Are you looking at Wal-mart because of your budget? Don't sell yourself short!
I tell everyone looking for a new machine the same thing- go sew on a bunch of machines! Friends, schools, old ladies from church, new machines at a fabric store & a sewing machine specific place if your town has one- try them all.
Learning to sew is a bit like learning to drive, sure it's great if you get to practice on a new Mercedez, but trying to learn on a '79 Pinto is going to work against you
. Just sampling you will find some machines feel better to you. This in itself will give you a better idea of what you want to learn on.
There are a number of brands/ machines that are just as good used & 25 years old. Likewise there are machines that are crap brand new on the store shelves.Janome
makes a number of very reasonably priced ($79 on sale-$149 US) good, basic machines that are available through most Hancock's & Jo-Ann's stores. I just got a fancy schmancy new Janome Professional for Christmas, you don't want to know how how much...
over 15 years old are very reliable and often under $50. New Singers are up for debate.
. Note: Bernina are Swiss, like Rolex, and pretty much the Rolex of sewing machines
don't die of sticker shock.Brother
: many feel their low end machines aren't worth much, but the higher end/ more complicated ones are very good, as are the much older models. Like Singer the company has changed, where the machines are manufactured, etc. This has affected quality to a certain extent. YMMV