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New machine advice… Viking or Brother?

Audball | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on

Greetings! newbie here, looking for advice… apologize in advance for the long post!

I have visited a LOT of discussion boards, each of which seems populated with fans of a particular brand. You all seem to be the most diverse group so I thought I could get a well-rounded opinion! J

First, about me: I’m somewhere between beginner and intermediate, which is to say I’m not afraid of my 30-yr old Kenmore model 1239, but couldn’t tell you the difference between tricot and twill! 😉 I took a basic class a couple of years ago and have gone by the seat of my pants since then. So far I’ve done costumes; a little home dec; 1 quilt top; and a fitted couch slipcover + zippered cushions. The last project I took on because I was too dumb to realize I probably wasn’t “ready” to do it (nobody tells bumblebees they can’t fly!)!

Based on this experience, I think I’d like to continue with costuming and get into making clothes, more home dec projects, more creative stuff. Embroidery looks like fun, but I’m afraid to buy a machine without even knowing if I’ll get into it. I want a good machine that I will not outgrow quickly, but I tend to get carried away by bells and whistles so I have to watch myself! I tend to sew in fits and spurts, so the machine will see a few weeks of constant use at a time, alternated with long periods of idleness. I’m willing to spend $500-$1000.

I was all set to buy a Viking Interlude 445 or Platinum 730, both priced under $1000 this week (sale ends Saturday 5/15). Then my girlfriend suggested Brother, the only brand I had not looked at because the dealer that carries it was pushing Singer the day I visited. I went back and a different salesperson showed me the Brother NX400. Well, actually she broke out the book, and I figured out 3 functions for her. She personally owns 2 Pfaffs and a Viking.

The most obvious differences between the machines I’m considering appear to be:

Viking Interlude 445/Platinum 730 – gives me an impression of “solid” and “clean”, user-friendly, widely available and well-supported locally. Has probably all the stitches and functions I would ever need, including stop/fix/mirror, auto buttonhole and a tapered satin stitch for free-hand embroidery.

Brother NX400 – gives me an impression of “loaded” and lots to explore, but a “fussier” interface. What attracts me is the price ($700), and the features you can only get on super high-end Vikings such as: speed control and being able to sew without the foot pedal, thread-cutter; and a stitch alphabet (alas, caps-only).

Both dealers offer full-value towards trade-up within a year, classes, etc. and I felt comfortable with both of them. The trade-up “path” seems pretty clear with Viking—(although I will never be able to afford the $4K machine); Brother seems to have a dizzying array of lines (PCL? CS? NX?) from which to choose, and the dealer wasn’t very knowledgeable on specifics (I suppose because they carry several brands).

Whew! What advice can you sage ones offer me? How would you compare the quality of these two machines, relative to the cost? Is there a great machine out there I’ve overlooked? If I decide on the Viking, I’d like to take advantage of the current sale, so a quick response is appreciated!

One last question: If I think I might be interested in embroidery, is it better to get a combo machine just so I have the opportunity to try it out? (Brother and Viking both have models for about $1000) Or better to invest in a good sewing machine and check out embroidery later?

Thanks so much for your help! 🙂 -air-

Replies

  1. carolfresia | | #1

    Just to make it a little more complicated, you could also check out Janome, if you have a local dealer you like. They have some excellent machines in your price range that would be pretty comparable to the Vikings and Brother you're already considering. ha Ha! I'm sure that doesn't help too much! From what I know, though, all of those machines are very good quality and good values as well. If you're interested in trading up, you might want to check out what each line offers a step or two above what you're going to purchase first. If the next step is way higher, you could find yourself stuck...although these days, it's hard to outgrow the features on computerized machines, even those at the lower end of the line.

    For what it's worth, speed control has never been a feature I use myself much, although I lower the speed on my machine when my 7-year-old son is sewing. Sewing without a foot pedal--same thing, I've never even used that feature. The thread clippers are extremely nice to have, though. I wish my machine had auto-clip.

    One thing I always check out, since I sew mostly garments, is the quality of the automatic buttonhole. These can vary a lot, and even expensive machines don't always stitch out a nice, even buttonhole. If you use buttons, test the buttonholes and see what you think.

    Finally, I would suggest waiting on the embroidery machine. There are now some terrific, very affordable embroidery-only machines on the market, so when you're ready, you could buy a separate machine. Remember that once you have an embroidery  machine, you're very probably going to want to buy software and purchase embroidery designs, so you need plan for those expenses as well.

    Carol

    1. Michelle | | #2

      Personally, I would forgo most (not all ;)) of the bells and whistles, and buy slightly less expensive good machine with a strong DC motor that is easy to use, and buy a serger which I think is far more useful than all the dozens of fancy stiches that send the price of machines rocketing.

      Shelly

      1. Audball | | #5

        Thank you, Shelly! Ironically, the "fewer frills" machine is actually the more expensive one (Viking). Which is why I was wondering if one is trading quality for features, and vice versa. I actually thought about getting a serger instead of a new sewing machine, but there's so much my poor old machine can't handle! Depending on what projects I wind up spending time on, I suspect I will start looking into sergers before embroidery machines!

        :) audrey

    2. Audball | | #4

      Carol, thank you for your comprehensive reply!

      I did look at Janome. The only dealer in town is a tiny little shop that had 2 machines to show me, the MemoryCraft 4800 and 6500, I think. I loved the 4800, but it was $1200... I saw a new one go on eBay last week for $500, but decided I would feel more comfortable with local support for my first new machine.

      Same issue with the Brother dealer, in terms of only 2 machines to look at, and one of those was a combo (Innovis). I'm just nervous about ordering in something I haven't had a chance to test-drive, and the dealer's brand-specific knowledge isn't enough to explain the differences between the different models. That's an obstacle to my research on the trade-up options... That, and the brand websites are distressingly vague when comparing this level of detail and pricing! One nice thing about this dealer is that you can trade-up to any of the brands they carry. The salesperson only recommended Pfaff, though, and that's a whole other class of machine and price range--a big jump to the next step, as you say.

      I appreciate the feedback on the special features. Now that a couple of days have passed and the novelty is wearing off, they no longer seem so important! The bottom line is, ANY new machine is going to have a few features over my Kenmore!

      Same thing on the embroidery machine. Now that you pointed it out, there do seem to be a lot of options in a wide price range, starting lower than I imagined.

      Thanks again, -audrey-

      1. carolfresia | | #8

        Audrey,

        You're absolutely right to be placing emphasis on dealer support. If the Brother dealer has only two machines, you're not as likely to get help when/if you decide to trade up, and as you say, the websites aren't always that helpful in explaining how the machines relate to each other in terms of features and price. I don't think I've ever heard a Viking owner complain about her machine, and I know that Viking is developing a lot of multi-featured machines at a lower price point these days.

        A serger is a wonderful addition to your sewing room. Esp. for things like costumes, where there are often many long seams to sew--you can really speed up the process with a serger. I sewed happily for years without a serger, but now I wonder how I managed.

        Carol

        1. Audball | | #10

          Hi Carol,

          Thanks for the encouragement, and the validation! I do feel better about missing out on that Janome! :) To be more accurate, the Brother dealer only had the two machines in my range... they did seem to have a lot of options for embroidery, at least 3 that I remember. The Innovis and two ULT machines, plus other brands. Perhaps I will return there when I'm ready for embroidery (someday...).

          I had a chance to use a girlfriend's serger a couple of years ago (we were making dog beds and portable mesh kennels). I'd never seen one before and the whole knife thing was at both wondrous and intimidating! But when I look at my clothes and the things in my home, I realize how much serging is around me! You can be sure I'll be back here looking for advice when that time comes...

          :) audrey

          1. carolfresia | | #13

            Your problem controlling speed might just be the machine you currently have. I never could do much with my mom's old Singer (almost my age, so it's not too new, although it's a pretty amazing machine), but my very low-end Brother machine (which I used until two years ago) was easy to work with, and higher-end machines from all manufacturers that I've tried are easier still.

            I've heard wonderful things about the Janome 4800, and they have a new machine out, the 6500, which is supposed to be terrific, but no matter how good the machine is, I still think you're better off staying within your price range, and purchasing from a dealer you trust. Even a mid-range machine is a chunk of change, and you want to feel secure that you'll have the support you might (or might not) end up needing. But then, I have a very low risk tolerance!

            Whatever you end up with, I bet you'll be very happy. It's so much fun using a new machine!

            Carol

  2. SewNancy | | #3

    I looked at the Brother and at the Viking Platinum 750.  Bought the Viking because the buttonholes met my needs better.  The Brother couldn't make it big enough and the device did not fit odd shaped buttons.  I tend to use big buttons and found that a limitation.  I also use odd shaped buttons, again a limitation.  I bought the Viking 750 and am very happy.  I never use the speed control either.  The buttonholer was the deciding factor for me. 

    Nancy

    1. Audball | | #6

      Hi Nancy,

      Glad to hear you're happy with your Viking! Why did you choose the 750 out of the four Platinum models?

      The first time I saw a "2-step" buttonhole on a new machine, it looked spectacular! <g> On my machine, I have to take off the little plate and replace it with a plate with a special gear on it. Then get out a plastic template, and turn a dial to choose the correct size buttonhole. Next line up the gear on the plastic template with the gear on the plate, jiggle it until it falls into place, and set the zig-zag length and width. Once I figure all that out, sewing the actual buttonhole is "easy"... just step on the gas! So as you can imagine, the first time I saw the Platinum do a "fully automatic" buttonhole, it looked like a genuine miracle...

      At the moment the buttonholer is not a deal-breaker for me, but I think I will appreciate it if I continue with costuming and garments. Leaning towards the Viking at the moment... the Sewing Advisor looks like another useful feature at my current skill level.

      thanks, -audrey-

      p.s. any more opinions out there? :)

      1. SewNancy | | #7

        Basicly it was the price point and I don't need the extra fancy stitches.  It also had needle up or down  which I love.  You can set it to always stop down or up or use the peddle to tap it up or down.  More than 20 years ago I took couture sewing lessons on the last mechanical Viking with the cams, It had this feature.  Until now you had to pay a lot more to get this feature.  My last machine,  a 20 year old Viking, didn't have this feature, so to see it in a machine I could afford was a big  plus for me.   I also thought that the attachments on the Viking were just more substantial feeling.

        Nancy

        1. Audball | | #11

          Thanks, Nancy! I do a lot of pivoting and that is definitely a useful feature! I believe the 730 only has the "tap foot pedal" option, but still an improvement for me! :) I also get that impression of a "solid" feel from the Viking.

          -audrey-

      2. Elisabeth | | #9

        I love my 20 year old Viking. It has never let me down or needed to go in for repair. Before that I had a Kenmore too, great machine!

        I would ask myself why all the extra features are offered on the Brother and included in the price when Viking isn't doing the same. It could be the quality vs quantity thing?

        The Vikings have a speed control in the pedal, pushing on the side is slower than the middle, and can go so slow it will put you to sleep. I personally don't have a need for any other type of speed control. And they have a thread cutting thing but perhaps you are looking at something other than the basic sharp blade thing. I feel today's Vikings are a good value.

        I'll bet you will be so happy with a new sewing machine that you wouldn't miss the embroidery stuff for now. An embrodiery only machine could offer a lot more good embroidery features than the sewing machines in your price range right now will. Maybe you could rent one sometime and try it out if there is a place that rents near you. Or at least you can spend lots of time trying them out at the stores. Since you already sew you know what to look for in a sewing machine but if you haven't tried the machine embroidery maybe you would need more time to explore it.

        I hope the machine shopping works out well for you. Of course my vote goes to the Viking but we all have our own style. A machine has to feel right to you as well as have the desired features.

        1. Audball | | #12

          Hi Elisabeth,

          Thanks for weighing in! My Kenmore has been very solid and reliable--and because it's old, I never worried about breaking it if I wanted to try something new (like pushing vinyl mesh car seat pads through it last week!). Plus it was free... <g>

          I got out my Viking brochure, it does mention "electronic speed control" but I didn't realize it's in the pedal! I'm definitely going to try that out when I go back to the store. I'm not really good at controlling the "gas". :) Really, I don't need a button or variable speed if the foot pedal control works like that. I'm so glad you pointed that out!

          There are places that RENT embroidery machines?!? Holy cow! That would definitely solve my dilemma of wanting a long test-drive, when I'm ready to try it. How do I go about finding one of those places?

          Thanks again! audrey

  3. colleency | | #14

    I'll throw in my $.02.

    I have a low end Viking (350) that I bought 7 years ago, and I love it. Before that I had a Brother that I bought in 1988 for $100 at Sears, and that worked well for me, too.

    I recommend that you purchase from a dealer you can trust, because you don't only rely on them for repairs and upgrades, you rely on them to show you how to operate new feet and to carry supplies for your brand of sewing machine.

    I highly recommend that you go for the best buttonholer you can. I make mostly costumes. I decided to upgrade from my Brother (no buttonholer) after I had to make a gown that had 27 buttons up the front. I would really like to have a machine that makes the holes on its own, and maybe has more than 1 type of buttonhole.

    I have a friend that bought a Pfaff high-end sewing/embroidery machine, and she has never touched the embroidery functions! I must admit that I'm drooling over embroidery machines at this point myself.

    1. Audball | | #15

      Thanks, Colleen! Your post just validated my final decision. :)

      And thanks to everyone for your advice and support! I decided to go with the Viking Platinum 730 and I'm thrilled... Donna at the store (who's been working with me over the last month while I shopped) gave me a quick, hands-on overview on an open model and the interface is even more intuitive than I thought. (One of my concerns with the NX400 was the "fussy" interface.) I'm really comfortable with her, which is why I kept returning to her store; after my last few visits, I felt like I was buying from a friend!

      Once I decided, I was so excited I called Donna and went in this afternoon to pick up the machine... then came home, put the box in the house, and had to go to work! I'm about to fall over right now, but you can bet I'll be playing with it all weekend...! I'll give you a "final" update afterwards. ;)

      Colleen, it came with the automatic buttonholer, which is a $100 option on the Interlude 445... and was on sale for what I would have paid for the Interlude. :)

      Thanks again, have a great weekend, all! Warmly,

      audrey

      1. Barbaran8 | | #16

        Love my (older) Viking, my only wish is that it had the needle up/down feature... Hate having to let go of the fabric and rotate the wheel before turning a corner. My advice - get a walking foot - you'll have a lot of fun with that!

        1. Audball | | #17

          Hi Barb and everyone!

          My 730 doesn't have the needle up/down feature that you can set, but one tap of the foot pedal sets it in place. Used it all weekend and am so glad I have that feature!

          Well, everyone, I played around all weekend and am extremely happy with my final decision! Other than a minor threading snafu on the first day (I was so happy to be rid of the old bobbin system that I *over*simplified the new one), everything has been great. The first thing I did (after playing with all the stitches and features) was put together the kitchen windowshade that's been pinned up on the rod for the last few weeks. It's so nice to have a machine that follows me, vs. being limited by what it can do. Just having both layers of fabric feed evenly seems like a luxury to me! (Barb, I'll check out the walking foot as soon as I get signed up for quilting class... <g>)

          So glad to have had a forum from which I got such great feedback. Thanks to you all again. See you around!

          Warmly, audrey

          1. martagon | | #18

            I'm so glad that this discussion was here.  I've been thinking about a new sewing machine (my Singer is 37 yrs old, and starting to show it) and was wondering what to buy.  Gonna look for local Viking dealer to see what they have,  ...  how expensive are those other ones  ?Pfaff, Janome ??  I could probably part with about $750 Can$

            BTW, I'm usually "over the fence",  hope you don't mind me dropping in for a view. 

          2. Audball | | #19

            Hi there!

            In the price range I was looking at ($1000 US)... These are all from memory because I threw out the brochures after I bought my machine. <g> The Viking Platinum 730 I decided on was $998 on sale; the Interludes run $800-$1000. Janome Memory Craft 4800 was about $1200; Bernina low-end computerized machine around $1200; Brother NX400 $700 on sale; Singer has a new machine for about $600 but I haven't heard spectacular things about it. Pfaff was out of my league. :)

            For what it's worth, I'm very happy with my new Viking and I do make use of all the features, feet, etc. that came with it (I was afraid at first that I might be buying too much machine for my needs). Happy hunting!

            :) audrey

          3. martagon | | #20

            Thanks for this, seems as though I may have to adjust my price range upward. I haven't really looked at sewing machines, but at least now I won't have "sticker shock"  I had no idea they were that expensive.

            I'll be sure to have have a look at the viking.

          4. Audball | | #21

            Yeah, I was pretty shocked when I first started looking! But then my husband pointed out, the computerized machines ARE like buying a computer, and I would expect to pay this much for a computer. Actually, there is a pretty wide price range... anything from $250 on up, depending on what you want (just like computers!). I originally started looking in the $500 price range, then re-evaluated my needs and wants... Think about what would be nice vs. what you can't live without, and whether spending a little more now will be worth it in the long run. I will only ever have one sewing machine at a time, and I plan to keep this one a long time, so I didn't want to get something I would outgrow too quickly! :) audrey

          5. QueenJ | | #22

            I just wanted to note that in Canada, Husqvarna Viking and Viking sometimes refer to two different brands.  Up until recently, the Eatons department stores carried a house brand called "Viking" which was pretty much an equivalent to a Kenmore--not in the quality range of a Husqvarna.

            A good dealer will be knowledgable about their product.  (I own a Husqvarna myself and get so much satisfaction from it!)

          6. martagon | | #24

            Wow, so I went out to look today. The Viking Platinum750 was $1799.  Just a bit more than I was contemplating. I looked at a Pfaff 2202 which was $1249.  Also looked at a viking Interlude 435/Friesen425 at $1199.  Seems that those prices were sale prices and would be going up by 200-300$ when new stock comes in.  (These are all in Canadian dollars)

            What an eye opening experience that was.  The Pfaff seemed to have what I wanted; the main difference between the Pfaff 2202 and the Viking 435 was that the Pfaff had a needle threader, and I'm at the age where that is important. 

            I guess when the last time you got a machine was 35 yrs ago, and that machine was a gift, well, I'm  just a little out of touch with reality.  Input appreciated if you know these machines

          7. Audball | | #25

            Yeah, in the Platinum line the only one in my price range was the 730. After that there is a big jump in price. The only Pfaffs I found locally were out of my league (but people swear by them!). I did a ton of research on the Vikings when I narrowed it down, so here's what I learned:

            When I bought my Platinum (on sale $988US), the Interlude 445 was on sale for $888US, or about the same Canadian as you were quoted for the 435. The Freesia is an outgoing model, it was new when I started sewing again a couple of years ago. I think the main differences between the 435 and 445 were the "sewing advisor" (handy for me with less sewing experience) and the option to add the automatic sensor buttonhole foot. The 435 doesn't have the part to plug that foot in at all, so if you think you'll want it later it might be worth looking at the 445.

            The main differences between the Interlude 445 and the Platinum 730 were the needle threader, and that the sensor buttonhole foot comes with it. If you buy the sensor foot alone, it's $100US. Since that was also the price difference between the 445 and 730, my husband suggested I just go ahead with the Platinum... I would have bought the foot eventually, and this way I got the needle threader, too. :) Oh, and the needle up/down feature by tapping the pedal, which I use a LOT.

            It seems like the dealers never sell at MSRP, which is a good thing because those prices are $200-400 higher! There is always some kind of sale going on, I just waited for the right one. Other reasons I went with Viking were local availability and support, and the trade-up option (full value the first year, pro-rated after). The Pfaff/Brother/Singer/Janome dealer here also had a trade-up program, offered through the dealer so you could even change brands among what they carry.

            Which Pfaff model are you looking at? Maybe the more knowledgeable folks around here will have more input for you. :) You can also search the message archive, that initially helped me a lot.

          8. Scooter1 | | #26

            I have a Pfaff 7570. It's  one of the older (5yrs) top of the line Pfaffs. I love it! I spend a lot of time on another message board called http://www.pfafftalk.com. There is a  lot of dicussion from people who love this machine. It also does large embroidery designs. Max. size is 4.5 x4.5 inches. There are machines that emroider larger designs, but this one does what I want it to. They sell regularly on e bay for $1700. They're also  a great machine for basic sewing. They have a built in even feed foot which is wonderful and a needle threader, needle down, slow speed button, and sew in reverse continuously option. Plus tons of decorative stitches. The machine can be hooked up to your computer to download embroidery designs from the internet or to cards that can be inserted into the machine. It's just a good all around well made sewing machine.

          9. edgy | | #23

            I also have a 35-yr old Kenmore and wanted to upgrade, so bought a Viking Lily 545 on eBay after tracking them for a year. I'm extremely pleased and still use the Kenmore to be "fearless".

            I also read carefully the Threads "supermachine" article and highlighted those features that I think would really help me out/speed things up for my next upgrade. I'd never want all of them and couldn't dream of shelling out $4000, but some seem worth looking at.

            Thinking abt what you really NEED for a long time is a process I have found to be worth it in the end.

            Nancy

      2. SewNancy | | #27

        So glad you love your Viking.  I too am very happy and  I am sewing more because of less agravation with this new macnine. 

        Nancy

        1. Audball | | #28

          Thanks, Nancy! Three months later, and I am still sewing, more than I used to before! I joined a "potpourri" class which has helped me a lot, too. It meets once a week so I know I have at least that time set aside to sew; and I can bring whatever project I'm working on. The instructor knows the machines inside-out so she really helps me put my Viking to the best use for each project.

          Enjoy! :) audrey

          1. Suzyq | | #29

            Hi.  I just read the long thread of discussion regarding your machine purchase and have recently posted a similar question.  I have a dealer near me that sells Bernina, Viking and Brother machines and one of the women there originally wanted me to buy the Platinum Plus.  2 weeks later I went there and she showed me and suggested the Brother NX400 and I put a deposit on that.  I'm not so sure I really want it though.  I am starting a sewing class next week and really want to learn the right way and I love new machines (as opposed to rentals) but I also would like a lighter machine to carry around.  I have also been reading about the Bernina 145S which is a lighter (so they say) machine.  You didn't mention them so I guess that your dealer doesn't have them.  I know that you're hooked on the 730 now.  How heavy is it?  Very and is there a hard case with that?  Thanks;-)

            Sue

            Edited 9/5/2004 7:42 pm ET by suzyq

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