I am often asked, 'What child's sewing machine would you recommend for my 4-5 year-old?'...
Well, each child is different, of course, and while some may actually be ready to go straight to a regular sewing machine (which I would without-a-doubt recommend the Singer Featherweight 221 for any child's first regular sewing machine!) some little ones need a baby step to get them used to the concept and mechanics of actually sewing. In that case, then I highly recommend the Singer Sewhandy model 20. It is a small table-mount handcrank sewing machine that creates a lovely chainstitch. You will only need to top thread it because there is no bobbin.
If you want to take that suggestion one step further, then the Singer Sewhandy 20-2 is the creme de la creme. It is the electric version to the handcrank and can be operated either way - by hand, or by the touch of a button electrically. And will, no doubt, last a couple more years as your child begins to find the handcrank a bit elementary.
I was asked this morning if the motor was 'original' and indeed it is. Singer really did make a child's little electric machine! Singer advertising was second-to-none when marketing their ingenuity! (Singer had an advertisting budget that surpassed a $1,000,000 in the 1920's!) They designed a perfect way to combine the original handcrank design with an electric allowing the child to grow into more experienced (and motorized) sewing.
On that note, did you know the Singer SewHandy No. 20 Sewing Machine was just another way to market 'SINGER' for a life of sewing? Yes... 'tis true. Whenever a little girl would come into a Singer Shop either alone or accompanied by her mother, the Saleswoman would always draw the attention of the girl to the No. 20 Machine, showing samples of the work that could be done on the little machine and ease and simpleness of operation.... and the interest of young people developed in every way as they were all potential users of Singer Machines. Mothers appreciate any attention given their children. (taken directly from an old Singer Employee handbook!)
Where can you find these lovely old little machines? Well, eBay is a great venue but you have to be very careful because as with most vintage and antique things, if not properly cared for they can be irreparable. Make sure you purchase one from a reputable seller who has taken the time to clean, service, test, sample and *guarantee* that the machine will sew properly. We've had some where the belt was missing or worn out and some where the rubber wheel near the motor had worn down from so much use that it wouldn't work. Definitely test one, if you can, before you buy it.
ADDENDUM: We do not stock parts for the electric Singer Sewhandy model 20, including belts, screws or other various parts. Unfortunately, because it has been over a decade since we sold this machine, we do not have an original belt to compare for the exact size required. You may have good luck with a vacuum belt or large gasket from the hardware store, however. The only part we may have are the correct size needles. Contact us directly if you wish to order a couple vintage original unused Singer Sewhandy needles.