Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sewing Machine Review 1 - Kenmore 385 22 Stitch

One of my favorite sewing sites has got to be Pattern Review. In addition to getting see some really impressive projects completed by some incredibly talented people, there are a TON of sewing machine reviews. Although I am relatively new to sewing, I have already amassed quite a collection of sewing machines. I have never before considered myself mechanically inclined because I have never been interested in anything mechanical before.

Enter, the home sewing machine.... Some of my machines have been gifts, Craigslist finds and eBay purchases.

I posted an abreviated version of this review to Pattern Review. This machine is odd enough that a stock picture of the machine is not available on PR. This machine is almost identical to the 24 stitch 385.17641. Both were probably produced on the same early 90's assembly line, by Janome.

I got this machine for free a couple of months ago. It was a friend's grandmother's machine. Her grandmother had upgraded and it ended up gathering dust in her closet. It came with the bulky original case (that I have since removed from the base) and a few needles. This was originally a low shank machine so I purchased a snap on shank so it would be compatible with my existing snap-on foot collection. This was my first Kenmore and it happens to be made by Janome. I like this machine so much, I decided to upgrade to a TOL Janome made Kenmore 19606.

This machine features a drop-in bobbin and has 8 stretch stitches. It also has 6 decorative stitches that are based on a variation of a zig zag stitch. The decorative stitches remind me of the stitches available on a Singer Slant-o-matic cam.

Since I didn't have a manual, I had to find out the hard way that the correct way to switch through the various stitches is to turn the stitch width up to 5 and then you can change stitches. The stitch width dial acts as a kind of clutch. I had to take the top of the housing off and experiment, in order to find that out.

This is the quietest machine I have.

This is a really good basic machine that is available on eBay for $40-$60. It's a really good value for the beginning seamstress.


  1. I have the 24 stitch 385.176418 -- I got it used with a Juki serger for a good price. I have other sewing machines (mostly all metal electric) but this one is quiet and easy to use. I found that my generic walking foot fit it well and IIRC, I can even do zz with it. I'm going to use it to put some satin binding onto a fleece lap blanket for a gift to my MIL. I've seen them fetch ~ $140 to less on CL.

    I've only made a few quilts, but for the piecing, I like the narrow feed vintage all metal machines like the Singer 15-91 or White 764 or Singer FW (221). Enjoy your quilting!

  2. Hey Sara,

    I have the same machine Kenmore 385. I also like it very much. Just wondering if you have any suggestion where I would purchase the clear plastic plate, my broke! I saw some on line for $5.99. But with the shipping cost of $12, seem not worth it. do you think Sears, Zellers or Walmart stores would have this part to purchase?


    1. I think eBay would be your best bet. The little plastic tabs that slide on look to be pretty flimsy.

  3. I have a question for you. I just purchased this machine used from an older lady I know who is no longer sewing. Is there any chance my Brother free motion quilting foot will work with this machine? Also, I have been wanting a walking food, is there any chance I can get one for this machine?

  4. This is a standard low shank machine. I am assuming your Brother is also a low shank machine so the feet should be interchangable. Jenny, at Sew Classic, as a great description of feet on her site. She also has a great assortment of feet available for sale for a fair price.


    Hope this helps!

  5. I have the same exact machine, but mine just quit sewing I have tried rethreading it and it still won't sew any suggestions?

  6. How do you thread the bobbin for this machine. I have a manual ordered but would like to start sewing. I pulled the knob on the wheel out and push the bobbin to the right on top of the machine ppbut it won't wind....spins but won't wind.

  7. I found my manual online for free. I think this is the one. If not, it is the manual to a nearly identical Kenmore.


  8. this was my first machine, and except for machine quilting was always delightful! i bought up to a Bernina, but I won't get rid of my first. it's a beaut!