Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Sometimes I seek sewing machines out, especially classic models like the Elna 62 or Necchi Julia, and sometimes they are given to me, rescued by those who know I will take in orphan sewing machines. A dear sister-in-law rescued one from the trash (different s-i-l than a previous post) and I brought it home over the weekend. It's a decent Kenmore 158-16801 in a cabinet that was somewhat broken down. It's a good freearm model that doesn't need a cabinet so we unscrewed it from the cabinet and took it inside to see what was what. It sews quite nicely until you get to the "special stitches" for stretch fabrics and then it doesn't feed correctly. It's either staying in place or only moving backwards instead of the forward/backward dance Kenmore's use for stretch stitches:
Kenmore 1680 after adjustments
 I looked inside, underneath, manipulated, moved the handwheel stitch by stitch at various settings but I couldn't figure it out. I went to bed frustrated that I couldn't fix this machine that should be a no-brainer: Kenmore's don't break like that! The next day I'm reading files on this model in a Yahoo group called Vintage & Older Kenmore Sewing Machines and I come across this piece of information:

Are you certain that you have the stitch elongator set properly? When you do a reverse stitch, the elongator in the center of the stitch length dial should be at M. Make sure it isn't at S, or it could stitch backwards. Play with that dial and if M doesn't make it stitch forwards, then move it to L and see what it does.

and this one:

I found that the adjustment from M to S or L is very subtle. Just a little movement makes a big difference. Choosing the S almost always makes it look like you are sewing backward when you are doing the stretch stitches. The L elongates the design and there are pictures of that in the manual. 
Modifier dial for stretch stitches: Long to Short
I tried it and it worked! I was so excited but then it seemed to have other issues such as running very very slow as if something was binding. I walked away and tried it again the next morning. Same thing. Next it got demoted, sitting on the kitchen floor right next to the outside door. I didn't intend that to be a threat but just maybe it got scared, thinking now it was ready for the garbage. I let it sit for three days and finally plugged it back in and voila it ran just fine. A stitch sample was made just to show off all it could do and the box of accessories, including the button hole device (just like the one I used for 35 years), and a manual make this sewing machine a complete package. A portable case was found so now it's ready to be listed as one of my Learn-to-Sew models that are popular.
Kenmore accessories with buttonhole maker
There is something about letting time heal all wounds and this can be true for many sewing machine woes. Once it's been oiled and treated with a hair dryer to soften up the old oil, it takes time for the oil to really soak in and get everything nice and loose. I've learned to walk away and try again the next day. Or the next day. Or the next. Sometimes that doesn't work but many times it does, giving me hope each time. So a sewing machine that was on a fast tract to a landfill is now going to start someone on a new hobby: learning to sew, create with fabric, repair or refashion clothing, giving hours of fun and occasional frustration, but so much learning.


John Thomas said...

I have the Model 16800 version of your Kenmore - probably about the same as yours. I got it a while back from a guy who buys the contents of storage lockers, see also the tv program 'Storage Wars'. I did not have a free arm for my granddaughter dresses. I am almost finished building my sewing room and will get it and clean it up for duty. I really like Kenmores.

John Thomas in NC

Karen said...

We would love to see photos of your sewing room when you get done!