Monday, March 21, 2016

1878 and all that ...

I wanted to hold this post until I re-made a video of my new sewing machine, but since I'm not getting around to that task, I'll post the original, very short video I made.

What is this new Machine, you ask? It's a Wheeler & Wilson sewing machine #8 from 1878. I got it for a steal after waiting several months--all the while watching it's asking price fall from high to "low enough". I'm quite surprised it wasn't snatched up earlier; I've seen these disappear the same day they are posted. I drove about an hour to pick it up. It didn't make a stitch at first so one-by-one, I checked the most obvious trouble spots.

I discovered so much lint build up in the feed dogs, and it had packed in so tightly as to have practically become felt. I cleaned that all out then noticed that the dogs moved up and down but not forward to back. For that, I had to check underneath and found some mechanisms gunked up with hardened grease which was preventing free motion. Eventually, they freed themselves and now work quite fine. In the video, I had not yet quite got them working at max, so the stitches are quite small in the video. All other parts appeared to be working as they should.

Still, it would not make a stitch. Thinking perhaps the tensions were wrong, I played around with both the top and bottom tension regulators--to no avail. I checked my threading. Luckily, the machine came with 2 copies of the manual, so I conferred within to make sure I'd threaded it correctly. Indeed, I had. A few words, however, eventually dawned on me. The manual mentioned the 'grooved' needle. Hm. I wonder if this needle has a groove in it? No, it did not. Wonder of wonders, there were a scattering of old needles in the bottom of one drawer of the cabinet and I found one with said groove. That did it! After I replaced the machine's needle with the grooved one, it worked! I was pretty happy about then.

Here is a picture of the machine and cabinet the afternoon I brought them home. You'll notice that all the moving parts are visible--nothing is hidden. Perhaps you'll also notice that the head is quite small compared to later machines. It's such a beautiful and elegant piece of machinery.

Here's the little video I made which is too short, and before I had the presser foot working completely smoothly. But I hope you'll get the essense of it...

Happy, happy!

Last week I made some quick & easy, everyday reversible placemats. All the sewing except the top stitching was done on this Wheeler & Wilson---I did that on the 1940s White Rotary because I have very good control of that machine. I like these placemats for their simplicity, yet they have a charming warmth. And easy to construct of scraps--and easy-care to boot, simply throw them in the washer when needed.

Happy sewing!


  1. Bernard, what a gem! Can see why you were so taken with the machine. Thanks for sharing, never seen one like it before. It will sew beautiful things for you..... ;)

  2. That is a beautiful machine! Thanks for sharing it with us. So cool.