Well, I'm personally a hardware guy (I'm technically in biomed engineering but 9/10s of my work is in electrical, specializing in embedded systems design) so I'm more than willing to help out a beginner in the field. Kits, though, would be somewhat expensive for me to make as the cheapest PC boards I can get would be in groups of 3 of $60 apiece. I've been working on and off on making my own PC boards at home, but I'm a bit leery about using the toxic chemicals in my apartment. Might be able to do it on my patio, but my landlords might not like it if they knew what it was I was doing. My lease doesn't exactly forbid me from using toxic chemicals on the premises, but I might not want to push my landlord's patience, especially as I'm a new tenant.
Further, a 486 is a pain because it's a huge footprint -- requires a lot of board space. PICmicro MCUs would be easier to make kits from as they require less space. Of course, if I get my home board manufacturing to work, space would not be much of an issue because copper-clad boards aren't very expensive.
Assembly languages (not necessarily x86 assembly) are needed for almost all embedded systems. PICMicro's assembly language isn't too hard to use. The nice thing with embedded systems is that the code is usually simpler to work with.