Sewing is a great skill, but nothing is more frustrating than finally finding the time to sit down with a project and then fighting with your sewing machine. All machines take time and practice to learn to master to be patient. Patience with yourself and with the machine also.
Before purchasing a machine, I would suggest sewing a bit. I know – you don’t have a machine so how are you going to practice? Perhaps sewing with a friend or relative, taking a class where sewing machines are provided, borrow one from a tool library (Ottawa Tool Library), or perhaps a fabric store in your area offers rental by the hour.
This will let you get an idea of what kind of sewing you'll be doing (clothing, home decor, alterations, quilting, knits, etc). You'll also get an idea of how much you enjoy sewing. If you really love it, you'll want to invest in a more expensive machine – one with lots of options, sturdy construction and from a good brand. If it's a 'sometimes' hobby, you'll probably want a very basic or used machine. The only thing I would strongly recommend against are the cheap machines sold at Big Box stores. They often have all-plastic parts and are impossible to maintain or repair and will end up in landfill.
Further advice from Susan Sarrasin, veteran sewing machine technician: "When purchasing a sewing machine there are certain things you will want to consider such as - new vs used, a portable machine or one in a cabinet, a flat-bed or a free-arm, a straight stitch or a zigzag model? The amount of space you have for a machine will influence your choice. The convenience of a cabinet model is that it provides extra work space and is a lot easier for quick use. We may get discouraged when there are too many steps involved in getting our project underway."
In our classroom machines are introductory Janomes. They do all the basic stuff and are very sturdy. A great resource in Ottawa is Yasmin from the Ottawa Sewing Center. In Gatineau, Paquette Textiles is fantastic.