Singer, Viking, Pfaff… why don’t we sell them?

Singer, Pfaff, and Viking are three sewing machine companies with a lot of brand name recognition. All three have been around for a long, long time; in fact, the genesis of The Sewing Machine Shop can be traced back to the heyday of these companies. Back in the 1950’s, Dan and Marty’s father, Ramon Schoenberg, used to operate a factory in Argentina that manufactured sewing machine parts for Husqvarna Viking AB. Fast forward 40 years to El Sobrante, CA and the first top-of-the-line home sewing machine Dan ever sold was a Viking. Fast forward another 20 years, and you would have seen that The Sewing Machine Shop was one of the top Pfaff delarships in the country. Even today, not a week goes by that we don’t tune-up an old trustee featherweight. And yet, with all that said, we no longer carry any new machines from these three companies. Why not?
Simply put, Dan thinks that Janome, Bernina, Brother, Baby Lock, and Juki all make a better product than Singer, Pfaff, and Viking. That is a belief Dan holds firmly, a belief born from over 30 years in the sewing machine business as owner and head technician of The Sewing Machine Shop. Why offer sewists a lesser product at a similar price? There’s no good reason, so Dan refuses to do so.
Now, this begs the question: why do Singer, Pfaff, and Viking make a lesser product than the brands we choose to carry? After all, we used to carry Pfaff and Viking, and we still sell certain vintage Singer machines. What changed? How do we account for the drop-off in quality? A quick history lesson should help answer this question.
There is a sense in which Singer, Pfaff, and Viking do not exist anymore– not as they once were. The Singer company that designed and manufactured iconic machines such as the 201, 301, and Featherweight– in 1999 that company was acquired by Kohlberg & Company, an American private equity firm that focuses on leveraged buyout transactions. In 2006, Kohlberg & Compnay also acquired Pfaff and Viking. From there, the three legendary sewing machine companies were merged into one: SVP Worldwide.
Ever since the merger, SVP Worldwide has been bought and sold by two other private equity investment firms. As control of the companies repeatedly changed hands, their unique DNA– the reason we fell in love with their products in the first place– that unique DNA was lost. For example, Pfaff has stopped designing machines with their front-loading bobbin system. Modern Singer machines are less reliable than their 70 year-old featherweight ancestors. Viking is no longer the innovator they once were, and their modern machines are notorious for electronic issues. And, worst of all, SVP Worldwide doesn’t even make parts to support their older machines anymore. If your old Pfaff needs a part replaced, you have to hope that we have an old Pfaff in our Boneyard that we can harvest the part from. The same goes for Viking and Singer.
We understand that this may be distressing news to hear for the many people out there who love their old Pfaff, Singer, or Viking sewing machine. How will your machine be fixed if these companies no longer make parts? How will you find a machine as good as your old one if the company that made your machine no longer exists like it once did? We spoke to Dan and asked him some of these hard questions. Fortunately, he has good news.
Dan has some general advice for people coming from these machines. Everyone is different, so the advice may not apply across the board, but this is his opinion based on his hands-on experience:


The older Pfaff machines that were designed and manufactured in Germany (sometimes West Germany) are known for their strength, durability, built-in dual feed system, and front-loading bobbin. Part of the reason they were so strong and durable is because of their front-loading bobbin system, which utilizes an industrial-style hook assembly. It’s a beautiful system, and one of the reasons so many people still love that older generation of Pfaff machines.


If you are thinking about potentially getting a new machine, Dan recommends that you consider the Bernina 570. The B570 is designed with a similar front-loading bobbin/hook system as the old Pfaffs, and it is also designed with built-in dual feed. In addition, the B570 is an extremely powerful and durable machine, whether you are crafting, quilting, or making clothes.


The older Singer machines we came to know and love are highly regarded for a number of different reasons. In many cases, people love their old singers because they are simple to use and they are workhorses. If you are coming from a Featherweight, you probably love that the machine is lightweight.


If you want another workhorse that is easy to use, and you don’t mind a straight-stitch only machine, then look no further than the Juki TL-2010. It is the definition of a heavy-duty workhorse, capable of going through thick layers of material. If you need something more lightweight, then Dan recommends you look at something made by Janome, such as the HD3000 (mechanical) or the 3160QDC (digital).


Generally speaking, the appeal of older Viking machines came from their innovation in embroidery. These days, for anyone who wants beautiful, easy-to-use, innovative embroidery, the choice is simple: look toward something made by Brother.


Employee of The Sewing Machine Shop and embroidery guru, Toni Smith, bought her first embroidery machine in 1999– a Viking Rose. These days, she embroiders exclusively on a Brother Luminaire II, one of the best embroidery machines in the world. Other great and affordable embroidery machines Dan recommends you consider are the Brother NQ1700 and the Brother Stellaire.

If this email raised any questions, please give us a call. Our goal is simply to provide an honest assessment of the sewing machine landscape as we see it. If you are curious to know more, or just want to talk machines, feel free to stop on by the shop anytime we’re open.

Call us at (925)937-7575 for more information.

Our hours are 9AM-5PM Tuesday-Saturday

And don’t forget to tell your friends!

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