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What’s wrong with a Kenmore?

cindyfig | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on

I have an old Singer (over 25 years old), but it wasn’t any big deal because I hardly ever sewed after college.  Well, now I’ve got it into my head to make a special quilt for my folks’ 50th wedding anniversary, and I’ve decided to buy a sewing machine that will last me the rest of my life.

Consumer Reports had a 9/02 article on sewing machines.  They only test a few machines, and there’s no comments made on reliability/service.  The machine they gave very high marks was the Kenmore 19365, a computerized machine with automatic buttonholes (I always hate buttonholes), etc, and drop in bobbins and just about everything that all the articles I’ve read say you want in a machine.  At a $700-800 price, it’s within the price range I set for myself.  Consumer reports gave this machine they’re “Best Buy” designation.

However, I’ve heard murmerings that Kenmores are unreliable, break down a lot, and taking them to a Sears store to be fixed  –  well, you would grow a beard waiting for the machine to be returned because they ship all repairs out to Mongolia.

I know that when we talked to our washing machine repairman, who’s been in the business for 30 years, he said that Kenmores used to have a very solid reputation, but now their quality is at the bottom of the barrell.

So, who out there has experience with Kenmores and can offer an opinion, positive or negative?  Incidentally, this is my first message board posting anywhere on any site, and I’m feeling very “with it”!!



  1. GinnaS | | #1

    I am a Sears employee who sells refrigerators but have helped out in the sewing machine department because I sew.  I don't have a Sears sewing machine but would have no problem buying one.  I own a Janome and the current Sears machines are made by Janome.  They are as reliable as any other Janome.  The differences are cosmetic.

    Sears does offer Protection Agreements to cover the machines in the case of breakdown.  Yes, they do cost more but compare the total price of machine and maintenance to the cost of a comparable Janome.  Sears should be much less.

    As far as repairs are concerned I am only knowedgeable about the Dallas, TX, area.  Here you would take your machine to a service center, not one of the stores, and they then ship it to a central repair center.  Total repair time for my microwave was one week.  Repair times increase when parts are not available from the manufacturer or there are many machines in for repair.

    I can't believe that the repairman told you that.  The items sold under the Kenmore label are manufactured by various companies.  For example, Kenmore refrigerators are manufactured by Whirlpool, Frigidaire, and Amana.  Per Consumer reports Whirlpool, KitchenAid and Kenmore have the best repair rates of all brands of refrigerators.  This definitely contradicts what you were told.  In fact Whirlpool products, including those Kenmores made by Whirlpool, are considered the best made of all appliances right now.   Many of the Kenmore washers and dryers are also made by Whirlpool.

    As far as the sewing machine is concerned it all comes down to who the manufacturer of the product is.  Since Janome makes the Kenmore sewing machines I don't think you have anything to worry about.



    1. rjf | | #2

      I was given a used Kenmore back in the dawn of time and was quite happy with it until zig-zag was discovered.  It never needed repair but that doesn't speak to today's machines.  But if Consumer's recommends it, I would be trusting.  Just one thing..........do you suppose it's better to buy a machine made on Wednesday?      rjf

      1. JInteriors | | #3

        I have a mechanical kenmore I bought in 1990. It has 100 stitches and has never seen the

        inside of a repair shop. I used to do custom dressmaking for people and used it more than was recommended for domestic sewing machine.

        I am saying that as far as I know, Kenmore is a good brand of sewing machine.

        Have a nice weekend all!

        Justine in Dallas, Texas.

        1. rjf | | #4

          I guess there would be a recommended amount of use for a home sewing machine but I wonder what it would be.  It seems more likely they might recommend NOT making tents or parachutes or sails for boats.  I used a commercial machine when I sewed for the local summer theater.  That thing would go through sheet metal!  It was the only machine I've used that stopped with the needle up.  Now there's a great invention!                                           rjf

          1. nurdot | | #9

            I disagree. I would love a machine that would always stop with the needle down, since I'm usually in a turning situation. Hasn't any manufacturer ever thought of that??

          2. rjf | | #11

            Well, I hadn't thought of that situation. So now we want machines that will stop up or down depending.........   Somebody should be able to invent that.       rjf

          3. nurdot | | #12

            Sure...with voice commands: "stop up", "stop down". Sounds like a great idea!

          4. sewshable1 | | #13

            Most (All?) of the TOL machines have a needle up/down feature-you can check this at their sites- And quite a few of the Midline machines-even a few mechanical ones have this feature now too- A button determines whether the needle will stop in the up position- or in the down- you can check some of these machines at Allbrands.com-they give pretty complete lists of features on machines they stock (NAYY)

          5. nurdot | | #14

            Thanks for the info. I never knew that there was an up/down option. I will DEFINITELY look into it.

          6. dovid619 | | #15

            You are all sooo funny.  I am still using my Kenmore that I bought in 1983! It was the basic model...never had a problem, but of course never made a button hole,,,LOL..Today I went looking for a new machine... I think I want the Bernina 135...I do some quilting and make lots of baby things....wow, maybe I should look at the new Kenmore...I wanted a big girl machine...

          7. bethcohen | | #18

            I'm looking at the Bernina 135 and the Viking 425.  I think they're very similar.  Did you end up buying the Bernina?  The Viking is $799.00 and the Bernina is $999.00 at the places I'm looking.  I'm not sure if these prices are "good deals" or not. 

          8. dovid619 | | #19

            HI   I bought the Bernia 135, here in PA it was only $850 total....you should call Danners in Hanover for a better price...

    2. cindyfig | | #5

      I really appreciate your posting (and the others who posted answers).  I have seen lots of good comments about Janomes, so that makes me feel better.

      The real negative to the Kenmore I picked out is that this is an expensive machine for a relative newbie like me.   Based on my current sewing skills, I would be spending a lot more money than I need to, as there are a lot of good machines available for around $400. 

      I know I'm never going to become a sewing pro, but I want to buy a machine that will let me do a modicum of exploring.   I subscribe to Threads and Sew News and I've got lots of ideas that I might actually try some day.  And then there's this darn quilt that I've told everyone I'm going to make.  I want to do some embellishment including free-arm embroidery quilting to make texture like tree bark, etc., and I want a machine that will know what it's doing even if I don't.

      On my side is though I'm not a natural, I'm good at reading directions!


      1. Tikiclub | | #7

        Since you're doing so much research, have you considered a used machine? Automatic buttonholes have been around for a while, so if you get a machine which is only a few years old, it should have that feature. Call around to your independent sewing shops in the area. You will also get their opinions on which machines come in most often for servicing. Just a thought.

      2. nurdot | | #10

        Yes, I understand your concern about price. What I bought was, as I said, a mid-range machine. Plus, I bought a discontinued model. Do I care if it's last year's or this year's??? My total price was under $400.00. And, as I said before, I am very happy with this machine. It does everything I need, and I have had no problems with it, other than the usual stuff that happens with any machine.

  2. peg | | #6

    My experience with Kenmore machines is 30 years old.  All the bad things you have heard happened to me.  I understand they have a different company making their machines now.

    But to answer your question currently I have to say you cannot overestimate the value of having a dealer you can count on to help with any problems.  In any machine you decide to buy pay very close attention to your local dealer.


  3. nurdot | | #8

    Cindy, I had gotten away from real sewing and bought a $129.00 Kenmore just to use for repairs and such in 1987. I am now Gramma to 3 girls so have gotten back into to sewing. 2 years ago I decided to upgrade. Did research, and ended up with a medium-range Kenmore. It only does a few decorative stitches, but does have the most wonderful buttonhole attachment....put in the button and it sews to the correct size. Now I look for patterns with buttons and not zippers!!

    One mistake I made...I opted for the 3 year service contract and haven't used it yet. Don't waste your money.

  4. OkieJan | | #16

    My experience was some years ago but may be relevant.  I am a die-hard Singer lover; have sewn everything there is -- slipcovers, suits, quilts, you name it.  After my first singer (plain no-frills), I bought a fancy Kenmore.  It NEVER worked properly.  When it literally "chewed up" the cuff of a silk blouse attempting a buttonhole, it had to go.  I have a Singer Quantum100 - about 5 years old - and I am very satisfied with it.  Oh yeah -- you can't buy a good computerized sewing machine for $800.  Good luck with your choice.

    1. carolfresia | | #17

      Re: needle-up/needle-down options: I didn't have it in my previous machine (a very basic model indeed), and do on my newer one. I became addicted to it in about...maybe 48 seconds or so. I always set it to stop needle down, so I know I'll be in the same place when I start up again. It's nice not to have to hand-crank to get the needle in place.

      I've tried a couple of those upper-level Kenmores during our sewing machine survey, and was actually quite amazed by the number of options they offer for the price. They are fun to use!


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