Where is This Sewing Machine Made?

Oh no.

As someone who sold high end sewing machines for over 8 years, this was a dreaded question. Not because I didn’t know the answer or was embarrassed by the answer. Not at all.  It was because I had seen so many people have a visceral, and frankly, uneducated and ignorant reaction to the answer.

So I am dedicating this blog to facts. A great deal of misinformation, speculation and gossip is available on sewing boards and even wikipedia. I contacted the most well-known brand names myself, and even checked Bloomberg to get these answers and to help anyone understand the dynamics in play here.  I want you to be educated and informed about your purchasing decisions.  Not angry and emotional.

Let me start by saying this much:

Sewing machines are not manufactured in the U.S.

NEW Author’s note, 1.21.19:

HandiQuilter has informed me that they do NOT manufacture domestic sewing machines in Utah, only the longarms.  So we are back to ZERO consumer sewing machines made in the U.S. This had been a question posed to me, so I followed up with HandiQuilter.

This is not about politics. This is about economics.  While I do not have access to manufacturing costs, I do understand dealer margins and exactly what goes into the research, development, and manufacturing of these products. You love your dealer and want them to stay in business? They have to make money.  The manufacturer has to make money.  The distributors have to make money. The people contracted by the manufacturer have to make money (including all those in marketing, customer service, etc.). You pay for all of this.

So where are they made?

Here’s the clearest breakdown.  I asked the top brands through customer service on their website a.) Where are your sewing machines manufactured? and b.) Where is your US Headquarters and what functions take place there?  These are my answers:

Bernina:

Their international headquarters is in Steckborn Switzerland.  They still manufacture there, but only the very highest end machines. The B880, the Q20 and Q24 are made in Switzerland.  Bernina is the only sewing machine manufacturer that still produces machines in what is considered the “west.” – in Switzerland. They also own Brewer and OESD embroidery.

All the rest of their regular line Bernina machines are produced in a Bernina plant in Lamphun Thailand, built in 1990. It is important to note that this plant is owned and operated by Bernina.  Here’s a great video.  Dealers from the US have visited there.  The local employees have free lunch and air conditioning.

Bernina’s US Headquarters is located in Aurora IL.  It serves as the US distribution center, and also handles marketing, tech issues, software customer service, education, etc.

Full disclosure: I know more about Bernina than the others because those were the machines I sold. And I own several of them.

Baby Lock:

Baby lock is a brand name owned by Tacony, a huge US corporation that also owns Nancy’s Notions, Koala Cabinets, Amazing Designs embroidery, vacuum cleaners and other home products. In response to my request, I promptly received an email from the Assistant General Manager of Baby Lock in Japan, where their International headquarters is located.  He tells me that Baby Lock sewing machines are manufactured in Taiwan, Vietnam, China and Thailand. Baby Lock sergers are MOSTLY made in Japan, where they own a number of factories.  According to the company, a couple of serger models (I don’t know which ones) are made in Taiwan.

They don’t technically have a US headquarters. Tacony is their US wholesale distributor and they are located in Fenton Missouri.

Viking/Husqvaqrna/Pfaff/Singer

All of the above brand names are now under one corporation: SVP Worldwide.  Their customer service response is that most of their machines are made in China.  Singer responded separately and stated that their machines are made in Brazil, China, Taiwan and Vietnam.

SVP Worldwide’s US headquarters is located in LaVergne Tennessee.  Here they handle dealer relations, customer service and software support.

An interesting note: Worldwide headquarters for SVP Worldwide is located in Hamilton Bermuda. (Not exactly the Cayman Islands, but same result…far less taxes. Shrewd?  Dishonest?  That’s for you to decide, but at least you know.)

Janome

Janome International headquarters is located in Japan, where they have 3 Janome-owned factories.  Their website clearly states that they manufacture their machines in Japan, Taiwan and Thailand.

Their US headquarters is located in Mahwah, New Jersey. This is where they handle dealer relations, education and customer service. They have a nice video about their Japanese factories on their website.

Brother

I had the most difficulty contacting anyone from Brother US. Keep in mind that Brother International creates printers, fax machines, industrial sewing machines and garment printers and lots more. Their customer service line left me on hold for over 20 minutes in the middle of the day, when I called their US Headquarters located in Bridgewater, New Jersey. (Prior to that I went through rounds and rounds of automated answering prompts. NOT FUN.)

I finally called a local sewing dealership that sells Brother home and professional machines.  All they could tell me is that the machines are made in “the Orient.”

Wikipedia says China, Taiwan and Vietnam. They are widely known to share the same vendors as Baby Lock, but I cannot confirm anything from the corporation itself.

What’s the Conclusion?

Here’s my advice:  Do your homework. Research not only the features of the machines, but where they originate and how they’re made.  Lean on your local dealers. If they handle multiple brands of machines, ask them who is the easiest to work with, the most responsive. If they have the machines on hand, ask to see the original box. It must always be labeled with country of origin.  I welcome corrections or additional information.

If you work for any of these organizations, and have more detail, you can contact me at carol@edgestitch.com.

And if any of this gets you worked up, don’t even think about researching your food.

You don’t ever want to know.

22 thoughts on “Where is This Sewing Machine Made?

  1. I love my Bernina. I have had it for over ten years but decided it was time to buy a new one for the embroidery work. I have to hook up to my 10 year old lap top and send my designs to my machine etc… and it gets old. That is, it was getting old until I starting shopping around for a new one. I do not understand how a machine built by people making dollars a day can cost more than my first Toyota Corolla. If they were still being made in Switzerland, it would still be tragic but more understandable.

    • Actually, the most expensive machines are still made in Switzerland. You would be a great candidate for the 770 with embroidery or the new 5 series with embroidery. Keep an eye out around the holidays. Bernina usually has some pretty good promotions and financing. A new machine can change your life…lots of people don’t understand that but I do. I have never regretted a Bernina purchase. But I feel your pain. Machines are an investment.

    • Jan, this is just my opinion, but I would go with the 1008. They are widely used in schools and can take a real beating and still sew beautifully. The old 830 is a collectible and was precious in its time, but as the years go by, parts are not as available as they deteriorate. Bernina still makes the 1008 because of classroom use, so techs and parts are readily available. You could still get a new one with a warranty. Again, just my opinion, but the 1008 is the current workhorse.

  2. Fascinating. I just bought my first Bernina, a 740 and I am very happy with it. I figure it was made in Asia since it’s not top of the line.

    • Yes, a 740 is made in Thailand, but it’s manufactured in a Bernina-owned plant. It’s highly controlled and locals have decent working conditions, spotless work environment, managed by Switzerland headquarters. Plenty of info about the Thailand plant is available on the Bernina website.
      P.S. 740 is a great machine, you’re gonna love it.

      • I do love it. That and I was pleased to read your information about the Bernina owned and run factory.
        I had mid level Vikings for more than 30 years before I bought my 740. I had to get used to 9mm sewing, but I’ve had it for 7 months and I’ve never sewn more. It is just a pleasure to sew on. I also love the feet which I’ve bought on the two sales, gotten for my birthday and Chanukah. from my children who are pleased to have something to get me that I really want!
        I bought it for a number of reasons, one being that it makes fabulous buttonholes and it’s totally adjustable. I love having a buttonhole I where I can adjust the slit width. I made perfect corded buttonholes on a knit cardigan, one of the harder things to do. I just made samples on another cardigan and they too were perfect. I heard that they are discontinuing this machine. Such a shame since it is so perfect for a garment sewer.

    • That’s a great question. Juki was not originally on my radar, basically because there are really not a lot of Juki dealers in my area. However, I have contacted Juki and will add an update to this post when I hear back from them. Thanks for asking.

  3. My friend has a BabyLock Regula quilting machine and it had to be sent back to corporate for repair after sewing only 91 quilts in 7 months. Heard anything about these machines? She just boughtnit in May of this year.

    • I have not heard anything specific about the Regalia. As with any machine purchase, you need to depend heavily on your dealer. 91 quilts is not a trivial number in 7 months! Be sure that you have received as much training as possible on how to maintain and use your machine on your own…owner cleaning and troubleshooting on all machines is vital. After that, any issues should be handled by your dealer and then up the chain of command, which is what’s happening. No one wants an unhappy customer. I’m sure it will be resolved. Good luck!

    • I have 4 babylock machines – the Crown Jewel III long arm machine, the Flourish a low end single needle embroidery only machine, the Ovation a serger/overlock machine and the Crescendo their high end sewing machine. I love them all, and love my dealer – I wouldn’t sew with anything else. I am a long armer for my local dealer and have quilted in the same range as your 90+ quilts with no problems at all. My old Janome on the other hand… let’s just say I no longer own that one. I hope they repaired your Regalia and things are working better for you, as I say I’ve been very happy with the brand.

    • 1.21.19 I am adding a corrective note to this reply. I have since spoken to HandiQuilter and they do NOT manufacture the HQ Stitch models in Utah. Only the longarms are made there. So that leaves us with NO domestic sewing machines being made in the U.S.(that I have discovered.)

      (Earlier reply).Ah, a great question. Handi-Quilter is located in North Salt Lake, Utah, where they manufacture. Their website lets me believe that their line of HQ Stitch home sewing machines are manufactured in Utah as well. If they are indeed manufactured there, then I stand corrected. I have not seen these machines in person, nor have I worked on them, and I am not familiar with their level of quality and durability. So I will withhold judgement until they have been around long enough to be proven. With only 100 people working at their corporate office, production facility and training center, I am curious to learn more.

  4. Another thing to understand when looking at the cost of our hobby. The newer machines are all computerized. The embroidery software is a computer program – Research and development costs a lot. There is a limited market for our tools as compared to business computers and software, so the recoup of investment has to be spread over fewer machines, so the cost is higher per sewing machine or sewing related software. Other ‘hobbies’ are the same.

  5. For me, it’s not so much where the machine is made that is the main concern but the customer service that occurs after they sell a machine and the quality of the product. Are the US dealers able to fully address customer complaints or our their hands tied? Are parts and software updates available for a reasonable period of time after production on that model ends? Can we easily escalate concerns to corporate that are not being addressed or able to be addressed by local dealers? $12k later, I am learning the hard way after being a new buyer in this market, trusting my local dealer and the reputation of a brand.

  6. Per the internet, Pfaff, since around 2015, is wholly owned by ShanGong (Europe) Holding Corp., GmbH, a subsidiary of SGSB Group Co.Ltd,, a Chinese investment group. They now have no connection with Singer or Husqvarna/Viking. Could not determine where the Pfaff machines are now made, but assume they are made in China as before the acquisition.

    • All of Pfaff’s contact information on their current website for USA refers to SVP Worldwide with LaVerne TN as their US distribution center. That ‘s the info I previously was given. Shangong looks to be just an investment group that holds the Pfaff Industrial Machinery shares, not the consumer business. But I will contact LaVerne TN again to verify.

  7. Hi
    I found your article very informative.
    I replaced my 1989 Pfaff with a new,much cheaper Elna. After a month I went back to the old Pfaff.
    I need a repair to an old Elna overlocker (serger) late !980’s model.
    Would you recommend buying a new one or getting a repair?
    Thanks
    Suzanne
    PS Saw the price of the top Bernina you mentioned, and screamed!

    • Well, in my humble opinion, sergers have come a long way since the eighties. I have a Babylock and that’s the only brand of serger I would purchase at the moment. That’s not to say there aren’t others out there that are just fine. But for my money, Babylock has been perfecting their sergers for a long, long time. They are not cheap…nothing is these days as you well know. So my advice to you is to test drive and price new sergers. If you are not impressed, then get your Elna fixed. But keep in mind that the parts will be harder and harder to find for that older model. That’s just the nature of the sewing industry. Good luck!

      • Thank you Carol, for your advice. My old Elnalock L4 was made in Japan.
        I have had a look at the Babylock site here in Australia. Self threading looks amazingly tempting ! Rethreading is certainly the bugbear of these old machines.
        I only need a 4 cone overlocker and saw one with ” Air thread Extraordinaire”
        Is there a 4 thread that you recommend ?
        I have only ever used my machine as a seam binder so I don’t need extra functions that I will never use.
        I thank you for your free advice. Sorry I can’t buy from you in the U.S. but your site full of advice is wonderful.
        Suzanne

        • I really can’t recommend any specific serger as I haven’t shopped for one in a while. I have a Babylock “Imagine” if that helps. It’s a 4 thread and does everything I could ever need. I don’t really want to deal with a cover stitch at the moment. Best of luck to you…the air threading is the best.feature.ever.

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