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May 28, 2011

"Oops, I did it again!" or Peter's Latest Vintage Sewing Machine



Friends, as I've said in the past, when it comes to $20 sewing machines, I have no resistence.   Anything over that and I get very picky -- and rational.   But quote me $20 and I'm hauling that baby home.

I found this vintage (Sixties, I believe) Kenmore 158.141 at the flea market this morning in a table.  In fact, the $20 included the table and I told the guy I'd be back to haul the table home but now I'm not so sure I will.  I have two sewing machine tables already and if you think things are tight with the sewing machines, you can imagine how tight they are with the tables.  

I hate to think that table is going to go to waste -- I'm sure it'll end up in the garbage -- but I don't have room for it.  It had a neat spring action attachment that made the machine pop up easily, unlike my Pfaff table or my Singer treadle table.  Unfortunately, it wasn't all that attractive -- made more for a basement than a living room.

I was actually going to the flea market in search of a straw bag for Cathy (which I didn't get), not a sewing machine.  I really should be chaperoned.

But more about the machine...

Sewing machines in tables are almost always pristine, as this one was.  But it probably hadn't been sewed with in forty years.  When I say this machine was frozen, I mean it was frozen.  Solid.  But I've been through this before to varying degrees.  You oil every place where metal touches metal.  And sure enough, slowly but surely, it started to move.

This machine is a lot like my very first sewing machine, the Kenmore 158.1212, only with more stitches.  It has two settings, one for regular forward stitches, and then one for stitches that go backward.

It takes regular Class 15 bobbins and uses standard low shank feet.  I'll probably add a low-shank snap-on foot adapter and use my generic snap-on feet.



Even without changing the needle or fussing with the tension, the stitches look fine.



The one problem it seems to be having is stitching a plain zigzag; I think it just needs a little more oil and a little more use.  It seems very unlikely that a machine that can do embroidery stitches like the ones above couldn't handle a simple zigzag.

UPDATE: problem solved!  It just needed a longer oil soak:



Did I mention that this Kenmore has a 1.2 amp motor?  That's strong, folks!  The 158 Kenmores were made in Japan by Jaguar/Marzen and they are wonderful machines.  Here's an interesting article I found about vintage Kenmores on eBay.

I'm especially happy not to have to deal with cams.

And speaking of cams, remember the Singer 401A from last week?  Well guess what -- it's still at the flea market!  I didn't ask what it was going for this week (less one would hope).  I'm sure it's a wonderful machine, but I think I draw the line at machines that need their own special feet.  I have too many attachments as it is.

Friends, that's it.  If you're wondering about the 40's midriff outfit, we're on schedule.  I hope to have Cathy here for a photo shoot tomorrow.

Yesterday I worked on the skirt, adding the contrasting fabric to the button placket to tie it in with the midriff top.





Here's how it's looking so far:



Shortly we're having lunch with Michael's folks, who are in NYC for the day with friends.  Then it's back home to finish my outfit.  New sewing machine, lunch out, sewing Cathy clothes -- life is good.

Have a great day, everybody!

30 comments:

  1. You are weak! LOL...we all have our Kryptonite. I think we know yours. Have fun sewing for Cathy. I'll be stitching out embroidery for some projects while I knock out a grad school paper.

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  2. Oh my gosh, you find the best stuff. I'm thinking about getting a vintage machine, my parents spent a large amount of money on a new fancy singer for me years ago. And that damn thing has never once worked right a day in it's life. If it were not a gift from my fabulous parents i would have thrown it out the window. Really, I would have. Maybe you could help steer me in the right direction? I want something nice and heavy, that will last through a nuclear blast, ya know? But it would be nice if it did a zig zag stitch and not just straight. Do you think something like this new Kenmore would work? I just don't want another plastic wonder, and it looks well built.

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  3. You do find the best stuff -- one of the perks of living in NYC, surely the universe designed it that way to offset the high cost of rent!

    I live in So Cal. Anything vintage here is either nonexistent or overpriced. I have been wanting a heavy-duty vintage also, but then I need my finicky stitches (1-step buttonhole, etc) so I keep talking myself into being satisfied with my Huskylock.

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  4. A friend of mine got one of those machines from her daughter, and crimony, "Made in Japan" means it was built with an enviable amout of precision and industructability. ENJOY your new find.

    Now about you - is it an addiction if you only buy the good stuff?

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  5. I have a Kenmore that looks nearly alike. But mine is THAT green and uses the super-high shank presser feet. My parents bought it for me in 1970. Since yours is beige and uses the shorter shank presser feet, I believe that it would have been built and sold within a year or so of mine. I had to replace the motor after 25 years of use!

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  6. great article. I see these machines and really want them but so far haven't bought them. Now I will think of you and hope you're following behind me

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  7. Your life does sound good. Congratulations on it :)

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  8. LOL! Well, seeing as I'm just about to go buy a serger, I can't very well scold you for another sewing machine now can I?

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  9. OMG do not pass up the table!! The legs usually come off by loosening a set screw inside and then you can store the cabinet flat against a closet wall till the day you have your own sewing room.
    You may one day decide you need to have room filled with 70s kitsch. With that machine and the Peanuts trash can...
    1971-1972 for year of manufacture.

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  10. Why am I not at all surprised that you have a new machine?!!
    How do you decide which one to use?

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  11. Oh my goodness, another one? I only have two and don't have room for them, lol. Perhaps you need a post on how to cram as many sewing machines as possible into an apartment without running the risk of someone calling the hoarders crew on you? Don't worry though, hoarders will be at my house for a while digging me out from under a mountain of patterns, :]

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  12. Maybe Rain could take that table off your hands? Since he restores machines and all? Then it would go to a good home? Or you could uae it as a contest prize?

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  13. Peter, that is my machine! I mean, not MINE specifically, but that is the one I use. It's so sturdy and I use it for every project. It's been my one and only machine since I was a kid. I hope you love it!

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  14. Thanks, guys! Amy, yes, I love it (so far).

    Dre, I schlepped back after lunch and picked up the table. Where it will live I don't know but I'm happy to have it...I think.

    Treadle, I believe Rain is strictly a Singer man for now.

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  15. Peter, I have a Kenmore that's a bit older... Started sewing on it at 12 years old!! It WONDER-FUL!! Enjoy!! ;)
    Rhonda in Montreal (PR)

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  16. Where do you put them all?

    Maybe you could start a SMA (Sewing Machine Anonymous) Step one: do not go to markets.

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  17. I love my Kenmore. I got it as a gift in 1984 and I'm still using it.

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  18. This machine is a sweetheart--I have the same one (since junior high) and it's still working great. I've worn out two reverse levers though!

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  19. Peter - I have no idea what I'd use those fancy stitches for but they look great! Hey about the Pfaff 30 - do you recommend it? It's just there's one going for practically nothing right now on eBay (in Australia) but it's pick up only in another state - I'd have to factor in cost of my own courier arrangements. It looks in pretty good nick and has original manual. What do you reckon?

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  20. Hi Peter, I'm glad I'm not the only one who can't pass up sewing machines! Unfortunately, because of current space limitations, (my hubby draws the line at sewing machines in the bedroom) a lot of them are packed away. I only have 3 currently out for use, and one on the way. I found a serger just like yours for $199.00, and that includes 100 needles and 12 spools of thread (Allbrands.com). Can't wait for its arrival!!
    Have a great holiday!

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  21. Great deal, Paula!

    Jane, the Pfaff 30 is an excellent straight-stitch machine; it all depends on how much courier services cost (and how badly you want it).

    Time for my Sewing Machines Anonymous meeting!

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  22. I'm still waiting for you to find a Singer Genie...it was a hip and happening machine.

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  23. Thanks Peter - you enabler you. Calling pack&send in the morning... I'll give myself a 'bargain' limit and after that, it's not meant to be.

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  24. Great find! I love a good old Kenmore machine. But you really should shop with a chaperon, or possibly handcuffed?

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  25. ...or perhaps blindfolded.

    Lisette, I owned a Singer Genie! I sold it (I never used it).

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  26. If you lived in Australia, i'd give you my old Janome that spins round to reveal a two reel serger on the opposite side. That old girl belonged to my bestie for 18 years before i bought her 10 years ago. I don't use her since i upgraded to my first new machine; a Pfaff 2056 along with a 4 reel Janome serger.

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  27. Cool :) I have the exact same machine, my mother in law just gave it to me because I am learning to sew.

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  28. "Maybe you could start a SMA (Sewing Machine Anonymous) Step one: do not go to markets. "

    Step two: stop stalking eBay and Craigslist.

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  29. This is EXACTLY the same as the machine that my mom had when I was a kid. I learned to sew on it in the '80's. My mom purchased hers in 1972 new.

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