The Best Sewing Machine for Teaching Kids How to Sew

As a Sewing Studio owner, long time sewing instructor and sewing curriculum developer I am probably asked at least once a week which is the best sewing machine to buy. This can be a pretty big question as there are hundreds of sewing machine models out there and the variation on what they do and what they cost can span the globe.

Most people who ask my this important question are new to sewing. Most likely they’re looking to purchase a beginner sewing machine model that’s easy to learn on & won’t cost an arm and a leg. They’d like a machine that is high quality, easy to operate and doesn’t have more bells and whistles on it than they need.

The machine I suggest to people who ask this question has changed over the years. It usually depends on which machine we’re using in the studio at the time. These are all qualities we also look for in a sewing machine too.

Currently and for about the last year or so it’s the Simplicity Model SB700t by Brother. There are a lot of reasons this is the perfect sewing machine for people (young and old) to learn to sew on.

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Here’s why:

  • Quality – This machine is not the same with other Brother Sewing machines (like for instance the Brother XL2600i or the Brother CS6000i). These machines may look alike and even seem like they sew the same when stitching a couple layers of cotton. BUT The difference is the steel components inside the SB700t sewing machine. The more durable frame and metal parts inside this sewing machine make it better able to tackle sewing things like multiple layers of denim and other heavier fabrics. We acknowledge that this puts this sewing machine in a price bracket above some of the sewing machines, but this machine retails for around $200 and we feel the extra $50-$100 is SEW worth it.  This difference in quality is also the reason they do not sell this machine in places like Wal*Mart, Amazon & Target and this is a very good thing in our opinion.
  • Mobility – Yes the machine has steel components, but it’s not a super heavy sewing machine. This cutie is only about 10 pounds which makes it really easy for us to take with us on the road. We’re always teaching classes in places around town. Schools, Libraries, Birthday parties in peoples homes. Because of this, we need a machine that doesn’t way a ton because we’re constantly schlepping it from place to place. This machine doesn’t break the bank and it doesn’t break your back! Woot!
  • Ease of use – This baby is so easy for beginners to start out using. One major feature (that I don’t think I could live without) is that it doesn’t sew, and even makes a beeping noise, when you don’t lower the presser foot before you start to sew. For new sewing students, this is going to be, by far, the most common mistake people (of any age) will make. They’ll forget to lower the presser foot, then the machine will get all tangled inside as a result and lastly, the machine will jam and no longer work. No fun whatsoever! But after I started using this machine this just wasn’t an issue anymore! Hallelujah!The other thing that is amazing about this sewing machine when teaching newbies how to sew is the speed control dial. The speed control option is something you’ll see a lot on machine in the higher price points. But the SB700t retails for less than $200 and it’s got it! Love, love, love this! Why? Because in a sense you can set it and forget it. Yes, just like on the informercial, set the machine on the slow speed and walk away from your student and things are going to be OKAY!

And here’s a handy dandy little video for how to thread the Brother SB700t sewing machine.

We know that this is not the be all, end all on great sewing machines for teaching people how to sew.

We would LOVE to hear what machines you are using.

Leave us a note in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!

Sewing is math. There. I said it.

I mentioned in a previous post about how sewing can be a way of learning math for kids because of measurement and even geometry when it comes to make hats and circle skirts. But today as I was teaching a roomful of 2nd and 3rd graders I was reminded how sewing can also teach kids multiplication.

As we were beginning a brand new project today. A stuffed puppy. It’s a fairly simple shape rectangle shaped body, which makes it a wonderful sewing project for this age group to sew. But then the face are what make it look more puppy like. Anyway I always start a new project like this talking about what fabric we’ll need for the project and all of its pieces.

So I basically hold up the dog in front of the class (gauge how excited they are about seeing the project) and go piece by piece through it to determine what we’ll need for pieces of fabric.

Here’s what this project looks like.

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For this particular project, the dog has two ears, each made of 2 pieces of fabric (front and back). My next question, after explaining this is how many pieces of ear shaped fabric are needed to make two finished ears? Multiplying 2×2 has an immediate application! Boom.

Now I show them how the dog has 4 limbs (2 arms, 2 legs) total. I ask my students to tell me how many pieces of fabric it takes to make one finished (and stuffed) arm. They let me know it’s 2, one for the front and one for the back. You can guess my next question. The kids all raise their hands because the know the answer to my next question – how many pieces of fabric are needed to make all four limbs? 2×4 =8. Easy peazy and not only are they loving that were going make this awesome project, I’ve taught them some multiplication and they didn’t even realize it.

All in a day’s work, friends.

All in a days “work”.

Sewing. This is how we do it baby!

In the words, of Montell Jordan, This is How We Do It.

Check out this amazing animated gif showing how we sew.

So often I am asked, “What does the sewing machine do to create a stitch?”

Have you wondered the same thing?

Well, here you go.

 

Here is what happening inside the sewing machine while you sew.

I could stare at this forever!

Introduction to Stitching & S.T.E.A.M.

Choo Choo! When ever I hear about S.T.E.A.M. I think of a locomotive. Chugga Chugga Choo Choo.

We all know that S.T.E.M. & STEAM are super-duper (fairly overused) educational buzz words. But you cannot deny Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math are important fundamentals in any type of education for kids.

And you REALLY can’t deny that all of these things are such important parts of learning how to SEW!

As a sewing teacher and trainer to sewing instructors from all over the world, I can’t tell you how many times I hear how parents are very willing to happily sign their kids up for sewing classes. Most parents get it. They understand that sewing is an important life skill for kids. If they learn how to sew they’ll know how to hem their pants. If they take sewing classes they’ll be able to repair their stuffed animals when they spring leaks and the stuffing starts coming out. Parents totally “get” the many awesome things that come with their kids learning how to sew.

But what about all that OTHER really important things you can learn when you learn how to sew?

This, my friends, is where S.T.E.A.M comes into the picture.

Science
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Science teaches us what are things made of and where do they come from? The science in sewing asks What is fabric made of? What makes up natural fabric? What makes up synthetic fabric? How is fabric made? How are the threads put together to make cloth and where do they come from? Why does some fabric smell a certain way? What fabric is best for making bags? What fabric is best for making clothing?

Technology
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Technology is machinery and equipment developed from the application of scientific knowledge. Sewing technology has changed tremendously over the years. Whether it is technology that is used to do the actual sewing, or the technology use for making fabric? Can you think of what technologies were used and improved over the years to make sewing projects? How has sewing technology changed throughout time? What are some new innovative technologies used today? How has sewing machine technology changed over time?

Engineering
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How do you take a pile of fabric, some thread and a sewing machine and turn it into a dress? What does it take to successfully finish a sewing project? What’s a sewing pattern and how do you follow it to sew a project? How you engineer a project is at the forefront of every sewing class. Sewing Workshops follow a series of steps that allow you to turn supplies & tools into a finished item. This is engineering in it’s most natural form!

Art
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With sewing, the art part comes from how you choose to design your project. What color & type of fabric will your use? Where exactly will you place the pocket? Will your design be reversible? What type of decorative stitching will you use to applique? One of my favorite things about sewing my own projects, as well as teaching others to sew their own projects, is that even though we might all be working on the same thing, no 2 will turn out the same.

Mathematics
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What’s a seam allowance and how does it affect the size of your project? What’s the easiest way to measure how long the strap on your bag should be. How can make sure the drawstring waist on your PJ bottoms is the right size? What’s the best way to measure the circumference of your head to make sure your hat measurements are correct?

We Always Need More Pin Cushions.

For some reason in our sewing studio, we can always use a couple new pin cushions. For the life of me, I cannot figure out where all the pin cushions go, but good thing for us, they’re super easy to make!

And adorable pin cushions are definitely something that every stitcher should have. It’s the perfect place to store all the pins we need for making sewing projects.
We’ll today we have for you a super quick, step by step on how to make your very own adorable pin cushion! The perfect project to make with a class of new stitchers, or one at one at home with your little seamstress.

Start by cutting out two squares or rectangles (of the same size) of some really cute fabric. We’re using 6″ x 6″ in this project, but you can get creative with your size.

Place both pieces together, with right sides touching and sew along 3 sides using 1/2″ seam allowance.

Should look something like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here is a closeup of the stitching:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, turn the fabric right sides out and stuff with pillow fill.

It should now look like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now turn the raw edge over, tucking in about 1/2″ and secure in place with straight pins.

Should resemble this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, top stitch the edge you just pinned using a sewing machine (using 1/4″ seam allowance) or by hand, like in this photo. As you will see, being super neat isn’t our top priority.

We don’t mind a nice big, messy hand stitch, as long as their are enough stitches so it doesn’t fall apart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voila! The perfect beginner sewing project that I guarantee any stitcher will use for years to come!

5 Sewing Tools I can’t live without.

I am totally not a gadget person and don’t fall for a lot of the crazy notions out there one can purchase for sewing. There are sooooo many and if we tried them all we’d go broke. And more than half the time, there’s no need for the gadget because the job can be done just as well with something common place you already have. (I have never crocheted in my life, but you can find a huge assortment of crochet hooks in my studio because they make the best pokers when turning something skinny right side out!

That said – there is still a nice collection of things we use regularly while making our many sewing projects and teaching others to sew. Some would be just plain hard to live without.

wonder_under1.) Pellon Wonder Under

This is Paper-backed fusible web that turns any fabric into a fusible fabric. Fuses fabric to fabric or to a porous surface such as wood or cardboard. This is the stuff you use when you have to applique’ fabric to anything! It can be tricky to use for beginners so here are handy instructions:

omni_grid

2.) Omni Grid Rulers

Omni Grid Rulers are the number one selling quilting ruler in the world for a reason. They are preferred by professional quilters & teachers all over the world. They last longer than other rulers. They are the only ruler to maintain +/- .002 inch accuracy. Omnigrid’s patented and trademarked (black and yellow) double sight line make for easy reading and measuring on light and dark fabrics. Markings make right or left handed use easy. Omnigrid Rulers have grid markings throughout. These rulers are made of heavy-duty, premium quality acrylic and laser cut for a smooth edge. Designed and manufactured in the USA.

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3. Thread Heaven

Thread Heaven is better than beeswax because it’s developed specifically for delicate thread, it prevents fraying and makes hand sewing just about anything a lot easier. It produces a static charge, which helps reduce tangling & will not stick to your needle. To use, simply press thread against Thread Heaven and draw it across. Pull between fingers to remove excess and to produce the static charge. Your thread will be ready for use! Once you have used it, hand sewing without it becomes unbearable.

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4. Pinking shears

Pinking shears have a utilitarian function for cutting Cloth edges that are unfinished will easily fray, the weave becoming undone and threads pulling out easily. The sawtooth pattern does not prevent the fraying but limits the length of the frayed thread and thus minimizes damage.

These scissors can also be used for decorative cuts and a number of patterns (arches, sawtooth of different aspect ratios, or asymmetric teeth) are available. True dressmaker’s pinking shears, however, are not used for paper decoration because paper dulls the cutting edge.

Sewing Teacher First, Small Business Owner Second.

I originally posted this on my M Avery Designs Sewing Studio blog on April 15th, 2010. But the sentiment still rings WAY true for me.

It’s funny for me to look back on it, being 6 years ago. So much has changed in my business, but so much hasn’t. This is a good reminder for any sewing business owner or even any small business owner who feels passionately about what they do. Yes, we all need to make money, but we also need to be reminded of why we do this. We feel passionately about educating kids today about the importance of making things with their hands.
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Things have been a little hectic lately around the shop because we are trying to promote our summer camp program that begins on June 21st. It’s starting to feel a little more urgent, as our camp was waaaay more full at this time of year last year. This is WAY stressful to someone that doesn’t get a weekly pay check…

Obviously there are probably a lot factors are contributing to this. I am sure the economy is a huge part of it and people are feeling a little more strapped then they felt at this time last year. But what I am thinking (and hoping) it may be just that parents haven’t yet started thinking about what is going to go on in their kids lives over the summer, as they just returned to school from spring break.

But in this frantic-ness of these last couple of weeks, promoting the heck out of our summer camp and trying to get the word out in every possible way, I was able to step back and reflect on the summer camp itself.

This little card helped me to remember that even though I am a business owner and one of my major goals has to be making money so I can stay in business. The other major and more important goal of my job is being the best teacher and educator I possibly can. I am able to teach kids my passion of sewing. I get paid to inspire and create and for that I am the luckiest girl on the planet.

I am good at what I do and kids LOVE coming and creating with me. This camp is going to fill itself, as it does every year and I am not going to stress about it anymore!