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Yeah they're not that expensive.. maybe find a used one, they can't be more than $30 at least. I'd also recommend looking into getting a surger. It's basically a machine that makes a complicated yet super durable stitch that a regular sewing machine can't make. A surge thread is often the most commonly used stitch in shirts and shit because of it's durability.
Woah. Well I guess I'm lucky, my mom has both, so I guess I'll have one kickass sweater. Sucks that they're that expensive even used...Wait, was that the price for a surger or a sewing machine? If you live in canada, check out Value Village...or United Way.
i used to hand stitch everything before i ever owned a sewing machine. you just have to straight stitch your side seams, and i used to go over each line twice to reinforce and then do a row around the edges to avoid it from fraying. but machines are way easy to use.