Pink Sears Kenmore Sewing Machine (159.110) – A Review

Features:

  • All Metal Gears
  • Top Loading Bobbin
  • Reverse Stitch Lever
  • Stitch Length Regulator
  • 1.0 Amp Motor
  • Hot Pink Color
  • Uses Vibrating Shuttle Bobbins and Standard 15×1 Needles
  • Low Shank Foot

This girly pink Kenmore sewing machine is a straight stitcher only.  It was made in Japan, possibly between the mid 1950’s to late 1960’s; I have not been able to verify the exact manufacture date.  This small tank of a sewing machine makes a really good straight stitch, the stitching is really consistent and just about perfect.  This sewing machine is an all-metal gear driven mechanical sewing.

My machine came with the original case, however I have not been able to remove all the marks from it.  I am sure this creamy ivory & pink color combination looked lovely when it was new.  Also included was the foot controller, and a pink cardboard box with 2 bobbins.  The base that the machine sits on has a nice little compartment on the right side to store bobbins, thread, needles, etc.

The feed dogs on this machine cannot be dropped for free-motion sewing or drawing.  😦  Not a biggy but it is nice to have.  This machine  has a reverse stitch lever; handy for fastening a seam.  You just lift it up all the way for reverse stitching.  It uses very difficult (nearly impossible to find) shuttle bobbins and Standard 15×1 needles sizes 11 through 18.

After searching everywhere, I have officially ended my search for the proper bobbins for this machine – the bobbins required are of a very specific type.  Take a look at the shuttle bobbin carrier area:

Interesting.  Have a look at the shuttle and bobbin!

I came across some interesting information by a former Sears salesman regarding this pink sewing machine.  Apparently this machine was a “Bait Machine”, not meant to be sold, and Sears saw to it that only a few be made/sold.  It is not a rare machine, there are a few of these out there.  Each store only got one and that one machine was expected to last through many “sales”.  The ads for this sewing machine ran in black and white and listed the machine for a modest price.  In addition, the plates were made in such a way that they resembled a standard 15 type sewing machine so that people thought that it was what they would find when they got the store.

At that time, pink was not a popular color.  This, and the way the demos were conducted by the salespeople, led to the customer leaving the store with a “better” model.  When a customer wanted to see how this machine ran, the sales rep would purposely run it wide open and at high-speed so it sounded like farm machinery (pretty accurate comparison) and almost jumped off of the table.

Now I know why this sewing machine is so noisy AND no wonder I cannot find those bobbins!  It was built for a very specific purpose.  Anyway, back to the machine….

This machine can make really tiny stitches, here is a photo of the different stitch lengths on a piece of cotton muslin.

Per the Sears website, the purchase of a machine like this (if you could wrestle one out of the sales rep) back in the day included a hot pink box like the one pictured above with a package of needles, s small screwdrivers, 3 shuttle bobbins, 2 spool pins and 2 felt washers for the spool pins.

Unfortunately, Sears does not carry what I need – the bobbins!!!  They only have a few items available for this machine such as a belt, motor bracket, needles, spool pins, hand wheel, and some screw drivers and that is it. 😦

I do not sew on this machine regularly but I do take it out once in a while and sew up a project just to keep all its parts moving properly.

Here is a close-up picture of a very funky bobbin winder.

and a close up of a cute medallion badge attached to the front of the machine.

A good strong motor is good to have especially when sewing heavier fabrics; the Kenmore 159.110 has a 1.0 amp motor which can handle sewing silk to woolen coating fabric.

Like many vintage sewing machines with all-metal gears, this little machine is heavy, 30 pounds (with the top of the case attached)!!!

This is a 3/4 sized machine so if space is an issue in your home this one will not take up a lot of space.  Due to its weight, you may want to have a sturdy table to place it on though.  Take a look at the next couple of photos to get an idea of the size.

And a booty shot.

This machine did not have a light attached to it but I purchased one and had my local hardware store match the sewing machines color so I could paint the light fixture.  I could have left it white but I’m nerdy like that.  Besides, who can sew without a light on their sewing machine?

I attached the light to the plate on the back.

Lights on!

As mentioned on the features list above, this is a straight stitch machine so if you are looking for decorative or buttonhole stitching this machine does not include either.  Although I have not tried yet, a vintage low shank buttonholer attachment could work just as well on this machine.  There are also vintage zig zag attachments out there on the web for sale that may be used.  I have a small collection that can be viewed here on my Vintage Sewing Machine Attachments page.

I love the color and size, however, I cannot say that I highly recommend this machine if serious sewing is what you really want to do.  Here are the reasons why:

  • The machine is LOUD while sewing
  • Even though it is a heavy machine, it will shake if you sew at a high-speed
  • Cannot drop the feed dogs
  • The last and most important reason:  the shuttle bobbins are nearly impossible to find.  I only have two and take care of them as if they were gold.

Overall it is a decent sewing machine in a cute color but finding replacement parts or bobbins will make you want to pull your hair out of your head.

Threading the Bobbin Case on a Singer 185J Sewing Machine

In this post, I am going to show you how I thread the bobbin case on a Singer 185J sewing machine.  It is not difficult but the bobbin case on this machine is a little quirky.  Let’s get started.

Take the bobbin out of the bobbin case and pull some thread out (3 or more inches) in the direction of the arrows.

Place the bobbin back in the case and pull the lead thread up (towards the back of the machine).

In the next photo, the arrows point to 2 notches (that I will be calling ridges for this instructional pictorial) which your thread needs to travel through.    Here you will essentially be pulling the thread between the case and the tension spring.

With your finger or tweezers, draw the thread through the first ridge.

Then pull the thread in the direction the arrow is pointing.

Position the thread to the second ridge pulling it in the direction of the arrow.

Now, pull the thread into the ridge.

Now close the slide plate while you hold your thread.

You want to make sure that the thread is caught in the notch on the slide plate.

Slide plate is closed and now you are ready to bring the bobbin thread up.

Hold the needle thread with with your left hand then turn the hand wheel towards you until you see the bobbin thread come up.  If the bobbin thread does not come up, it may be that the thread is too short.

That’s it!  Lay both threads under the presser foot and you are ready to sew.

Read my review on this sewing machine here.

Green Singer 185J Sewing Machine – A Review (updated 12-1-11)

Features:

  • All Metal Gears
  • Top Loading Bobbin
  • Reverse Stitch Lever
  • Stitch Regulator and Feed
  • .75 Amp Motor
  • Pretty Green Color
  • Uses Class 66 Bobbins and Standard 15×1 Needles
  • Low Shank Foot

The Singer 185J straight stitch sewing machine pictured on the front page of my blog is a great little machine.  My machine was built in Canada around 1958-62, my manual reflects a date of 1958. This little green machine makes a really good straight stitch, in my opinion it is very close to the Singer  Featherweight (221K).  The stitching is really consistent, no loose or uneven stitching here.  This sewing machine is an all-metal gear driven mechanical sewing machine so maintaining this one is very simple.  The manual provides diagrams showing the oiling points of the machine.

My machine has the original case, however the previous owner seems to have spray painted it.  I am guessing that the case was really dirty but I would have preferred the original color regardless of how dirty it may have been.  The base of the case where the machine sits is also broken so I hope to be able to replace it one day with another original.  This machine also came with its original green foot controller.

The feed dogs on this machine cannot be dropped for free-motion sewing or drawing.  😦  Not a biggy but it is nice to have.  This machine  has a reverse stitch lever; handy for fastening a seam.  You just lift it up all the way for reverse stitching.  It uses Class 66 bobbins and Standard 15×1 needles sizes 9 through 21.

The great thing about the stitching on this machine is that you can make the tiniest stitches on it at the 15, 20 and 30 mark.  For basting use the 6, 7 or even 8 length.  Here is a photo of the stitching on jersey, not the greatest example due to the fabric but still visible.  The wonkyness is all me, just trying to show you the different stitch lengths.

I believe that the purchase of a machine like this back in the day included a box of attachments like this one.

 

Here are some close up photos of the zipper foot.  This is an original Singer Zipper Foot, it is a low-shank adjustable, and it has openings for both left and right sewing.

 

 

 

Based on the manual pages pictured below, I am only missing the cleaning brush.

The feet that came with the machine were a hemmer foot, a binder, and a zipper foot.  The box also included a seam gauge, a sewing machine oiling tube of Singer oil and a cleaning brush.

Here is a close-up picture of the very easy to use bobbin winder.

A good motor is important when sewing heavier fabrics.  The Singer 185J has a .75 amp motor which can handle sewing silk to denim fabric and even plastic.  I am sure you could sew on leather every now and then as long as you use the correct foot, thread, foot pressure and stitch length.

My 185J did not come with its original green belt.  The previous owner replaced the belt at some point with this type of belt which I have not seen for sale anywhere, it measures about 3/16″ wide.

The belt has all these other additional numbers:

If the belt on your machine is missing, local Vac & Sew shops carry them and they will know which belt you need by providing them with the type of sewing machine (Singer 185J, etc.).  If you are shopping for one online, you should have the approximate size of the belt you need by measuring.  For the Singer 185J, you should shop for a V belt.  You will need some twine or a thin string.

Cut a piece that is about 17 inches long then put the piece of string on the flywheel where the belt would be located.

Wrap the string around the flywheel and the around the motor steel pulley as pictured below.

The length of the string should give you an approximate belt size.  The belts can be found online as I’ve seen them listed on ebay, etc.  I really cannot recommend a specific seller as I shop locally for most sewing machine parts but belts should cost less than $10 each.

Like many vintage sewing machines with all-metal gears, this little machine is a bit on the weighty side.  If you are looking for a vintage lightweight sewing machine to take to your sewing classes or group, you may need a different machine.  Take a look at my review on my Kenmore 1040 here.

This is a 3/4 sized machine so if space is an issue in your home the Singer 185J will not take up a whole lot of space.  Take a look at the next couple of photos to get an idea of the size.

Top View

And of course, the booty shot.

As mentioned on the features list above, this is a straight stitch machine so if you are looking for decorative or buttonhole stitching this machine does not include either.  However, a vintage low shank buttonholer attachment could work just as well on this machine.  There are also vintage zig zag attachments out there on the web for sale that may be used.  I have a small collection that can be viewed here on my Vintage Sewing Machine Attachments page.

View my post about how to thread the bobbin case on this machine here.

I recommend this sewing machine to anyone looking for a really good straight stitcher and also to those that are begginner sewists looking for a super easy to use and maintain vintage sewing machine.  This machine is over 50 years old and still running smoothly.  I ♥ it!

The following are helpful diagrams for threading the upper thread & winding a bobbin.