Whether you are a home sewer looking for the perfect machine or an antique collector interested in the history of sewing machines, you have probably come across Kenmore brand machines. Over the years, many different Kenmore sewing machine models appeared on the market.

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Sears Roebuck sold Kenmore sewing machines from 1913 through 2013. Different companies manufactured the machines that Sears-branded as “Kenmore.” These budget sewing machines are typically described as sturdy, affordable, and capable of completing basic sewing tasks.

In this article, you will learn about the history, models, and value of vintage Kenmore sewing machines.


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Kenmore Sewing Machine flickr photo by mbaylor (1)


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History of Kenmore Sewing Machines

Kenmore models made a big impact in sewing history because Sears Roebuck sold them. Without delving too deeply into American history, Sears essentially reshaped the way Americans shopped in the late 1800s-early 1900s.

The company designed an extensive mail-order catalog that could reach the farmers and settlers spread out across rural America. In case you are picturing the flimsy, glossy copy of People Magazine you can easily tuck into your purse, think again! By the beginning of the 20th century, the Sears catalog was more than 500 pages long!

Anything included in the Sears catalog could potentially be seen by every consumer in the nation. Because of this, the Sears Kenmore brand quickly became very popular.

Sears carried its first Kenmore sewing machine model from 1913-1919. This treadle-powered model sold for just $6.75! You probably spend this amount on a cup of coffee at Starbucks now, but in the early 1900s, the price would have been equal to about $180 today.

World War I interrupted the manufacturing of domestic items like sewing machines, though, causing Sears to temporarily halt its production. The company resumed the profitable business again in the 1930s, launching some of their most popular electric-powered Kenmore brands in 1933.

Starting in 1933, Sears sold machines made by White. Some of these models were branded and sold as White sewing machines. However, some of them were branded with the Sears Kenmore brand.

World War II caused another break in production. Sears did not sell any machines from 1942-1948. Following the war, the company continued to sell White models, some branded with the Kenmore brand, until 1958.

In the 1950s, White lost its contract with Sears. Sears applied the Kenmore brand to a new batch of machines manufactured overseas in Japan. These models featured fancy new abilities, like buttonhole making, zig-zagging, and other fancy stitching.

Some people argue that this batch of Sears Kenmore lacked the sturdy quality that had characterized the earlier Kenmores, though.

Singer also briefly made a couple of Sears Kenmore sewing machine models in the 1970s.

Janome was one of the Japanese companies that quickly grew to global prominence during this era. They manufactured Kenmore models for Sears until 2013.

Following bankruptcy in the early 2000s, Sears stopped selling sewing machines under the Kenmore brand.

Why Can’t I Find Kenmore Machines Today?

While you can still find Kenmore machines for sale in many places like eBay and Amazon, Sears no longer manufactures or sells sewing machines.

This change occurred sometime between 2013 and 2019. Sears stopped selling Janome models branded as Kenmore and held a big clearance sale to get rid of its inventory around 2013.

During this period, Sears also declared bankruptcy and broke its partnership with the companies that had manufactured the items sold under the Kenmore brand (at various times, these companies included Whirlpool, Janome, and LG).

Sears department stores and their website no longer carry sewing machines, though you can find some models sold by third parties through Sears Marketplace.

Can I Buy a New Kenmore Sewing Machine?

You cannot buy a brand-new Sears Kenmore sewing machine because they are no longer in production.

When did Kenmore stop making sewing machines? Well, “Kenmore” didn’t exactly make machines to begin with. Kenmore was a brand name that Sears applied to different sewing machine manufacturers who had a contract with them.

Most recently, Janome made models sold under the Kenmore brand. These are not for sale right now. The newest models, sold as recently as 2013, included modern options like computerized features and embroidery machine capabilities.

Popular Kenmore Sewing Machine Models

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While not a comprehensive list, here are a few highlights of the most popular Kenmore sewing machine models. Sears sold many different models over the years and every sewer who uses a Kenmore model claims that her model is the best one!

Every model has its own quirks and abilities, though, so you will have to decide for yourself!

How to Identify the Model of a Kenmore Sewing Machine

First, a quick word about model numbers. All Sears Kenmore sewing machine models have a model number inscribed on them. This number begins with a three-digit code, such as 117 or 385. If you have a Kenmore machine, locate this number and you will be able to determine what year Sears sold that model.

Kenmore 117

The 117 models are some of Kenmore’s earlier models, produced during the 1940s. White, a company known for simple but reliable machines, manufactured all of the Kenmore 117 models.

These models ran on electricity but performed only basic functions. They also came built into a sturdy wooden table cabinet!

Kenmore 158

The 158 models were manufactured in the 60s and 70s by overseas companies, then marketed and sold under the Kenmore brand. Users describe these models as so simple that a child could easily figure them out!

Most of these models provided solid, sturdy craftsmanship without a lot of bells and whistles.

Kenmore Model 158.1941

The Kenmore 158.1941 is sometimes ranked as the all-time best Kenmore model. It featured a more powerful motor than many other machines at the time.

Kenmore 385

Janome, a Japanese company known today for high-quality, computerized machines, manufactured any Kenmore models with numbers beginning with “385.” Sears began selling Janome-manufactured models after about 1965.

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This can be confusing because Kenmore’s most recent models, made in the 2000s, are also 385s!

The “Kenmore 30”

The Kenmore 385.1884180, also known as the “30 stitch,” was sold into the 1980s. This solid machine performs an outstanding number of stitches for a pre-computer-era model! Users also like the zigzag stitch on this model.