My new toy: the Viking Opal 650

Posted by Kristin on Thursday, January 30, 2014.

As most of you know my old WalMart Brother sewing machine was getting quite fussy with its tension settings.  I also think the timing was off.  No matter how new my needle, how good my thread, or how many times I adjusted the tension, it created bird's nests underneath.  It took me forever to sew a simple straight seam on a simple, bunch, rip out, and repeat.  Over and over.  There was screaming.  There were tears.  There was petting and giving it pep talks.  Nothing worked.  I even sent it out to be cleaned and tuned up.  But it was evidently possessed by the devil of all things sewing and refused to work right. 

When I was given the simple task of sewing five three piece hula costumes for my Hawaiian hula class's recital (and one skirt was five yards of fabric...with three ruffles...that equals 20 yards of hemming I was doing per the additional 15 yards of stitching to attach the ruffles.  Multiply that by five skirts and you get miles and miles and miles of sewing) I decided that I needed to upgrade.  Immediately.

I had narrowed my search to three models, the Janome Magnolia (the cheapest), the Viking Opal 650 (the mid range), and the BabyLock Elizabeth (the most expensive).  I briefly considered the Brother CS6000i, a very affordable and popular computerized machine.  My aunt had one and loved it.  But I was leery of another Brother (by another mother...sorry...couldn't resist!). 

The local store that worked on my old Brother sold Janomes and Berninas.  I knew I wanted computerized and something that would not require a second mortgage on the house.  That left me with the Janome Magnolia.  Plus it had pretty flowers on it!  But I wanted a few more features than it provided so I marked it off the list.

I used the BabyLock Elizabeth during my studio classes and Pins & Needles in Raleigh and loved it!  But I just couldn't justify the cost.  In addition, my nearest dealer was over 45 minutes away.  So it was marked off as well.

Which left me with the Viking Opal 650.  It had all of the features I wanted and it was affordable.  It doesn't have a thread cutter, which would have been nice.  Or automatic tension control.  But it has more stitches than I know what to do with, a lovely computerized screen, fantastic lighting, and pretty turquoise markings.  So it matches my sewing room (priorities, right?). 

Here is my little beauty!


The Opal 650 and 670 both have the "Sewing Advisor".  I just select my fabric type, and it tells me what type of needle and foot I need as well as the recommended stitch with the stitch length and width.  I don't have to follow that, but it is a nice starting point.  If I select a different stitch, it automatically adjusts the width and length for my type of fabric.  Again, I can still adjust those, but it is a good guideline.  I kept glancing at the screen thinking it had a clock.  It doesn't.  Husqvarna-Viking, add a clock!!!

I believe the 670 has a stylus to use and is a touch screen.  The 650 does not.  But since I am upgrading from a model with three turn dials, I don't feel like I am missing out on anything!

The 670 also has a low bobbin warning.  The 650 is lacking that feature but the drop in bobbin cover is transparent, so I can see when it is getting low.  All Viking machines take Viking bobbins and JoAnn's had one pack for $15.00.  Right now I'm just using the 5 my machine came with instead of buying more.  I kind of miss having a bobbin already wound for my most used thread colors, but somehow I am surviving.  On the bright side, the bobbin can only go in with the "H" symbol on the top, so there is no inserting it wrong while in a hurry and making a mess.  Also?  You can wind your bobbin while keeping the machine threaded!  Not that threading a machine takes more than 30 seconds, but it feels like such a time saver.

I love how the top flips up to reveal the thread spool and stitch selections.  Makes me feel like I have a convertible.  Ok, maybe that's a stretch.  I still think it looks cool.

More funness - I can adjust my needle up or down with a button.  That way when I stop in the middle of a line of stitching to readjust something, I can have the needle automatically stop in the down position.  And it has a "fix" button.  As much as I wish that was a magic button to "fix" my mistakes, it still does something tacks the thread for you without having to backstitch at the beginning or end of a line.  I thought I would never use the "stop/start" button because I felt uncomfortable letting go of the control the foot pedal gives me.  But when you are hemming five 5 yard skirts with three ruffles each that also need hemming?  That button is a blessing!  And at the highest speed the fabric flies through it!  I wouldn't use it for things that aren't perfectly straight for miles on end.  It is kinda like cruise control on the car...great for the interstate but not for back mountain roads.

 See those little lights by the needle assembly?  Love!

So far, I have put this little machine through a workout.  I mentioned the hula costumes...

These were our Tahitian costumes.  All I had to do here was a plain rectangle pareo.  Easy peasy.  Oh, and I am third from the left in the back.  Our fabulous instructor is in the middle in the black (yay Maka!). 

These were our Hawaiian costumes.  Although you can't see me, you can see the tops and the skirts.  These are pa'u skirts which is Hawaiian for "pull your hair out oh my god this is so much fabric" skirts.  I seriously almost had a nervous breakdown.  The other lady helping with costumes had to do all of the  I can't really complain about my five. 

My machine sailed through these without even a hiccup. And this is where that handy dandy bobbin winding without unthreading came in handy as I went through spools of red thread.

I also made a couple of toddler boys some dinosaur capes as Christmas gifts.  These are made out of fleece and fully lined.  Since I only have dogs, a cat, and a fish, I got Max to model these for you.  He was ecstatic as you can tell.  Bailey was smart and refused to sit still, so she got out of modeling duty.

Any machine that can go through two thick fleece layers of spikes AND two layers of green cape all at the same time gets an A+ in my book.  At first I was a little worried these capes would be too hot because the fleece was so thick.  Then the Earth flipped on its axis and Virginia ended up at the North Pole.  The weight of these was fine. 

I don't have a serger, but I love the coverstitch options on my Opal.  It worked perfectly for my Lola dress

I don't have many negatives except for the clock feature (I can't think of many machines that do have a clock...actually none.  Still want it though.) and it is LOUD!  Although I had played with it in the store, I suppose the store was loud enough that I didn't notice how loud the machine was.  Not a deal breaker, but was hoping for more of a happy hum as it worked, not a full out song. 

Overall, I am extremely happy with my purchase.  I also like that I have a dealer here in town and if anything does go wrong, I can get a loaner machine while mine is being serviced.  I realize choosing a sewing machine is an extremely personal decision and you need to take a few out for test drives before making a decision.  So I'm not saying "YOU MUST BUY THIS ONE!".  But if you do, you won't be disappointed.

Victory! With the Lola (but not much else)

Posted by Kristin on Tuesday, January 28, 2014.

My best friend asked me the other day why I wasn't updating my blog.  I could have lied and used the typical "I'm busy" excuse.  But I didn't and I won't to you either.

Honestly?  I haven't wanted to write. 

Another friend asked my how I liked my new sewing machine.  Again with the honesty...

I haven't wanted to sew.

I wish I knew why.  I wish I knew I hadn't felt any inspiration.  I wish I knew why I was feeling some massive negative body image right now.  I wish I knew why I was already stressing over my 40th birthday (which isn't for a few more months).  I wish I knew why all I want to do is sit on the couch and watch "Doctor Who" and "Sherlock".  Wait, I do know that...they are both amazingly good British tv!

I am not a winter person.  I am a warm air and ocean breeze kind of girl. 

Why don't I move to Florida?  Crocodiles.  And alligators.  And anything that can eat me or my wild animal menagerie I tend to avoid.  Oh, and sinkholes.  I'm scared of those too.  So I stay here in the mountains of Virginia and try survive this massively cold winter.  And frozen pipes.  And missed school days.  And all I do is watch men with British accents.

I have a bad case of the winter blues.  If I cared enough I could write a song!

Before I sunk into my anxiety ridden winter negativity, I made a dress.  Again, I totally ripped off Lauren's version.  Again, I was totally inspired by Lauren's version.

Lladybird Lauren's Lola (say that three times fast)
I had previously avoided Victory Pattern's Lola because of the line drawings.  I imagined looking like a large fleece covered basketball.

Victory Pattern's Lola
Once I saw Lauren's dress I decided to give it a try.  I left off the bottom band and instead just did a basic hem.  I also left off the parachute sized pockets.  Don't get me wrong, I love me some big pockets.  But I knew that with pockets of this size I would be cramming them full of all kinds of unnecessary crap, which would not be an attractive look.  I also used an old sweater for the neckline and arm bands (just like Lauren!). 

I had to doctor the pattern for sizing as well.  The largest measurements for the top fit me but the lower half did not.  Since the seam placement was super important, I had to be careful with how I graded it up.  I had to add a total of 4 inches (that's right - FOUR!) in order to get it to fit over my hips.  I added a half an inch to each front and back seam just below the waist.  That way I would get the space I needed and still have my seams match.  Now the bottom fits perfectly.  The top?  Not so much...I have too much fabric in the lower back and at my high bust.  I took some in after putting it together but I think I actually needed to do some pattern alterations, not just dress alterations.  And my neckline is hideous.  My old sweater had lost all stretch and my neckline is too loose which makes it stand straight up in the back.  I try to wear this dress with a scarf to cover all my imperfections.

Oh, and I got my hair cut. 

I have never done a sway back pattern adjustment, and I should have given it a try on this pattern.  The more I look at myself in this dress the less I like it.  I don't know if there really is something to not like or if my winter blahness is taking over.  It is comfortable though.  How can a dress length sweatshirt NOT be comfortable???

On the bright side, I made these super cute boot cuffs to go with it!  I am in a local knitting group called Sip & Knit.  Twice a month a bunch of women get together to knit and drink can't get any better than that, can it?  I got this yarn at our Christmas Dirty Santa and it was just too wooly scratchy to have next to my skin.  And I couldn't think of anything else to do with one skein of yarn so it became boot cuffs!

They are basic stockinette edged with a rib.  They can be worked on circular needles or seamed.  I opted to seam them because I don't have circular needles yet and wanted to start on these IMMEDIATELY.  During a sort of snow event.  So I went with what I had.  I also wanted a simple pattern since I was using a two color yarn.  According to Ravelry, these should have taken me about two hours.  Which in slow-Kristin-knit time is about two weeks.  I'm still working on my sister's Christmas 2013 cowl.  I'll have it done in time for summer.  Hopefully.  Don't worry, is closed tomorrow due to an inch of snow...and I'll work all day on it (in between constantly checking my kitchen sink for freezing pipes...and watching last Sunday's Sherlock and a few more Doctor Who episodes).

I'm sorry if I'm a little down on myself in this post.  My mood will turn around...probably sometime in mid-April.  Or after my 40th in May.  Then I'll be ok.  And I forced myself to do some future sewing planning.  Look out Schoolhouse are next!  I'm also thinking of making a hand-stamped scarf in a light spring weight fabric.  I'll also do a for real review of my new baby, my Viking Opal 650 sewing machine.

In the meantime, here is a pic of Max trying to convince me to pet him instead of write...