I think it’s fair to say this machine has had a thorough testing since I have now had it for 6 months, so I thought I’d summarise good points and bad, then go into a bit more detail.
Great price for the harp space size and features
Can wind the bobbin from the needle
Lots of stitch options for enlarging to use as quilting stitches, also basting mode, one step buttonholes and programmable alphabet!
Automatic presser foot pressure works well
No lever to put the foot down
Bobbin thread warning
Since buying the machine have been warned off and found negative reviews, however these issues haven’t affected me
Tension presets- sometimes manual control is better
Floating FMQ mode is not worth the effort – you WILL need the spring motion and darning foot combo
Extension table shape and blocks access to the bobbin
Quarter inch foot needs to have needle adjusted for true 1/4″ seam
No dual feed without purchasing expensive walking foot
Scary incident where it melted the bulb socket
Occasionally skips the first few stitches if the needle needs replacing, which it does quite often.
PROS – in detail.
I’d previously had a Pfaff Expression 2, so I knew I had to have the same length arm or longer for my next machine and the reason for upgrading was I wanted more features but also I wanted to avoid problems I was having. I chose the Sapphire 875Q because it was in my price range, had lots of features and the only reviews I found were positive. Along with the long arm, it also has an additional bulb to illuminate as you sew which is very good.
A brilliant time saver is that you can wind the bobbin from the needle. If matching the top thread to the bobbin this is so simple, you just pull it up fro the needle onto the bobbin winding bit and wind on as usual.
There are lots of stitch options for decorative purposes, one of my favourites is the wave shape one which I made extra large and used to quilt my goldfish bowl mini. It also has a basting mode, one step buttonholes and programmable alphabet, though I’ve not really used the latter since the day I got the machine. It might come in handy though! Plus there are three styles to choose from, including a cursive.
The automatic tie-off is the best feature. I never really got the “fix” facility on the Pfaff machine, but it’s a simple thing on the Viking, there’s a button for it right smack bang on the front of the machine near the needle and foot up/down buttons, plus you can set it in the menu to always tie off at the beginning like I have.
The presser foot adjusts itself to match whatever is being pushed through, so if it suddenly has to sew very close to a button, piping, etc, the foot will lift itself up and keep going. Generally speaking it has a nice straight stitch, it’s definitely a great piecing machine.
NEUTRAL POINTS – in detail
There are some things which are neither great nor real problems, the first of which to mention is the thread cutter. It works excellently most of the time and would have made my pros list if it hadn’t stopped cutting the bottom thread this weekend. I’m not entirely sure why this is, but as it’s a feature I feel like I can’t live without now, I will have to put it in for a warranty repair soon which is a bit of a bummer.
There is no lever to put the foot down. Yes that is right. There is a button you can use to manually lift the foot, but when you put pressure on the pedal it automatically goes down anyway which is GREAT for idiots like me who forget to put the foot down all the time, but it does take a little getting used to and it means that when you hop on a different machine you end up sewing with the foot up ALL THE TIME as most machines don’t have this.
The bobbin thread warning is very handy but it’s a bit premature. A warning comes on the screen, and if you press OK it will keep coming up every 2-3 stitches (if you ignore it you can keep going). I find I can usually get another 60″ out of a bobbin when the warning comes on, but then, what is the right amount of thread to be left with to be warned? I guess it needs to give you enough notice so you can get to a good place to stop if quilting especially.
Since buying the machine, people have shared their experiences, told me not to buy it (too late!) and found negative reviews online eventually, however these issues haven’t affected me, either at all or to many great extent, so I think these may be issues of older machines with the same model number. I’m hoping they have been addressed anyway, but in the interest of fairness, here are two blogposts for you to read…
CONS – in detail
Tension presets…. Mostly they work, if you remember to use medium for piecing and heavy for quilting but some combinations of specialist threads, etc need a bit of tweaking and that’s when the good old-fashioned dial on the top would come in handy. However, the Viking puts in what it thinks you want, which of course it not the same thing as what settings you actually want. You can adjust it in the menu but if you switch the machine off you have to program it right back in again. Luckily I’ve only had real problems with that in floating FMQ mode. More on that later. If I used lots of decorative threads this may become a problem, but I don’t so I can’t really vouch for that. It does OK with monofilament though.
Onto the floating FMQ mode then. Just don’t bother. You see that foot up there? Lose it in the back of a drawer if you like. You will absolutely want to use the spring motion mode for quilting, and you will want a darning foot, no question. A couple of posts before this explain some of the problems I’ve had with this and they were all fixed by putting it into that mode once I had my darning foot back. The tension is truly horrible otherwise. So much so that I actually had to put back the bobbin tension that I changed down once I put the real deal back on as it was correct in the first place. You do have to purchase this foot as an extra though.
Another optional extra- the extension table- is nice to have but can be a bit awkward when quilting. When moving the weight of the quilt towards you, it can creep round the back along the right hand side and get wedged between the machine and the table and then move the table out of position so you end up having to readjust it quite a bit and there’s lots of starting and stopping. I’ve heard reports of the legs snapping as well but thankfully that hasn’t happened with mine despite the weight that gets put on it or the puppy biting at them when I’ve removed it to sew sleeves or somesuch. Another annoying thing is the bobbin cover has to be pulled off from the front forward, so this extension table actually gets in the way when you want to replace a bobbin partway through quilting. It can be worked around but it’s a bit irritating and I know that it doesn’t have to be that way as other manufacturer’s position their “flaps” in ways where this wouldn’t happen.
The quarter inch foot (optional extra!) isn’t accurate- it needs to have needle adjusted for a true 1/4″ seam. I’ve found it’s slightly too big, and I think one notch to the right seems to do the trick, though I have experimented with two. You need to remember to set this every time you piece. I remember my Pfaff was less accurate though by a lot more so it’s actually an improvement for me!
Special bobbins – the bobbins are a special size and generic ones do not fit. This means you have to be careful if you purchase extras, but for me the thing that annoys me is winding the bobbins on. I wanted to use my cheapy Aldi machine as a glorified bobbin winder (the bobbin is a different thread to the top on my latest project, hence not doing it via the needle) but they physically cannot fit onto the winding pin so you have to do it on the correct machine. It also means you can’t buy prewound bobbins, such as the Bottom Line SuperBobs, and I quite fancy trying those.
There’s no dual feed facility like my Pfaff had. That had their IDT technology which is like having a walking foot built in. If you want a walking foot, the additional spend will take you back around £50-60! I haven’t felt like I need one, but some people absolutely swear by them.
A few weeks into getting my machine, the bulb blew. This was weird because it was new and I’d never changed a bulb on any machine before. I duly changed it with the one in the box and half an hour later it literally exploded in the socket. After picking out the bits, and buying a new one, it just wouldn’t fit and I had to send it back for repair as the socket seemed to have melted. It got fixed and everything but I wasn’t expecting that and this is where it got the nickname “Smoky” (my Aldi machine is called “Smelly” but that’s a story for another day). There were no problems after that. You can’t take the top panel off very easily at all, there are lots of hidden screws with silly shape heads so they really don’t want you to open the top and take a look. I would have found this very useful when sorting out the bulb issue and taking photos for repair, but also it would help if bits of thread get stuck in the take up lever.
Lastly, it occasionally skips the first few stitches, which can normally be fixed by replacing the needle. It does prefer to have new needles more often than any other machine I’ve ever known, so you may need to change it half way through piecing a larger project and again halfway through quilting it, depending on the complexity.
There appears to be a longer problem list, but really, the positives are not equal in importance so I am very happy with this machine when all is working as it should. It’s easier to talk about things that have been problems, and it takes less words to say that something works well, or as it should. I’ve found that newer electronic machines as a whole have more quirks such as specific thread preferences, more feature and therefore more things to go wrong and more demand for servicing than the more basic, older or non-computerised machines, so to some extent it is only as awkward as its peers.