Are you planning to buy your child a sewing machine for Christmas? The wrong machine can sour a user on the whole craft of sewing, so choose carefully. Here are some guidelines.
Buy from a local sewing machine dealer, not from a store like Joann’s or Costco. There are four major reasons:
- Your warranty will be honored locally. Even if a big-box store is willing to exchange the machine, that model might be out of stock.
- Your local dealer provides free instruction in the use of the machine: winding bobbins, maintenance, use of the different accessories, etc. These are geared to adults. Many parents who don’t sew take the lessons so that they can help their children.
- Your local dealer is always available to help you choose the right accessories and advise you so that you get the most from your sewing machine.
- Your local dealer sells higher-quality machines. I have found that big-box-store machines often come with problems; a few students have purchased machines that were totally inoperable out of the box. New machines from local dealers rarely have issues, and when they do, a quick trip back to the dealer will get them fixed at no cost to you.
Choose a dealer who provides great customer service. A good dealer sees his or her mission as helping you learn and enjoy the craft of sewing. He or she will not only sell equipment, he'll give advice, cheer you on when you show off a project, suggest new projects and tools to keep you expanding your skill, and will help you keep your machine running well.
If you buy on-line, you’ll need to ship the machine back to the dealer at your expense if the machine has problems. This can cost more than what you saved on the purchase price.
What machine should you purchase? I strongly recommend buying a machine that has enough flexibility that it can be used for serious sewing. I have 5th grade students who sew better than I did as a high school senior and are fearless in trying new techniques—some of which they learn from You-Tube videos. Both the casual and the serious child sewer will be frustrated by an overly-simple machine. When problems arise, beginners think they're doing something wrong and eventually decide they'll never learn to sew. They rarely realize that a poor-quality machine is causing their problems
Here are some suggestions from dealers in my community:
Brother: Brother has the Basic model which sells year-round for $99. It has 17 built-in stitches and comes with several presser feet. Beyond that, they recommend the Brother 700T, which is the 70-stitch machine that we use at Pocatello Sewing School. This is a very versatile machine which can be operated without the foot pedal—great for short children who can’t comfortably reach the machine and the foot pedal at the same time. (This feature is also great for people with leg and foot problems.) It sells for $250.
Janome: The My Style 100 machine sells for $499. It comes with 13 built-in stitches as well as extra presser feet including a blind hem foot and a zipper foot. Their Magnolia model sells for $599 and has 30 stitches. Both are high-quality machines that will last for years.
Babylock: The BL9, on sale through Christmas for $139 (normal price $200). This machine has 11 stitches and comes with several presser feet. For families with bigger budgets the local dealer recommend the Rachel, which retails for around $500. This computerized machine has all the features most home sewers will ever need. Babylock is an American-made machine with a great reputation.