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On the work bench: Kenmore 47

Yes, this is another post about vintage sewing machines. Sorry, not sorry 🙂 I know, I know, VSM restoration is threatening to take over the blog. I just can’t stop myself. I love bringing these old ladies back to their former glory. I’ve run out of room, but that didn’t stop me from snatching up this craigslist beauty. She made an awesome surprise for sister in law 🙂

Before + After Front - Final

Before + after back - finalThis is Annette, named after her former owner, “Antoinette,” who was a seamstress herself, and the wife of a sewing machine mechanic. Her husband was also a World War II vet. How do I know? Because among the notions were a bunch of needles stored in an old MRE pouch. I think it was hot cocoa at one point? Hard to say, haha.

Anyway, Annette is a Kenmore 47 (Kenmore 158.470) Kenmore 47, Center locked needlemade by the Maruzen Co. between 1958 and 1962. She is a midcentury modern beauty, featuring a great big retro dial, lots of chrome, and an awesome rose pink and peach paint job. She has a center locked needle for straight stitching (i.e. not left-homing machine) which is rare in a Japanese machine like this one. She will be a great multipurpose machine — equally competent at both 1/4″ and 5/8″ seams.She uses cams for decorative stitching, but does not require a cam for zigzag sewing (genius I tell you!). She is a high shank machine, but she is *not* a “Kenmore super high shank” machine, which is good because she only came with a zigzag foot. Oh, and she’s an absolute TANK of a machine. She weighs around 37 pounds!

Working on this machine has been a true pleasure — it is clear that she was loved and meticulously maintained during her working years. Unlike older Singers with their clear coats and delicate decals, the finish on this machine is tough as nails. She’s basically a car. No fancy cleaners (or hours of gentle polishing!) required. A little Simple Green, Barkeeper’s friend, and some car wax and she looks as good as new on the outside. The insides however, were a bit of a different story. Her straight stitch mechanisms were smooth, but the cam selector was frozen solid. Like, so frozen I was afraid that I was doing something wrong with the selector knobs — there was that little play in the zigzag mechanisms. I picked up a bottle of “Bluecreeper,”which is a super thin penetrating oil that that the VSM community raves about. I started with a few drops of Bluecreeper and let it sit overnight, but it didn’t do Kenmore 47, frozen camstackmuch. So, I did what any reasonable person would do. I doused everything that looked suspect and left it to sit for a day.

About 24 hours later, I nudged the zigzag arm and OMG.IT.MOVED, leaving behind a nice bit of golden fossilized oil. A few more drops of BlueCreeper and the zigzag mechanisms were moving freely. Lucky for you readers, I memorialized that moment with a photo! But seriously, it was so gratifying to get her moving again. I also used Bluecreeper in all the oil ports to flush the gunk, and followed that with BlueCreeper’s new SMO. Now everything turns smooth as glass, like even smoother than my vintage Brother. I’m officially a BlueCreeper convert, and plan to treat all my other VSMs to a day at the BlueCreeper spa.

Kenmore 47, top opened

Annette is missing some extras — her cams (Kenmore B type), and her attachments (save a buttonholer that was thrown in with the notions) were no where to be found. Bummer. It was also time for a new belt, a new pedal, a new power cord, a new light bulb, and a new bobbin tire so I ordered those from Sew Classic… only to realize that her bobbin case was broken, too. A few other items jumped in my cart on the second order, but that’s a blog post for another day. Luckily, I picked up this machine and cabinet for $35, so having to spend a bit on extras isn’t a huge deal. I think this little restore will come in around $100 (ok, maybe $150), which isn’t too bad given what a great machine she is. You cannot buy a machine of this quality today, and even if you could it would cost a fortune.

Kenmore 47, cam door open

LKenmore 47 cabinet, restoredastly, there was the cabinet. The sad, albeit original, Sears cabinet. You know how I love to save things, but this one nearly ended up in the trash. It is not solid wood, and the laminate was in *bad* shape. It was peeling, bubbling, permanently stained with grime, and even gooey in places. Ew. Plus, the legs were shot and in need of serious repair. I can’t bring myself to paste a picture of its hideousness here, but if you absolutely must, you can check it out at this picture (and that’s AFTER a serious cleaning, so gross!). This was a rare instance where a paint job was completely necessary. My dear husband adopted the cabinet and did an amazing job refinishing it and rebuilding so it could, um, stand. He power sanded the heck out of it and primed it with a tinted oil primer before painting. The high gloss black is seriously fantastic. New hardware was obviously a must as well. A gold star for my partner in crime for an awesome job and for helping us divide and conquer on this project. Thanks to him, we totally made a gifting deadline <3

Kenmore 47, restored by Stitchified

And so there you have it, folks. One newly restored Kenmore 47 in rose pink nestled in a sleek black and chrome cabinet. Totally drool-worthy. I absolutely adore her and saying farewell is going to be hard. I already got the stink eye from my husband when I mentioned how hard it would be to part with her, so there’s no turning back now, haha. I’ll get to visit her in her new home, and I’m happy to gift her to an aspiring VSM sewist 🙂 Here’s to another 50 years of sewing for Miss Annette! Linking up with Finish it Up Friday with CrazyMom Quilts!

(I can’t help but casually mention that Miss Annette has a twin sister, the Kenmore 158.48 in lavender/lilac. I’ll be fanatically hunting one, I mean, um, “keeping an eye out” for one to add to my personal collection. Shhh, don’t tell hubby!)


{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Snowcatcher April 23, 2016, 6:44 am

    Oh, my goodness, did your photos ever bring back memories. I inherited a similar machine from my grandmother but knew nothing about restoring. I used it for many years before the bobbin case broke. The shop I took it to said it couldn’t be replaced because the machine was so old. How wonderful that you are able to pick up parts you need now. You make me wish I’d held onto mine!

  • Dona Allen April 24, 2016, 5:34 pm

    Keep up the good work. Love those old machines.

  • Tracy April 26, 2016, 7:01 pm

    How adorable is this machine?! Annette is gorgeous and you are a super awesome sister in law!

  • Katherine January 26, 2017, 5:19 pm

    Hi! I have this model!!! It came from my aunt who got it from her father and she still keeps going! I’ve recently started sewing and learning more than just straight and zigzag stitches. I have a stack of accessories and the full set of cams but I have no idea how they all work. Do you know where I can learn more in hopes of using those great presser feet?

  • Mindy Simmons May 30, 2017, 5:23 pm

    I have my Grandmother’s model #34 which appears to have the same tension dial. I put a new spring, and new disks to rejuvenate the tension. It worked for a while, but now I’m having problems. Do you have any pictures, diagrams or information on this tension dial? I don’t want to replace it with a newer dial and ruin the wonderful looks of this machine. I’m not sure what could be wrong with it since it work fine for a while. I just may have to break down a replace the dial in order to keep this machine working.

    • Jen June 10, 2017, 4:01 pm

      Hi Mindy,

      Thanks for writing! I completely understand your desire to keep the original tension mechanism together — they really are cool looking. I did a little digging and I was able to find an image on Sears which has a pretty good exploded tension dial for the 158.48 (which does indeed look similar to the one for the #34). Link here: http://www.searspartsdirect.com/model-number/158480/0582/1220000.html

      If all else fails, the same site sells a more modern looking tension assembly. Sometimes it just takes a bit of finagling. I hope you’re able to get the original fixed up!

  • Anju July 15, 2017, 6:35 pm

    I’m looking for manual for Kenmore 47 (Kenmore 158.470) since I am totally new to sewing machines and know nothing about this one but I got it from a thrift store. My machine came with a knee lever, but when I press knee lever the belt rotates but doesn’t run the needle up and down is there anything wrong with the machine? is there way to convert it to foot pedal. Please help if anybody has any idea.

    • Jen July 16, 2017, 10:33 pm

      Hi Anju, thanks for your note! If the belt spins freely, but the needle doesn’t move you should check to make sure the clutch knob is tight (it’s the small silver knob inside the hand wheel). You loosen the cluth knob in order to wind a bobbin, so maybe the previous owner just forgot to re-tighten it.

      You can also switch the knee lever out for a more traditional food pedal. You can get both a new cord and foot pedal at Sew Classic. You can either wire them together yourself or pay them some extra to do it. Cord set is here and here’s the pedal.

      I hope that helps, good luck!

      • Anju July 22, 2017, 5:37 pm

        Thanks a lot Jen for replying. The clutch is not loose, I tried many times to run the machine it is totally jammed I don’t see any underneath parts moving at all. I got the manual and tried to clean and oil the machine with manual’s help, but still no luck no movement at all please suggest what else could be done to make it run.
        Thanks a lot,

        • Jen July 24, 2017, 10:50 am

          Sorry it is giving you some trouble. Is it jammed in zigzag mode and straight stitch mode? Sometimes the ZZ mechanism is frozen, but if it straight stitches then at least you know where the jam is.

          If the handwheel is totally frozen, I would just taking things apart until I found the jam (or take it in for service if you’d rather). Old oil can turn to glue and really gum up the works, but it comes off with a little elbow grease. Take lots of pictures as you go, so you can get it back together. Good luck!

          • Anju July 24, 2017, 6:03 pm

            Thanks Jen, my machine was jammed totally and somebody suggested using pb blaster and heat so drenched it with pb blaster and left it all day in sun and by the end of the day it started to show some signs of hope. My husband played around with the clutch because that was not moving and after few trials machine started running slowly. Now it runs smoothly but I think I need to clean the motor as well since it gave off smoke. I’m totally new to sewing machines overall it was not that bad (actually it was fun).

  • Kristen Gidley October 9, 2017, 9:43 pm

    I was wondering if you can give a helping hand? I picked up one of these from a Goodwill and can’t figure out how to turn it on! I plugged it in and the light came on, but the motor isn’t running. Does that mean the motor is dead or is there another step?

    • Jen October 12, 2017, 3:19 pm

      Hi Kristen! This machine doesn’t have separate plugs for lights/motor, so if the light works so should the motor. Does the handwheel turn freely? If not, you’ll need to get that freed up first. You might also try removing the belt to take the load off the motor, and see if that helps get things running. If neither of those works, then sadly, you might have a dead motor. You can find replacement motors online if needed though. Let me know how it goes, good luck!

  • Crystal October 27, 2017, 10:09 am

    Hi, what a beautiful machine. I am looking a purchasing a 158.470 but was hoping you could answer a few questions. First I’ve had a lot of recommendations for a Kenmore 158 for the projects I’m working on, but all the different 158 models are confusing. For the original project I am sewing 40 gauge vinyl glass with a 2-ply vinyl laminated polyester fabric and binding with Tenara thread. My newer Janome Sewist 500 will do it but it is a struggle. I will also be using the machine for canvas and sails. Many others sewing boat projects (canvas, sails and vinyl) recommend a Kenmore 158 because the have 1.2 amp motor and can gear down, can you confirm this? The only stitches I need are a straight and zigzag. Thanks in advance for your help.

    • Jen October 27, 2017, 10:21 am

      Hi Crystal, thanks for stopping by! So, as I understand it, all the Kenmore 158 machines were made by Maruzen, who made great machines. I suspect that’s why you’ve heard the 158s recommended.

      I can confirm that it has a beefy 1.2 amp motor and it’s a high shank machine (likely to have more room under the presser foot so it can handle some bulky stuff). I’m not sure about gearing down though — there isn’t a clutch like you would find on an old industrial machine. That said, if you’re going to do a lot of canvas and vinyl, I would recommend an industrial machine with a compound walking foot. A vintage machine like this is really for domestic use, even if it is a beast of a machine. It might handle the occasional leather/sail project, but if it’s in constant use for those tasks eventually it’s going to give out. I sometimes see vintage industrials pop-up on Craigslist and I’ve also heard good things about Sail-Rite machines if you want to look into those. Good luck and happy sewing!!

  • Tina Burris October 29, 2017, 7:00 pm

    Wow! What a beautiful machine! Great job restoring it! I’m glad there’s people out there like you keeping all the old machines oiled and beautiful! They certainly do not make ’em like they used to!

    • Jen October 29, 2017, 8:18 pm

      Thanks so much, Tina!

  • Steve Wohlford November 2, 2017, 7:31 pm

    I just ended up with one of these from my mother. Built into a drop down, folding cabinet (I suspect by my grandfather who built a lot of furniture).

    Any suggestions as to the value and the best way to sell it. I am in Minneapolis, MN.


    • Jen November 3, 2017, 10:32 am

      Hi Steve, thanks for dropping by. The value of these machines is really in how well they work. I paid $35 for this machine + cabinet and $45 for the same machine in purple. I live in the Boston area where demand and prices have increased quite a bit in the last 5 years, but even here these don’t command a high price. If you have a sewist in the family I highly recommend fixing it up and putting it to work, but if not Craigslist is a good place to sell it. Good luck!

  • Kayla January 19, 2018, 2:09 pm

    Hello, was wondering if you know what presser feet set I can use with this machine? Thank you!

    • Jen January 19, 2018, 2:32 pm

      Hi Kayla, thanks for dropping by! This machine takes regular high shank feet (not to be confused with “Kenmore super high shank feet,” which won’t work). 🙂

  • Dennis February 12, 2018, 4:40 pm

    Hi Jen,
    I recently purchased a Kenmore #47 identical to yours. It came in the original blonde wood cabinet with the matching chair no less, and all of the accessories including the manual, cams, and presser feet. In the storage space below the chair cushion, I found a square-cut vinyl record that plays at 33-1/3 RPM on the “phonograph” that describes “the easy way to sewing pleasure by Kenmore”.

    I must thin out my collection of machines, and this beauty is looking for a new home.


    • Jen February 12, 2018, 6:02 pm

      Hi Dennis, thanks for dropping by! That’s so cool that yours was so complete — the 33 1/3 record is just too funny! If you have a photo, I’d love to share it with others 🙂 If you need to rehome yours, might I suggest posting it on the “Vintage Sewing Machines” group on Facebook?

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