Willcox & Gibbs
The Willcox & Gibbs chain stitch machines are
one of the most collected sewing machines of all time. Some say
the sewing machine represents the finest piece of Victorian
precision engineering in the sewing world.
beautiful lines and superb stitching make
them a collectors dream. Today every collector and enthusiast has
at least one W&G in their collection. Sewing machine eye candy at
its very best.
tell you what I have learnt about this amazing machine and the men
who built it.
a short Youtube clip on the machine as well.
Edward Allen Gibbs
Edward Allen Gibbs was a
from Rockbridge County, Virginia. He rarely
saw the outside world. When he came across a picture of a
& Baker machine in a newspaper he decided to try and copy it. Mainly with a
penknife, chisel, a few farm tools and some wood. Keen
machine went on to be one of the best-selling sewing machines of
he named his farm Raphine from the Greek, Raphis, "to sew."
Eventually he became so well known and powerful that Raphine
Community was named after him. So how did it all start?
James Edward Allen
Gibbs wooden patent model, nothing like the
model that finally went on sale. The innovation was the underneath
looper to catch the thread.
Because he had
only seen the top half of the
Grover & Baker sewing machine he had to imagine how the
bottom would work.
Click here to date you machine...Dating
Willcox & Gibbs sewing machines
where his stroke of genius came in.
Edward Allen Gibbs
manufactured a lower revolving hook to catch
the top thread and twist it into a loop to lock it into the
Early patent diagram describing the motion
of the hook.
James Gibbs had not realised was that he had
invented a completely new method of sewing, the chain stitch. In
fact he did not even patent it for a while.
James Edward Allen
Gibbs decided that he would hop on the train
and head for Washington, the centre of new ideas in America at the
time. In Washington he ploughed the streets, shows and fairs looking to
see if anyone had a machine similar to his. None of the machines he
encountered on his travels looked or operated like his.
Singer model A
made by the pioneer and multi-wife holder Isaac Singer
in a shop and examined it carefully.
Some say he saw his first real sewing machine being used in a
tailors shop in Virginia. Anyway
realising that his idea was completely different to a
machine he knew he was on to a winner.
All he had
to do when he got home was make a smaller, metal, working model and he was in
needed to get his machine patented as soon as humanly possibly.
Isaac Singer was busily patenting anything that could be used
in sewing as were hundreds of others. The race was on.
The 1856 Gibbs sewing machine
This amazingly early Gibbs sewing
machine, courtesy of Mike from Wolfgang's, is one of only a
handful that exist pre-patent around 1856. There was no under-feed
mechanism and no bottom thread.
Made in metal the James Gibbs sewing machine
would be half the price and half the size and half the threading
of his competitors. All he had to do was
get to the patent office and fast!He
had already had one minor patent granted but in 1857 he hit the
United States Patent Office
Jas E A Gibbs Application 17427 June 2 1857
To all whom it may concern:
Be it known that I, James E A Gibbs of Mill Point in the county of
Pocahontas and the State of Virginia, have invented certain new
and useful improvements to the sewing machine. The design is
intended to use a single upper thread caught caught by a lower
looper or revolving hook. The thread-loop having been caught and
twisted half a revolution, or one hundred and eighty degrees
between each stitch is then released into the next loop of thread.
This method is repeated to form the continuing stitch from the
single upper thread. The material to be moved forward by
pressurised wheel gears.
James Edward Allen
Gibbs, known by many
Chas or Allen Gibbs, patented the
first practical and workable chain-stitch single-thread sewing machine on June 2, 1857.
This was after his earlier patent for part of a sewing machine in
was awarded patent number 17,427 on his machine.
This is J E A Gibbs of Mill Point, Virginia
later 1858 patent showing a much closer similarity to the models
we collect today.
You can clearly see that his first Patent machine was nothing like the
actual machine that went into production. By the time the Willcox
& Gibbs chain stitch arrived on the sewing scene it had a standard
A B Wilson Four-Motion-feed rather than cloth-feeding wheels.
The 1860 Gibbs chainstitch
I have to say that on his machines there are at
least five patent dates that pre-date this one,
he may have been using other peoples patents under licence. One
patent was as early as
1846! Probably one of the Howe patents.
So was James Edward Allen
Gibbs working on the idea of a sewing machine for a lot
longer than we think? Farming can be
very busy one second
for crops to grow the
next, so we can guess that he spent his spare time fiddling with
his inventions then shelving it when he was too
busy. Oh for a time machine to help my research!
Willcox & Gibbs formerly founded
1857 The Partnership Begins
The partnership consisted of the
inventor, James Edward Allen Gibbs and his investor James Willcox
and James' son, Charles Henry Willcox.
now a businessman farmer,
went into partnership with
James Willcox and, James' son was keen to get into a
trade so Charles Willcox joined the
Both the Wilcox's were
entrepreneurs, investors and manufacturers of new fangled
ideas. Allen Gibbs aged 30 years old became a principal in
1859 in the new Willcox & Gibbs Sewing Machine Company.
He was on his way to becoming a millionaire.
worked with James Wilcox's son, Charles, to build the first
proper patent model that we recognise today as
the W&G chainstitch.
James Edward Allen Gibbs 1829-1902
J E A Gibbs a very 1860's look.
I Wouldn't like to meet him in a dark alley!
Allen Gibbs later recounted,
in 1857 selling the first of my first two inventions in the office
of Emery, Houghton and Company, when James Willcox came in. He
remarked that he was a dealer in new inventions, and he asked me
to come to his shop in a Masonic Hall and build a model of my
machine for him".
People assume that it was Gibbs who was the
inventor but Charles Willcox took out loads of patents on the
Willcox & Gibbs sewing machine. It was C H Willcox who patented
the Automatic tension, patent 43819, feed improvements, patent
44490 and 44491 in 1864. Willcox also patented the method of
removing the twists in the thread that caused so many missed
stitches on the early models. Patent 43657 was for his hemming
feet and patent 42036 was for noise reduction on the feed.
basic design of the
W&G machines were based on the two main patents taken out by
Gibbs in 1856
and 1857. The patents related to the formation of a chain stitch
by a rotating hook and straight eye-pointed needle.
here you can see that Willcox & Carleton
way I still have
some unique W&G chainstitch needles if you would like them just mail me:
page on dating Willcox & Gibbs sewing machines.
This 1861 patent clearly shows Chas Willcox
as the inventor of the unique W&G needle with the grooved shank
that made sure all needles went into the exact same position on
the W&G machines. Another simple stroke of genius.
Link to: Willcox & Gibbs chainstitch needles
The Willcox & Gibbs Trademark on all their
Sharpe & Brown
1858, Willcox & Gibbs engaged the firm of J. R. Brown
Sharpe of Providence, Rhode Island, to produce the sewing
machines. They continued making W&G machines
until after the Second World War finishing in 1948.
David Brown and his son
a shop in Providence under the name David Brown & Son
in 1833 for making and repairing
clocks, watches and
undertaking other precision work.
Lucien Sharpe joined the business as an apprentice in 1848
and became a full partner in J.R. Brown & Sharpe in 1853.
sewing machines were finished in November 1858. Willcox,
who was in charge of production, had
no production problems
at all with Brown
& Sharp because at the time they were makers of clocks, watches and
measuring instruments. They were used to
working with super-fine tolerances and to a high quality. It was
these points that were later to produce the wonderful machine
collectors seek today.
Willcox & Gibbs sewing machines
To work out an
approximate date of for the A series (only
for machines with the
letter A, Automatic, before the number) try this formula.
This is by no means perfect but does work in many cases.
the A and remove 279638 from your number. Divide the number you have
left by 17500. Then add the first two digits of the number you have to
1877. This should give you an approximate year of manufacture.
If your number comes out below 1, for example .78888888 then your
machine was made between 1876 and 1879.
Example of letter A, Automatic, prefix Willcox &
Gibbs chain stitch sewing machine made after 1875.
Take the number
above, ignore the A, (545351),
minus 279638 from it. Divide by 17500. Answer,
15.1836. Ignore everything but the first two digits
(15). Add this
to 1877. 1877 + 15, bingo. Approximate year of manufacture 1892.
Also Courtney Willis has kindly worked out
another even easier method of dating the Willcox & Gibbs machines
with the A, Automatic prefix. Thanks Courtney.
Divide the serial number by 8,000 and then
By averaging the two dates in the middle,
using both methods, you may get close to your manufacturing date.
I do hope that helps
you work out a rough age of your little W&G machine.
If anyone out there has worked out a better dating system for the missing W&G dates do let me know:
Patent 29448 July 1860
Be it known that I, Chas H Willcox, Assignor to
James Willcox, of New York of the County of New York and the State
of New York have invented a means of securing the correct position
of the needle in the needlebar. The adjustment of the needle is an
important feature and often falls to untrained women and children
employed as machinists to try and accomplish this. It has long be
desired to accomplish this by an automatic action, without failure
and with no need of skill.
Among those who
worked on Willcox and Gibbs machines at the Brown and Sharpe
factory was one Henry Leland who was in charge of the
sewing-machine department from 1878 until 1890. See a little note
of interest I have added at the bottom.
And so in 1858, the company had finally began the manufacture of a chainstitch sewing
machine which gained popularity at once. While Grover & Baker
and Wheeler & Wilson sewing machines were selling for around
$100, the Willcox & Gibbs machine sold for $50.Incidentally
that was double what
Richard Mott Wanzer would later sell his Little Wanzer lockstitch
for. A considerable sum in 1858 when the average wage was $4 a
forget the weekly wage was little more than a few dollars in 1858,
two years before the American Civil War. Making
the machine the equivalent of $3,000 in today's money.
market their machine, Willcox and Gibbs opened an office at 658
New York City
the following year.
The Automatic No Tension Sewing Machine
possesses features and advantages which make it the most
valuable sewing machine in the world. It is superior and in
advance of every other machine. It is the only sewing machine
in the world without a tension.
Ladies careful of health should have no other.
Willcox & Gibbs 658 Broadway New York.
The machines were a
great success as they were half the price of competitors and
generally regarded as the most reliable of any single thread or chainstitch
machines. Gibbs advertised his machines as having an elastic
chain stitch and they certainly handled many different
fabrics with ease.
Machines have a wealth of patent info on them. This one is very unusual
as having an 1846 date. In fact there are five pre-1857 dates!These
were patents that they used under licence by W&G for a fee (like
the Elias Howe patent of September 10th1846 shown above). Once all
these patents expired it was no longer necessary to have them on
the plates. It is a handy way of dating your W&G besides its
Note how, if
you look at the back of a W&G machine, the profile/outline of the machine
is a perfect G, a clever little idea apparently
patented by Gibbs had so that you
could instantly recognise his machine. Between
Charles & James Willcox, Allen Gibbs made one of the most famous
sewing machines in the world. Most of the
patents were taken out by Willcox & Gibbs but in 1871 two patents
(June & July) were taken out by Willcox & Carleton.
of the best things about the W&G machines is that all the
components were checked with very accurate watch and clock gauges to ensure that all parts were
easily interchangeable. This was truly mass production on a superb
quality and scale.
Their machines were much lighter and smoother
than the competitions and were ideal for such difficult tasks as
With sales flourishing, Willcox &
Gibbs had their
offices built on Broadway in New York and established themselves as major players in
the sewing field.
Due to the weight of shipping the
machines to England, the firm had special hand wheels cast,
Coalbrookdale, England. Been there it's great.
These hand wheel versions were
completely different to the large cast iron treadle ones that sold
in the States and have proved a great favourite with collectors.
Coalbrookdale has been referred to
as the one of the most extraordinary places in the world. It was
where the industrial revolution all started in the 18th century. A
steep valley with the fast flowing River Severn cutting through
its middle it was the perfect place.
It had all the mineral
resources in abundance and pioneers like Abraham Darby and Thomas
Telford concocted their magical potions. They made miracles come
true and changed our world forever. If you ever have the chance to
visit this beautiful place you will be inspired. Early
Coalbrookdale iron and steel is highly collectible today.
An early Coalbrookdale Willcox & Gibbs Hand
crank assembly. Only the Coalbrookdale hand cranks had these
special markings. 99% of all W&G hand cranks machines were not
cast in Coalbrookdale, making these ones particularly rare.
went on to advertise their superb machines in many ways.
one thread will do, why bother with two,
To break, to confuse, and to tangle?
There is not a sound when my looper goes round,
No shuttles or bobbins to jangle.
I am quick, yet I make not a single mistake,
You have only to keep me a-going.
And never will I shirk the least bit of work.
But do all the family sewing.
All have confessed, that I am best
For fine robes for dear baby I prepare;
While the boisterous boy will fail to destroy
My work with the roughest of Wear.
And when the fair maid is for bridal arrayed
I make with the neatest of seams,
The elegant trousseau, that gratifies you so,
And fills the fond lover with sweat dreams.
An article praising The W&G machine appeared in an 1859
issue of Scientific American.
It concluded that-- one cannot but admire the beauty and accuracy
of the machine's movements, and the entire absence of all noise,
even when it is running at the rate of two-thousand stitches and
upwards per minute.
the machine was a hit and sold like hot cakes.
Britain, orders we initially taken by a Miss Headdon of Fleet
Street as can be seen from the advert below.
Willcox & Gibbs European arm was set up in the late 1850's at 37 Moorgate Street.
In 1859 they moved to larger more prominent premises at 135 Regent's Street, London.
& Gibbs later had their European
head offices at 150 Cheapside
and 20 Fore Street, London. The
same road incidentally as Frister & Rossmann and several other major
manufacturers and importers like The American Sewing Machine
Co. They must have all known each other and been in
competition with each other.
protected their machines as well as possible and advertised
strenuously to stop people
from buying similar
Willcox & Gibbs Models
The most perfect regularity and beauty of any
sewing machine. Gold medal winners Vienna 1873.
Willcox & Gibbs started at
No 1 with their patent model and from then on any alteration that
went into a model was denoted by a model change, however small.
Although there were literally hundreds of different chain stitch
models they were all very similar.
The Model B Willcox & Gibbs had
a scrolled base but little else was different. No one has yet come
up with why it had this base?
For example a simple
change to the tension denoted another number. The incorporation of
the new Willcox needlebar, another number. The grooved needle
another. So Willcox & Gibbs model numbers quickly shot up although
to the normal eye little difference was seen.
Willcox & Gibbs model 64
The most popular model
that we all know is the model 64 chain stitch above, post 1876
which is the stable mate of many a collection around the world.
Nearly every important development in the W&G was in this machine.
class agents sought for Jamaica and the West Indies. Apply in
writing to Turnbull & Lees, Harbour Street, Kingston, Jamaica.
sewing machines supplied from our own houses. Special Agent for
Willcox & Gibbs, Care of Middleton, Freer & Co.
Below is the hat machine
model 200. Really very similar to the 64 but with a free-arm
sleeve, different tensioner, threading and far larger feed to help
the hats through. A rare machine today since the decline in hat
Willcox & Gibbs sewing machine for straw
Once all the main patents ran out manufacturers
were entitled to copy the best idea on the market. These ran from
7 to 14 years maximum.
It is well known that
Frister & Rossmann bought out an
almost identical chainstitch to the W&G.
They in turn sold these models to The American Sewing Machine Co
(A British firm funnily connected in some way with the importers
Eldredge Automatic sewing machine was a straight copy of the W&G
Eldredge Sewing Machine
Krus & Murphy clone of the W&G,
still a beauty and super rare today. I missed this one at auction
and still kick myself.
The Edredge Sewing Machine
Company was formed by its founder Barnabas Eldredge in 1865/6.
Later he combined with the June Sewing Machine Company founded by
F T June. The June company were busy manufacturing Jennie June's a
Singer 12 New Family clone.
Manufacturing moved to
Belvedere Illinois where a huge factory grew employing hundreds of
skilled workmen. They made a large range of machines supplying all
the usual stores and outlets.
Upon the death of June in
1890 Barnabas Eldredge consolidated the two companies into the
National Sewing Machine Company. He remained in charge until his
death in 1911 though the company continued on for many years.
While trading as the
National Sewing Machine Company they continued
with the W&G clone and in Europe they had offices at Fetter Lane, London.
Eldredge Automatic Sewing
Machine, later to become the National Sewing Machine.
Other copies of the W&G were also Meyers of Leipzig and Clemens Muller
who had similar machines.
There were at least 30 Willcox & Gibbs clones around the world.
Some of them very rare today.
Frister & Rossmann
Chain-stitch sewing machine
A super rare W&G copy, Frister & Rossmann's Berlin Chainstitch
now in my Sewalot collection
Due to the superb engineering of the
Willcox & Gibbs
chain stitch machines they were popular for many decades and remained almost
unchanged except for minor feed modifications since the introduction of the Automatic Tension in 1874-1876.
The pre 1874 models had a
glass tensioner models and are now extremely rare.
Standard threading, oiling and parts for the Willcox &
Simplicity, Speed and Silence
The pre-1875 non-automatic
tensioned W&G machines are similar but different.
is a picture from one in my collection. They rarely survive in
this condition and it is worth looking at your normal machine and comparing
the differences, there are many.
Willcox & Gibbs sewing machines
The Willcox & Gibbs machines were available
on free trial they were so sure that you would love them!
Civil War enthusiasts love
this model as the stitch it makes is the real thing that men in
uniform would have had there clothes made on. Below is the early
pre 1875 Willcox & Gibbs sewing machine. It is worth noting the
An early 1866 model Glass-tensioned Willcox &
sewing machine. Some came on deeper wooden bases.
Stockwell brothers also had dealings with Sharpe and Willcox. These dealings came
to a head in 1874 when Alden Stockwell tried to enforce his
claim to 1,500 shares of the W&G company, which would have given
him control of the W&G company. It all ended up in Supreme Court
Chambers with judge Lawrence presiding. It appears that it was
an aggressive take over bid to which Sharpe and Willcox sought
an injunction on the grounds that the purchasing of the shares
had not proceeded clearly or correctly. They were successful
with their claim and W&G continued trading under Sharpe and
1887 a Willcox & Gibbs Automatic machine was selling in the UK
for £6 with its box and bits.
Now, with the average wage at under
ten shillings a week in Britain this represented a sum of 12 weeks wages!
What would that be today. Average wage £300 a week times that by
12. Now you see why they are such good buys on Ebay. Grab one
while you can before they rocket again!
can understand why these beauties have survived, they were built
with no expense spared and were little masterpieces of Victorian
engineering. Today technology has marched on but you will never
beat this model for sheer quality.
1862 Willcox & Gibbs sewing machine
As I have said the main or
Chief Office was at 20 Fore Street, London but they had agents in
most cities in the UK. Here are the Willcox & Gibbs shops and
offices that I am aware of...
Manchester.................. 83 Mosley Street
Leeds............................ 87 & 89 Park Lane
Leicester.......................94 High Street
Birmingham..................Bright Buildings, John Bright Street
Glasgow........................75 Renfield Street
And main European Agents
Belfast...........................12 Dublin Road
Paris...............................20 Rue Des Petits-Champs
Milan.............................5 Viale Piave
Brussels.........................51 Quai Au Bois A Bruler. The
agent was possibly Otto Carl Goltz who also had premises in
The James Gibbs sewing
James Gibbs sewing
machine. James did not only make the
usual models, this is from an 1877 patent application.
The Willcox & Gibbs
Company carried on trading for decades and had manufacturing
plants all over the world making all sorts of machines and
attachments. Later they merged with MEC and became MEC-Willcox.
Chief Office in England
was 94-96 Wigmore Street, London. In New York it became 214, West
Branch offices were all
around the world.
Belfast, 12 Dublin
Glasgow 80 West Nile
Leeds, 68-72 New
Brussels, 233 Rue
Leicester, 94 High
Manchester, 83 Mosley
Nottingham, 25 Castle
Paris, 20 Rue des
Right up to the 1970's, In
the UK, Willcox & Gibbs had a
factory, manufacturing sewing machines, in High Wycombe,
In 1978 the
High Wycombe W&G factory was an
engineering plant with around 100
staff. They imported
castings from their foundry in the USA.
With Beaver computer controlled
machines the castings were machined
and then built into industrial sewing
machines were sent to America and
supplied to retailers around Europe. The rest of the work
was precision engineering for MOD and
Seagull marine engines. At one point MEC-Willcox
was the largest distributors fro sewing machine parts in the
world. They had come a long way from their roots in New York.
for that Alan).
This special Willcox & Gibbs
was for making a curved or shell-edge on the fabric. Tricky
little blighter to operate.
MEC Willcox concentrated on supplying industrial parts to the
trade then in the UK merged with Bogod of London and then
placed orders with them from their W&G Braintree industrial
unit, then Holmewood in Derbyshire. That is Why I still have
some original W&G needles for the chain stitch machines.
Willcox & Gibbs chainstitch needles
Willcox & Gibbs sewing machines
Marketing was everything
with the sewing machine pioneers and W&G were amongst the best.
They advertised relentlessly bombarding the public with their
version of the chainstitch.
The Simple Truth
W7G advert from 1867
It is a
misconception put about by unscrupulous suppliers is that only a
shuttle machine produces a lock stitch. Shuttle machines produce a
stitch so devoid of elasticity that they cannot produce the
strength, beauty and permanence of the Willcox & Gibbs machines.
Chain Stitch machines produce a stitch so deficient in principle
that it can never be relied on.
loop stitch machines like the Grover & Baker produce a large ridge
of thread beneath the work that it is impossible to make a flat
produced by our machines has none of the defects mentioned. The
Willcox & Gibbs machines are of the highest degree and simplicity
in use. They produce a stitch so reliable, so perfectly effective
and so under control that a child may manage our machines
This advert was to show how the W&G machine
stitch held out while the lock stitch simply failed.
And now for
a little fact
Leland, one of the men at the Brown and Sharpe factory went on to
devote the skills that he had learned on sewing machines to good
use, forming the prestigious Cadillac Car Company. How about that
for a cracker!
Crinkle finish Willcox & Gibbs
sewing machine 1900
By the end of the Victorian era
electricity was becoming available and the Willcox & Gibbs sewing
machines worked flawlessly with an electric motor.
WILLCOX & GIBBS SEWING MACHINE CO, Ltd., 94-96 WIGMORE STREET,
LONDON, W.1 (1943)
Gibbs in England
A superb addition to this page was supplied by David Clark in
January 2010. Thanks Dave.
David was factory foreman for Willcox and Gibbs at
their Poole factory in Dorset for several years.
Right up to the 1970's, in the UK, Willcox &
Gibbs had a factory, manufacturing sewing machines, in High
Wycombe, Buckinghamshire and another smaller factory in Poole
Dorset which concentrated on loopers, the looper holders, feed
bars, the feeders, the tiny segregating plate that separated the
cotton between the needles, in fact, most of the tiny high
precision components that went at the working face of the
Close up of the 1864 glass tensioner
Willcox & Gibbs
They also made pulleys for the flatlock and also
loopers for the overlock machines. The components were made to
very close tolerances, typically the thickness of the loopers
was tied down to 6 tenths of a thousandth of an inch over 4
components. As an example, a human hair is about 3 thousandth of
an inch thick.
The blade of a looper was about 32 thousandth of
an inch thick and we had to hang a 7lb weight from the end and
the looper must not take a permanent set or bend.
The Poole factory also made the rotating hook for
the earlier machines. These were made from investment castings.
The shaft was ground to size and had a flat milled on to it. A
washer was soldered onto the shaft to but up against the end of
the shaft running under the machine. The hook was polished all
over and machined and polished so the hook was in the correct
position. We were still making these hooks in the early 1970s.
I was told that although old, these machines were
in daily use making straw hats for the natives. I believe Taiwan
may have been mentioned.
In 1978 the High Wycombe W&G factory was an
engineering plant with around 100 staff. They imported castings
from their foundry in the USA. With Beaver computer controlled
machines the castings were machined and then built into
industrial sewing machines. They were flatlocks and overlockers.
The stitch from the flatlock had, I believe nine
threads, four under the feed bar fed through the four loopers,
four fed through the top via the needles and one thread that
went backwards and forwards through the threads by using a
swinging cross hook. This stitch would stretch and go back and
was widely used in babies and toddlers clothing.
The finished sewing machines were sent to America
and supplied to retailers around Europe. The rest of the work
was sub contract engineering work, precision engineering for the
MOD and crankshafts for Seagull outboard motors. At one point
MEC-Willcox was the largest distributor of sewing machine parts
in the world. They had come a long way from their roots in New
Work in the Poole factory varied depending on the
state of the pound versus the dollar. This meant the order book
would range from 3 years to 3 months depending whether it was
cheaper to manufacture in the UK or the states.
I am not sure when the flatlock was first built
but certainly some of the drawings we were working from were
drawn by Brown and Sharpe and I seem to remember a date of around
1923 on some of them.
Company legend was that the flatlock Willcox &
Gibbs sewing machine shape was designed by Amelia Earheart (the pilot).
Brown and Sharp. (Oh how I would love that to be
that's all I know about the Willcox & Gibbs early sewing mahcines. I spend
endless nurd-hours (that's a phrase I made up) researching and writing
these pages so do let me know what you
thought or if you have any information to add:
The James Gibbs wooden & metal sewing
machine of the early 1850's with unique hook mechanism to make a chain stitch.
I have a few Willcox & Gibbs
needles left. Mail me for details:
All Alex's books are now on:
Both Sussex Born and Bred, and Corner of the Kingdom
available instantly on Kindle and iPad.
Fancy a funny read:
Wilf & The One-Armed Machinist
A brilliant slice of 1940's life:
Alex's stories are now available to keep.
Click on the picture for more information.
for a great true story:
I was thrilled to find your Willcox and Gibbs site. You spent so
much time on your site and your efforts were not waisted I am
sure many people appreciate your work as I do.
I recently found your site and youtube videos. Your site very
informative and getting all this history was wonderful. Thank
you very much for the obvious passion you have for your
I have gone through your website, again and again and it has
been a joy. I have a Willcox and Gibbs which I find amazing and
your article seems to support what a special machine this in the
history of sewing.
The Rev. Dale L. Cranston
Your article on the Willcox & Gibbs chain-stitch
me. Thanks for a great read!
Note how the first picture shows a Wheeler &
Wilson that obviously damages her health. No sooner has she
switched to a W&G she has made a miraculous recovery. WOW I want
I read your article on the W&G company with interest. My great,
great grandfather was William Wonnacott, President of the Wilcox
and Gibbs Sewing machine company. William was English and based
in London. I know very little of his life story but
I am aware from the gold pens that he
was awarded that he worked for the company for an amazing
82 years! It’s not quite a world record unfortunately.
Hi Alex , my name is Joanne
I have been browsing
your fabulous website regarding the Wilcox
and Gibbs chainstitch sewing machine.
I bought mine for 100 pounds. It sews
fabulous and going from your diagrams
I was able to thread it and sew first time. I did the dating off
your site and my machine is dated 1883. Your website has been
invaluable and think it's fabulous I really do.
Alex I was very impressed with the
information you have assembled on the Willcox & Gibbs. Thank
J C USA
I recall the use of chain stitch sewing machines used at State
Farm Insurance (here in Monroe, La) to sew new pages to existing
client folder pages. When needed, the page was removed by
clipping the “unravel” end of the chain stitch and zipping it
out. When pages were added to the folder, they were simply
stitched back. The real advantage was no staples and staple
I recall seeing this being done in the 1963-63 era.