Thursday, May 10, 2012

Lady Kenmore 89, a Pfaff 280 in disguise

I always plan to blog more--then don't.  One of my plans has always been to focus on some of the machines in the herd.  Here's a real beauty:  the Lady Kenmore 89.

the actual color is a pinky beige.  definitely beige, but with pinky tendencies that don't really show up in this photo

Among Kenmore enthusiasts, this is the Holy Grail of Kennies.  In fact, when I first joined the vintage kenmore yahoo group, the subtitle of the group was "home of the Lady Kenmore 89 picture", and the photo of this lovely model was the home page photo of the group.

You can sew with this as a stand-alone (without cabinet or case).   If you don't care about the metal feet scratching your work surface.

Sadly, the name "Kenmore" usually evokes yawns rather than gasps of awe (except among those diehard Kennie fans).  If you can overlook the un-sexy name, and if you are not the kind of person who is swayed by the opinion of the masses, you can find some truly awesome vintage machines badged as "Kenmore".  Sears, who sold and still sells Kenmore appliances, never manufactured anything themselves.  Instead, they contracted with manufacturers to supply them with products under the Kenmore label.

In this case the manufacturer was Gritzner in West Germany, and they made an identical model which was sold by Pfaff as the model 280.  Now Pfaff is a VERY sexy name in the vintage sewing world. 

When I bought this machine it was in the usual vintage shape:  dirty, and completely frozen up.  I bought it for the cabinet (shown below) and knew absolutely nothing about the machine.  As I began to work on it it became immediately obvious to me that I had found a real treasure.  It's that legendary German engineering.

And, like most vintage machines, once the thread tangles were removed it responded quickly to oiling.  Freeing the cam stack was the biggest challenge, but now all of the functional and decorative stitches work perfectly.

If you are considering a cam stack machine, be sure to take the cover off and rotate the cam stack through a complete turn, checking for cracks (this machine has no cracks in the cam stack).  The machine may still work with a crack in the stack, but it is on the way to failure and may be difficult or impossible to find a replacement.  Since this one is in tip-top shape I haven't had to look for one and can't comment on availability.

The Lady Kenmore 89 has everything you might long for in a vintage sewing machine:  all metal construction (except for the cam stack).  Feed dog drop.  Twin needle capability.  Class 15 bobbin.  Left-center-right needle position.  And all those lovely decorative stitches.  I'm a complete sucker for decorative stitches.  

This machine came with the original manual and all of the original high shank presser feet.  And the awesome desk style cabinet that attracted me in the first place.  Now, when I say "awesome" I am referring to the functionality of it.  Drawers!  Leaves on both sides!  Fabulous work surface.

Cosmetically, it looks like most vintage sewing machine cabinets:  could be better.

It has a spring assist that is tremendously helpful in getting the machine up and down from stored to working position.  With the machine removed, the spring is lifting up the left side of the top, as shown in the photo above.  With the machine installed the top lies flush and flat.

This was my go-to machine for a year, and I loved and still love it.  But the cabinet in all its awesomeness just didn't work out in my studio, where every square inch matters.  Those fold out leaves blocked pathways.  I now sew on a German Singer 316G which I have installed in a Singer Hampden Court cabinet.  But that's a story for another time.


  1. I think Kennie's have been pretty good machines over the years. I wish I had known that when I bought my first machine. I am looking forward to (and hope I don't miss) your post on the singer in the Hampden court cabinet.

  2. I never really understood the appeal of Kennie's until I read this article. Thanks for enlightening me! The Lady Kenmore 89 is really an adorable machine.

  3. Hi Cheryl,

    I just bought this exact model complete with the cabinet from someone who was getting rid of it. I was hoping you would be willing to share the manual with me over email? I would really appreciate it. I'm a first time sewing-machine user and could really use the help! I'm looking forward to figuring this baby out.

    Please let me know and thank you for your time!

    -Jane Carper

    1. My mother has a machine just like this and I'm almost positive she still has the manual. If you are interested, leave a comment at my blog and perhaps we can work something out. I'm not willing to part with the manual, but I could make a copy.

    2. Jane, I will need an e-mail address from you and I will NOT publish your comment.

  4. Love the older Kenmores, but a word of warning. The reason these are so hard to find (LK 89), those plastic (nylon) cams just haven't survived well. I'd say the vast majority of the later 60s Singers and any Kenmores with plastic cams or gears that you find out there aren't worth picking up because of this, so whatever you do, remember to have a screw driver handy and pop the lid before purchasing. Sad really; they're great machines.

  5. Jane Carper, try Sears Parts Direct or go to the local Sears retail store. Usually Sears Parts Direct can supply you with an instruction manual for any Kenmore SM. I usally try the local Sears retail store and they order me an instruction manual and they ship it direct to my mailing address.
    Jim DeLapp -- Cottage Grove, Oregon.

  6. Hello, I wanted to thank you so much for posting the pictures of the Kenmore 89 especially the ones of the inside. I recently purchased one of these for 20.00 in cabinet like yours. I did not know then what a great machine it is. I was trying to repair bobbin winder and took it apart without taking pictures first. I can be dumb at times. I would never have been able to get it back together and working without your photos for reference. Thank you again. We help people in the oddest ways at times. I wanted to add as well that it is a great free motion quilter like you posted. I can really quilt on this sewing machine. I have been trying to free motion on many different machines. This one works like a charm. I am so happy. Kindest regards, Janet

  7. I just scored one of these from the local thrift and I am on the hunt for a manual. You don't happen to have a digital copy, do you?

    Thanks! :)

  8. I just purchased this machine. It is so beautiful but I did not know about the cam stack. I hope it won't be an issue. It did not come with the manual or any other accessories. Does anyone know where I can find these?

  9. Does anyone know where I can buy parts for my Lady Kenmore 1958 sewing machine. It was made be Gritzner.

  10. I need a motor for my Lady Kenmore model 89 any suggestions where I can look, parts dept. at Sears said the machine is too old. Please email me at

  11. I've bought this sewing machine from my wife. It's look beautiful and perfect. I used this machine too, but some days she has stoped and didn't work. Sewing motor is working, but I can't rotate balance wheel/flywheel in any direction. I get sweing machine to serwis, but in two pleaces they can't fixed it. Now I don' t know what to do with Kenmore. I have one Haid&Neu and Durkoop 230-251 which are more solid 😊 than Kenmore.

  12. Someone in my area is selling one and advertised that it does monograms. Does it?

  13. I bought mine at a yard sale because i'm a fool for a bargain. I used it for about 3 years. Today she gave up on me and quit working. Any ideas as to why?

  14. Late to the party - but I believe my Lady Kenmore 89 came with metal internal cams, so maybe the earlier ones came with metal cams while the later ones came with plastic cams(?). It is a nice machine.

    John Thomas in NC


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