This is, understandably, the most frequently asked question I get as a sewing teacher! There are so many different brands, features and price points to consider when buying a sewing machine - let alone trying to establish whether or not it's appropriate for a child to use.
As a sewing teacher and parent of three, I have features that I recommend you look out for and brands that I have tried. However, do your research, read reviews and wherever possible, try them out for yourself.
Before I start though, I may as well get something off my chest - I have a strong dislike of sewing machines marketed at children. There, I said it! I have bought one in the past for my niece and I've taught lots of children how to use their own machines and therefore have experienced a large range of sewing machines over the years. With this in mind, I would never recommend one to a fellow parent.
- Affordable - you don't know if your child will enjoy sewing, so it's not a huge amount of money to lose if they don't use it. I would counterbalance this by recommending that they try a lesson first. For the same price and possibly cheaper, you will find out if sewing is something your child would like to pursue.
- Small - easy to tidy away when not being used.
- Light - easy for a child to move into position and tidy away themselves.
- Cheap - the parts are plastic and prone to breaking.
- Instructions that come with them are not especially child-friendly!
- Often difficult to thread or the thread gets caught while sewing.
- Increased frustration as things often go wrong with them. If they break, they are cheaper to replace than fix which contributes more to landfill.
- When your child gains confidence and wants to try sewing a pencil case with a zip or a pouch with a button, you cannot change the presser foot to make this easier for them.
- Noisy, angry little things!
- No speed control - reliant on the foot pedal for control.
All the children that I have taught over the years have used one of my more 'grown-up' machines or had one of their own. It may seem like a big investment, but they progress their skills and are also much safer on a more expensive machine.
If money is tight, do your research and then look for a second-hand model. Just make sure that you check it works before purchasing.
FEATURES TO CONSIDER - ESPECIALLY WHEN BUYING FOR A CHILD
The bobbin thread has two possible positions in a sewing machine: top or front-loading.
A top-loading bobbin (as pictured) has a clear cover over the top of it. They are easier to load into the sewing machine and you can see when it is running out of thread.
Front-loading bobbins are trickier to load and are hidden inside the machine itself.
RANGE OF STITCHES
If a sewing machine has a dial or feature to vary the stitch length or width, then you'll have more options for your projects.
If you can afford a machine with a one-step buttonhole, that is a bonus!
SPEED CONTROL SLIDER
If you can afford to get a higher specification, then a speed control slider is a sanity saver when sewing with your child.
Rather than relying on the pressure of their foot on the pedal (like a go-kart), the speed control slider keeps them at a steady and controlled pace throughout.
In terms of brands, Brother and Janome are the more trusted market leaders. They are widely used, reliable and have the option to buy different parts for them as your child's knowledge grows.
YOU'VE GOT THE MACHINE, NOW WHAT DO YOU NEED?!
If you would like my guide (Sew Happy: Essential Kit to Get Started) on the essential kit needed to set your child off on the right foot, then follow the link below to request the download. It contains basic kit essentials, present ideas and tips to best support your child when they get started. You will be added to my mailing list to receive further tips and project ideas to get your child started. Of course, you may unsubscribe from this list at any time by following the link at the bottom of the email.
Good luck with your search. I'd love to hear what machine you chose in the end, so please do leave a comment below.