Sewing Machine Review: Husqvarna Viking Jade 20

Husqvarna Viking Jade 20, frontI’ve taken my first sewing steps on a borrowed mechanical Kenmore machine. It took only a few weeks with the borrowed machine for me to realize that I enjoyed sewing too much not to have a machine to call my own. So I did what any impatient dude would: I went to a big box store and bought a machine. It was a fine little thing, but I had outgrown it in a matter of months.

This led me to do the right thing and drive down to a proper sewing store (namely Excelle Machine à Coudre, in Laval, Québec). That’s when I saw it. The beautiful Jade 20. I wanted it. I needed it. It had to be mine. Partly because of its smashing good looks (can you tell I dig the styling already?) and partly because of the large harp space, ideal for quilting projects.

I’ve owned the Jade 20 for almost a year and I want to tell you about the good, the bad, the awesome and the oh-noes! Let’s go!

Let’s Talk Tech

The Husqvarna Viking Jade 20, in a few bullet points:

  • Start/Stop function (for sewing without foot control)
  • 8 inches of space to the right of the needle
  • 82 total stitches, split between utility and decorative
  • 2 LED lights for workspace illumination
  • 2 character LED screen
  • 7 mm stitch width
  • Needle stop up/down function
  • Stop and fix functions
  • 5 speed electronic speed control
  • 1 built-in spool pin
  • 7 included presser feet

A Beautiful Object

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The Husqvarna Viking Jade 20, fully closed.

The Husqvarna Viking Jade 20 is a looker. The case design is very modern, somewhat minimalist. It is a beautiful object all its own.

To cater to city dwellers with small apartments, this machine, when not in use, can store its power cable and foot control in the removable storage compartment sits square in the middle of the machine. In fact, with the storage compartment in place, the machine is its own case! Perfect for keeping this beauty dust free in between sewing sessions. In addition to this, the Jade has a 2 drawer accessory tray, which can be removed from the machine to reveal the free arm (for your circular sewing pleasure).

The clean lines extend to the sides and even the back of the machine, as you can see in the three photos below

Left Side view of the Husqvarna Viking Jade 20
On the left, you’ll find the foot pressure dial and the thread cutter
Right Side of the Husqvarna Viking Jade 20
On the right side, you’ll find the manual needle advance wheel, the power switch, the power socket and the foot control connector
Back of the Husqvarna Viking Jade 20
On the back, you’ll find the carry handle, the lock for the storage compartment as well as a tasteful Husqvarna Viking logo

The operative word here is: minimal and clean.

Husqvarna Viking Jade 20, front view with lid openWith the storage compartment removed and the top lid open, the machine reveals itself. Even then, you’re presented with an uncluttered, well delimited interface. Most of the features are clearly labeled and easy to use.

Jade 20 In Action

Husqvarna Viking seems to be marketing this machine to home decor hobbyists, part-time sewists and people who want to live large and fashionable lives in small spaces. Also, if we are to judge by the official Jade 20 brochure (found here), it appears one must intensely love cupcakes to want this machine.

I approached this machine as a quilter, a bag maker and as someone who sews mainly with recycled and repurposed fabrics. Do keep this in mind as you read my impressions of the Jade 20, as your experience may differ.

The first few hours with the Jade 20 were somewhat unsettling. I came from a cheap and cheerful Brother that was extremely forgiving with regards to threading and bobbins and all that jazz. After having had a read through of the manual, I sat down, wound a bobbin, installed the filled bobbin and started sewing. Two, three stitches on, the machine made a huge rattle noise and E2 appeared on the screen. A quick trip to the manual’s troubleshooting section revealed that this meant the motor couldn’t advance. It turns out that the bobbin had wound itself unevenly, which translated to the thread getting stuck in the hook. It took me about 3 tries to finally wind a bobbin to the machine’s liking.

However, the stitch quality sure made up for how finicky setting a bobbin had been. This machine produces stellar stitches and it produces them with consistency. The feed dogs usually move the fabric along well and with aplomb. However, the feed dogs tend to be on the hungrier side and will swallow fine fabrics if they are not entirely covered during operation. This made me long and wish for a straight stitch needle plate, but alas such an accessory is not available for this machine.

Having sewn with various types of thread, I’ve not yet encountered a situation where I had to alter the thread tension settings. In situations where tension was uneven between the top and bottom layer, a simple rethreading fixed the issue.

The machine has 5 sewing speeds, selectable via buttons. This brings me to one of the main annoyances I’ve encountered with this machine: the default sewing speed and the default needle position are not stored in memory. Upon start, the default sewing speed is set to 5 (maximum) and the default needle stop position is set to needle up. This can be quite startling, especially considering that with the straight stitch setting, maximum speed causes the machine to vibrate quite noticeably on the table. I imagine that this wouldn’t be a problem if the machine were installed in a sewing cabinet. But on a table, it’s unpleasant. Thankfully, speeds 4 and below generate little to no noticeable vibration or shaking. As I sew almost always at speed 4 or 3 and I pretty much always set the machine to stop with the needle down, I wish there was a way to make those settings stick instead of having to set them each and every time the machine is used.

Front Panel of Husqvarna Viking Jade 20
The front panel features a numeric keypad that also allows for direct stitch selection, settings for needle width and length, a reverse stitch button and the sewing advisor button

The Jade 20 features functions to fix (lock) a stitch automatically when pressed and to stop sewing and either lock the stitch or complete the stitch motif. I found that, in usage, those features were quite responsive. The reverse button however seems to take a few stitches to jump in. Nothing major, but it’s definitely something to get used to.

Most of the presser feet can be installed on the machine via a simple snap mechanism. Certain feet, such as the free-motion quilting foot or the walking foot, will require you to unscrew the entire feet shaft from the machine. This turned out to be a much harder operation than expected, as the space between the sewing bed and the top of the needle section is quite narrow. For people with petite hands this will cause no trouble, but for ogre-hands fellas like me, it does require some fudging about. Again, not a major thing. Oh, and a word of warning, it’s possible to install a presser foot backwards without noticing. This will lead to tears and broken needles. Ask me how I know.

Quilting small to mid-sized quilt project on this machine turned out to be quite pleasant, especially with the optional extension table. That accessory adds a sizeable amount of space to the left of the sewing bed and is surprisingly sturdy. I am not super thrilled with the placement of the presser foot lever. Instead of having it at the back of the machine, it is found in the harp space. When quilting larger projects, I’ve often found myself bumping into the lever.

Sewing through multiple layers of denim or canvas can definitely be done with this machine, but it does struggle with heavier fabrics. This shows more when sewing bags and accessories. The machine has a harder time sewing over thicker bumps in the fabric, often times simply sewing  with the fabric sitting still. To alleviate this, when sewing heavier projects, I keep an awl by the sewing machine, just in case I need to give the little Jadey an encouraging push.

So, do I like it or not?

Oh, I assure you, I do. It’s a joyous little machine. A good-looking, well-stitching, jack-of-all-trades. Husqvarna Viking made an awesome home projects machine with the Jade 20. This sewing machine offers supreme stitch quality, a large sewing space, more than enough power for most projects in a compact package. But I may have outgrown it. As I quilt more, I am longing for more harp space, for a more illuminated workspace, for a straight stitch needle plate, for a free-motion quilting foot that will generate less recoil. As I sew more bags and accessories, I wish for more horsepower, for an integrated dual-feed system, for a higher-lifting presser foot system.

So perhaps this is a true case of the “It’s not you, it’s me”. Jade 20, I still want to be friends, we can keep sewing together and go out for coffee and such, but I may no longer be a one sewing machine kinda man.

For more information: Husqvarna Viking Jade 20 (Husqvarna Viking Canada)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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