This is a great idea!
My 2 cents of machines...
I currently own a Singer Quantum 5430. It's about 5 years old and has gone through quite a few meters of fabric. I got this sucker for my birthday and it hasn't let me down since. Supposedly Singer has long gone backrupt and sold their name to cheap imitators but I don't know that for sure... just gossip I heard. Anyways... as with most of the Quantums it's got a whole bunch of stitching options... more than I normally use (I usually stick to straight stitch, zigzag, and blink hem... oh and occasionally the double needle settings). It's pretty sturdy and in the whole 5 years I haven't done maintenance on it once (I know I'm horrible -_-
and it hasn't given out on me. I've made everything from costumes, to shoes, to bed spreads with it so it's definitely done it's fair share of projects. I love the fact that it's sturdy and has a good sewing speed when pushed to max. The only time that the machine has ever given me trouble was last year when I was doing a lot of fast stitching for a whole day straight. It kinda slowed down to a pretty slow speed by the late evening and nothing I did could make it go any faster. I think it had some sort of safety mechanism for over heating or something. Anyway I let it chill over night and it was back up and running in full in the morning. It takes a variety of fabrics and manages pretty well with puncturing through a stack of thick fabrics (make sure you get good sharp needles though or you'll break more of them than you can count). It's supposedly takes denim and suede and leather too but I've never tried. It's marketed as a heavy duty machine so it can handle a broad range of things. I really don't have any cons to report about it. And I would definitely suggest it to a fellow cosplayer.
We must go out... and ninja in the night!
AN 2010: Elite Le Blanc Musteteer, Kureha, possibly a Perfect World cosplay as well