I first learned to sew aged 11 on my gran’s old Singer treadle sewing machine. I have such fond memories of those times, which are cloaked in a sort of magical aura whenever I think back to them. I remember being fascinated that a whole world of creativity had opened up before me, and spent many hours with my gran crafting odd-looking garments for my toys.
Teaching your child how to use a sewing machine can be incredibly rewarding for both you and them. You will be setting them up for a lifetime of enjoyable sewing, and they will have a powerful outlet with which they will be able to express their creative side. Not to mention the benefits of learning such a practical skill at a young age!
In this guide I will talk you through the process of choosing the most suitable sewing machine for your young’un!
For those of you who are in a rush, the table below summarises the sewing machines I recommend and the reasons why.
|Model||Why I Recommend It For Kids||Buy It|
|An easy to use machine available in a range of attractive colours||Buy it|
|A very basic machine which is super easy to use||Buy it|
|A very good basic machine, which is an affordable all rounder.||Buy it|
|A very simple computerised sewing machine with plenty of stitches with which to experiment||Buy it|
|A computerised machine with great kid friendly features||Buy it|
That’s the quick version, but keep reading for my full guide to choosing a sewing machine for kids!
How Young Can Children Start Learning to Sew?
Kids can start learning to use a sewing machine at any age really, so long as they are supervised appropriately. Generally though younger children are more easily distracted and are likely to lose interest rather quickly. Introducing your child to sewing from the ages of around 7 or 8 is ideal, as they can generally be taught quite effectively from this age onwards.
My Three Simple Rules
Here are my three simple rules for teaching children to sew:
- Make sure the sewing machine your child will use is suitable.
- Pay close attention to safety and supervision.
- Have fun!
Things to Consider When Choosing a Machine
The choice of a suitable sewing machine is clearly important. Using a sewing machine which is frustrating to use or unreliable can easily put kids off sewing, and can make potentially exciting and easy projects difficult and short-lived. But there are so many sewing machine on the market these days that it can be a minefield finding one which is suitable. Here is my shortlist of the main different factors to consider when trying to find the perfect machine:
- Sewing machine type – mechanical or computerised?
- Ease of use
- Range of stitches
- Safety features
These are also worth bearing in mind if you are trying to figure out if your existing machine is suitable.
I’ll go through each of these in a bit more detail…
Mechanical or Computerised?
I would always suggest using either a mechanical sewing machine, or a very basic computerised sewing machine when teaching kids to sew. You don’t want to introduce too much complexity or overwhelm your child with complicated stitch options and super high-tech functionality, which is why I would recommend staying away from more advanced computerised machines. Even I find these machines tricky to use at times, and have to use that extra little bit of brain power!
Some basic computerised machines these days have LCD screens which can tell you which presser foot to use for each stitch. This can be a handy feature once your child has the basics down.
I also discussed choosing between mechanical and computerised machines in my guide to sewing machines for beginners.
Stitches are always an important consideration when choosing a sewing machine. You will want a machine which doesn’t have an overabundance of stitches. These machines tend to be more complicated to use, and too many options can be overwhelming. But you do want a machine which has all of the standard stitches, and enough additional stitches to allow for experimentation and creativity.
Ease of Use
Bobbins can be fiddly at the best of times, so I would suggest getting a machine which has bobbins which are easy to wind and load. I tend to prefer machines which have a top loading drop-in bobbin system, as I find they are easier to use and less likely to jam.
Another feature which can really help with the learning process is using a machine equipped with a start/stop button and speed slider. One of the most difficult things to master for children is using the foot pedal. Controlling speed with the pedal can require a lot of practice, especially with very sensitive foot pedals. This adds an extra layer of difficulty to the learning process when first learning to sew, and can be a source of frustration.
With a machine which allows speed to be adjusted using a slider rather than the foot pedal, you can slow things right down and focus on teaching your child the fundamentals, like how to evenly feeding fabric through the machine, how to keep a nice straight line or how to turn corners, without the distraction and added complication of the foot pedal. Obviously machines with this feature tend to be more expensive, but it’s something to consider.
Ideally you want a machine reliable machine which will last your child for many years, with only a minimal amount of maintenance. It is best to stay away from machines which have a reputation for breaking down or requiring frequent servicing.
Safety is of course of the utmost importance. There is no replacement for close supervision, but some machines have features which can help avoid mishaps.
The simplest way to keep your kids safe is to use a machine with finger guards. It’s easy to forget that kids have tiny little fingers, which can fit in smaller places than you might expect. A finger guard is an easy way to prevent fingers from getting caught under the needle. Some machines like the John Lewis Mini come with integrated finger guards. Don’t worry if your machine doesn’t, you can buy finger guards separately and install them on your machine. Click here to shop for sewing machine finger guards on Amazon.co.uk. They are very simple (it is essentially just a small piece of bent metal), and they are so cheap and easy to install that it’s a no brainer.
Other minor details can really help improve safety. For example when setting up a sewing station, make sure your child can easily and comfortably reach the foot pedal.
Finally, affordability is important too. Your child may lose interest in sewing, and you don’t want to be stuck with an expensive machine that never gets used!
The 5 Sewing Machines I Recommend for Kids
Based on these key considerations, I have selected five different sewing machines which are ideal for kids.
Singer Start 1306
The Singer Start 1306 is an incredibly simple and easy to use sewing machine. This makes it perfect for young children. It only has 6 stitches (4 basic, one decorative and one buttonhole), and so there are no unnecessary complications. It’s the perfect way for a young beginner to get started!
It is also compact and very lightweight, which is ideal for young learners.
It comes with an all-purpose foot, a zipper foot, a buttonhole foot and a button sewing foot.
Singer Simple 3223
The Singer Simple 3223 is a step up from the Start 1306. It is also extremely easy to use, but it adds in a good number of additional stitches. It has a total of 23 stitches, including 7 stretch stitches, 9 decorative stitches and a 4-step buttonhole, and can sew up to a moderate speed of 750 stitches per minute.
One great thing about this machine is that it’s available in a selection of attractive colours, including Bluebird (a lovely teal/turquoise colour), Pink and Gold. This is great as your child can choose the colour they prefer, and it adds some personalisation and visual appeal to the machine design.
It is worth noting that the Singer 3232 is similar to the 3223 model, but it has more features (the model numbering system Singer uses is so confusing!). It has 32 stitches, a 1-step buttonhole, and an automatic needle threader. It may be worth also looking into the 3232.
The Brother LS14 is a very popular entry-level mechanical sewing machine. I have included the Brother LS14 on this list for two main reasons:
It is great in terms of affordability. It is one of the cheapest mechanical sewing machines you can get at the moment, but it doesn’t compromise too much in terms of functionality compared to some other machines in this price range.
It is also super easy to use. Stitch length and width are pre-set to fixed values, and can only be adjusted by changing stitch selection. This simplifies things for the kids and reduces the risk of breaking needles by selecting the wrong stitch width. It also has a drop-in bobbin, which is not too common for machines in this price range.
It is a fully functioning machine, with 14 stitches (although many are variants of straight and zig-zag stitches) and it has a 4-step buttonhole.
For more information about this machine, have a look my detailed review of the Brother LS14.
Singer Confidence 7465
The Singer Confidence 7465 is an affordable computerised machine. It had a wide range of stitches, but is still very straightforward to use, which makes it great for kids. It has a very simple LCD screen which displays nothing other than the stitch number, and it also has a needle threader, which can be a great time saver and help kids out with pesky threading!
For more information, you can read my detailed review of the Singer Confidence 7465.
Although a step up in price from the mechanical machines, the Brother FS40 is a computerised sewing machine which is great for kids. It has a speed slider and start/stop button, which as I mentioned earlier is a great way to simplify learning by removing the foot pedal from the equation. It also has an LCD screen which displays the best presser foot to use when you select a stitch.
The only thing the Brother FS40 lacks is a needle threader.
For more information, you can check out my review of the Brother FS40.
What About Toy Sewing Machines?
Many people ask whether toy sewing machines are good to start young kids learning on. I would recommend staying away from these. They are made of cheap plastic and won’t stand the test of time. But more importantly, they can only do chainstitches, and are very fiddly. You don’t want to put your child off from sewing before they’ve had a chance to get started!