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I'm no help. I use a temperamental 35 year old Kenmore. We have a little love/hate relationship, but I can't bring myself to get rid of her!
In your price range, I would look at a Brother, Singer or Janome. Don't worry about a bunch of fancy stitches, you really don't need them. Research and read reviews. I think there are several options in that range.
I would advise against a singer, and also a brother in that price range. They just aren't good quality, and can't handle more than a few thin layers. You'll find it jamming into the bobbin, or breaking needles because they will hit the plate below.
Kenmore is re-badged other machines, so if you can do your research and figure out which it is you can get a better deal than buying it with the brand name. I've had good luck with janome sergers, they are good home machines. Overstock.com has a selection of machines, and great coupons.
I find the Bernette by Bernina's to be better in that price range. You might also check craigslist and any sewing repair shops in your area for a used Bernina or Pfaff. They have 20-30 year motors in them, so a 10 year old one is still going to have plenty of life.
Ditto on choosing one with the least stitches, choose quality over quantity. Good luck!
I second the Janome's. My quilting grandma recommended them to me, she LOVED hers and I've been very happy with mine! I had a cheapie $200 White before that and that dang piece of crap jammed all. the. time. Hated sewing with it.
Granted, my Janome was a $600 machine, but I only paid approx $200 for it. I waited for a really good sale and got trade in value on my old machine on top of it.
I have a really fancy Janome Memory craft machine, it has all the bells and whistles (I was given it when I was a teenager from my grandma who was upgrading, who UPGRADES from a 2000$ machine!?) I love it, always have. It is more then adequate..
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I have a 10 year old basic Singer that was $100 at Walmart when I bought it. My mom's old Singer from the 60s finally bit the dust in the middle of my sewing project for my final high school exit project at 10pm the night before it was due, so I got what they had. It's lasted through quite a few projects since then, especially now that I am sewing weekly.
I've had really good luck with my $80 Brother's machine from Walmart. I hadn't planned on sewing diapers when I got the machine, but it has worked out just fine. Does everything I need it to. Not sure if it would handle quilting as I know nothing about that.
*Natural Birthing, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, co-sleeping, baby wearing momma to 2 amazing children, Micah (5-22-09) and Reagan (4-21-11)
I use a singer that is probably 10 years old. It's a very basic machine and that's why I love it. I had bought a new machine a couple years ago(I forget the model, I want to say it was a Project Runway one with digital designs that would stitch out) Anyway, I hated it, I felt like I had no control with the computerized stitches etc.
In this case, I prefer basic