Pros: Lots of stitch choices and programing combinations
Cons: Dark keypad makes it hard to see the stitch symbol.
I owned a Viking Freesia 415 for 2 weeks and decided to go ahead, bite the bullet, and get the Lily 555 that was on my wish list. The Lily 555 is the same as the Lily 550. There are really no differences between the two other than one is this year's model (the 555).
There are TONS of stitches on this machine--240 to be exact. This is the top-of-the-line model in the Lily series; the next step up is an "embroidery" machine called the "Rose". Although embroidery is not possible with any of the Lily series of machines, one can combine (program) several of the satin stitches to create that type of look. The manual gives instructions for something that is supposed to look like a leaf, but to me it just looked like a long blob with tapering ends. However, when I went to the free class Viking provides I was shown how to program some really neat looking stitches that looked terrific. The manual just isn't as helpful as one would like when it comes to combining the many decorative stitches--it instead concentrates on the basics of operation and then you're on your own. However, there are additional books that can be purchased at the dealer that gives stitch designs and the programing sequence. Although the Lily 555 is fairly easy to use, I can see that one should have a lesson or two to really get to know this machine.
NOTE: THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS VERY DETAILED. It is geared toward consumers seriously considering the purchase of this machine, so it is quite lengthy!
Okay...(deep breath).....here we go...
....The usual utilitarian stitches are there (straight, zig-zag, flatlock, bridging, overcast) along with the blind hem stitch, but check this out--the Lily 555 also has:
-- 10 different types of buttonholes from which to choose (2 BARTACK types for medium/heavy fabrics; 2 ROUND-END for light weight fabrics; 2 REINFORCED for heavy fabrics; 1 HEIRLOOM (looks handmade) for compact fabrics like flannel; 2 KEYHOLE types suitable for tailoring; and 1 STRAIGHT STITCH buttonhole that's good for leather. There is no special foot that mechanically measures the size of the buttonhole. One only has to program the size needed, and that is a simple process. However, if there's a need to sew more than one buttonhole then simply snap on the Buttonhole sensor foot that comes with the machine. The sensor foot will measure the first one and then make all the others the exact same size. (It'll keep you from feeling like a button-pushing Jane Jetson).
--THREE Alphabet menus from which to choose. One is Block letters, another is Outlined block letters, and the last is script. All of the letters are upper-case, and each alphabet also includes the numbers 1 to 0. Of course, after programming the 1st letter one can program the next few at a smaller height. They're still upper case, but it looks a little better. Again, keep in mind that a real "embroidered" look just isn't going to happen.
--DARNING stitch and TAPERING SATIN stitch. The Darning stitch can help cover any little hole or tear without creasing the fabric to sew a "seam". The Tapering Satin stitch can be used for ending a monogram. Just hit this button when ready to end the satin stitch and it automatically tapers the end, stops, and ties off.
--HAND QUILTING STITCH. This is one of the neatest things I found about the Lily 555 (and the 545). This stitch appears hand sewn. HOWEVER, there is a trick to getting this accomplished--a CLEAR thread must be used on the top and the BOBBIN thread should be the color chosen to be "noticed". The invisible thread is of course invisible, so one only sees the bobbin thread.....and then, ta-da! Hand stitched appearance!
--EYELET STITCH. Actually there are 2 -- one is round and the other teardrop. Both are relatively small, and I'm not sure WHERE either can be used effectively. Maybe because I just DON'T have enough imagination....yet.
--40 (combined) DECORATIVE and HEMSTITCH stitches that include a couple of flowers, leaves, bow, cherries(?), and a couple of separate outlines that combined are supposed to look like a choo-choo train. There are just way too many to describe them all here. A good 4 or 5 of the Hemstitches in this menu are good for entredeau--just add a wing needle, and the effects are amazing!
--40 SATIN stitches that are really different pieces one can combine to create a design that DOES have a more embroidered look. I've not been real successful at the combinations I've tried so far, but included in this 40 are some complete designs that would look really nice on things like napkins or pillowcases.
--MIRROR IMAGE really expands the number of stitches and possibilities in combinations. As the name implies, pressing this button will sew a mirror image of a stitch.
--NEEDLE UP/DOWN. This is terrific! One can always just "tap" the foot peddle to have the needle go back down into the fabric, but I love NOT having to worry about it. With just a push of a button one can tell the machine to always stop down (in fabric) or stop up. One can also use the flywheel to move the needle up/down or any variation thereof.
--SPEED CONTROL. Wahoo......No more worrying about my foot getting too heavy in the middle of a project. With the Lily 555 there are 3 speed options at the press of a button (slow, medium, fast). No matter how hard you press on the foot pedal the machine won't go any faster than the speed that was set.
--4 PROGRAM MEMORIES. Wondering what to do with all those decorative stitches and how to combine them? Easy--the Lily 555 has 4 blank memory programs (the 545 has only 2). Anyone who has ever pushed a button will find this easy to do. Each memory will hold up to 55 stitches or letters in almost any combination (there are a few that won't work--like the utilitarian stitches). Different stitches from different menus (there are 6 menus--40 stitches in each) can also be programmed together INCLUDING mirror images! There's also a neat little reminder of "How To..." printed inside the machine's cover where the thread is seated, so one is not always digging out the manual.
--BOBBIN WINDING without unthreading the needle! A new bobbin can be wound direct from the needle thread (just don't do it with a plastic foot). The white presser foot ankle makes threading easier because it makes the needle eye easier to see. But I MUCH prefer not having to.
Something else that I think is really cool about the Viking is the FIX button (also on the Freesia series as well as all of the Lily series). One has only to touch FIX for the machine to take a couple of "knot" stitches in place before beginning or ending the stitch chosen. The STOP button also will tie a knot, but it will finish the remainder of a pattern being sewn before stopping.
If all that isn't enough, this machine also comes with a hard-case cover (a $70 value) and a clip-on extension table. The extension table is handy for working on larger projects, and it also stores neatly on the unit when not in use.
The Viking Lily series is made in SWEDEN as opposed to Taiwan (where the HuskyStar is made). The impression I've gotten is that the Swedish manufacturing plant is WAY more concerned with quality control therefore providing a MUCH better product to the consumer. The warranty is 5 years on electronic and 20 years mechanical. That should provide plenty of time for experimenting with those stitch combinations!
Additionally, the presser feet accessories (which can be costly...$14-$80+) are interchangable with most of the Viking machines from Freesia series up to the Rose (and I've been told the new Designer II series as well). The accessories available add a great deal to the functionality of any Viking machine.
Although the Lily 555 is an outstanding piece of equipment with the MAXIMUM in decorative stitches it still isn't an embroidery machine. NONE of the DECORATIVE(pictogram) stitches on either the Lily 555 or 545 will give an embroidered look to anything on which they are sewn. Even the alphabets are lacking in any real beauty when compared to what a real embroidery machine can do (like the Rose or Designer series). However, the SATIN stitches do come close.
Overall this machine seems to have MORE than what I really need. Since it's still relatively new I can't give any negatives except for one.....it DOESN'T have a BASTING stitch. Most of the Vikings don't (except for the new Designer II Quilt machine).....instead one must extend the straight stitch length to the maximum of 6 and reduce the tension. Amongst all of these clever, decorative and utility stitches the one I use the most is not available--VERY frustrating. The only other thing is that the keypad is in blue instead of white which makes it more difficult to see the stitch pictured if one doesn't have good lighting focused on the sewing face.
In retrospect I think that the Lily 545 would have have been more than plenty of machine for me. I chose the Lily 555 simply because I wanted LOTS of stitch options (that I could afford).
I DO have one more negative, but it's regarding the dealer (The Sewing Center located inside JoAnn Etc. in Franklin, TN). My NEW machine has a faulty light bulb (per the dealer--I had her check it personally) since it must sometimes be wiggled to come on. Instead of giving me a new bulb from another machine (even one of the floor models) she said she would order one. That's been 2 weeks ago and it appears that perhaps she "forgot" to order it. The best service at this center has been provided by the 2 older salespeople; unfortunately the owner has to be contacted on every decision and she isn't quite as savvy about customer service and the harm a negative experience can do to a company.
Good luck in your search and by the way...........use a good quality thread, like Gutermann, in your new machine. Other threads tend to have a "coating" that can gum up your tension.