Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Aldens Sewing Machine: Mighty Alden

I found this Aldens sewing machine a while ago. A loooong while ago, at a local thrift store. I plugged it in, it worked, the price was right, so I took it home. I didn't have a green sewing machine, and it looked pretty cool. So, that was that. 

The day after I got it, a friend gave me this sparkling clean, mint (in color and in condition) New Home machine, and so this poor Aldens just sat on a shelf until this week. Since I really didn't need two green machines, I was going to clean him up and either sell or give it away.

My research resulted that "Aldens" was a department store in Chicago area. Many of you recognize this sewing machine as one of the badged Japanese sewing machines from the 50's~60's. Yes, it's made in Japan. Does not say who made it, however. My other green machine was made by Janome.

Cool looking. I know.  It has three feed dogs settings, "Normal", "Silk", and "EMBR" which I take it to be free motino embroidery - just drops the feed dogs.

There is a few minor scratches, but the machine is in great condition.

The actual color is brighter than it shows here in these photos, and more green than blue.
It had a Singer belt on. The belt was a bit worn.  I happened to have an extra belt that I originally ordered for my Singer 99K, however, it turned out to be a wrong size belt : (  (therefore, my 99K remains unfinished... I'll grt to her pretty soon...)

The belt fit perfectly!  Now he has a bright orange belt. And, Wow. This motor is 1.5 amp.  I think I previously said that my Pfaff 30, at 1.3 amp, is probably the most powerful sewing machine I have. I was wrong. My neglected Aldens had this 1.5 amp Westinghouse motor.

The underside was pretty clean. It had some lint and dust I cleaned out, and i could tell that the machine was used some but not much. It was definitely kept in a nice & dry environment.

After adjusting the tension a bit, he sews beautifully and quietly.

He is very responsive, too.

Ha! I'm very proud of him. Pretty impressive.  Hmmmmm.  I was going to sell or give him away.  Now I have a second thought.  I think I will keep him for the time being.  He is a much stronger and smoother machine than I'd thought.  I'll definitely take him out when I need lots of power.
This VERY heavy machine came in a flimsy plastic carrying case. (What were they thinking?!) The top cover was cracked, so I tossed it.  The base is O.K.  I made him a dust cover with some leftover fabric. (ok, so I didn't iron the fabric. Forgive me, or shoot me.)

When I began collecting vintage sewing machines, I wasn't very much interested in Singer 15 clones or badged Japanese machines. I was more interested in 'stylish' or truly classic looking (like the old black Singer) that are also true workhorse as far as practicality was concerned. So, I went straight to old Singers and European made machines such as old Necchi, Elna, and Bernina.  

I somehow ended up with a couple of these Japanese badged machines, and they both surprised me. Totally exceeded my expectations.  

These are abundant, inexpensive (unless it's pink!) vintage sewing machines that I highly recommend to any sewers who don't feel the need for a free-arm. Especially to newbie sewists who have a limited budget for their first sewing machine. Rather than buying a new cheapie plastic machine for $100, why not spend $30~$50 and get a very solid, reliable, straight forward, easy-to-operate, zigzag machine that will love you and encourage you to sew? Nothing fancy. No decorative stitches or automatic embroidery function - but who needs them, really. 99% of my sewing is straight stitch and a variation of zigzag stitches. Other garment sewers out there, won't you agree? (yeah, yeah, yeah, I love my Bernina 1230, basting stitch is nice, auto buttonhole is nice, so is needle up/down, blah, blah, blah. But you can't get one for $50 and this wasn't my first machine.) 

Speaking from experience -- my first machine of my own (I grew up with my mother's machines which were just great) was one of those cheapie plastic $100 machine. It rattled (lightweight plastic will do that), it was fussy and I didn't even know it. I ended up stop sewing for a looooong time, thinking it was me. I thought was a bad sewer. Took a good 20 years to figure out that it WASN'T ME.  But it's true. It did cause me to stop sewing, except for occasional Halloween costumes for my kids, for a good 20 years. (OMG, 20 years, really....?!)

Anyway, I'm back, and I'm happy to have discovered the power of vintage sewing machines, and good quality sewing machines. I also learned how to take care of them. You own something nice, you take care of them. It loves you back.

I also made him a foot control cover, and gave him a red spool pin cushion. Now he's well color coordinated.  Ohhhhh, I forgot to photograph it, but the foot control is also green.  Love ya, Alden!


  1. Alden's was also a mail order business that sent out catalogs. When I was a kid and growing up, we lived in a very small town, with only a grocery store, so everything mom needed was ordered from Alden's, including Christmas gifts. They had clothes, toys, record players, you name it, they had it.

    I believe that before Janome made the Japanese machines, White, was the manufacturer. Whichever or whomever, the quality cannot be beat!

    1. Your mom didn't happen to order a sewing machine from them, did she?!

  2. Great machine and very good looking! Smart to keep it.

  3. I stumbled upon this post looking for some info on an Aldens sewing machine that I snatched on a whim from my local thrift store. It has a knee pedal, is in a cabinet, and looks like the old school black Singers. Soooooo gorgeous! I would love any and all info that you have on the manufacture and maybe where I can get a manual.
    I'm a complete noobie sewer, so it's encouraging to know that it might be better to learn on an older machine.

    1. If it looks like the old black Singer, it is probably a class 15 clone. (Another version of Singer 15 series, like 15-91 sewing machine. Look on the "How It All Began", my very first blog post. -- does it look like it?) It is probably just a straight stitch machine. I find that straight stitch only machines make the most beautiful straight stitch! If you are interested in making clothes, you'll need zigzag stitch. So, you may later venture out to buy a machine (like my Alden or something like it) that gives you a zigzag stitch option. You could get fancier and fancier with machines that have all kinds of other stitches, but really, you only need straight and zigzag - honest truth. As to your machine - be sure to clean and oil. Clean all the fuzz out the machine by using a dry paint brush (dollar store is a good resource for that!). Good sewing machine oil is a must (don't use anything else, Tri-Flow is best but Singer sewing machine oil will do). You apply just a tiny amount of oil on any metal-on-metal moving parts. I get mine at Sew Classic:

      You can search the internet to learn how to clean and oil vintage sewing machines, but it's fairly simple. As long as your machine's inside doesn't have any rust, you are good to go.

      Look for a similar looking machine for threading instructions. If your machine looks like Singer 15-91, it's pretty straight forward and universal. Lots of resources on the internet/youtube! Yes, the older vintage sewing machines are far better than a contemporary "cheap" plastic machines. I couldn't send you an email as your profile was "no-reply" commenter. I hope you get to see this! Happy sewing!

  4. My daughter just bought an Aldens sewing machine from a thrift shop. It came in/with a sewing cabinet; her friend wanted the table, so my daughter took the sewing machine. It didn't come with a needle, and "Singer" needles she bought don't seem compatible. Any suggestions? Her machine is two-tone beige/ivory and has a silver colored plate on the bottom front stamped "4245".