sewing machine tune up

Wow! Where do I start?  I guess I have to go back about 13 or 14 years ago, when I purchased a vintage Kenmore 148 Sewing Machine out of the want ads.  It needed a tune up, as it had been sitting for a number of years.  But I promptly lost the foot pedal/cord during a move.  Well, over the course of the years, I’ve tried to find a replacement foot control for this machine, as it’s in really good condition ( other than needing the tune up).  At some point in the last month it dawned on me to start looking for whole machines of the same model, just in non-working condition, and then steal the foot pedal from the dead machine.

So — off to ebay I went.  I found another Kenmore 148 and promptly bid on it.  It was advertised as “locked up” and “non-working,” but crucially it had the foot control/cord. Yay! We won the auction for $19.00!! Now, shipping was 25.00 :( So, about $44 in all, and the foot controls new (if they fit, which they don’t) are about $39.95.  So, still a deal as Far as I could tell.

Well, lo and behold, the same night the machine shipped, I find the stupid pedal/cord.  Don’t you just love Murphy and his silly laws?

Now to back up a bit, the first time I took the sewing machine repair course, when I got home, this was one of the first machines I used as a guinea pig. Now unfortunately, I couldn’t tell if my efforts were successfully, not having a foot pedal!

The first thing I did was test out the stitching and man, did that machine purr like a kitten! I was so happy!

Then I promptly forgot about the broken machine on the slow boat from California or Texas, or wherever.

It arrived two nights ago! The first thing I did was take it out of the box and try to turn the hand wheel.  Sure enough, it was COMPLETELY LOCKED UP.  It wouldn’t move at all.  Thinking it was a lost cause, I put it away for the time being.


Today I was at Harbor Freight, and I picked up a small 100PSI air compressor for $59.00.  Our repair course instructor, Mr. White, suggested getting an air compressor and blow gun, as compressed air A) isn’t strong enough pressure to properly blow out all the dust and fuzz from the cracks and crevices of a sewing machine and B) can get ridiculously expensive.  I own a big air compressor, but it’s currently residing at my Dad’s house and to be honest, it’s quite large to bring inside into my sewing room.

So – I decided to put the air compressor together, and then I needed to play with it, so I decided to give the busted Kenmore 148 a once over.

First I laid down a layer of paper towels (in hindsight, I’ll probably use newspaper or even a layer of plastic first).

All Ready


I generally clean the outside last, but this thing was so filthy I felt like I couldn’t touch it without cleaning it first.

Here’s the inside of the bobbin case (there was a HUGE wad of fuzz that isn’t in the pictu

dirty bobbin case


This was just wiping it down ONCE.

needle barIsn’t that gross?

Well, it gets worse! What’s up with all this grease?


I took everything apart, cleaned it all, and oiled and greased (appropriately) the components that were screaming for it.  I gently began rocking the hand wheel and after several mins, the handwheel turned!  The needle barely moved at first.  And it would be nearly impossible to turn as the needle reached the highest point.  I took apart the handwheel, took off the belts, tested the motor, oiled, cleaned and reoiled all the components over again.  Suddenly it dawned on me to take the bobbin shuttle out.  Once I did this, the handwheel turned PERFECTLY.

Here’s a look at the backside of the bobbin race cover:

Bobbin race cover

See that black ring? That’s GRIME.

Here’s ONE of the three q-tips I used, soaked in Carb Cleaner, to get the grime off:

grimeNasty.  I had to clean it a couple of times, actually.  Hooked up the foot control/power cord, and got the silly thing running: Movie



I learned quite a lot:

1- Need thread tape on the threads of the aircompressor connections.

2- Air compressors are extremely loud and scare me EACH AND EVERY time they come on automatically!

3- Never skimp on carb cleaner

4-Some people like a lot of grease on their gears

5-Know the value of a sewing machine before you put too much into fixing it up.  (This machine is about 120 max on Craigslist/Ebay.  I spent $45 on buying it and shipping.  I then ordered another 34.00 in parts and shipping as well as $10 for the instruction manual.  Not a lot of profit left.)

6-Extension cords are my friend. And a powerstrip.  I had the sewing machine, a lamp, and the compressor all strung to outlets all over the room.  Would be nice to have a power strip to just plug everything in close at hand.

So that’s about it.  Well, actually.  Two more things.

I got really brave and posted an ad on Craigslist offering my services doing sewing machine tune ups!!!!  This is HUGE! So far I’ve only gotten spam, but well, that’s part of the process I guess.

Then, I ordered Quilting the Carolinas – Sewing machine repair business cards.  They are so cute.  Will take a pic once I have them (should be Monday).


Oh and ONE MORE THING!!!!  I have a special surprise giveaway (my first) coming up!  Very excited about it.  More details to follow!

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