Well it depends on how comfortable you feel with a sewing machine. you should try to start with a simple machine and take some scrap fabric and get the dials right. Also. NEVER GO FAST ON THE MACHINE. I've burned thread clean through and I've almost got my finger snagged in the needle.
to begin I'd suggest starting with something simple (my first project was as I call it 'free-style') I think you should try to start with a pattern for something simple like a single layered skirt like this:
then gradually move onto harder things. such as ruffles and layers til you feel comfortable with the machine. Also learn to sew by hand. thats a biggie for some stuff thats to difficult to sew.
oh. and its good you have friends and family who know how to sew. they can help when something doesn't go right. (had that happen with the under sleeves of a kimono. mom helped and they looked great afterwards
hope that helps!