OK...so let's get started looking at machines. I'll be adding to this list as I gather more information on various machines, but meanwhile here are 4 options that in my opinion are good choices for beginners. Click on the machine name for more infomation. Click on "Read more" to continue.
Brother SE 400: At just a little over $300, this entry level sewing/embroidery combo offers great sewing features, and an opportunity to move on to embroidery when the mood strikes. The sewing side features 67 built in stitches, and the embroidery side includes 70 built in decorative designs, 120 built in frame patterns, and 5 built in fonts for lettering.
This machine has come a long way since I first purchased mine. The older models used a cassette threading system, while this one conveniently has the thread spool on top. The newer model also has a USB port for loading purchased embroidery designs directly from your computer.
Brother ES 2000: With it's nice selection of decorative, heirloom, and quilting stitches; and a 1-Step button hole feature, the price of around $120 makes this machine a great value. The machine features 77 stitches in total, including the utility stitches (for garment construction.)
This machine is a good choice if you will be sewing garments, however the lack of a presser foot adjustment might make it unsuitable for heavier fabrics such as denim, and home decorator fabrics.
Janome DC 1050: With a price of $300, and the reputation of Janome, this machine is an excellent choice for the beginner. I had the opportunity to "test drive" this machine, and found it a pleasure to use.
It does not appear that there is a presser foot adjustment on this machine, but the DC motor keeps the machine speed even when sewing thicker fabrics.
I like the speed control function -- sometimes I need to go a little slower, and having the control slide helps me keep a steady speed. Many of these computerized machines tout the ability to sew without the foot pedal (they have a start/stop button as well as a foot pedal), but that's not a feature I use -- I like to keep both hands free to guide my fabric, and use the foot pedal to control the start/stop action. The only con I see to this machine is it's light weight. Unless you'll be carrying the machine to classes, or club sessions on a regular basis, light-wieght is not preferable in my opinion.
Singer Talent: If you prefer a mechanical machine, have a look at the Singer Talent. While there are only 23 stitches on this machine, the selection is more than adequate.
With features such as a drop in bobbin, one step button hole, and variable needle position, the price of around $120 is really quite remarkable, especially since the machine also includes a walking foot, darning foot, gathering foot, and side cutter foot. Again, I own an earlier model of this machine which I use for teaching. This newer model has a lower price, and more accessories.
Babylock: Whether you want a mechanical, or computerized machine, Babylock is always a fine choice. These are never sold on-line. I own a higher end Babylock Ellure sewing/embroidery combo, and I could not be happier with it. Check the Babylock website to find a dealer near you.