(If you would like to read my appeal for help with this machine without reading through the boring story, please scroll down to the end)
I love my Kenmore model 84, but I have been keeping my eye out for a more 'modern' machine that has built-in cams and can use attachments such as the monogrammer.
The sweet spot that I was looking for was a machine that was new enough to take attachments, but old enough to be of all-metal construction.
Last weekend, I spotted what appeared to be a plastic sewing machine case in a thrift store.
I dashed in, and watched in horror as a guy picked it up and walked away with it.
He then appeared to change his mind, and put it back.
I shot over and grabbed it, and was delighted to see that, not only did it have built-in cams, but it also had the drive peg for powered accessories.
It was a Kenmore 158.14301 in like-new condition (apart from the outside of the case, which was a bit grimy)
I was doubly delighted when I saw the price: $16.00!
I nearly fell over when I saw that the store was holding a 50% off sale, and I only had to pay $8!
I got the machine home, and discovered that all was not well.
The machine ran, but the belt slipped at the slightest hint of resistance.
I looked into the underside of the machine, and found the motor tension adjustment bolt on the
I figured that the belt had probably stretched over time, so I loosened the bolt and moved the motor a little to increase the tension on the belt.
This improved things somewhat, but the belt still slipped.
I figured out how to take the side cover off the machine, and learned that the top belt (the machine has two belts) was slipping on the idler pulley.
The belt was as tight as a bowstring, so I was stumped.
I decided to look at the idler pulley, figuring that maybe some oil or grease had worked its way in and was causing the slipping problem.
I loosened the motor, slipped off the belts, unbolted the idler pulley assembly, and instantly spotted the problem.
There was a LOT of thread wrapped tightly around the pulley.
I couldn't see the end of the thread, so I carefully sawed away at it, loosening and unwrapping layers of thread.
There was a thick black layer, a thin blue layer, and then another very thick black layer.
Whoever owned the machine before me had clearly used it for a while like this, and perhaps noticed a gradual drop in performance, until one day it slipped so badly that they gave up on it.
I reassembled and thoroughly oiled the machine and it now runs great.
Feeling pretty pleased with myself, I put the machine away for another time because I had a busy afternoon ahead.
Fast forward to this weekend.
My 4 year old daughter was very excited about this new machine, and was begging me to let it be hers.
She likes to do everything that Daddy does, so she has 'helped' me sew things before.
I promised that she could make Mommy a christmas present using the machine, and hunted around for something simple to make.
I initially thought of an oven glove, but learned that if you want to make a safe oven glove, you need to use 100% cotton thread and special batting.
I decided upon a Turbie Towel, which is a towel turban-type thing that stays on your head better than a regular towel.
The machine came with only one foot; a straight stitch foot.
This was okay for our project, as I planned to use an enclosed seam to stop the terrycloth fraying and shedding.
As we were using the machine, my daughter noticed all the pattern stitches, but I couldn't show them to her because of the straight stitch foot that was on the machine.
I knew that I had a snap-on foot adapter for my other Kenmore, so I promised her that she could try out all the stitches tomorrow (ie today).
I set the machine up today, and discovered to my horror that, while my old Kenmore is a high shank machine, this new one is a low shank, which meant that my adapter didn't fit!
I firmly believe that it is important to keep every promise that I make to my daughter, so I was pretty annoyed at myself for not noticing this sooner.
I remembered that when I had originally been researching my first Kenmore, I had read many times that the only difference between low shank and high shank was the height of the shank itself.
I offered up the adapter to the new machine, and saw that it would almost fit high up enough on the presser bar to work (apart from the location of the screw).
I also noted that the only thing stopping the adapter from sitting higher up on the presser bar was that the flat side of the bar ended too low.
After a few minutes of tinkering, I managed to remove the presser bar, and I carefully extended the flat further up the bar until the adapter would slip on high enough.
I only had to remove enough material to extend the flat for about 1/8", and you really can't tell it wasn't made that way.
I then slipped the adapter onto the bar at the correct height, and marked it where the new hole needed to be.
I popped the adapter into my drill press and drilled the new hole.
The adapter is supposed to have a slot, not a hole, but the only disadvantage of using a hole is that you have to completely remove the retaining screw rather than loosen it.
Since I never really need to remove the adapter to change feet, this was no problem at all.
I reassembled the machine and screwed the adapter into place.
It fit perfectly, and was precisely the same height as the original foot.
Feeling pretty smug, I snapped on a zigzag foot and turned the wheel by had to check everything was good.
Everything was not good.
The first thing that I noticed was that the foot was not lined up over the feed dogs.
It is shifted over to the right by about 1/8", which means that the needle wants to hit the left side of the foot when zigzagging.
The second problem was that the foot is too far forward by about 1/6" to maybe 3/32".
This means that the slot is forward of where it should be, and the needle hits the area of the foot directly behind the slot.
I compared this low shank machine to my high shank machine and kicked myself.
The gap between the needle bar and the presser bar is around 3/8" on the high shank machine, but only about 1/4" on the low shank machine (actually 9mm and 6mm respectively according to my calipers).
Additionally, the needle bar and the presser bar are aligned perfectly with each other on the high shank machine, so that if you look directly at them from the front, the presser bar is directly behind the needle bar.
On the low shank machine, the presser bar is slightly off to the right of the needle bar when viewed from the front.
Since I had promised my daughter, I removed the zigzag foot and enlarged and elongated the slot until the needle no longer hit the foot, and she was able to play around with all of the fancy stitches.
This raises an important question though; I still need feet for this machine.
There are two possible causes of this misalignment problem:
1. My machine has some type of proprietary shank system.
Maybe Kenmore tried this out in order to force people to buy Kenmore accessories, but later abandoned the idea.
2. All of the websites that say that high shank and low shank are identical apart from height are talking out of their respective rear-ends, and there are indeed other subtle differences between the two.
Since I only have these two machines to examine, I have no idea which of the above is correct.
Without knowing the answer to this, I don't know if a low shank to snap-on foot adapter will work with this machine, and I don't want to buy one if it won't work.
Here's where you can help!
If you have a low shank machine (even better if it is not made by Kenmore), please take a quick look at it for me.
On the low shank machine, is the needle bar perfectly in line with the presser bar when viewed straight on from the front, or is the presser bar slightly over to the right?
Thanks in advance!