27 May 2008

Kids' sewing machines? Talk amongst yourselves.

Amazon: Alex Toys Sew FunI don't sew. And yet I shortened the curtains hanging in my son's bedroom the other day. How? With my 70's-era toy Singer Touch & Sew sewing machine -- a gift I got from a neighbor when I was 8 or 9.

The Touch & Sew was marketed as a toy, but it's a real, working sewing machine -- it sews a straight stitch with the help of a hand crank. That thing has come in handy for all sorts of simple repairs and projects over the years.

As you can imagine, my five year-old daughter went nuts when she saw me using a miniature sewing machine. She's been sewing with her grandmother for a while (thank goodness SOMEONE'S passing along some domestic skills) -- this little sewing machine could be the start of a beautiful hobby for her.

Singer doesn't make the Touch & Sew anymore, but I did find this nifty Sew Fun sewing machine (above, with the pink knobs). I also see that the Euro-Pro Shark Sewing Center appears in the Amazon Kitchen and Home sale for $19.99 (60% off the usual $49.99 price tag).

Has anyone tried either of these sewing machines? Or can you recommend another model I haven't mentioned here?

Related: How to teach your kid to use a sewing machine

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I had a different Euro-Pro one, and it was horrible. When it sewed, it was either full-speed ahead or no-go. That made anything that wasn't a straight line virtually impossible. Spring for a foot pedal, and your little sewer will thank you.

Don't do it! Don't buy the cheap "kid" machines. We had one and it bucked and bounced so much, I feared for my daughter's fingers. I tossed it and bought a low end Brother (on Overstock.com, refurbished) for less than $100. It has a slow setting for small people which has been great. I've been vigilant in conveying the "grandma sewed right through her finger and had to go to the ER" story and she's naturally cautious so it's been fine. That being said, I would not offer this machine to less rule-abiding types or my son, no matter his age. My daughter (age 8) has been churning out scarfs and pillowcases ever since. Hello etsy!
:-)

We found one at Sears at Christmas time that works okay for our 9-year old. http://tinyurl.com/4xxspv

I say let 'em sew - after all, they're not going to end up with a life threatening injury from a sewing machine.

Don't buy the Sew Fun! We have it and it's a piece of junk!!!!

It's easier to let my kids use my full-sized sewing machine than try to use that thing.

Like a previous poster mentioned it's better to buy a cheap "real" sewing machine.

Thank you all for the comments. My old Singer is about 30 years old and works perfectly, but then, I never used the batteries. I just hand-cranked the thing. I was hoping (optimistically) for the same sort of quality in new machines.

I bought a miniature sewing machine when I lived in a trailer and did not trust the floor in it with my treadle sewing machine. I hated the coarse foot pedal control compared to a regular sewing machine and gave it away after one project.

I grew up around sewing machines and began using one with adult supervision around age 7 or 8, graduating to unsupervised use at 11. My seven-year-old daughter has been learning the basics on the same 1970s Singer machine I did and it will be her first machine one of these days. (Right now it lives at her grandparents' and she uses our home machine during the school year.)

We've gotten a lot of mileage out of the major pattern brands' 18-inch doll clothing patterns. They're easier for beginning sewers than 11.5" fashion doll clothing patterns and make great handmade gifts for her playmates with 18" dolls.

I have heard that the Hello Kitty machine sold by Target is a good one. I think it is made by Janome, which is the brand of the "real" machine I have and it's sturdy and reliable.

I have heard that the Hello Kitty machine sold by Target is a good one. I think it is made by Janome, which is the brand of the "real" machine I have and it's sturdy and reliable.

I second the Janome recommendation. You should check out Pattern Review's website, because there are some reviews on it and other machines in this range (positive and negative) and a quick search for reviews will bring up some more. I think the Hello Kitty one is still a little pricey, though.

My daughter was given a Kenmore mini ultra sewing machine. It's worked well for her. Apparently they're discontinued, but it looks like you can still buy them online.

I agree witht the commentors who advised you to avoid the toy machines. Real machines are a lot less frustration inducing.

If you purchase a machine that you want a child to be able to use there are 3 features that I think are important.
Firstly, that it has a speed control so that you can slow the stitch speed right down form little learners.
Secondly, that it WILL NOT sew if the presser foot is UP - this goes a long way to preventing accidents of the "I just sewed through my finger" variety.
Thirdly, It is very handy for any sewer to have a "needle down" button on the machine. This allows you to stop mid-seam, and know that the needle will be down, so that you can turn the fabric, or take out a pin, and you know your fabric won't slip from it's proper place, and you can keep going with no evidence that you ever stopped.

Hope this helps.

that It has a button that allows you to stop and have the machine make sure you have stopped with the needle down.

I agree with everyone above that it's better to buy a less expensive "real" sewing machine as a starter than a kiddie one that'll be outgrown.

I know I've seen that Hello Kitty one that's been mentioned at Target on clearance, but they also have good entry level Singer machines for around $100.

Also, JoAnn has a really big selection of sewing machines; their sales flyer in the Sunday paper has a 40% off coupon so you can either get an entry level machine for nearly half off, or upgrade slightly and still stay in the entry level price range.

The Hello Kitty machine is here:

http://tinyurl.com/3fqne7

It's actually gone up $10 since I was looking at it in the fall. There used to be a blue one that was only about $70, but it didn't have as many functions. I would have gladly killed for either of them when I was about 11 and Hello Kitty.

That said, I was sewing on my grandmother's Singer (probably from the 1940s) by the time I was 8 or 9, and on my mother's horrid 1970s Touch & Sew (the full-sized one, not the kid-sized one) by about 5th grade.

The main issue in introducing a child to sewing on an adult machine might be speed: I remember taking a sewing class in Campfire Girls in 5th grade, and the fast industrial machines in the classroom could have taken a finger or two off if you weren't paying attention.

I'm a big believer in teaching kids to sew on basic but good sturdy machines. There are a lot of kids sewing machines like the Sew Fun but they really don't seem to be made very strong. If you are going to teach them to sew they minds well learn from a machine they can grow up with.
Here is a page that discuss kids sewing machines and which ones they reccommend.
http://www.kids-sewing-projects.com/kids-sewing-machine.html

I thought I remembered a good review of the Hello Kitty machine on the CRAFTzine blog, but turns out that people say it is no good: http://blog.craftzine.com/archive/2007/08/brother_cs6000_good_beginner_s.html
I have no expereince in this, but I agree with people who suggest getting a regular machine. I learned to sew on my mom's late '40s or early '50s Singer Featherweight. As long as I didn't depress the pedal too much, speed wasn't an issue. The same would be the true for my Pfaff, so we'll see when my son gets older how that goes.

Definately go with a regular machine rather then the toy one. We just got a regular portable/small machine for my daughter.

When we looked for the machine we ran into some grandmothers who had bought the toy machines for their grandaughters and they said the toy machines had broken within hours just trying to sew regular fabric. They had ended up replacing the toy machines with real ones.

I asked for (and received) a sewing machine with lessons for my 10th birthday. My parents got me a regular old Singer (probably a mid-low model), and it was great (and is still going strong). It seemed to skip a generation in my family too - my grandfather sewed (and had a clothing business) but my mom and uncles hated it. I wonder what my kids will do...

Just wanted to quickly point out that the Hello Kitty machine comes in 1/2 and 3/4 sizes. Each size is a different color, I think. Perhaps that makes a difference in performance? The reviews I read were for the larger machine, the green one.
And if you think a finger might actually get sewn through, you might want to get a tetanus booster!

I have the Janome Jem, which is one of Janome's 3/4 size machines. It can be controlled either with the foot pedal, or by a "go/stop" button with speed control ranging from super slow to pretty fast. This is great for the little ones who haven't done much driving yet, and don't have foot pedal control :) My nephew, now 7, has used this machine for a couple years now, when he has a few minutes between crashing Hot Wheels, so I think it is great for kids. The best part is, this is a real machine which I enjoy using. It is a great everyday machine for clothes and quilt piecing. It can also be easily carried to quilt classes or sewing lessons!

Got a great buy on 3/4 sized Singer models that were discontinued b/c of color and bought one for my 8 year old and one for my 9 year old... they've had a blast making clothes for their dolls and pillowcases and skirts for themselves! I went back to the store and bought the last one in stock for my niece!

my daughter discovered my toy Singer when she was about 9, about the age I was when I received it. A few weeks later, she begged to be taken to the store for cloth, and had specific measurment requirements. She would NOT tell us what it was for, and it was her money, so whatever. For the next week, we heard ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk coming from her room, occaisionally interrupted by screams at her sister to get out and stop looking!!

Finally, she asked if she could use here bedspread for something. Distracted, I just said yes.

She cut it and used it for the back of the quilt she had made. She made a quilt, all by herself. All these years later, I am still amazed.

For the record, it was a variation on a simple 9 square block. Find equal amounts of 4 different fabrics. cut them in long strips, sew the strips together so you have a long strip of 4. Cut that in 9 pieces, place out in 3x3 rows to form a square. twist and turn so that strips go different directions and same fabrics aren't against each other to often. begin sewing those together. usually you would do this with the strips being quite small, and each of these completed blocks might be 9 or 12 inches wide. Hers was 9 big blocks of very wide strips. wide enough to cover her, but not long enough to cover the whole bed. A good size as a 'throw' on the sofa, which she still uses it for to this day.

All very clever, for a 9 year old. I wasn't too happy though, at her cutting up one of the matched set of bedspreads in their room. But it was hard to stay mad when I was so friggin' impressed. I've never made a quilt!

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