You CAN teach your kids to sew using any sewing machine, but there a of couple features that will make life much easier for you, the teacher:
Speed controllers can be found on a variety of mechanical and computerized machines. Caveat: not every computerized sewing machine offers a speed control feature. Viking Emerald 118 and Janome Magnolia 7325 are more recent mechanical models with this feature. Some older mechanical Swiss Elnas of the late 1970’s-80s’s era (Carina, Air Electronic, Stella) also feature a speed control feature (but no needle threader!).
Many newer computerized machines in the $200 & up range offer the speed control feature. Several Brother and Singer machines sold at the big box stores meet this criterion. Smarter 260 by Pfaff, Elnita EC30 Janome MOD 30 & 50 models are other options to consider in the “around $300” price range. If you are willing to up the ante to the $500+ price point, look at the Baby Lock Jubilant/Brother NS80, Elnita EC60, Viking Jade 20, Pfaff Passport 2.0 and Janome MOD 100/200 or 740 series machines. Here’s an article written by sewing machine repair guys listing their favorite machines by price point.
Note the Elnita EC30 is their recommended machine for the under $300 price category.
Machines I have available for kid’s sewing lessons include the Elna STAR Edition, Elnita EC30 and Baby Lock Jubilant. The Elnita EC30 does offer good value for the money. My local sewing machine dealer recommends this model as a travel/back-up machine. (It’s a minor thing, but the stitches on the front of the machine need to be a darker color. There’s not enough contrast.)
A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was looking to replace my Janome 8900 with either a sit-down mid-arm or a newer machine with a similar size throat space. I was able to sew on all the machines at the Kansas City Quilt Festival last week. I will say that I wholeheartedly agree with the aforementioned sewing machine guys’ assertion that the Bernina 770QE is one of the best sewing machine-only machines (meaning no embroidery module) out there. The M7 Janome is a fine machine, but the Bernina 770 felt just right. I was really impressed with the Juki Kokochi machine, but the stitch regulator on the Bernina 770 was even more impressive. I’ll be practicing the ruler work skills I learned in Kansas City on my Janome 8900 for a while, though. A new washer/dryer and hot water heater are much higher on the priority list right now. Who knows? Perhaps with some practice, I might decide I don’t want a new machine after all.