Friday, 3 November 2017

The Great British Sewing Bee Sewing Studio

Abby did a sewing project last year at school that I was impressed with, not only because she did quite a good job with hers, but also because I didn't get to do sewing in school until I was in high school. She gets to do it when she's still in primary school?!

It got me thinking of getting us a sewing machine when she's old enough to use it (safety and all that), so you can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was when Abby was given the opportunity to review a fully functional sewing machine by The Great British Sewing Bee, which is specifically made for kids! How amazing is that?

We both tested the machine out (I wanted to see if it's suitable for adults too, seeing it being a fully functional sewing machine) by completing the sewing project included in the studio, and here are the details and what we think about it.

The Great British Sewing Bee Sewing Studio (RRP £49.99, suitable for 6 years +) comes with:

  • Pro Sewing Machine
  • Foot Pedal
  • Mains Adaptor
  • Instructions booklet
  • Scissors
  • Sewing Kit Tin - Measuring Tape, 2 spare Machine Needles, Sewing Needle, Needle threader, 6 Metal Bobbins (3 whined), 3 Thread Spools (White, Black and Pink), 8 Headed Pins, Thimble
  • Clutch Purse Project - 1 Design Pattern, 2 Fabrics,  Button, Ribbon, Project Instructions

The sewing machine also came with a white thread spool placed in the little compartment, a white thread whined up bobbin and sewing machine needle already fitted and a removeable needle safety guard.

I was really amazed with how much accessories you get with the studio, and understood what they meant by fully functional. It's literally like someone has shrunk an adult's sewing machine with a shrink ray!

Just like a full size machine, you can lift the fabric holder up and down and wind the needle up with the wheel on the side to slide fabric in, there is a 1cm seam allowance guide printed near the needle to guide your fabric straight into it while sewing, foot pedal to control the speed, and thread spool and metal bobbin holders for you to wind a bobbin. 

There is also a switch for you to make the machine move the fabric forward and backward, which is perfect to seal the thread at the start and end on the fabric(I don't remember what I had to do with my now 20+ years old sewing machine for this), and 2 buttons to make the machine sew automatically without the foot pedal's control.

I do still prefer to control the speed and start/ stop using the foot pedal, and find it not so easy to control the fabric with just one hand while using the other to press the button when it's still running. But I can see that the line sewn looks much tidier than when you use the foot pedal. Abby had me helping her press the button for her so she can focus on the fabric, so I guess it's more handy for kids when they have an adult's help (the sewing machine is safe for children to use but I think it's still best used under adult's supervision).

The instruction booklet will teach children and their carers how to set up the sewing machine, which also have numbered markings on the machine's body to remind children how to thread it properly. The needle threader is perfect here for inserting the thread into the machine's sewing needle as the hole is harder to find than normal needles.

Testing The Great British Sewing Bee Sewing Studio Pro Sewing Machine using The Clutch Purse Project

The project instructions is very easy to understand and follow. Abby started with cutting the pattern, although I wished she had cut it better as the clutch cover is now wonky. It still looks quite good though!

I quite like the fabrics chosen for this project as they are stiffer, meaning that they are perfect for children and beginners to control (We have not tested the machine on thicker or slippery fabrics).

Everything is very straight forward and I have to admit that she can sew much better than me!

We did struggle at one particular step where it asked us to sew the cover to the body. With 2 layers of fabric each, and seams hidden underneath, there was about 4 to 8 layers of fabric the sewing machine had to go over (I'm not sure if they expect us to only have 4 layers of fabric and not going over the seam but as beginners we can't have it perfect all the time).

With the machine being smaller and it needing to be safe for children to use, the machine is designed to be less powerful than an adult's machine, so although it has all the functions, it might not be a good idea to create certain projects that require a more powerful machine, so unfortunately for this step, the sewing machine is just not powerful enough.

The top and bottom threads just won't latch together even when the sewing machine moved (it refused to start from the edge where it's thickest and the sewing machine needle looked like it was about to snap), so I ended up sewing them together by hand (although I wonder now why I didn't ask Abby to do that..)

At first I was a bit frustrated with the sewing machine, and felt it was a shame it wasn't working here because I thought the idea of a fully functional sewing machine for kids is absolutely brilliant. But after much thought, child safety does come first, and I wouldn't even let her near an adult's sewing machine until she's old enough, so why would I expect a children version to be powerful enough to go through thick fabrics?

Then I thought of the Clutch Purse design, which was great throughout and a fun project for kids to do. I just think that perhaps the company can revise the design a bit, maybe give more tips on how to get this working with the sewing machine, and not expect the sewing machine used for the design will do its job (after all it is included in the sewing studio kit so it should work with it).

So overall, we are happy with The Great British Sewing Bee Sewing Studio and think that it's a great crafting gadget for the kids to have (with so many accessories like the child size fabric scissors suitable for both left and right handed too!), especially for those who love textiles or fashion design (it'll be perfect for making clothes for dolls!).

It has all the features of a full size sewing machine so that the kids can get used to it before they are old enough to move straight on with the full size machine, and it is designed with children's safety in mind (just make sure that they won't forget to put the needle safety guard back on).

We do think that the projects for the sewing machine needs to work with the sewing machine, but it's a really nice clutch purse to make and to use (a very good size). The button and ribbon makes it look very pretty too.

We have kept the design pattern so that we can make another one, and get Abby to sew the harder part by hand.

We would recommend it for kids, but do bear in mind that the machine, although good enough for most children's crafts, isn't meant to be a powerful one.