If you know anything about sewing machines, you have undoubtedly heard of the Japanese company Janome. Today, Janome ranks with some of the best sewing machine brands in the world, but what about the company’s older models? The story of old Janome sewing machine models, history, and value is an interesting one!
Yosaku Ose founded what would become the Janome sewing machine company in the 1920s. Janome made a name for itself with sewing machine innovations such as the first round bobbin. Janome purchased the New Home company and also produced Kenmore sewing machines for Sear to gain a footing in the United States.
In this article, you will learn where Janome sewing machines came from. You will discover some of the most popular old Janome models from the 20th century. Finally, you will find methods to help you date an old Janome sewing machine model.
History of Janome Sewing Machines
In 1921, a brilliant inventor named Yosako Ose changed how sewing machines operate by designing a round bobbin. Before that, most sewing machines used an oblong bobbin or shuttle system that did not operate as smoothly or as quickly as the new round bobbin. Ose started a sewing machine manufacturing company called Pine at the time.
The cool round bobbin looked so much like a snake eye that people soon began referring to these sewing machines as “Janome,” which means “eye of the snake” in Japanese! Pronounced “Jah-No-Mey,” this became the official name of the company in 1954.
The company grew enough to build a real manufacturing plant in 1936, but unfortunately, the Pine/Janome company struggled through two world wars before truly finding its footing. Most likely the factories and/or materials used for sewing machines got co-opted into the war effort at various points during both global conflicts. Little is known today about the sewing machines made between 1921 and 1954 because of this.
The end of World War II led to a massive boom in the Japanese sewing machine industry. This happened partly because of innovative companies like Janome and because the Allied nations sought to turn Japanese war industries into more domestic purposes. Whatever the reason, this explosion in sewing machine demand gave Janome a great chance to thrive once more.
In 1960, Janome expanded its growing reach by breaking into the US market. The company bought out a struggling American sewing machine brand called New Home. For a while, Janome made the machines sold under the New Home brand.
This boost gave the company the means to open a research facility designed exclusively to create sewing machine innovations in 1964.
Then, in 1965 the company won the bid to manufacture sewing machines for Sears. At the time, this was a huge deal! Sears Roebuck remained one of the biggest retailers in the United States for over a century. Sears would buy machines made by other companies and apply the Sear badge or brand.
Sears sold the Japanese–made machines under the Kenmore brand. This meant that this opportunity did not promote the Janome brand. But it did give the company a massive market and a strong footing in the United States.
By the 1970s and 1980s, Janome had such a great reputation that the company sold most of its machines under its own brand name worldwide. The company continued to develop creative sewing machine innovations, including producing the first programmable sewing machine in 1979.
Today, Janome Sewing Machine Co., Ltd has manufacturing plants on multiple continents. The famous research center continues to operate and now uses specially designed robots to build intricate sewing machine parts. The company recently bought out the Swiss manufacturer Elna to make a move on the European sewing machine market, too!
Many excellent sewing machine companies saw a golden era in the 20th century but slowly died away in the computerized era of the 21st century. Janome, in contrast, is still going strong today! The company continues to offer innovative, high-tech, highly regarded sewing machines around the world today.
Old Janome Sewing Machine Models
Old Janome sewing machines can range in age from the 1920s through about the 1970s, after which the machines are considered new rather than vintage. That said, many Janome machines made before the 1970s sold under another brand name, such as New Home or Kenmore. This can make tracking down old Janome machines quite tricky!
While not a comprehensive list of all vintage Janome models, this chart will give you an idea of the broad range of machines the company made over the years.
|Sewing Machine Model||Year of Production|
|Pine 500 Model 53 Hand crank||1921|
|Pine 100 Model 30 Vertical half-turn shuttle||1929|
|Household HA1 Type Model 102||1948|
|Janome Model 320||1954|
|Janome Model 560 first fully automatic zigzag machine||1961|
|Janome Model 670||1964|
|New Home 532||1960s|
|Janome Model 801||1971|
|New Home Super Automatic Model 702||1970s|
|Kenmore 385.1884180||Late 1970s|
|Janome Memory 7||1979|
|Kenmore 385.17620||Early 1980s|
|Janome Memory Craft 6000||1983|
|Janome Memory Craft 8000||1990|
Vintage Janome Models
Most of the earliest Janome models came out of the Koganei factory that opened in Takinogawa Japan in 1936. The Koganei plant was the first factory dedicated just to manufacturing sewing machines in all of Japan! Most of these models bore the earlier company name of Pine.
We know that a variety of Pine models sold at the time because they made waves with their iconic round bobbin. Beyond that, it’s quite difficult to find any information. You are also unlikely to get your hands on an authentic Pine model, at least in the United States.
The Pine 500 models are an example of the type of machine the company made during this era. These models used solid metal and had a hand crank rather than electric power. They featured the special round bobbin designed by Janome’s founder.
Janome New Home Models
Janome bought out a struggling New England sewing machine company called New Home in 1960. This allowed the Japanese company to get a strong foothold in the American market. However, Janome sold their machines under the New Home brand at the time.
One of the popular Janome-made New Home models released in the 1960s was the New Home 532 Model. This machine featured a knee control option and adjustable feed dogs. It came equipped with both straight stitch and a zigzag option.
The New Home Deluxe Model 534 debuted in the late 1960s. Some of these models came in a fun 60s avocado green color! This machine offered the expected straight and zigzag stitch, but it also can accept cams to make other decorative stitching patterns.
The New Home Super Automatic Model 702 came out in the 1970s. This model often came in a charming color scheme of turquoise, white, and cream metal. This model had many automatic stitching options to choose from, including blind stitch and stretch stitch. At the time, stretch stitch had only just emerged as a method of sewing on knit fabrics.
When you search online for Janome New Home models today, you will get a lot of responses about the current line of New Home models. The company has continued to offer the New Home brand, including several very nice quilting machines!
Janome Kenmore Models
In 1965, Janome won the contract to manufacture sewing machines for the retail titan Sears Roebuck. This meant that Janome made the sewing machines in Japan, shipped them overseas to the States, and allowed Sears to re-brand the machines with the Kenmore name. Sears then proceeded to sell the Kenmore machines all over the country.
This process, known as “badging” sewing machines, was quite common. Several big-name brands sold sewing machines actually made in Japan under their own brand names during the 20th century.
Janome made approximately 25 Kenmore models. Janome actually made any Kenmore machine that has a model number beginning with 385! These models range in age from 1965 to 1987.
Besides the 385 model number, you can also look for the letters “JA” or the phrase “Made in Japan” on these Kenmore models.
Kenmore models as a whole have a decent but not great reputation. That said, many modern sewers love the mid-century 385 Kenmore models.
The Kenmore 385.1884180 model, also known as the “30 Stitch,” offers a look at Janome’s classic rotary hook system that operates smoothly and quietly. It also features automatic decorative stitches at the turn of a knob. Sears sold this machine during the late 1970s.
The Kenmore 385.17620 probably sold during the late 1970s-1980s. It has the exciting stretch stitch options that so many modern sewers want for knit fabrics. It reads “made in Taiwan” with the serial number, indicating that Janome started making this model after opening its plant in Taiwan in 1969.
Janome in the 1970s and 1980s
Janome continued to launch new sewing machine concepts during the 70s and 80s, including using a vacuum caster to make some parts quickly and efficiently. By this point, the company had a great reputation and could more easily sell sewing machines under its own brand name in the global market.
Two of the most famous Janome-branded machines from this era include the Memory Craft 6000 and the Memory Craft 8000.
The Memory Craft 6000 came out in 1983. It offered more built-in stitching patterns than any other sewing machine ever at the time! It also used some basic computer programming, a fairly new concept in the early 80s.
The 1990 release of the Memory Craft 8000 marked the first sale of a home-use computerized embroidery machine. Today all embroidery machines use computers to create intricate stitching. We have that option now, thanks to the innovations Janome made!
Old Janome Sewing Machines Value
Old Janome sewing machines can cost anywhere from $20 to over $500, depending on the model, age, and condition. That said, by and large, vintage Janome machines do not have a huge collector’s market. Instead, these old sewing machines keep selling because of modern sewers like these machines for actual sewing today!
Most Janome-made machines manufactured before 1970 contain solid metal parts and have a reputation for smooth, quiet stitching. They often weigh a lot, but they run forever with few issues!
The complexity of finding a Janome-made machine that may bear another brand adds to the challenge of determining value. For example, old Kenmore machines often sell for as little as $100, so you may find a Janome-made Kenmore at low cost.
Of course, new Janome machines often come with quite a hefty price tag. They can deservedly charge a high price due to the advanced technology and precision workmanship in these machines!
How Do I Find Out How Old My Janome Sewing Machine Is?
You can use several different methods to at least roughly date your old Janome sewing machine, including using the model number or taking your machine to an expert.
First, you need to locate the model and serial number on your machine. Usually, you can find this info on a sticker attached to the machine near the power cord. In some cases, you may find it stamped into the base of the machine instead.
This gives you important information. In some cases, you may find your model number listed on Janome’s “retired sewing machine models” website, which you can browse here. This list typically only covers pretty recent models, though.
As a next step, try Googling the model number. You may get lucky and find that someone has posted about the same model! If not, you can reach out to an online sewing discussion forum and ask for feedback. Probably another sewer out there has the same old Janome model as you!
Another option is to take your machine to an expert. Try visiting a Janome dealership or an antique store that deals in sewing machines. Ask the experts if they can estimate the age of the machine based on its style and features.
Finally, keep in mind that Janome made New Home machines starting in 1965, so that gives you a baseline for dating those models. The Kenmore 385 models made by Janome can range in age from 1965 to the late 1980s.
Old Janome Sewing Machine Manuals
Your Janome sewing machine manual will give you vital information on how to set up and operate all the functions in the machine. When you buy a new sewing machine, this booklet comes with it. If you came by your machine second-hand, it might not have its manual.
In this case, you can start by checking out Janome’s retired sewing machine manual free download page, located here.
If you need a Kenmore 385 manual or a New Home manual, you can try reaching out to fellow sewers on an online forum to get your hands on a free manual. You can also purchase old manuals from places like eBay and Etsy for as little as $10. This method works great if you’re in a hurry and want an instant download!
If you have some experience sewing, you will likely find vintage Janome models pretty accessible. Despite that, you should still read the manual before embarking on your vintage sewing adventure!
Many old Janome models come with cool functions like adjustable feed dogs to allow free-hand sewing or even knee control. Since not every machine has such options, you might need instructions to help you out!
How to Thread an Old Janome Sewing Machine
Most vintage sewing machines, including old Janome sewing machines, have a pretty basic thread path that lets you thread the machine in just a few steps. That said, some old Janome models do have a different look and different functions, so you should always refer to your sewing machine manual to learn how to thread your particular model correctly!
In most cases, you can follow these steps to thread an old Janome sewing machine:
- First, slot a spool of thread onto the spool pin. If you have a machine with a vertical spool pin, you should use a small felt circle beneath the spool. For the more common horizontal spool pin, make sure you use a cap on the end of the pin to keep the thread from flying off as you sew!
- Next, turn the handwheel toward you. You will see the needle move up as you do this. Turn slowly until the needle does not rise anymore.
- Raise the presser foot, allowing the thread to slide into the tension discs as you thread the machine.
- Locate the thread guide on the top of the machine. This often looks like a metal hook. Loop the thread behind the guide.
- Next, look for the thread guide closer to the top front of the machine. Loop the thread behind that as well.
- Now you need to drop the thread down and then back up, looping it around the thread guides on the front of the arm over the needle. This places the thread in the tension discs.
- You will see a metal hook sticking up to the left of the tension assembly. Loop the thread over this and then drop it down to the needle.
- Run the thread behind the thread guide beside the needle.
- Thread the needle.
And there you go! You should run a few sample stitches to make sure you got the thread path set correctly. You may also need to adjust the upper tension to ensure smooth, even stitching.
How Do You Service an Old Janome Sewing Machine?
You can perform basic maintenance on an old Janome sewing machine yourself to keep it in good condition, but you may also want to consider a professional technician if you run into any major issues.
You can easily remove all the dust from your old Janome machine yourself. Just find a soft, clean brush and remove all lint from beneath the needle plate, around the bobbin, and in the thread path.
You can also oil your machine as necessary, though you will want to read your manual to find out if you should apply oil or not.
Make sure you replace the needle frequently as you sew. This keeps your projects looking nicer and helps you avoid scratches and dings in the metal of the sewing machine.
Even if you take excellent care of your machine, you may occasionally come up against an electrical issue or a burnt-out motor. In these cases, you probably need expert help!
Sewing machine technicians charge either by the hour or by the type of repair, but even getting your machine, a basic tune-up usually costs around $100. This is because these technicians have specialized skills you can’t find anywhere else!
This begs the question of whether or not your vintage Janome machine is worth fixing. This depends on many factors, but most of the time, the answer is yes!
Older Janome models typically have solid metal parts fitted together with careful precision. This means that they will last a very long time without losing any quality of stitching.
Of course, vintage sewing machines do not always offer all the fancy computerized things you get with a modern machine. So you also have to decide what kind of functions you need before determining whether or not it is cost-effective to repair your old Janome machine.
The Janome Sewing Machine Company started in 1921 Japan when Yosako Ose designed a new type of bobbin and began selling sewing machines. In the 20th century, Janome bought an American company called New Home and produced New Home machines for several decades. Janome also made all of the Sear’s Kenmore models in the 385 line.
Old Janome sewing machines have a reputation for durability and smooth, quiet sewing. Today, Janome ranks as one of the best sewing machine manufacturers in the world and continues to produce new sewing machine technology.
Have you ever used an old Janome sewing machine? What did you think of it? Leave a comment below to let us know!