on April 25, 2013
My 2009 Viking Emerald 116 machine worked well until I started making outdoor gear, using a very sturdy Signature Sunstop thread and siliconized nylon fabric. The upper & lower threads locked under the fabric with the upper thread tension dialed to its highest. The machine doesn't permit easy adjustments of bobbin thread tension--one must remove the plate under the presser foot to get to the top loading bobbin case to loosen the tension screw. Even with loosening the bobbin thread tension, the stitch quality didn't approach the quality of the stitches that the saleswoman made with the machine--for me it produces stitches neither straight nor consistently locked between the top and bottom of the stitching. I borrowed a Bernina to finish the project I was working on.
A local sewing shop loaded my thread into a more expensive Pfaff Classic style 2023 with a front loading bobbin. It sewed straight, well balanced stitches in both sheer fabric and 12 layers of denim.
Before dropping hundreds of $ on any machine, take your fabric and thread into a sewing shop to discover the machines that will handle your work. If you need to work on different materials in the future, you should resign yourself to possibly having to buy a more capable machine. In my case, I had no idea that I'd ever be using a thread that my Viking wouldn't handle. I might have done better by buying a used Bernina or other well regarded high end make.
My Emerald 116 does NOT have a needle up/needle down--when I release pressure on the pedal the needle most often stops in the up position. The pedal is nothing special--very plain Jane. It does have drop feed, and adjustable presser foot tension. The work-light is adequate. Birdnesting of the thread occurred occasionally. The machine will allow positioning the needle to the right when using a straight stitch. The one button hole I made turned out to my satisfaction.
12/7/2013 Edit: I have to upgrade the Viking rating to four stars for the following reasons.
Comparison notes: I've used the above Pfaff. It cannot sew nylon pack cloth (500 denier Cordura)--when the motor fails to punch the needle through this dense coated fabric, it responds to me helping it out with the handwheel by losing its timing (which determines when the hook on the bobbin case loops the top thread with the bottom thread, forming the lock stitch). The Viking motor is also a bit weak, but does not lose its timing if I help it push through Cordura. I wouldn't buy the Viking for sewing packcloth because it needs too much help through thick stuff, but the Pfaff leaves even more to be desired.
While the Viking didn't fare well with Sunstop thread and siliconized nylon, it has worked well with most other fabrics that I've thrown at it.
One other thing: Use the right needle type and sizes with the right threads AND change to a new needle at the slightest hint of trouble. Find a reliable sewing machine shop & get guidance there.