Clean tops make a clean seal. Wipe each jar top edge with a wet paper towel.

Place Jars Into Canner
Jar Placement and Water Level

Space them equally in the pot. They SHOULD NOT TOUCH  the pot or another jar. That causes breaks. The water should be about half way up the jars. Add more or ladle some out accordingly.

I can fit 7 jars. That means there will be two batches.

Close Canner Top and Set Canner Pressure
The recipe calls for 10 Pounds Pressure for 25 Minutes.
The tops usually look like this and are numbered:
Pressure Canner Regulator

Canning Time Begins
The canning time begins when the pressure regulator start to jiggle. This takes a bit of time, my stove about 15 minutes or so.  When it seals and the sound comes up then set your timer for 25 minutes.

Time is Up
When time is up turn off heat and walk away. The cooling process takes a while. DO NOT RUSH THIS by fooling with the regulator or by pouring cold water like with smaller pressure cookers.

Get a Space Ready For Hot Jars
Use a folded cotton towel on the counter to set hot wet jars.

Opening the Canner
When it is cooled down, the regulator is still and the locks are down on the canner handles, you can open.  Remove the jars carefully with the jar lifter and place them on the towel.

NOW is the Bestest Time......
The cooling jars will now begin to make home canner's favorite sound. A popping noise as the jars seal.

If after a few hours you have a few that did not seal, you can do this all again if you want. Just bring it all back up to boil to sterilize.

Production Site!

Repeat the Process for Second Batch if Needed.

When cooled, you can make labels for them. I use them up pretty fast but here is how to do it an easy way if interested.  Paper Jar Labels

Saturday, September 9, 2017

An American Industrial Classic - The Willcox and Gibbs High Speed Lockstitch Sewing Machine

Oh what a beauty.  Also, what a mystery.  If you find yourself here searching for information on this industrial sewing machine,then hopefully you can glean some help.  This old timer came into my sewing room with nothing to help me understand how it operated and very little available online. That meant I better do some "hands on" experimentation.  This post is the result of what I found.

It operates somewhat similarly to other industrial sewing machines but there are some significant differences.  I'll point those out. On a side note, I have also found the Willcox and Gibbs to be quite adaptable to home use for things like quilting, general dressmaking and mending.

The Willcox Gibbs High Speed Lockstitch Sewing Machine with Automatic Lubrication.
1940? Unknown age.
Willcox and Gibbs was founded in 1855 with their famous chainstitch sewing machine.  Many of these survive and were made into the 1920's so many people know the Willcox Gibbs name for this machine.
Willcox and Gibbs Chainstich Sewing Machine 1875.

Many years and innovations later the company would focus on the industrial sewing machine trade.  The one I was most familiar with is the overlock first introduced in the 1880's and made into the 1970's. The company diversified and then stopped being in the sewing machine business in 1978, a long run indeed.  The particular model discussed on this post, the lockstitch, was introduced in 1899 as a power driven high speed machine for the garment industry.  It would come with compatible tables and motors designed for ease of use, power saving and reliability. The rotary feed and tension units took stress off the thread by turning in rotation rather than tugging on the spool, reducing breakage and parts wear.
Willcox Gibbs High Speed Lockstitch in a Factory Setting

The model I am using is a later version, unknown age.  Best estimation is late 1930's or early 1940's.  It has an added feature - Automatic Lubrication.  This mechanism has a system of tubes to carry oil to all major oiling points.
The tubes shown are only the top ones, there are many. The oil is transported through to drip precisely onto the gear as needed.  Because of the high speed required in an garment industry setting, this is a real time saver and would prevent wear on the machine over time.

How Do They Work?
I first found some problems.  It is a different bird as they say.  Crazy presser feet, a wierd bobbin case and a lot of tangled thread in the rotary take up wheel. Ugh! An operators manual is my usual helper and was not to be found. The only manual located was on Ebay, and far away at that. I have heard there is one on the Smithsonian's archive website but i was unable to locate it presently.  I suggest looking both places and getting one. In the mean time here are some basics.

The Basics.

*The Hand Wheel Turns Away. Do not turn towards the operator.
* The thread releases with the needle at the highest position. This is just like other machines.
*Needle sets with Groove to the LEFT.

Oiling the Machine.

Pull up lever on the oil pump to send the oil through the system.

I use this to help pour the oil!

The automatic lubrication machines should be tested. These operate very fast so it is essential that they be oiled properly to avoid damage. Before beginning fill the reserve  with oil to the halfway point.  If it overfilled it will leak. Pull the oil pump lever up, and let it go down slowly. There should a tiny drop of oil.  Now, check the holes near the front and at the fly wheel. Add a little oil if it has been a long while  since last use.  I suggest adding some oil to all the moving parts of the bobbin case area. The bobbin winder unit should have a few drops of oil added to the port over the turning arm.
Now that it has been given a little oil, run at high speed to see if the system is clear and operational.  Open the cover at the top, see that a small drop of oil formed at the tube going down. If not, oil manually.  In time my machine went from not dripping oil to working fine so maybe some old oil clogged it, now gone. 

I have no threading diagram. There is one out there I saw it but cannot locate it. It seems it was on the Smithsonian's collection of trade ephemera.  The threading procedure was a bit confusing, so here is how I do it with images to help.
Start here.

 Thread goes from stand to holes on pillar arm, through the tension spring and around the tension assembly.  It is advised to go around two times. Next thread through the hole in the front.

(This is the back view)
Thread take up: Thread goes from the hole up-wards into the guide, down through the round section and out the bottom to needlebar guide.  Thread goes Right to Left.
Setting the Bobbin.

The Bobbin case fits onto an arm with no latch. It can b seen here.  To access slide the cover. I really like this feature, so easy to access and see.
Bobbin case access
To change out the bobbin, raise the needle and pull back the arm holding the case.  There is a small button to do this on the back side. To replace just push back.  A note: I forget to do that a lot, as many machines you just snap the bobbin case into a hook/slot.  After wondering why my machine will not pick up the bottom thread, realize then that I did not move it back- Duh.

 The Bobbin Case.
Insert the bobbin as normal, with the unwinding thread opposite the leaf tension on the case. The leaf tension on my case needs special attention to make sure the thread goes under it properly. Then thread through the hole on the top. 
Mine keeps doing this-  just pull it under. Check yours.

Proper threading of the Bobbin Tension.

Through the hole and all done

Bobbin inserted correctly, face down. Just push it back.

I am unaware of other models of the High Speed Lockstitch machine so please understand there may be differences in features in older or newer machines.  Here is how to make some adjustments to the machine for sewing different types of fabric.

Stitch Length:
Boy was this a mystery!  Push in the metal button and turn the handwheel away from you until the numbers come into view.  I am not sure exactly what they represent, other than a guess as stitche per inch as this is an American machine.  Lower numbers for longer stitches, higher for smaller ones. I use 10 most for medium weight, 14 for light and 7 for denim.

Quick steps-
1. Press in button and turn handwheel AWAY until it clicks.
2.Turn again towards or away until you see the number you want.

Presser Foot Pressure:
Turn the screw at the top of the machine near the round thread take up.  It goes downwards for more pressure, up for less.  I was able to get a big variation in this, a great feature.  With it up can do free motion sewing like for darning or quilting.  No special darning attchment was needed. With high pressure did a great job on canvas. Start in the middle and then experiment from there.

Winding a Bobbin:
Set bobbin in the slot, it fits tightly.  Wind as normal. It has a mechanical auto stop. 

How do I sew on a machine that does not have reverse? I need to keep the stitches from unraveling!
This is a hassle, I know.  Having used many old sewing machines, this issue has become part of my life.  I do love auto reverse, back tack and the best of all AUTOMATIC THREAD CUTTERS but they are not what life is made of.  Here is my work around for treadles and others that have no reverse. It works for most fabrics but the lightest ones. 

1. Make a 2-3 stitches.
2. Tug slightly  so the machine goes over them again. 
3. At the end of the seam, with needle at the highest point raise presser foot.Move it back 2-3 stitches. 4. Place down again and sew over the edge.
Here's a quick view of this maneuver:


If the video clip won"t play try this:
There is also the tried and true method of simply turning your work around sewing a few stitches and turning again.  I do this for very heavy fabrics like Sunbrella or very light such as Charmeuse.

Things You Need For the Willcox and Gibbs Lockstitch
You will need a belt for the machine and one for the motor.  I got an industrial treadle belt from eBay.  Note that it is the thicker version, not the one for household machines. 
My set up required a 22" and a 26" belt. They fasten with a metal clip.  Often the leather will stretch a bit so expect to re-install maybe once more until it sets. Yes, it is a bother! To fasten sometimes I use carpet thread rather than a clip, easier to do.Unfortunely there is no V belts to add as there is no way to insert them in my case.
There is too much variation to say what lengh each machine will need, as it is based on what set up  is used but estimates can be made easily. Use the old belt or a a marked string going around the path to estimate length before you order.

The Willcox and Gibbs High Speed Lockstitch requires a 75W Needle.

Thankfully, needles are available but not too common. A clue to finding more is it is used by also by another industrial machine, the American Baster. Ebay has them but also here:

 The numbering system for Willcox Gibbs needles are by single digits.  2-7 are what the machine takes.  My general guide to what to use for what is this:
#2 Light
#3 Medium 
#4 Heavier
#6 Heavy and Coated
#7 *&% Heavy 

The #7 is the max it can handle, and for me it was the outdoor fabric Sunbrella with 4 layers. 

Presser Feet and Attachments.
The Willcox and Gibbs has a unique presser foot system.  This make the foot attachments very rare and hard to find.  I found some here with the help of the owner, Ms. Howes.
There is some variation of of the shank height for some presser feet, so in time changes occurred. My machine takes the lower shank ones.
Very slight variation in shank height.

The Willcox and Gibbs also seems to be able to take industrial attachment like binders, as there is a place on the bed for the screws.  I have a binder that came with it but no bed screw.  Modern ones ar too long but can be cut to fit. These binders are fantastic for edgings so worth trying to find a solution as to be able to use them. 

Motor and Table Set Up.
There are many variations to motors for machines like this.  I will leave that topic to others but will show mine as a possible research for others.  The motor that came with this is a General Electric 1/2 HP.  It was rewired at some point recently.  The Thread spool stand, guard and table are a set by Willcox and Gibbs. 
The light is probably part of the set up as well and made by Bryant.  This articulated light has been re-wired and is easy to use and just super cool looking too.
Bryant Lamp

  And so there is enough information to begin some serious sewing with this American industrial sewing machine classic.  My first attemps at sewing with this were frustrating, and I was close to giving up due ot tangled thread and broken needles. I then did some "trial and error" plus experiemntation to come up with a little help for future operators. 

 It is my sincere hope that such information will assist any person who comes across one of these so as to keep it and not let it become destroyed as so many do.