Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Look Who Followed Me Home.

I go to the local thrift store at least once a week.  When I went in a few days ago I saw a vintage sewing machine on the floor.  It was even marked half-off.  The clerk told me it had been there a month and that is why it was priced so low.  I don't think I could have missed it on other trips.  Maybe it was hiding somewhere, waiting for the right person to follow home.  Someone who would marvel at its mechanics, simplicity,  and beauty.  Someone who would oil it and take care of it.

I plugged it in to make sure it worked.  It worked!  Of course it would.  It was made in Rockford Illinois in the 40s.

I guess my new friend somehow knew I was the one to take good care of her.  Yes, I changed to calling my new machine, her.  She is so special.  I don't know why this machine is not held to more acclaim by people. I guess I can appreciate her so much because I appreciate Model A Fords, Wringer Washers, Vintage Sewing Machines, and most vintage mechanics.  This machine is for a tinker like me.  Because there aren't needles and bobbins readily available, so you have to make what is available fit.

I am going to call her Alice.

Alice has some eccentricities that attract me to her:

An interesting name-brand.
Friction drive.(I was afraid it would slip. Not a chance! I kept doubling denim and sewing. She Purred.)
Straight-Stitch with reverse.
Feed-dog adjustment. (really just a disconnect, but manual calls it an adjustment)
A hand-wheel that goes clockwise instead of counterclockwise like modern machines.
A shorter needle than modern machines. (Grind the shank down on a 15x1 needle to the correct length.)
Uses the same bobbin as a Singer Featherweight. (A little filing on the bobbin lock-lever to fit bobbin winder)
A front mounted light switch.
A very well-lit sewing area.
A smooth and quiet purr.
A super-straight stitch.
A single plug-in in the back to keep wires out of the way.
Only weighs 20 pounds.
Wow!  I didn't know I could get so worked up about a $4.25 sewing machine.

She is  a Free-Westinghouse model ALB, Type E.  She was made by The Free sewing machine company.   But called Free-Westinghouse because  all these machines exclusively used westinghouse motors.
Alice, better known as Free-Westinghouse Model ALB

Rear, notice "turtle motor" with friction drive  

Nifty plug-in
Bobbin Case

Feed Dog Adjustment under Sewing Machine

Tension Mechanism

Name Badge  One

Name Badge Two
A video is worth a thousand words.  Lets watch.

Thanks for stopping.


  1. Congratulations on another great find! You are the perfect new owner for a machine with such eccentricities - the special needle system alone is what makes most potential owners run from this one, but glad to know you discovered the work-around.

    I think the rubber drive "pulley" is still available as a new part. They have a tendency to go "flat" if the machine sits too long, and then it will sound and vibrate like a Mack truck on a logging road!

    Are the cords in good shape?

    Have fun with your new find!

    1. The cords are like brand new and has the original plug.

  2. What a great machine! So did you have to grind down the needle or were you able to use it at the regular length?

    1. I ground the needle to match the graphic on the machine showing the length of needle to use. It came with an original needle. I have that one put away for safe keeping. I didn't want to try a full length one in fear of damaging something.

  3. I got a rubber pulley thing for my rotary made by White company-probably would work if you ever needed to replace that-may even be the same part. The clockwise turn of the handwheel and the rubber drum thing remind me of my rotary kenmore made by white company. The bobbin case and the peculiar looking thread path remind me of it as well. My rotary has a weird looking bobbin that is similar in size to a featherweight but has solid sides. Lots of similar features on your machine though my white made rotary has a 3 prong larger fan shaped plug. These old machines are very interesting to investigate. Fortunately mine had its manual or I would never have even gotten it threaded. I had planned to rehome mine but as you say it takes someone who appreciates a vintage machine to understand one that looks and is a little different than most.

  4. If your friction wheel goes a little flat simply take a rough emery board and "dress" the wheel, file it while running. I have an old.majestic that I put a small cork between the motor and machine head so to keep the friction wheel round.

  5. My daughter brought this home to me. I have a few vintage machine; however, this one has me stumped! Does it suppose to come with a foot petal? Also the hand wheel is very hard to turn. I am turning it in the right direction. Any advice would be helpful. Thanks!

    1. I was wondering about a foot pedal too! I don't see a pedal in your video. I inherited this model built into a table. There seems to be a pedal mounted on the inside. I don't know if it's meant to be pressed by a knee? Also, just the main cord seems to be decayed!

  6. I need help also.have dark green ,crinkle finish New Home light running made in Rockford.kinda ugly,square looking. says type J.need model and presser foot.has no reverse and bobbin winder thing in back.also no release knob,bobbin thing moves pulley away from wheel instead.anyone know anything about this machine?

  7. I need help also.have dark green ,crinkle finish New Home light running made in Rockford.kinda ugly,square looking. says type J.need model and presser foot.has no reverse and bobbin winder thing in back.also no release knob,bobbin thing moves pulley away from wheel instead.anyone know anything about this machine?

  8. I just bought this machine today. It came with the original manual and accessories box and foot pedal. Haven't even plugged it in yet. Decided to do some research on it. Surprised to read about the needle size. I have my eye on a Singer 319w and it also uses a special needle size. I wonder if they are the same.

  9. According to my research the Singer 319 takes a 206x13. This needle will not work in the Westinghouse according to some. I am not sure.

  10. I was just gifted this machine in a cabinet today.. It sat in a garage for 30 years. I don't know where to start to clean her up. I did clean and put grease in the bottom pot. Any help would be appreciated. I am currently letting her sit with SMO overnight.

  11. Hello, just found your thread, after google searching "thin bobbin cases", because I too love to find sentimental sewing machines at divinely aligned times when i see they have been waiting for me. Upon a recent trip II found a Greist Rotary attachment box, filled with magical low shank pieces that will fit my Kenmore perfectly. But also in the box was this thin bobbin case, with 9 bobbins. The same as the one pictured above! Please let me send them to you, I know you will use them.

  12. I picked up one of these at a local auction. Cleaned and lubricated it, got a manual on-line and it works great! Don't underestimate these old machines. Yes, they don't do all the fancy stuff but for pure basic sewing that's reliable and built like a tank (not all plastic), its a very nice machine!

  13. Any way you can post the manual so it's easier to access and also can you post the length of the needle? I'm almost there with mine but I keep getting a thread nest on the underside.

  14. Anyone have a threading diagram for the Free Westinghouse vintage machine?

  15. I used a small grinding wheel on a mini-drill to remove about 3/32" of metal from the bottom right edge of the extended needlebar guide. Then I removed the faceplate and loosened the set screw on the needlebar and raised the needle until the thread guide screw above the needle clamping screw just cleared hitting the newly rounded out section. The allows you to use modern HAx1 needles and maintain perfect timing.

    The shuttle can be adjusted slightly if the hook isn't at the perfect distance above the eye, for the loop.

  16. If anyone is willing to share a manual with me, I would appreciate it. I inherited the machine from my mother-in-law, and now that I am retired, I have time to try to learn to sew again. Haven't attempted in over 40 years but I need the manual to help me. Thanks so much. 65stang.hecht@gmail.com.

  17. I too have this machine and no manual. Will it be posted somewhere?

  18. This is the manual. New Home NLB is the same as Free Westinghouse ALB.