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.

2 Responses to My new toy: the Viking Opal 650

  1. Anonymous

    Kristin....thank you so much for your review of the Opal 650. I have been looking for my first sewing machine and have considered the Opal 650 or 670 as well as the Janome 4120. Having grown up using my Mom's 1950s Singer these machines have so many wonderful features.

    I was cautioned the Vikings have more plastic parts inside than the Janome. Although I used the machine in the store I do not remember. For instance, would you please tell me if the bobbin case is plastic? Since you posted your remarks have you had any issues with your Opal?


  2. Kristin

    Hi Ann! The bobbin case is plastic and metal. The part that the bobbin rests on is plastic but the part that you pull the thread through is metal. I think you may be right that there are more plastic parts than Janome. What swayed me towards the Opal and not the Magnolia was the amount of options the Opal in comparison. I did not see if Janome had a machine more equally priced. The 4120 seems to be more equal to the Opal 670 as far as features go (I have no idea how they compare price-wise). I have not had any issues to deal with and I have worked with a variety of fabrics on it. After I bought mine a coworker told me she has the same machine and she absolutely loves it. I'm not going to try to tell you which machine you should get, it really is personal preference and you are looking at good machines. This one had what I wanted at a price I could afford. Good luck! Come back and let me know what you decide!

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