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?

Vintage Sewing Machine – Heavy Duty Industrial Strength

Does this post title sound familiar?  It should if you’ve looked at ebay listings in search of that perfect vintage sewing machine.  While searching for a sewing machine part, I came across an interesting trend on ebay that I am sure has been going on for a few years.  I just realized this may be the reason for the most popular e-mail question I receive, “what vintage “industrial” home sewing machine do you recommend?”

Buying a used sewing machine can be overwhelming to those that are new to sewing and unsure of what to look for in a machine.  It does not help that many online sellers on ebay and other venues are taking advantage of the growing interest in vintage sewing machines and are misleading potential buyers with their listing titles and descriptions.

Many sellers claim that their machines are “Industrial Strength”, “Industrial Duty”, or “Heavy Duty Industrial Strength” sewing machines when in reality, what they are selling are basic domestic sewing machines.

There is nothing “industrial” about a home sewing machine.  Some vintage sewing machine sellers are getting really creative with their descriptions and I do not appreciate the misleading terms they use.

Of 307 listings based on a general search for industrial sewing machines, 101 home sewing machines were labeled as “industrial” somewhere on their title and/or their description.  I came across a twin of my Singer 185J sewing machine on this list and apparently this 3/4 sized sewing machine is an industrial.  What a joke.  Hey, if any of you own a Singer 15, a Singer 503A, or Pfaff 230, per these sellers descriptions you own an industrial machine.  🙂

What’s the difference between a home sewing machine and an industrial sewing machine?  I am not an expert on any sewing machine but here is a very basic breakdown.

  • Domestic Sewing Machine – Portable, can do a variety of sewing applications and can handle many types of fabric.

    Kenmore 1040 Zig Zag

  • Commercial Grade / Professional Grade – Portable, not intended for constant production work, meant to handle more than a home sewing machine, sews approximately 1000-1500 stitches per minute.
  • Commercial / Professional Sewing Machine – not intended for factory production output, sometimes found in dry cleaning and tailor shops, sew up to 2000 stitches per minute.

Bernina 950 Tacsew

  • Industrial Sewing Machine – highly specialized – usually do one task only but do it very well such as buttonholes, straight stitching, or sew bias strips, extremely fast (5500 stitches per minute) or more, some industrials may be slower, these machines are used in large factories for high production output.  Some are designed to handle only lightweight fabric while other industrial machines can handle very thick fabric.  These type of sewing machines have large motors and the machine heads are installed on a table weighing about 100 pounds or more.  Many also have a hefty price tag.  The following are a few photos of what true industrial sewing machines look like.

RIMOLDI Multi Needle & Cover Stitchers; 529-oo-2MD-06 Overlock

Mitsubishi LS2-1380

juki industrial sewing machine

Singer Industrial Overlock/Serger

Ebay sellers especially love to post pictures of their sewing samples such as 8 layers of denim, 6 layers of vinyl, 4 layers of leather, etc., etc.  Of course these vintage sewing machines can handle sewing through multiple layers of a variety of fabrics.  You usually have to use a special foot and needle, adjust presser foot pressure, tension, use special thread but it is not a good idea to sew thick layers of fabric like this or leather on it regularly as the motor on the machine may eventually wear out from such use.

So you need to sew leather because you just designed your line of handbags and need to start production?  Invest in a sewing machine designed to sew leather; it will last for decades.  A “Heavy Duty Industrial Strength Vintage Singer 185J Sewing Machine “, also known as a domestic home sewing machine will not cut it.

If you are considering buying a vintage sewing machine, know what you are looking at and do not be fooled by the wording of the listing.  Do some research on the machine you are considering and ask yourself some questions like what do you want to sew, what features do you want the machine to have.  If you want a durable, cool, retro-colored machine with basic straight stitch sewing, 2 to 4 step buttonhole, some zig zag stitches, maybe a few specialized stitches with cams, then a vintage sewing machine may be the right choice.

Need more features than this?  You may need to look at a modern sewing machine and sadly, I know nothing about them. 🙂

Any thoughts on the clever marketing term “Vintage Sewing Machine – Heavy Duty Industrial Strength”?  Please share.