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Before you learn how to sew, you need to first understand how the sewing machine can help you sew better and achieve the results you need. For the last 30 years I have had Pfaff sewing machines in my workshop. I have also worked with Janome, Husquana and Brother when teaching sewing classes. While you can get a good sewing machine other than Pfaff, for a beginner the 'Pfaff Select' models are great. Don't get blinded by shiny buttons and electronic machines because they sound and look cool. Whilst they may have wonderful embroidery stitches and 6 different buttonholes, you may find you won't use them very often anyway. Plus when you use a mechanical machine you have more control over your work. The electronic machine will always do a full stitch, but often you need to hit a certain point. To do that you can use the wheel on the side and the revers button. Not on an electronic machine. I have both and use the mechanical for most of my teaching videos and the electronic just for buttonholes and pretty embroidery.
So lets have a look why I really like the mechanical Pfaff machines, available from $500. First of all the Pfaff machine has IDT. It transports evenly whether the fabric is smooth and thin or very thick. If you have tried a narrow rolled edge hem on a basic machine without IDT you will know what I am talking about. It's a nightmare!
Secondly the front loader is much more robust than the top loader. The top loader gets damaged easily. Again working with Janome for classes I can tell a tale or too. The bobbin gets stuck, when the machine isn't thread up properly, and kids just try to go anyway. Often the bobbin will clear jump out of its case and we search high and low for cover and bobbin. The metal grip holding the bobbin case is very sensitive and once damaged needs repairing which isn't cheap. This rarely happens with a front loader. So what that the front loader looks old fashioned! It robust and won't let you down. You can also adjust the bobbin tension yourself if need be.
My advise is the following. Arm yourself with delicate flimsy fabric and thick fabric too. Visit your local dealer and try different machines to see for yourself. Make sure the dealer show you the machine works on those fabrics. Usually they have some cotton of medium thickness which will no doubt work with most machines. It's tricking you into a false sense of security :)
Also lift the machine. The heavier the better. Cheap machines often lack the metal casing and are just plastic! This is not going to last 5 minutes. Reputable dealers won't sell those anyway but your large retailers might. If a new machine costs $175-00 there is a reason for that. It's not worth any of your money. Save and get a decent model.
Hope this helps you a bit.