Kenmore, to save or not to save?

apulliam_22June 28, 2012

Let me say I have taught myself to sew and don't know much about the actual working of sewing machines.

I have a kenmore 385.16231300 my parents bought it for me about 6-7 years ago. I was in high school then and didn't take good care of it at all, I didn't even know you were suppose to clean it or service it. So that's the back history. I have now begun sewing a lot and have taught myself a lot on this machine but it has NEVER worked right. I spend more time takin switches out and messing with it than I actualy sew.

So long story...I recently bought a Janomie serger and I love love it! Compared to my kenmore it is amazing. My kenmore recently just went out, I have cleaned it and taken it apart and worked with it for hours and I'm at the point now where I should either take it to get services (for $100) or buy a better machine. So this is where my question comes in. Should I spend the money to have someone look at it or should I take the plunge and buy a better machine. I dont know if this machine is worth it to fix or if it is just a starter machine. I really liked the janomie sewing machines they showed me at the store but then again in not sure where To even begin.

Any advice would be great!!

Also just a little more info, I make purses, curtains, clothing, and quilts. I would need something that would be able to do all these things.

Thanks in advance!


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if it were me, I'd buy a quality used machine and put the Kenmore away for hard times (I wouldn't pay to repait it). Get yourself a Janome, Bernina, Phaff, etc, from a dedicated machine dealer who took it as a trade-in & be sure to sew on it there before you buy. You'll see the same miraculous difference you found in the serger. I bet you can get a good used machine for about the same as a big box retailer machine.

As for cleaning, ask when you buy. I don't have to do more than brush the bobbin & bobbin case w/a paintbrush to clear lint & oil occasionally. Don't beat yourself up too much about it, I bet you'd have trouble w/the Kenmore even if you'd cleaned it a lot. The cheaper models just don't perform as well. It's sad that a bad machine makes such an enjoyable hobby aggravating & so many folks struggle or quit sewing because of it.

Last piece of (unasked for) advice; don't fret about the latest stitch functions too much. You NEED straight stitch, zigzag, buttonhole function & blind hem is a nice plus esp. for drapes. All the rest are fluff, I have approx. 12 stitches on my Bernina & use the 4 I mentioned, the others very rarely.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 11:25AM
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Thank you! I'll take all the advice I can get. I was also thinking this too. I bought my serger from a really nice family owned sewing machine store so I will just go right back and invest in another. They did have used ones but I didn't really know where to even begin.

As far as brands would you say that janomie is a good brand? That is the only one I messed with in the store and it seemed just fine. Although I didnt really know what to ask and do with the machine at the store.
Thank you for the help

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 1:47PM
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Janome is a fine brand. My main suggestion is to look for a model that a comparable new one would be $400 minimum (the sky's the limit or I should say your wallet). That would indicate a higher quality machine to me. And don't feel rushed to buy the first one you try. Sew on it, then go home & learn about it. Remember if you choose wisely, you'll be sewing on that machine for many years.

Hopefully you'll see a machine that new would cost say $600 & you get a 3 yr old trade-in for $200. I'm totally making these figures up, btw. has a large machine review section, or just google the brand & model & see what you find out about it. It also helps to put 'xyz brand model 123 complaints' in google, but do keep in mind you're mostly going to get negative reviews that way....

Take some swatches from sewing projects, try slippery fabric, denim, thick fabric/many layers, those purses you sew often mean thick layers, which is a big test for cheaper models, (they often fail). I do sew slower on thick layers, but my machine sews them easily. Your Kenmore probably bogged down on multiple layers. Good luck! Do let us know what you end up with.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 3:41PM
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Well I just took my kenmore in and was told it would be $200 to fix it due to my own fault! So I said no thanks they gave me $70 for it and I bought a janomie (the green and white one) I don't have the model # off the top of my head but this leads me to another question. Since I have messed up my first machine I don't want to make the same mistake twice, I know a lot of info about sewing but I'm lookin for a good book that will give me some knowledge to fill in the holes.
Any good book suggestions?

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 3:16PM
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I guess if you have the funds to pay for a new machine go for it! I know I had a friend offer me a Singer machine in a cabinet for free; they said it did not work. I cleaned the machine, took the bobbin area apart as much as I knew how and found alot of dusty fabric. After that it worked for almost a year. I was using it to sew pillows and it jammed on me. The gear that controlled the bobbin broke. I am thinking one day I will get it repaired and use it as a spare machine.
I do have other machines. I like to use my Bernina and Viking on not so many layers of fabric; I know they will do the job but like using other machines for that so that I will not damage a machine I like better.
I guess I would ask a person that just repairs machines and does not sell machines to look at the machine if the cost is too much to afford comfortably right now.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 9:41PM
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I've been sewing for over 30 years & also working on sewing machines, but here's a tip
keep the sewing machine coverd with a plastic cover when not in use. so that dust does not get on it.
change the needle often
clean under the needle plate & in the bobbin area often
never sew over a pin
if the manual says to oil the machine, oil it often

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 7:44PM
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Whatever you do, do NOT purchase one of the new Singer machines. They are not good machines. I have a Janome and I love it! The OLD Singers are good, as are some other brands. As someone posted above, be sure to test drive it first and get a guarantee in writing!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 7:38PM
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I disagree with covering your machine with plastic.What you cover it with dpends on where you live.For instance if you live near the ocean,DON'T use Plastic,use cloth,as plastic will trap moisture and if any of the parts are metal tey could rust.This was told to me by my Bernina dealer,when i got my Bernina.I live less than 5 minutes from the ocean so all my machines are covered in cloth,cotton to be exact.

Of course if you live in the desert or anywhere that is extremely dry,then plastic would be ok.

Also check your manual or ask the dealer that sold you the machine about oiling,as some of the newer ones don't require oiling,and doing so could cause you major problems!!

Another thing i do when i get a new machine is get a piece of muslin and stitch every kind of stitch the machine will do,and write the info on that stitch on the muslin,that way you can just pull it out and look at it instead of having to take the time away from your sewing,if you think you want to do that stitch on something.JMO

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 8:19PM
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Well I by came back to read the new replys.
Thank you all. I am very unhappy with my new machine (janome DC 2012) and have gone round and round with the dealer.
So now I am starting a search for an old all metal machine for my heavy sewing. I'll start a new post for this question though.
Thanks again for the tips.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 12:01PM
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I like my Bernina. I also have a singer 221, but the problem is it broken, but I don't want to pay to have a full service at $100. I had it serviced once at $100, it was my mother's. I hardly used it all because I had the bernina special 1000. When I did use it I made one tiny project and now it's broken again. Basically, I would have to service it myself or live with some handy man who would fix it, because the time I able to get with using it made it not worth the servicing at all. It is still pretty heavy and it smells really bad like oil and it won't back stitch or zig zag. It makes a nice stitch straight, but the petal is a pain to use. It is poorly designed and makes your foot tired. The bernina is good, because you can use it a lot and not have to service it much. If you do service it, you got your time in using it, to make it worth it. I am sorry you don't like the janome, what don't you like about it?

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 7:59PM
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A few years ago a friend signed me up for a subscription to a sewing "book" company. Every month they sent out pages (for the binders they sent me) and supplies for adjusting existing patterns, adjusting ready-made clothes, custom making patterns, and other subjects. Every so often they sent out a basic pattern (in my size). It was about $16/mo. In the first four months I was amazed at how the information they sent worked with my current project. I never finished the whole program due to my first divorce & out-of-state move, but I thoroughly enjoyed the information I had. Last I checked "Sewing Step-by-Step" hardcover was still available on Amazon. Hope this idea helps. l.marie

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 4:19AM
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Some 20 years ago my hubby bought me a Kenmore sewing machine for Christmas and it has been a workhorse of a sewing machine. I had to have it worked on at one time and the repairman told me to never get rid of this machine because it had very little plastic in it like they do now. I still use it a lot. I recently had to take it in again. This repairman told me the very same thing. The bobbin case is plastic and had to be replaced. The same thing had happened before and I had ordered 2 of them at the time. He cleaned and oiled the machine and worked on my daughter's sewing machine, too all for $40.00. I received a new Singer from my son's family last Christmas. It is the Singer Confidence Quilter and I am really pleased with it, too.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 10:58PM
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