Lavender Kenmore Sewing Machine (148.281) – A Review

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Kenmore Model 148.281 (Model 28)

Features:

  • All Metal Gears
  • Side Loading Bobbin
  • Reverse Stitch Lever/Stitch Length Regulator
  • 1.2 Amp Motor
  • Pearly Lavender Color (unofficial color)
  • Uses Class 15 Bobbins and Standard 15×1 Needles
  • Low Shank Foot

A very basic 3/4 size Kenmore sewing machine; this one is a straight stitcher only.  Machine was built in Japan, possibly between 1963-1965. I have not been able to verify the exact manufacture date.   This sewing machine is an all-metal, gear driven, mechanical sewing machine, it is very simple underneath. Take a look!

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Underside of machine

I purchased this sewing machine at a flea market for $10 dollars.  The tension unit had been taken apart, the foot and the needle clamp were missing; the machine also needed a good cleaning.  I snapped it up because Kenmore machines were built to last and I knew this one would be fairly simple to whip back into shape and sewing well.  I bought the missing parts on eBay and put the tension unit back together.  Cosmetically it looks great, there is a bit of yellowing on the paint and just a few minor scratches here and there but that’s expected with a sewing machine that is about 50 years old!

The wooden base came with the machine.  I believe that a carrying case was not originally part of the purchase because the base of this machine does not have any latches on the side.  I could be wrong but it I think these machines were offered on this simple wooden base or one had the option of buying a table to go with the machine.

The feed dogs on this machine cannot be dropped, so no free-motion sewing or drawing for me.  Machine has a reverse stitch lever;  handy for fastening a seam.  You just lift it up all the way for reverse stitching.

Winding a bobbin is fast & easy.

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Bobbin Winder

 

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Bobbin Winding

It uses Class 15 bobbins and Standard 15×1 needles sizes 11 through 18.  Placement of the needle is flat side faces to the right.

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Class 15 Bobbins

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

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Stitches

Per the Sears website, the purchase of a machine like this back in the early 60’s would have included  the following:

  • Accessory box with 2 felt pads for the spool pins
  • Screwdriver
  • Package of needles
  • 3 Bobbins
  • Instruction book

The motor on this little machine is a 1.2 amp motor which can handle sewing silk to heavy woolen coating fabric.  I’v sewn jeans on this machine without any problems.  Actually this is the highest amp motor I’ve seen on vintage sewing machines.  Motors on my other machines range, from 4 to 1 amps.

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Sewing Machine Motor 

The foot controller is a basic one with a 3-prong connection.

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Foot Controller

 

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3-Prong Connection for Foot Controller

Believe it or not, this little machine weighs a good 30 pounds or so.  If you buy one of these, you may want to find a permanent spot for it as moving it around may tire you out!  Below you can see this machine’s approximate size.

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Side View

 

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Front View

Every sewist needs a light on their sewing machine so I purchased one on eBay, and attached it to the plate on the back of the machine.  Does not match the machine but it works.

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Sewing Light Attachment

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 buttonhole 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.

Have one of these machines already & don’t know how to thread it ?   Here’s a diagram:

Threading Guide

Threading Guide

Be nice to your machine and oil it here:

Oiling Points

Oiling Points

 

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Oiling Points

I really like the color and size of this Kenmore.  This model is not rare but I’ve seen one for sale online only once in the last 4 years.  Maybe people who own these are not selling.!?  A machine like this would be really great for a beginner as it is really simple to use and you don’t have to worry about breaking anything.

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Back View

 

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Kenmore 148.281 (Model 28) Sewing Machine

What do you think, would you buy a machine like this?

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.

Green Sears Kenmore 158.17511 (Model 1751) Sewing Machine – A Review (Updated 11-14-11)

Green Sears Kenmore 1751 Sewing Machine

Features:

  • All Metal Gears
  • Front Loading Bobbin
  • Feed Dog Control
  • Push Button Reverse Stitching
  • Double Needle Stitching
  • Dual Purpose Needle Plate
  • Adjustable Stitch Length Dial
  • Decorative Stitching (with Cams)
  • Powerful 1.2 Amp Motor
  • Pretty Light Sage Green Color
  • Uses Standard Class 15 Bobbins and Standard 15×1 Needles
  • Low Shank Foot

The not so great:

  • No built-in buttonhole or decorative stitches
  • Weight

The Sears Kenmore 1751 (Model 158.1751) is a very sturdy, well-built sewing machine.  Built in Japan around 1968-69, possibly earlier.  Many machines shake while you are sewing but not this one, this one appears to be anchored to the table.  The stitching is really consistent and sews a really good straight stitch.  I also tried the 1 pattern stitch cam that I have (cam #1) and it sewed perfectly.  No loose or uneven stitching.  This sewing machine is an all-metal gear driven mechanical sewing machine so maintaining it is quite simple.  If you are diligent about cleaning and oiling it, you will avoid many trips to your local Vac and Sew.

The 1751 has a unique feature that I had not come across on other machines and that is the Dual Purpose Needle Plate.  With vintage sewing machines that do zig zag stitching, a needle plate with a wide oval hole is necessary.  If you are quilting and need a really straight stitch, you can change out the needle plate with the small round hole on it to make that near perfect straight stitch.  The Kenmore 1751 has both on one plate!  How neat is that?  Of course you will still need to flip the small center plate to use either opening but this avoids having 2 plates for one sewing machine.

The feed dogs on this machine can be dropped for free-motion sewing or drawing, it has a push-button reverse; handy for fastening a seam.  It uses regular Class 15 and Standard 15×1 needles which are readily available in most brick and mortar stores and online.  The 1751 can do double needle stitching which is great if you for example, wanted to mimic the double stitched hem of many RTW t-shirts.

A powerful motor is important when sewing heavier fabrics.  The Kenmore 1751 has a 1.2 amp motor which can handle sewing on sheer voile to vinyl.

Many people will tell you that you cannot or should not sew leather on these machines but I do.  I am not sewing leather too often and I have only made about four leather purses for myself but here are a couple of photos of a leather purse I sewed on my vintage pink Atlas straight stitch.

This purse is by no means perfect (due to my sewing skills of course) but it was the first leather purse I ever made on my Atlas which has a 1.0 amp motor.  So sewing leather on this sewing machine is possible.

Like many vintage sewing machines with all-metal gears, this machine is heavy, at least 35 pounds.  If you are looking for a lightweight “vintage” sewing machine to take to your sewing classes or group, you may need a different machine, perhaps a Kenmore 1020, 1030, or 1040 (read my review on my 1040 here).

Since this is an older sewing machine, it does not have built-in decorative stitches.  However it does use pattern stitch cams which could be  found online.

The following is the Blind Stitch Cam #2, #26842.

I located some very cheaply at the really large auction site everyone knows.  I did a search for these again and they are $9 + each!  Sears still sells many parts for vintage Kenmores and provide enlarged diagrams of the different parts of the machine here.  They still have some cams, priced at $2.99 each and others at $3.99 each.  You will need to enter the entire model number of the sewing machine in the search box, in this case of the 1751 the full number to enter is 158.1751.  The model number can be found on the nomenclature plate that is found under the sewing machine.  By the way, the number on the motor is not the model number of the sewing machine.

Need many more parts for your machine but unsure of the part number?  Here you go!  One page depicting an image and another page with the corresponding part number.

There are specific instructions for setting the stitch width and inserting a cam into the sewing machine.  The following is a much better reference rather than me trying to explain it.

For decorative stitching with cams, you will need a Satin Stitch Foot, set Stitch Width at 4 and Stitch Length at the red mark on the dial.  Stitch length will vary depending on the type of fabric being sewn.  It will also be necessary to adjust the upper thread tension for decorative stitching.

Below is a sampling of some of the stitches this machine can do.  Not only can this machine do a variety of stitches but it can also double up on the design.  You just insert a twin needle on the machine, thread 2 spools of thread, and select the cam for the design you want to do.  Of course, you will also have to adjust the tension, presser foot pressure knob, etc to achieve the desired stitch.  The Stitch Width control should be set at 2 1/2 or less and the Stitch Length at 1-4.

I have other sewing machines that can do twin needle stitching but they are limited to straight, and zig zag stitches only.  The 1751 can do these and many others if you have the stitch cams.

Cams 21-24 are Reverse Stitch Pattern Disks (cams) that produce the stitches pictured below.  Please note that these discs cannot be double stitched with a twin needle.

These stitches are special because they require the machine to stitch forward and in reverse to produce the pattern. There is a knob on the back of the machine that controls the stitch quality.

This knob functions as a sort of tension control knob just for these stitches which needs to be adjusted depending on the fabric, puckering, etc.  This is in addition to the machine’s front tension control knob.
For most materials this knob will remain in the upright position but can be adjusted left or right to produce the desired stitch.  When using these stitch patterns discs, the stitch length should be set at 4.

Below is a photo of the actual stitched patterns on a scrap of 100% cotton fabric.  Aren’t they cool?

By the way, stitch cam/disc #21, also makes the stretch stitch by setting the Stitch Width to 0 & the Stitch Length to 4.

If you are looking to obtain these Reverse Stitch Patterns, here are the numbers for each:

Disc 21 – #26861

Disc 22 – #26862

Disc 23 – 26863

Disc 24 – 26864

And, this is what they look like.

Speaking of stitches, this sewing machine does not have built-in buttonhole stitching and the original buttonhole attachment parts for this machine are a bit difficult to find.  Check out the parts list images I included in this review, may be you can locate these online or at Sears Parts Direct website.

Although I have not tried it yet, a vintage low shank buttonholer attachment may work just as well on this machine. Vintage buttonhole attachments can look intimidating but they are very simple to use and they make really nice buttonholes.

Overall this is a great sewing machine and I am glad that I will be keeping it.  If you are looking for a sewing machine that will last a really long time, consider this one if you come across it.  This one is 42+ years old and still going strong AND escaped the landfill.  ♥