Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Room for one more........

That's the line I remember from the Twilight Zone series on TV.   In one episode, a woman has a constant nightmare about a morgue.  She fears she is unstable.   At the end of the show, the woman feels she has recovered from her nightmares and  is embarking on a plane to return to her home.  The stewardess calls out to her, "Room for one more."   The woman runs away in tears, missing her flight with fears her nightmare is returning.  The final scenes of the show are of the plane in flames.  The nightmare was a premonition to spare her life. 

The show gave me the shivers!

In our household we use the line frequently;  room for one more piece of pizza, room for one more on the couch, room for one more (puppy), etc.   We say, "room for one more"  in our household with the secret knowledge we're really quoting  Twilight Zone.     But is this a line said by sewing enthusiasts when confronted with the opportunity of adding another machine to their sewing room?  Or is it:

Do I really need it?
How many machines can I possibly use?
Am I sure? 

Those would be the litany of questions a reasonable individual would ask themselves.

My brain must work on a different wave length because I saw a sewing machine at an estate sale and I wanted it without even taking it out of the case, or knowing what it was or if it even ran.  Off I went with the sweet little rose covered case with the machine tucked inside.  I had a feeling and I went with it out the door of the estate sale.

When I got home, I took it out of the case.  It was small and quite sweet and a big bonus was all the parts were there sans the manual.

I have sewn on Kenmore machines in my early sewing days.  While I was in high school I had a turquoise colored Kenmore Stylist which replaced the old Singer with the electrical short in the knee pedal I used for my first sewing projects.  Then there was a Kenmore machine with cams that popped in the top for decorative stitches I used when first married.   I gave up on my last Kenmore in 1983 when I switched political parties....I mean.... sewing companies to a Bernina.

Ruler included in the picture to capture the size.  No nicks, dings, marks, or abusive wear! 

What a surprise to find out the machine is referred to by collectors as a Kenmore Featherweight.  The model number is a 158.10402 produced only for 18 months from 1974-75.  It is 3/4 the size of a regular Kenmore, all mechanical and a heavy frame (no plastic gears).  Yes heavy...meaning when you want to go fast and have your foot on the pedal all the way to the floor, the machine won't shake apart while sewing.  It's sturdy.  It reminds me of a Bernina 801 Sport.

The bonuses of the Kenmore (vs. Featherweight) are with the capability of basic stitches beyond the straight stitch;  zigzag, hemming, buttonhole, and ability to drop feed dogs with ease for mending (haven't tried machine quilting on it and I don't think I ever would - and this is because I have machines just for machine quilting).

A little extension flips up on the left to give more support to your fabric when sewing and flips down when you store the machine in its case.

The accessory case is in a hidden compartment in the front.

It sews a nice even stitch.

The lever to the right drops the feed dogs.
If you have the opportunity to come upon this little machine, don't hesitate purchasing it.  It is perfect for a future sewing diva and surpasses any of the small "first" machines out on the market (especially with cost).

You can download the manual for operating the machine for free from  Sears.  No surprises; it operates  the same as other mechanical machines.  The instructions are basic and clearly illustrated for a young sewer to reference (especially when it comes to putting in the bobbin properly or threading the machine).  It's always a good idea to have the instructions for making buttonholes as the steps can be forgotten if not done frequently.

"Room for one more?"

"Yes, definitely!"

*Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) passed today.  Bradbury, a science-fiction author, wrote several of the scripts for the Twilight Zone series.  May the angels guide his next journey.*

September 11, 2012 update:
This is the reverse side of the stitch plates for the machine. The top is the zig-zag plate and the bottom is the straight stitch plate.


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  2. You lucky duck! Congratulations!

    I have had a 1959 and a 1967 Kenmore. The feet and bobbins fit my low end Bernina from the early 90's. I love them all, but would love a more modern machine someday.

    My husband and daughter watch the Twilight Zone marathon every New Year. I know just the episode you're talking about.

    1. Tina, you're so right about having bobbins fitting the older Berninas!! I've been working on a quilting project and just transferring the bobbins...makes it very nice not to have to special ones just for the Kenmore. I'm partial to the rotary hook rather than drop in bobbins.

      Now, about wanting a modern machine, exactly what is it you would want in a "modern" machine? Do you mean you would like the embroidery capabilities?

    2. I've pretty much worn out these machines by using them for home dec sewing. I don't do that anymore, although I'd still make cushion covers or drapery panels for myself if I so desire. Mostly, I sew smaller items and some quilts, but I'd like to get a dress form and try some clothing with fabrics other than cotton. I've heard that new machines work with these fabrics better, and I'd love to make a consistently beautiful buttonhole. Do you have any advice?

    3. **Let me preface what I am about to tell you is ONLY though my own personal experience as a "home" sewer and from selling sewing machines in a retail fabric shop.**

      Why buy and pay for more bells and whistles on a sewing machine than you could ever use, or want to use when sewing. While Bernina makes a great machine - wonderful thread tension going from several layers of denim to chiffon, some of the high end machines are out of most household budgets (definitely out of my budget!) My Bernina 1230 is still my favorite machine. It would be comparable to a low end Bernina today. It has some nice stitches, but not too many. I have a 440 Bernina with lots of extra embroidery stitches and there are only five that I use regularly.

      But if all you really want is a great buttonhole, I think maybe what you are in the market for some sewing tricks.

      *Australian sewers have a product out on the market called Sew Stable, a fabric stabilizer that stiffens fabric for heirloom sewing, machine embroidery and buttonholes. I wish I knew about this product when sewing my daughter's chiffon blouse as they recommend using the product for stiffening any delicate fabric to make sewing easier.
      Have you ever watched a sewing machine demonstration at a store where they sew on these really stiff pieces of fabric? Anytime you can give your fabric extra stability while making a buttonhole, the results are going to be better.
      *What about using a tear away (like for paper piecing blocks) under the fabric as you sew your buttonhole. This would act as an extra stabilizer.
      *Also, check your machine would be a good time to put in a new one just for your buttonholes(I find a 14 sharp works well for buttonholes).

      Oh and about the dress form....I have a dress form from the 80's. I found an article from Threads magazine about making a dress form to fit perfectly using duct tape and an old tight t-shirt. I put on the t-shirt and my husband taped me up. He cut me out of my "mold" and I put this puffier version over my dress form so I could make my dress for my daughter's wedding. It worked like a charm. So, if you can pick up an estate/garage sale dress form, there are ways you can truly make it your own.

      I could just go on and on about selling machines, but I forgot to say one more thing, which is a big rule I use when purchasing ... if I had to resell this machine, what would it be worth? There are some machines out on the market with no resale value. Sounds a bit harsh, but I don't think they are even hits as garage sale items. Don't get fooled by thinking if you pay more for a machine that it is worth the price :)

      So before you buy a machine, gather together the kind of fabrics you want to sew with (even if you have to buy a few items at the thrift store to cut up and experiment with) and sit down and test drive a few. You have certainly had lots of experience with your Kenmores that you know how a machine should feel when you're sewing and how comfortable you are operating it.

    4. The Bernina I have is actually a portable Bernette. The original plastic buttonhole foot broke, and the replacement bends and makes the buttonhole the wrong size. It is the type that you put the button in the foot for the measurement. The Kenmores both had buttonholers with a spirograph gear system that I've never used successfully. I also wish I could master the foot that rolls a nice tiny hem. Sigh.

      We have a few other goals, so a machine isn't very high on the list right now, but like to dream a little bit!

    5. Tina, I go to a Mennonite farm out in the country(four lakes over and five counties away) to have my machines repaired. They also sell used machines and trade-ins. I'm not sure what kind of sewing machine repair places you have in your area, but stopping in and inquiring if they sell used machines must might be the way to go. They will probably have serviced the machine and are sure it is ready to go.

  3. Perhaps a road trip is in order? :)

  4. I have a Kenmore 158.1040 I picked up after reading many positive comments about this 3/4 size machine. Love vintage machines, prefer to sew on them most of the time, and my collection keeps growing. My VERY expensive Viking embroidery machine sits most of the time, because my Singer 301 purrs through fine, fine silks with ease. Anyway, love your comments about the machine you own. Have a question, mine didn't have the needleplate for the zig zag stitch, and the part number in the manual, 34887 is no longer available, but the part number 38295 looks the same and will fit the 10401, 10402, 1050, etc. As far as you know, can you tell if there is any difference between the 1040 and these others? Usually the model number difference was only adding a new stitch but components stayed the same. My plate for single needle stitching measures 1 3/4 inch long by 1 inch wide, so the zig zag would be the same size. Thank you for any comment you might have!

    1. I have updated my posting to show the reverse side of both the zig-zag and straight stitch plate. I believe sewing machine companies really didn't change the foot shanks, bobbins, and plates much in many models; but that is only in talking vintage machines. Today's world of sewing machines seems to change as fast as technology.

      Maybe you can check your zig-zag plate against the photo I have provided. You are correct in that the plates are identical in size with the only difference in the hole opening for the needle.

      I'm thinking any slant-needle or drop in bobbin model automatically wouldn't do.

      Have fun with your machine. My daughter has claimed this little machine for the future :)

  5. Hi I bought a kenmore sewing machine in early 1980"s, if I show u a picture can anybody tells me the model #.
    Really appreciate it

  6. Hi I bought a kenmore sewing machine in early 1980"s, if I show u a picture can anybody tells me the model #.
    Really appreciate it