Thursday, January 5, 2012

Reader Questions: Hans and the Singer 206, Part 1

Time to answer some reader questions. These photos here were sent to me by reader Hans in Chicago. As he writes,

In a thrift store, my wife bought this Singer model 206. Our six-year-old recently expressed interest in sewing and we were looking for a machine to get her started.

Hi Hans, I really like the 206 and own several. That being said, the 206 wouldn’t be my top choice to teach sewing to a child, for two reasons:

One, the zigzag adds a layer of complexity you could avoid with a straight-stitch model like the 15, 201, 99, 66 or 221.

Two, more significantly, the design of the 206 requires that the entire machine be tilted back on its cabinet-mounted hinges in order to access and change the bobbin. Some 206s are aluminum, rather than the heavier cast-iron, but even with an aluminum model, this process will likely not be easy for a six-year-old child. You’ll also have to ensure they don’t let the machine slam back down on their fingers.

From what I’ve read in the forums, many people teach children to sew using handcrank machines. If you go this route, I think the most economical route to go would be to acquire a cheap model 99 or Spartan and buy an aftermarket handcrank. Jenny at Sew-Classic sells them.

I should also mention that I’m not a skilled seamster and have no experience teaching sewing to either children or adults. If any readers have any experience in this area and can help Hans out with recommendations, please feel free to sound off in the comments.

More to come in Part 2.


  1. I think a Featherweight would be an ideal machine to teach a child to sew on. They have all the features of full sized machines but are smaller and much more suited to a child's size.

    I have recently purchased a Featherweight for myself but with the secondary purpose of one day teaching, yet non existent, grandchildren to sew.

    Keep in mind that a six year old will have limited development in a number of areas such as fine motor skills coordination, concentration, cognitive understanding etc. So teaching them to use a sewing machine will need to be supervised for a long time. They will need to be incrementally taught and revised repeatedly, the safety aspects of a machine.

  2. As always, great post Rain. I can't wait for part two! Mine is actually a 206K25 (I'm still not sure of the distinction between the two.) You are correct about having to flip the machine on it's back to change the bobbin. It also requires oddball 206x13 needles. Not quite sure what we'll do, I'm not ruling out picking up another vintage machine, perhaps a treadle.

    suziwong66, Good thoughts. We are pretty hands-on, much of what we tackle we do so as a family. Neither my wife or I sew, so we'll all be learning together. I have seen Featherweights for sale, but most are in the $300-500 range. That's probably not bad for what you are getting, but this 206 came via a thrift store and I've not yet adjusted to collector's prices.

    On the topic of teaching kids to sew; knowing this was her latest interest, she received a Build-a-Bear Craftshop project from her Aunt. It's a neat idea, the stuffed animal kit has been cut and pre-punched. The plastic needle allows for quick handsewing much in the same vein of the Leathercraft kits I built as a scout. In the new kit the face was presewn with the body and limbs ready for finishing. It was a quick and fun first project for her.

  3. I have helped a friend teach 8-11 year old children to sew and you would be amazed at how quickly they learn and how thrilled they are to use a machine. We taught them on full sized kenmores. They did just fine. I learned how to sew on a 401 when I was about 8. My mom ran the button control for the motor and I guided the fabric. I sat on her lap. It was a great thrill. I think that if this is the machine in the house and it is the one that you will all be using, why not let the child help and let it be a tandem project? There is so much to sewing, besides just running the machine. Threading the needle, cutting the fabric, figuring out the pattern.... Kids need to sit right up to the machine and might not reach the power control so if you can find a knee control,, woo hoo.

    Featherweights are pricey, but you can find a really fine vintage japanese ss model for very little with a cabinet and outfit it for a child. I love my 99s and I agree they are really nice child sized machines.

  4. That's interesting about people teaching their children to sew with a handcrank. I've never used one - do you have to keep turning the crank with your right hand while holding the material straight with your left? That seems complex for a child (or for me!) though of course much safer than an electric foot controller.

  5. I'm retrofitting a Singer 128 with a hand crank and a finger guard for my granddaughter. I've taught children and adults to sew, and it's a lot easier to teach children--six isn't too young, but I would install a finger guard or have them guide the fabric with a bamboo skewer as a stiletto.

  6. Mule i agree with you on this point that turning the crank with your right hand while holding the material straight with your left can be a little difficult but maybe it is also a lesson to learn to how to deal with this.