How to Troubleshoot a Kenmore 385 Sewing Machine

Updated February 21, 2017

The Sears Corporation makes a variety of sewing machines under the Kenmore brand name. One of the most popular of these machine is the model 385. This model is both sturdy and economical and can be found in many households throughout the United States. Although these are well-made sewing machines, there will be times when your 385 isn't working as well as it used to. Because the model 385 sewing machine is a mechanical, rather than computerised, machine, you can often troubleshoot and repair small issues yourself.

Remove the upper thread spool completely from the machine, making sure to inspect the machine for any stray thread pieces that may be stuck in the thread guides, needle eye or tension knob. Very often, an improperly threaded machine is the root cause for many sewing machine problems such as skipped stitches or tangled threads.

Remove the bobbin and bobbin case completely. Clean underneath the bobbin case with the lint brush, being sure to carefully remove any excess lint that may be catching threads and causing thread jams. Place a drop of oil on the bobbin case. Replace the bobbin case and bobbin and rethread the upper machine. Install the bobbin correctly and thread the machine according to the instructions in the owner's manual. Sew a line of stitches on the scrap fabric to see if your problem has been resolved.

Check the tension dial if the problem is still evident in the scrap fabric line of stitches. Set the tension dial to its neutral setting (usually a 3 or 4), and sew a line of test stitches on your scrap fabric. Adjust the tension up slowly, sewing a line of test stitches after each adjustment to see if it corrects the issue. If it does, stop and keep that tension setting. If it does not, slowly adjust the tension setting down, sewing a line of test stitches after each adjustment to see if it corrects the issue.

Change the sewing needle. Missed or skipped stitches, tangled or broken thread or puckered fabric can often be attributed to a dull sewing needle or a needle that is the wrong size for fabric you are using. Simply changing the needle to a fresh, sharp needle or a needle that is the appropriate size for your fabric can correct the problem. Consult the owner's manual for the correct needle sizes for your specific machine.


Troubleshooting simple issues yourself can save you time and money; however, never try to diagnose or repair any issue that isn't covered in the owner's manual. Always take your sewing machine into an reputable sewing machine repair shop for major repairs.

Things You'll Need

  • Lint brush
  • Scrap fabric
  • Sewing machine needle
  • Sewing machine oil
  • Owner's manual
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About the Author

Based in the Pacific Northwest, Arin Bodden started writing professionally in 2003. Her writing has been featured in "Northwest Boulevard" and "Mermaids." She received the Huston Medal in English in 2005. Bodden has a Master of Arts in English from Eastern Washington University. She currently teaches English composition and technical writing at the university level.