Saturday, March 12, 2011

In search of guidance: carpet cleaners and sewing machines

As a creature of habit, this morning I woke up feeling the urge to clean. In particular, I've been tired of our dirty garage which has been covered in all the dirt of winter and road chemicals in particular. This, of course, means that today I did what I did almost exactly one year ago when I got started with some spring cleaning.

With the cleaning kick now in full swing, I'll be ready soon to clean windows, purge closets, and plan out our spring annual plantings. For now, though, I have two other items on my mind, and I would love your input.

1) I am considering investing in a carpet cleaner. Our dogs and the general traffic in our house have a tendency to make our light-colored carpet get rather nasty. We rent carpet cleaners from the grocery store every now and then, but I'm betting that with the cost of renting one many times over the years it probably makes sense for us to own one, provided we can find one that's both affordable and effective. So, dear readers: do you own a carpet cleaner you would recommend (or, equally helpful, one you would not recommend)?

2) I have said it for years, and it's finally time I made good on my promise to myself: I need to learn how to sew. I want to sew several curtains, pillow covers and even a cushion cover. Do you have a recommendation for a reasonably priced sewing machine this novice sewer could grow into? Right now I don't see myself doing anything too fancy. I don't think I want the world's most basic sewing machine, though, because I'm relatively crafty and might want to leave my sewing-improvement options open for the future.

I would love your advice, and I thought it was time to harness the powers of the interweb! Thanks!


  1. I don't have a specific sewing machine model to recommend, but the brand I'd go with is Brother - most craft stores / quilt stores who offer sewing classes use Brother machines, so I imagine that it might be easier to learn on one of them. (I don't have one, this is just an observation I've made.) Plus, Brother also makes a good serger, so if you ever upgrade to serging the two machines would probably be compatible.

    My grandma says that the best sewing machines aren't made anymore (why she gave me her old Singer) because the new models are all made of plastic and are much more breakable than the metal models of the past.

  2. With a sewing machine, it is smart to not go too basic but also to save your money for the higher ends when and if you really get into it. All the brands have models that are reasonably priced, but I think the important thing is to buy from a dealer who offers free lessons and support. Bernina is great (but expensive) as well as Viking and Janome, from my experience. I hear good things about Brother and Singer too but have never owned one. Look in the phone book and visit the nearest dealers, and go for a test ride or two. They'll be glad to show you the features of each machine. Warning, though. It's just like any appliance. Lots of things look great, but you have to decide what it is that you want to use it for. Good luck.

  3. I have to say, I have purchased a couple different carpet cleaners in the past, both Bissell, and they each freshened the carpets, but neither really deep cleaned as well as hiring someone to come do it with their massive machines. So I would occasionally (monthly or quarterly depending on the room) "freshen" with my cleaner but still hire an annual cleaning which did the real work. I have a Dyson Animal vacuum so it kept up the carpets pretty well without the chemical/wet cleanings. This is all past tense because since we moved to Italy we have no carpet and all my rugs are small enough that I can handle any spots with my Spot Bot, which I believe is a requirement for any home with pets or children. It is fantastic for spills or potty accidents.

    On the sewing machines, my family is full of sewing, not so (sew haha) much. I hem or craft with mine. Doll clothes, curtains, repairs, etc. I got a Martha-endorsed Singer for a little less than $100, I think at Target, just before leaving the US. I don't intend to start sewing outfits or anything too detailed, just crafts and what not, so it is good for me.

  4. I highly recommend the sewing classes at Joann's fabrics. If you hit them on an open house day the classes are 50% (maybe $20) and they teach you the basics and up.

    I have a sewing maching too if you'd like to borrow it and test out if your desire for sewing and love for sewing match up.

  5. I got a Brother a couple years ago as part of our wedding registry. This is the model: Chosen in large part due to stellar reviews on Amazon. Will have to admit that I have not tried anything super ambitious but have hemmed a few pants and made some fairly complicated pillows (involving 6 panels of fabric as opposed to the customary 2). My grandmother also swears by her old Singer, but this has been super easy to use. It has a ton of stitches, most of which I've never used, but someday, right? Also comes with different feet (and I did use the zipper foot for the cushions, switching that out was also easy). I don't have much to compare it to, but based on my usage I'd recommend!

  6. Thank you all for all the tips! I am definitely going to look into a sewing machine, probably a Singer or a Brother. As for the carpet cleaner, Matt and I might look into a Bissell, but as Tiffany points out, we've been hearing/reading mixed reviews of carpet cleaners. I just really can't stand how much dirt the dogs bring in from the backyard (even after we successfully grew grass back there!). Thanks again, ladies!