What to avoid?
Looking for easy thread/bobbins etc.
Using it mostly for simple kids clothes, curtains, alterations.
Not planning on embroidery or quilting with it but maybe one day!
The janomes have needle threaders and horizontal, top loading bobbins, which are features that make sewing much easier...you can see how much bobbin thread you have and dont have to take it all apart to reload.
i think i agree with what cristeen was saying about the computerized machines...i think a mechanical machine is what you should get. that $129 kenmore is what i would probably get (the $199 one is partially electronic), or else another mechanical janome from overstock.com. I would get one that has the 1 step buttonholer and is all metal (the cheapest janomes have some plastic parts, but they are still great machines; i have been using a pretty loaded one like this for 5 years now nearly everyday and it has served me well, although i was happy to upgrade). I would also try to get one that does a blanket stitch, and if i was trying to decide between similar (janome) machines, I would get the one that came with the best foot package and/or the most stitches. I would personally not buy a Singer, only because they put their name on a POS toy machine being labeled as a real sewing machine for girls that doesnt sew....it has caused a lot of little girls to be sorely disappointed; but i havent sewn on a Singer myself. I have used many different machines, though, and i personally will always buy Janome, as they are absolutely the best machine for the money. I recently did buy their entry serger and also a computerized machine with some embroidery and in shopping and deciding i read a whole lot of reviews and also talked to several sewing machine repairmen in my area and they all agreed Janome makes a great machine and that doesnt require many repairs. In 5 years sewing on my first Janome, every single malfunction i encountered, i was able to handle myself and it has never been in the shop.
I wish I had learned to sew on a Janome; i first bought a Brother machine and had such headaches and screaming frustration, which i thought was just learning to sew, but once i got the janome, with the needle threader and easy bobbins, i realized all that frustration was because of a poorly designed crapola cheapo (but i could have gotten a janome for the same price, probably) machine and learning could have been infinitely more pleasureable. I hope YOU have a GREAT time learning to sew!