It is getting more and more difficult to buy American when it comes to certain products. Companies seem to be moving overseas at a staggering pace. Recently, when I was looking at purchasing a new sewing machine, it was challenging to find a brand that was actually made in the US.
SailRite, Union Special, and Melco are USA-based sewing machine companies that assemble their machines in the USA. Other than these companies, most popular sewing machine brands make their machines outside of the USA even if they have operations inside the US.
Picking a suitable sewing machine can be hard enough and only gets more challenging if you have specific manufacturing preferences. In the rest of this article, I’ll go over the locations where the most popular sewing machine brands are made. I’ll first highlight the sewing machine companies that operate solely within the US.
Are Sewing Machines Made in the US?
Imports and exports can be challenging to follow, with many of the products we know and love imported from other countries and many of our best products also going overseas. America is well known for importing cars, oils, and machinery, but do sewing machines make the list?
Only a handful of sewing machine companies make their products in the US. Most operate within the US but have their machines assembled elsewhere. The most popular companies, Brother and Singer, operate and make their products overseas.
Though a few sewing machine companies have started in the US, their operations have gone overseas. Singer is one of the main global powerhouses in sewing machine technology that started in Boston. But their operations went to places like China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
Even if they operate fully in the US on the business side of things, some machines are still made overseas or have parts imported from other countries. EverSewn, for example, is a sewing machine company founded and operating in the US exclusively, but their machines are made in Taiwan and Vietnam. For small companies like this, you usually have to find a dealer (which can be something like Walmart or the Missouri Star Quilt Company) to get the machine.
Additionally, some operations work within the USA but use parts imported from other countries. However, this is more common for other products. Finding a sewing machine company that operated, manufactured, and got all of its parts in the USA is challenging.
There are only three machine companies that still manufacture in the US. They are:
- Union Special
They don’t all make home sewing machines, either. Union Special, for example, makes bags for more commercial projects, as does Melco.
The main difference between commercial and personal sewing machines is the cost, but their operations are quite different, too. Commercial machines make things faster, more sturdy, and produce a larger volume. However, they also lack the fun bells and whistles your personal machine may come with.
Below, I profile the handful of companies that make their machines in the USA.
On my list of USA-made sewing machine companies, SailRite comes first for many reasons. First of all, it’s the most recently updated sewing machine manufacturer of US origin. Secondly, they’re still selling machines. It’s the only manufacturer I could find that was not only actively selling sewing machines made in the USA but had a pretty updated social media presence.
SailRite offers heavy-duty and industrial machines which can be quite a bit pricer than your home models. They assemble, tune, and test all of their machines in their Indiana facility.
Union Special sewing machines are a rare find, but they’re manufactured completely in the US. They make sewing machines for embroidering, bags, apparel, textiles, and more. Their manufacturing plant was in Illinois, but it hasn’t been active for a while.
Though the product is made in the US, you might have a hard time finding them. There’s very little information available about what Union Special is still doing if anything at all. The only place you can find Union Special sewing machines is on websites like eBay or by looking at third-party antique dealers. If you can find one, it will be costly. However, if you only want a US-manufactured machine, it might be worth it!
With its headquarters in Aurora, Illinois, Melco is one of the last sewing machine companies to manufacture its machines within the US. They work internationally, as well, giving training and hosting distribution centers around the world.
However, there’s a caveat to this brand. The Melco brand doesn’t have a regular sewing machine and sells mostly embroidery machines. However, as most sewers know, embroidering can be a huge part of any apparel or craft project. Their industrial embroidery machines work like a dream, mostly because they’re meant to work efficiently on a large assembly line.
You Can Look for Vintage Machines Made in the USA
There used to be quite a few more sewing machine factories in the US. This includes:
- National Sewing Machine Company (Illinois, USA)
- Davis Sewing Machine Company (New York, USA)
- Wardwell Manufacturing Company (Ohio, USA)
- Grover & Baker Sewing Machine Company (Boston, USA)
- Wheeler & Wilson Sewing Company (New York, USA)
Although these companies are long gone, their sewing machines are still out there. You can’t order them from an official website, but it’s still possible to find them in vintage shops and flea markets. Finding a vintage machine may be a challenging and expensive process, though. Collectors will pay top dollar for a machine in good condition.
Keep in mind that if you do want to go the vintage route, a lot of these machines will be outdated and won’t come with all the bells and whistles of your modern machines. They may need a part or two, some fixing at the repair shop, or mostly become decoration depending on their condition. The ones that are still functional may take a little TLC and won’t do what your modern machine can, but it will still stitch!
Finding a Vintage Sewing Machine
Looking for a vintage sewing machine can be tough work, but sometimes the right machine will just fall into your lap. There are a few options for looking for a vintage sewing machine. You can try:
- Estate sales
- Online auction sites
- Thrift stores
- Flea markets
- Antique stores
- Working with antique dealers
Knowing what you’re looking for can help hone in your search, but having a large list of possible gems can also keep your options open. You can pick a few brands you’re after and keep an eye out at local thrift stores, or call your local antique store and let them know you’re interested in any vintage machines that come in.
Having your alerts ready online is a helpful way to shop for vintage antiques without having to go out and leave the finding up to luck. Using your Facebook Marketplace, eBay, or Etsy apps, you can set up alerts for keywords like “antique machine” or “sewing machines.” You may have to reject a few notifications of vintage Singer’s or Brother’s that come through, but you may get lucky.
Where Do Most Sewing Machine Companies Operate?
With only a handful of sewing companies even operating within the US, you may be wondering where most companies actually do operate. Distributing on a large scale is one thing, but tons of sewing machine companies have taken most of their manufacturing efforts overseas.
Sewing machine companies operate and manufacture their machines all over the world. There are companies in Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Vietnam, and a few in the US. The most popular US sewing machine brands, Brother and Singer, operate overseas.
Selling Operations Are Different Than Manufacturing Operations
It can be confusing to see Brother and Singer sewing machines on the shelf of Hobby Lobby sold in bulk and even know someone who works at Brother corporate in New Jersey, just to find that the company itself actually does not manufacture machines here. China is a global top manufacturer, and nearly Dozens of companies, sewing machines or otherwise, have taken their manufacturing operations overseas in the past fifty years.
You may have noticed the “Made in China” or “Made in Mexico” stickers on some of your favorite household products. Although your sewing machine doesn’t have a sticker stating where it’s from, somewhere within the manual, it may disclose where the parts were made and the machine assembled.
So even if you see a machine sold in America, it doesn’t mean it’s also made here. The Brother sewing machine website provides a wonderful visual for how this looks in practice. Their website lists the locations of their sales, production, and “other” business operations. Globally, Brother operates throughout the entire world, but as I will discuss below, they only manufacture their product in a few countries.
Let’s go over the top five sewing machine manufacturing companies and the location of their operations.
Brother is arguably one of the most well-known sewing machine companies in the world. Their machines are featured on the popular American show Project Runway and are sold within most US hobby stores. They also sell printers, typewriters, and other machinery.
Originally called Yasui Sewing Machine Co, Brother started in Japan and then expanded its business through Europe. The company absorbed the popular UK sewing machine company Jones Sewing Machine Company. They do have a manufacturing facility located in the US, but this facility makes gear motors and reducers, not sewing machines.
Today, Brother’s manufacturing takes place in China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, and the United Kingdom. Their US affiliate offices are in New Jersey and Tennessee. It brought in about 5.744 billion dollars in revenue in 2021.
Singer is also a relatively well-known sewing machine maker. These machines are known for their beautiful design, innovative technology, and American origins. They won the first prize at the World’s Fair in Paris and were a revolution in the sewing industry at the time. Now, their machines are popular for being on the Amazon TV show Making the Cut.
Singer was founded in Boston by Isaac Merrit Singer in 1850, who made the very first machine. In 1854, the Singer headquarters moved to New York. The company went international soon after, with offices opening up in Europe and around the world.
Singer is now distributed through SVP worldwide, which manufactures mostly in China.
Babylock sewing machines also have US origins, as the Tacony Corporation that distributes and sells the machines started in Missouri. They also distributed vacuums and other products and had moved their vacuum manufacturing facility from Taiwan back to the US in 1997. The vacuum manufacturer still resides in St. James, Missouri.
The sewing machines by Tacony Corporation, Babylock, are featured on PBS shows like Quilt in a Day and Sewing with Nancy. The Babylock machines are made in Japan.
Juki sewing machines were recently featured as the exclusive brand of Netflix show Next In Fashion, featuring Tan France and Alexa Chung. Their company was founded in Japan and now distributes their sewing machines internationally. In 2021, the Juki brand brought in 60.7% of its net sales from sewing machines.
Juki manufactures sewing machines in China, Japan, and Vietnam. You can usually find them in your local craft stores or sewing machine shops. Although they may be sold here in the US, they are not manufactured here.
Jaguar is a UK-based sewing machine company that has millions of machines in circulation. Their company began creating machines in 1949 and eventually grew to the large operation that it is today. Their manufacturing occurs in Vietnam.
Few companies manufacture their sewing machines in the USA, especially companies with commercial machines. There are a handful of companies that sell industrial or embroidery machines that are also manufactured in the USA, but none of which have straightforward commercial options. Most sewing machine companies, even if they operate within the USA, do a good amount, if not all, of their manufacturing overseas.
For more, don’t miss The 3 Best Types of Quilting Fabric for Looks and Durability.
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