Has your child asked to use your sewing machine? If so, you’re probably also familiar with the feeling of simultaneous heart-swelling pride (YAY! THEY LIKE SOMETHING I DO!) and the jab of a knitting needle straight through same said heart (OH DEAR LORD. NEEDLES). You’re torn. You want them to try it. And love it. But — is it a good idea? Today I’m sharing my experience with the long-deliberated purchase of a sewing machine for kids.
It took me about three years of internal turmoil to finally order a machine for my girls. I had let them use mine, but it made me so twitchy. Too many twirly beep-y things that become frustrations and distract them from what they’re trying to do. And then there’s
possible likely finger stabbings. Which brings to mind whether their tetanus shots are current, what lockjaw feels like and whether we have cute character band-aids on hand.
After I’d wildly overthought the consequences and studied a bunch of them I decided to try Janome’s machine for kids (affiliate link). It comes in at least 9 colors with fun names – ours is Fast Lane Fuschia*. That probably delayed my decision by a day or two – they’re alllll cute. Hard to choose just one.
Putting that critical choice aside, let’s talk other important features.
Presser foot – There’s a substantial lip on it – a finger guard – that does a good job of what it aims to do. Also helpful, the presser foot is screwed into place and not the clip-on type. When my oldest used my machine she would accidentally release the foot occasionally when she meant only to lift it. 5 year-olds have the patience of, well, kindergarteners. So little frustrations become big frustrations in a hurry and can kill a project faster than you can say “Mommy needs a mojito.”
Speed – Even at top speed it’s not crazy fast, but as an adult using this machine (whether helping a kid or in a moment of grownup sewing machine crisis) it’s not so slow that you’d want to throw onto asphalt.
Weight – At 5 lbs, It’s lightweight enough that the 5yo can move it to a different table with some coaching on how to handle the cords, but not so light that it won’t stay still while you’re working.
User manual – Well, there’s not a lot to it. As you might expect for a basic machine. In fact, it’s something I wanted to see before I bought it and didn’t take the time to find, but here it is if you’d like to see exactly how NOT complicated it is.
Threading – Easy to do and seems to become un-threaded less easily than when my 8yo has used my machine.
Noise – I’m guessing there are a few other people like me who want to know what something SOUNDS like. The machine’s noise is definitely not as smooth as a standard machine but it’s also not very loud. I recorded a bit here so that you can hear the sound and see more of the presser foot in action. It’s 8 seconds long. I like to get straight to the point!
There’s a tiny drawer for holding bobbins. I guess you could put a seam ripper and/or needles (the machine uses regular universal needles, no big deal as far as replacement!) in there, but my 5yo isn’t quite ready for that. And as soon as I thought of it I marked the bobbins that go with this machine because I’ve learned the hard way that the slightest differences in bobbin shape can be a big problem if they’re used in the wrong machine. Important to mark ‘em if you have another machine and might get them confused.
I’m also happy to have a machine that they can use that isn’t *my* machine. There are 4 big reasons I wanted them to have their own:
- It’s safer. Features like the presser foot and limited speed are made to protect little fingers.
- It’s less frustrating. Fewer things to move and press that will cause some sort of hissy fit. If they’re going to have one it’s more likely to be about the project than the machine.
- If they break mine… I’d be machine-less. Not a crisis, but Murphy’s Law says that would happen right before some sort of deadline. –AND, the unexpected bonus–
- We can work at the same time! I can bounce between my project and theirs! That’s my unanticipated favorite part. They tend to want to sew when they see *me* sewing, and now they can without a complete stop for me and whatever I was working on. (And threading my machine for their project and maybe changing feet, yadda yadda. It’s not like it takes years or anything, it’s just a project momentum killer.)
There are two things I wish this machine had – a light and a thread cutter. But both of those are little luxuries that a brand new sewist wouldn’t know to miss. I’m happy to give those up for safer fingers and less frustration in trying to deal with the presser foot, speed and threading. For my 5 and 8 year olds, this machine is great.
If you’re wondering what I normally sew on, you’ll see all three of my machines highlighted in this post: http://crafterhoursblog.com/2011/03/sewing-machines-vs-sergers-vs-coverhem.html
*A last little note – this affiliate link to Amazon will take you to the machine I bought. Most of these machines are not listed in searches as a “Sew Mini” even though the style of the machine is the same. The Sew Mini is usually shown in listings as a machine with a white body and seems to be marketed to sewists who want a small machine for travel, and then the machines with fun colors are listed by their color names. Our box isn’t labeled “Sew Mini” on the box itself, but the bar code sticker applied to the outside of the box is labeled “Sew Mini DX”. Dunno why. Just reporting what I’ve seen.
I hope I’ve shared all of the highlights, but if you have a question that’s not covered, here, I’d love to hear ‘em!