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:
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.
Author’s Note: Tacony sold Nancy’s Notions to Missouri Star quilt Company May 27, 2020. Baby lock is a brand name owned by Tacony, a huge US corporation that also owns 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.
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.
Author’s note February 13, 2020: A source tells me that many of SVP’s machines are made by Zeng Hsing. Feel free to visit their site. Some of the designs will look very familar.
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 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.
Author’s Note June 9, 2020: My understanding is that Janome purchased Elna in 2004 and continued to use their European machine designs, but began manufacturing Elna machines in Janome facilities, mostly in their plant in Thailand. Exactly how this is done has not been verified to me by Janome.
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.
Author’s note February 13, 2021: A kind reader has sent me further info on Brother. I have not confirmed it with the organization, but would be happy to amend if contacted by Brother.
“Brother has moved their machine production in line with labour costs. They now have no export sewing machines made in Japan (my understanding is that they did have some domestic production at one point for machines for the local market, but I’m not sure they still do). The top of the line machines are made in their factory in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, a factory they have had since the 90s. Their mid-range electronic machines are made in their factory in Zhuhai, China (a short ferry ride from Hong Kong and across the causeway from Macau). Their entry level mechanical machines are made in their newest factory (2013) in Hai Duong, Vietnam, this is really the volume factory, with this production previously carried out in Zhuhai.
The overlocker business is a strange situation, as Brother does not technically manufacture these themselves, they are manufactured by a company called Mizunami Seiki. The Yasui Family which founded Brother and the Miyai family which founded Mizunami Seiki have a very close relationship, and I understand a financial relationship, as Brother has involvement on their Board. It is through this relationship that Brother has used this company for their overlocker production over the years, and also some industrial sewing and printing. Mizunami has a factory in Dacun Peace Village in Taiwan, and this is where the Brother overlockers are made.”
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 email@example.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.