built for buttonholes.....

The Kenmore 1410 sewing machine was literally built for making buttonholes.

It's an all metal machine with a metal cam stack.  Having used Kenmore machine built a few years earlier and a few years after this line I'm willing to say these could be the best (vintage) machine to carry the Kenmore brand.
A healthy 1.2 amp  motor and cogged belt make this machine sew with a purpose that easily feels like it could handle most anything you might throw at it.  Standard and reliable class 15 bobbin means you'll have to ability to pick up replacements cheap and easily just about anywhere.  It does all the stitches you need and none of the fluff you may never use.  Instead of cast iron and extremely heavy this machine is made from aluminum and only regular heavy.  I can lift it with one hand and not feel like my arm is being pulled from it's socket.

Someone left a comment on a post I did a while back on buttonholer attachments mentioning that she had a machine that activated the attachment from under the bed instead of using the needle bar like most attachments do.  The problem with the needle bar activating the buttonholer mechanism is that the thickness of the fabric plays a roll in how far the needle bar will move the attachment.  Doing buttonholes in the unevenly thick waistband of a pair of jeans causes all sorts of problems.  I can't even tell you how many waistband buttonholes I've mangled.  Anyway...  her comment jogged my memory and I remembered that we happen to have not one but two of these machines at the school in the closet sitting unused after we switched to computerized machines.  Great!  I'll grab one of those and see how it works!  

You can see the lever on the right side of this photo, this moves back and forth activating the underside of the special bobbin cover plate.  On top of that plate is a gear that turns inside the buttonhole template.  The machine is capable of five sizes of the standard buttonhole.  Simply turn the dial to select which size you're looking for.  The beauty of this setup is that the mechanism works the same no matter the thickness of fabric.  No slipping or binding, just absolutely reliable movement.  The disadvantages are the limited buttonhole styles (no keyhole or eyelets), no ability to make the hole wider in the middle, and no control over stitch length.  The only thing you can control the width of the sides using the machines zigzag control and that's it.

Here's a very short demo of the attachment at work:

I also did a longer more in depth video showing a regular zigzag type attachment with a demo of this attachment after.  It's hard to tell the difference between attachments by comparing the finished stitches.  I don't mind keeping a machine just to do buttonholes.  The Pfaff 2030 does a pretty nice job on two layers of denim such as you'd find in the button fly opening but it creates a total mess of the waistband.  Often times I'll end up just doing them manually with a zigzag stitch.  Yeah, I have other machines I can pull out of storage to do buttonholes with the attachments but it comes down to being too lazy to set them up.

Speaking of having additional machines set up for specific tasks I ran across some videos of a guy who's pretty serious about making jeans.  His brand is Roy Denim and from what I understand he's only been doing it for a short time.  What's remarkable to me about these videos is how many specialized machines he puts into use to make one pair of jeans.  It makes it clear why sewing a pair of authentic jeans at home even with three or four "regular" machines to use still takes upwards of 8 hours.  I'm not sure if he mentions how long the process from start to finish takes him.  It seems really quick.

Roy's Jeans - Video by Self Edge from Self Edge on Vimeo.

Roy jeans sell for $275 but seem to be all sold out (except for really small sizes).  I wonder if the reality of running one's own sweat shop has lost a bit of it's magic.  The truth is that you just can't compete with overseas labor and when you do find success it could very well turn out to be your own private hell.  Do you really want to be sewing 6 pairs of jeans a day?  Granted 6 @ $137 (assuming he's selling wholesale to the retailer) is $825.  Times five days a week is $4125 for a monthly take of $16,500.  Even sewing half that at three pairs a day is pretty darn good business.  If he sold direct he could pocket the same with half the sales.  I suppose my point is that he's able to be productive because of all his specialized equipment.  Notice also that none of which is new.  Industrial equipment will last for a very long time and there are amazing deals to be had on the used market.  If you like the idea of a better way to cut out your fabric stay tuned, I've got a great  tool I'll be introducing soon.  I hardly ever pick up my rotary cutter these days and I don't miss it one bit!

Anyway, here's the longer Kenmore 1410 video bringing me one step closer to my own private sweat shop...

12 comments :: built for buttonholes.....

  1. Welcome back!

    I missed you, and I'm excited to hear about this mysterious cutting tool.

  2. Roy is fascinating and I really like your buttonholer. I always learn a lot from your videos. Thanks.

  3. Thanks so much for that post on that Kenmore beast.
    i picked up a grumpy 1756 at a thrift store recently hoping for something more versatile then my featherweight for leather/denim. while it needs to be fixed i am in love with the design and power it had. now that I have seen the button hole attachment in action i have new motivation to get it repaired or replaced.

  4. Oh, I saw a Kenmore buttonhole attachment like that at the thrift store, a couple of months ago, and I almost bought it. At the time, I couldn't figure out what it was. (It was in a sealed container.) So I decided to leave it there. Now I know what it is, so if I ever see it again, I'll look around for a matching Kenmore machine.

    I can't wait to hear about the better cutting method. I've pretty much used a rotary cutter since I started machine-sewing.

  5. Hi Brian, good to see a post from you. That machine looks quite handy. I just did a post last month on buttonholes with my Singer Slant Needles which use the buttonhole attachment and does a fantastic job.

    I will be very interested to see a new cutting tool!

  6. I LOVED this! I've always been a fan of the 158 series Kenmores, and used to have one myself (so regret selling it). My Kenmore outperformed my Bernina 930, and cost so, so much less. Brian, I really appreciate your thoughtful blog.

  7. I have the Kenmore 1410 as well. You might like to know that the buttonhole attachment for the Kenmore 1803 will fit this machine. It has about 15 buttonholes including an eyelet. They are on eBay regularly for a reasonable price.

  8. I've scouted ebay and I DO see some other Kenmore buttonhole attachments like this one however they're slightly different. Since they almost never include the model number of machine they went to I suppose the only way to know is to try them. If anyone has any photos they could email me or more info on their attachments that would be awesome!

  9. http://home-and-garden.webshots.com/photo/2984302170037885390IIpjFa

    Here is a picture. I don't see the exact thing on eBay at the moment. There are a bunch that look similar but have a Q foot, which my 1803 accessories did not come with.

    Oddly, I saw some still for sale on searspartsdirect.com a while back. The model number you want to look up is 158.1803. There are some sub-model numbers and it might be under one of those. The site is down right now or I would check.

  10. http://www.searspartsdirect.com/partsdirect/part-model/Kenmore-Parts/All-Products-Parts/Model-15818034/0582/1200000/00002380/00009?blt=06&prst=&shdMod=

    According to this you can just buy the buttonhole accessory box brand new from Sears. It is #23 on the page.

  11. Esther! That's awesome.... I'm going to scope out ebay for a bit and if I can't find one $45 isn't a bad deal for a new one!


  12. You're welcome!

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