Here are some observations based on the sixteen kiddos in my Stitching Stallions maker club who have met with me every Friday since mid-September:
(1) Get a sewing machine with a top loading bobbin.
(2) Get a sewing machine with a needle threader.
(3) Retractable spool pins should be METAL- not plastic.
(4) Keep it simple. You do not need a machine with 60 gazillion stitches, 40 fonts and 24 buttonholes.
(5) A speed controller is nice – especially for slowing down those race car driver wannabes. However, they can learn how to manage the foot pedal just fine with some practice.
(5) Buy one of those screw on seam guides, if your sewing machine has a screw hole on the needle plate to accommodate one. It really does help the kids maintain a consistent seam allowance.
We used four different machines in our club – a Brother, two Janomes and an Elna. The vertical bobbin Janome sewed fine for me, but it wasn’t the most user friendly machine for my 10 & 11 year old stitchers when it came time to thread the machine – or OMG – fix a tangled thread in the bobbin area. The Brother was okay, many of the kids didn’t seem to like it. (They couldn’t articulate specifically why, they just didn’t like it).
The Janome Jem Gold 660 was the only machine that the kids consistently felt comfortable using and were able to operate independently. They did like the Elna Carina for its speed controller, but of the four machines – the Jem Gold was the one they chose first when all four were set-up.
This is the fourth group of students I’ve taught with some version of a Janome Jem machine. All four groups have had similar results with this particular machine. Really think I need to consider a trade-in of the vertical bobbin Janome for another Jem Gold 660. [Update 12/23/15 – I decided to keep the vertical bobbin to use for applique with classes and bought another Jem Gold 660 at a super price from the local Janome dealer. Now, I have two identical machines with top loading bobbins and needle threaders. Much easier for me and the kids.]
Not affiliated with Janome in any way. My favorite all-around machine is my Janome 3160 QDC. 🙂