Saturday, August 27, 2016

Wheeler & Wilson #8

I got my first Wheeler & Wilson sewing machine.  

The story of this machine started on July 21st, when someone put a Wheeler & Wilson #8 flyer on the freebie table at quilt guild.  
Wheeler & Wilson #8 flyer (front cover)

inside pages (check out those prices)

back and front covers
 Any time a collector finds something that goes to a machine that they don't already have in their collection, we refer to it as 'bait'.  Well, I guess this was my 'bait' for a Wheeler & Wilson #8.  

Two days later, hubby and I drove to LaSalle, IL, to visit a quilt shop and drop off both Family Reunion quilts, to be quilted.  We checked out a couple of the other shops downtown, and, I spied this Wheeler & Wilson machine.  I knew that a part was broken off the machine, and, it was in a base, but, it didn't have a hand crank, so, I didn't know if it was worth the price.  I took a couple of pictures so that I could send them to a friend who runs the Wheeler & Wilson online group.  The broken part wasn't a big deal (it's the corner where the stitch length lever is located), and, the machine was probably a treadle, but, not a hand crank (hand cranks for these machines are not easy to find).  I decided to get the machine anyway, as I could always use it as a display machine if I couldn't figure out how to make it work.

I called the shop, paid for the machine, and told them I couldn't pick it up until after I got home from Alaska.  A friend and I went a couple of days after I got home, and picked up the machine and the quilts.
Wheeler & Wilson #8 (before cleaning)

broken piece

broken piece, just laid in place
 I haven't had time to play with this machine until today.  I've been busy prepping and sewing, and prepping and sewing and prepping and sewing (lots of paper piecing here). 

Today, not only did I clean the machine, but, I did some research, too.  So far, we've narrowed down the date for this machine to somewhere after Aug 1878 (last patented date listed on the machine) and before 1885.  Miller (who co-runs the Wheeler & Wilson group) is hoping to get me a more exact date soon.  

I had gotten some extra bobbins, hoping that they would fit this machine, but, they are almost twice as wide as the bobbin from this machine.
bobbin from this machine on left, other W&W bobbin on the right
 Miller things that someone built the wooden base for this machine as a display base.  Most Wheeler & Wilson #8 machines came in a treadle, and, this one was most likely a treadle, too.  The hand cranks I've seen pictures of, all have a geared hand wheel.  

I wasn't going to clean this machine today, but, I couldn't read the slide plate, where the serial number and the patented info was listed. 
before cleaning

after cleaning
 Once I got started, I just couldn't stop cleaning until it was done.  The shiny metal parts on this machine weren't shiny at all.  Most were dark brown or black, from old oil.  It took a long time to clean all that old oil off.  Here is a before cleaning, and some after cleaning photos.

before cleaning

after cleaning
before cleaning

after cleaning (sorry, the photo turned itself, and I can't correct it)

Can you see the foot in the picture above?  It has a glass insert on the foot.  That is a cool thing on Wheeler & Wilson machines. 

Before I started cleaning, I couldn't figure out how to get the bobbin case out of the machine.  My son thought that the lever was broken on the bobbin case area.  Miller confirmed this.  While cleaning, I accidentally snapped what was left of the lever piece, and now the bobbin case won't stay in the machine.  Since parts are rare, this will be a display machine, for sure.

This is one of my oldest machines.  My oldest is my Willcox & Gibbs (1880) 
1880 Willcox & Gibbs chainstitch hand crank

and my second oldest is my Singer 12 treadle (1881),

1881 Singer 12 treadle
I started cleaning up the Singer 12 treadle, but, had to stop because of the sweltering heat we had last month.  I finally got some of the last sanding done this week, and hubby is helping me to glue several parts of this before I stain the base. 


  1. Great post. You must have spent hours on the cleaning. Your love of old machines is showing.

  2. How exciting! What a wonderful thing to collect - old sewing machines! My daughter runs Dover Antique Mall in Dover PA and I'll have to have her be on the lookout for very old machines that come in for you if you'd like.

  3. It's beautiful! I really love when you get a new machine or show us your collection :)

  4. Great old machines! Sure wish they could talk.

  5. Such a pretty machine once it was cleaned.

  6. You are so dedicated. Love the cleaned machine. Such a difference a bit of TLC can make.

  7. I can't believe the difference in the machine after cleaning. Too bad I can't run and sew.

  8. It's beautiful! I haven't cleaned my Singer 12 yet either.

  9. What a gorgeous machine it became after all your elbow grease! What a shame it doesn't sew. Do you think you'll be able to ever find spare parts to fix it. And just out of interest; where do you store all your machines? Not in your sewing room, I'm assuming??

  10. Love all of your machines! You did a great job cleaning your #8. She's a beauty. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall to see your technique of cleaning and what products you use.
    I recently found a #8 that I'm trying to get to sew. She wants to stitch but somehow the thread is catching somewhere underneath, leaving lots of loops on the backside of the fabric. Needed to take a break then try again to solve the problem. I've heard that they're great machines.

  11. Just think how loved that machine must feel after so many years of neglect ... and yes, machines have feelings.

  12. Cheryl you should join the Victorian Sweatshop forum. If anyone in the country can fix your machine or have parts it'll be someone in that group.


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