Saturday, October 5, 2019

Mini Kennies on Parade

Are you looking for a fun vintage machine to take to classes and workshops?  Don't want to spend $300 to $500 for a Singer Featherweight?  Consider the 3/4 size Kenmores.  They may not be as cute as the Featherweights, but the cases are WAY cuter.

The other major reason to buy a mini Kenmore?  Well, do you ever want to do more than just straight stitch?  If you have a Featherweight you are either out of luck, or you have to install an attachment.  And uninstall it if you want to go back to straight stitching.  Even the earliest of the mini Kennies had zigzag and the oh-so-useful blind hem stitch and a FEED DOG DROP, and from the 1040 onward they had several stitches.

So why is the Featherweight the most expensive vintage machine?  Good old law of supply and demand.  Quilters love them and thus they have become trendy among quilters.  Supply low, demand high = price high.  And they ARE undeniably cute.  I have three Featherweights myself, so I'm not dissing them.  (Didn't pay the high prices but two of them need some serious work and on the third I just got extremely lucky.)

Very few Kenmores have ever been accused of being cute, or even attractive.  There are some early exceptions but most of them are pretty boring looking.  The mini Kennies fall into the boring category, IMHO.  But they sell for reasonable prices.  For only a few more pounds (of weight, not currency) than the Featherweight you get a whole lot more functionality.

Featherweight, naked:  11 pounds
Featherweight, in its case, 15 pounds
Kenmore 1040, naked:  15 pounds
Kenmore in its case:  17 pounds

Last week Barbara came over and brought some of her mini Kennies.  She's a fan.  I have one myself and we did a side by side comparison.  Here are our results, with additional notes from "folklore", i.e. things we have read but have not personally confirmed.  And Barbara is the Mini Kennie expert so most of the folklore is from her online reading.

Introducing the 3/4 size Kenmores

Kenmore 1020

we don’t have one
folklore:  not many of them were made

Kenmore 1030


  • low shank
  • two tone green
  • feed dogs drop
  • stitch selector and stitch length are brown plastic 

  • Stitches (in order) 

    • Straight stitch, shown as round red dot
    • multizig
    • button hole right
    • button hole top or bottom
    • buttonhole left
      blind hem
  • handwheel must be turned to release handwheel to wind bobbin (as opposed to the pull-out handwheel on the 1050)
  • presser foot regulator controlled from the top of the machine

  • needle plate is one piece with no pop-outs as later models have. So you have to have two full needle plates, one for straight stitching and one for zigzag.

  • Rose embossed case

1030 accessories that came with machine

Barbara reports that the same set of accessories came with every mini Kennie

  • extra needle plate not shown in photo
  • bobbins
  • edge stitcher on a post compatible with Greist hemmers and other Greist attachments
    • we tested the Kenmore post with some Greist attachments and they did work.
      This means that you can add that fantastic set of Greist hemmers in several sizes.

  • straight stitch foot
  • case with 12 sewing machine needles
  • adjustable zipper foot
  • set of five buttonhole templates

  • seam ripper
  • set of two screwdrivers
  • needle threader (two are shown in photo, one of those is for a different Kenmore)

Kenmore 1040


  • low shank
  • two tone green
  • stitch selector and stitch length are plastic painted silver

  • Stitches in order
    • straight. Marked “S” (not the round red dot on the 1030 and 1050)
    • button hole right
    • buttonhole top or bottom
    • buttonhole left
    • blind hem
    • multizig
      stretch stitch (two forward one back)

  • handwheel must be turned to release handwheel to wind bobbin (as opposed to the pull-out handwheel on the 1050)
  • presser foot regulator controlled from the top of the machine

  • Needle plate has a removable insert so you can switch between straight stitch and zigzag without removing the whole plate, a very dandy feature.  And I discovered that I don't have the straight stitch insert for my 1040.

  • Feed dogs drop

    • Rose embossed case
    See 1030 for list of included attachments

    Kenmore 1045

    we don’t have one
    Barbara thinks they added a stitch

    Kenmore 1050 

    Major innovations were included on this model,  including slot threading.  I'm a big fan of slot threading.

    We've popped the top here and perhaps you can see the thread path.

    • low shank
    • feed dogs drop
    • stitch selector and stitch length are plastic painted silver (we think)

    • Stitches (in order)
      • straight (round red dot)
      • multizig
      • blind hem
      • zigzag
      • ?1 decorative stitch
      • ?2 decorative stitch
      • ?3 decorative stitch
        we couldn't figure out what to call them. 
      • stretch stitch (two forward one back)
      • buttonhole right
      • buttonhole top or bottom
        buttonhole left

    • handwheel pulls out to wind bobbin
    • presser foot pressure controlled by a numbered dial
    • Needle plate has a removable insert so you can switch between straight stitch and zigzag without removing the whole plate.
    • tensioner on inside, part of the slot threading system

    • totally different look
      • beige with dark brown trim
    • Rose embossed case (the last model to use the rose case)
    See 1030 for list of included attachments 

    Kenmore 1060

    we don’t have one
    We have read that it has a free arm, so it had to be taller, so it doesn’t fit in the rose embossed case

    Flip Out Tray 


    This is almost certainly overkill,  but hey, we already took the photos and this tray HAS defeated me on more than one occasion.  So if you are also a bit 3-dimensionally impaired, here is the definitive guide for accessing, removing, and replacing the tray.

    Lift up the cover.  You can remove it or not but it takes one of your two hands to hold it in place.  I usually remove it but here you see Barbara holding it up and out of the way.

    Flip the tray forward.

    Open the cover to access the goodies inside.

    You can remove the entire tray.  But then you have to figure out how it goes back in.  This is the part that tends to exceed my brain capacity.

    So here I have shown you the correct orientation for getting it back in.

    Here it is in place.

    And the cover sits on top.  The fact that the cover and the front of the tray is discolored and yellowing actually helps me figure out which part of the tray goes in front.

    But if yours is also discolored and you want it looking better. Barbara discovered a way to brighten it up.  Here's what she says:

    "I used the 'developer 40' creme (on Amazon).  You brush it on, put the part in a ziploc plastic bag, then leave out in the sun for 20 minutes.  Check and see if it has lightened.  If not, leave out for a bit longer, but check every 5-10 minutes.  When appropriately lightened, wash with soap and water and then place back on machine.  You want to watch the lightening carefully because you don't want to weaken the plastic.  There's a lot of information on Google and on YouTube.  It worked great for me.  I would be careful if applying to metal/paint - could bubble if left on too long and then you're sc*****."

    And click here here for a post by Retrofixes describing the method, with photos.

    Rose Embossed Case 


    ooh, pretty

    But not terribly easy to deal with.  Although I'm sure that if it was your go-to machine it would quickly become easy.

    On both sides of the case flip the latch down, push the button above the latch and slide it open at the bottom of the case.  Then remove the case.

    That part is fairly obvious and not too bad.  The fun starts when you want to put it back in the case.

    First take a look at the inside of the case and you will see that the two sides are NOT the same.  The rubber bumpers at the hinge end are closer together on one side than  on the other side.

    There are four possible ways to TRY to get the machine into the case, but only one of them will work!

    Place the front of the case face down with the top of the case resting against the bumpers that are farther apart (the ones to the right in the photo above).  When closed the feet of the machine are going to be sticking out of the bottom of the case.

    I did put a piece of painters tape inside the case telling me how to do this but I kinda forgot about taking a picture of it.

    The piece of blue painters tape that you can see is to keep the tray from flipping out while you are wrangling the machine back into the case.

    Then tuck the foot pedal/motor controller inside and you are ready to close up the case.

    This is what it looks like if you get it wrong.

    And this is what it looks like if you get it right.


    Do you have one of these 3/4 size Kenmores?  How do you like it?  How do you use it?  For instance, do you take it to quilting classes or workshops?  Take it in your motor home?  Does it stay home with you?  Do tell us all about it!


    1. I love my 1040. We call it a Ketherweight. I haven't taken mine out for a bit. I usually take the 301 to class. Like you, I struggle with that tray.

    2. I have a 1040. My one friend calls it a "Ketherweight". I loved seeing all the variations. Never saw the last one you showed. It is easy to take somewhere to sew. It's motor is much stronger than the Featherweight. Thanks for the great post.

    3. I have lots of Kenmore machines but I've not seen a 3/4 size one before this blog post. That would be a fun machine to have.

    4. I love these old Kenmores you have shared here. They are the best and all metal parts.
      I think my sisters Kenmore is all metal too.
      Are these made in Italy?
      I love Linda's friends name for them "Ketherweight" That is cool

      My 316G is running hard and I am freaking out. I do not trust anyone in my area to touch it.
      I think it might just be the belt. I am afraid to do anything with it myself because I have lost a lot of confidence. I take care of my daddy now (since 2013, and mom until 2016) and it occupies a lot of my brains.
      As Always, your blog is a wealth of encouragement and information. I am grateful

    5. My 1040 is my sweetie. Things I love: I can tune it up myself (doesn't need it much, but it's accessible when it does). It's my token low shank machine, so it can use the feet that have wandered in from thrift store and estate sale grab bags. I should use it for buttonholes (the buttonhole on both my Activa Berninas has/have developed incurable glitches). It's a great regular use machine that delivers a consistent stitch. I've never been tempted to buy a Featherweight because Becky Ketherweight is so versatile (and that part where I can take care of her with minimal tools and less know-how). Add the feed dog feature, plus the fold out 'table' at the end of the arm (how could you forget that? did I miss it?) and you have my one true love. A full free arm would have been nice, but the bed is not so deep as to be a real problem. The tool tray doesn't bug me. I should put a sticker on the outside of the 'top' half of the clamshell case, because I forget which side is which when I try to open it. That's exciting.

      The down side (and this is the real problem): the bobbin winder peg only fits older bobbins. That mishmash of "Maybe 15" "Bernina-kinda" "Elna-Related" bobbins that I have acquired won't fit on it. Mostly it's the thickness of the metal of the central tube in the newer bobbins that kills the deal. And it's a real killer unless I have brought every prewound bobbin I own with me (and those separate bobbin winders are so underpowered). I do try to keep the ones that fit in the tool tray. So Becky Ketherweight stays home. Then again, mostly so do I. And I think she's going to pitch in today on those patio cushions I'm working on. Thanks for the reminder!

      I got to your blog searching for more info on her, and I stayed. So I'm taking this opportunity to thank you for your research, your work, your kind heart. Always happy to read your thinking.

    6. Linked to this post from my blog

    7. Wonderful blog piece. Another piece of the 1050 in addition to the internal tension is the internal variable adjustment of the presser foot regulator. A wheel like you see on the Singer 401 and 500 models. I love this article. Barbara


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