Singer and Brother are two of the most recognizable names in sewing machines. Even if you don’t sew you’ve heard of these two brands. The question becomes which one is right for you, because the wrong sewing machine will cause more frustration than elation.
Trust me, I’ve bought the wrong machine before and almost stopped sewing all together. The tension wouldn’t stay set so it was constantly making a birds nest on the underside of the fabric, there was something wonky with the feed dogs so stitching went from micro to basting, and it made such a terrible sound that got on my last nerve.
I don’t want you to end up with a dud sewing machine so let’s go shopping together.
This post contains affiliate links. If you click one and make a purchase, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. It helps support the site so I can continue to offer great content to you! Read my full disclosure statement.
Singer Vs Brother Sewing Machines Review
I want to say before we get started that both companies have made great machines, OK machines, and real duds. I also want you to know that the only 100% correct answer here is “buy the best machine you can afford with the features you need.”
We here at The Quilting Room want you to enjoy making quilts and sewing no matter what sewing machine you do it on or if you don’t use a sewing machine at all.
I have done my best to make sure the information on the companies is accurate but due to using Google translate for some of the Brother company’s history, there could be errors.
Brief Singer Sewing Machine Company History
Issac Merrit Singer started his company in 1850. Thanks to great marketing and assembly line production Singer became synonymous with home sewing machines. Due to the demand for Singer sewing machines in the UK Singer opened a factory in Scotland in 1867.
They would open the million-square-foot Kilbowie plant in 1882 and could produce 13,000 machines a week. The height of production for the Kilbowie plant was in the 1960s and it employed 16,000 people but due to the reduced demand of sewing machines 10 years later the plant would only have 5,000 employees, and just a short decade later in 1980 the plant would be closed. It is estimated that the Kilbowie plant produced 36 million sewing machines.
Post WWII Singer
Singer would start to struggle after WWII. The Japanese and European machines that entered the US market after the war had features that Singer machines didn’t have. Singer would start diversifying in the 60s and their revenue would change from 90% of sewing machines to only 35%. In 1986 the sewing machine division was spun off into SSMC.
By 1987 Singer was hit by a corporate raider who sold off the various divisions. The sewing machine division would be bought by Semi-Tech Microelectronics which would rename SSMC to Singer eventually changing it to Singer N.V. Singer N.V. would file bankruptcy in 1999. Kolhberg & Company purchased the company and moved its headquarters to LaVergne, TN. In 2006, Kolhberg acquired Husqvarna and Pfaff sewing machines. The three companies would merge into SVP Group. SVP is owned by Platinum Equity as of 2021. Platinum Equity also owns the Detroit Pistons NBA team.
If you would like to see an almost complete list of Singer sewing machine models check out Singer Sewing Machine Models by year. You’ll notice there’s a gap when the company was being sold in the 80s and 90s. That information may be lost. My hope is someone will find that box of paperwork and reach out at some point.
Brief Brother Sewing & Embroidery History
Brother started in 1908 as Yasui Sewing and Co and would be renamed Yasui Brothers Sewing Machine Co in 1925 when the founder’s son inherited the company. At first, they focused on making parts and repairing sewing machines. In 1928, they would produce a chain stitch machine for making straw hats. I’m assuming it was similar to the Singer 24. It was also used for making hats and is a chain stitch machine.
They started producing domestic sewing machines in 1932, which was a Singer 15 clone machine. In 1934, Yasui was liquidated and the brothers were incorporated as Nippon Sewing Machine Manufacturer and started making industrial machines. Brother Sales Ltd would be established in 1941 and in 1947 Brother would export their first batch of sewing machines.
Brother would also start to diversify in the late 50s and early 60s, similarly to Singer. They would establish a sales division in the Americas in 1954. In 64 they would change the sewing division from Nippon to Brother Industries Ltd. In 1968 they bought the British sewing machine company, Jones Sewing Machine Company. Brother would introduce their first computerized sewing machine in 1979.
2012 and beyond
The company’s history is fairly vague from 1979 to 2012. It appears that they just kept plugging along making sewing machines for themselves and making badged machines for other companies. In 2012, they opened the world’s largest single-brand sewing machine manufacturing facility in Vietnam. That same year they would produce their 50 millionth home sewing machine. In 2013, they would introduce the Scan and Cut.
There isn’t any information on who currently owns the company as far as if it’s still in the hands of the Yasui family or not. Though I did find mention that it was a publically traded company but went back to privately owned during the 70s recession. Brother continues to make machines under their brand and for others though what brands are made by Brother isn’t listed. I have seen lots of rumors about who they make sewing machines for but since there is no concrete evidence I won’t list them. If you would like to read more about Brother Sewing Machines check out our dedicated article.
Singer vs Brother Sewing Machine: Which One Is Right For You?
As I said before, the right sewing machine for you is the one that you can afford with the features you need. If you are new to sewing you might not know what features you need so let’s start there.
What features do you need?
As I have gotten older threading the needle has gotten harder so an automatic needle threader is nice to have but not a must. It is something to keep in mind when shopping for a sewing machine.
Piecing Quilter – Free Motion Quilting
If you are a quilter who doesn’t do applique a straight stitch only sewing machine will do everything you need. If you want to do the quilting you’ll need to be able to drop the feed dogs.
I should start this by saying this is only for those who want to do machine applique. If you want to do needle turn applique you won’t need a sewing machine with these features. Otherwise, you’ll want a sewing machine that at least does zig zag. Now if possible go for a machine that will do a blanket stitch and a few other speciality stitches. I love being able to switch things up with the stitches like using a heart stitch when doing hearts.
Really the big thing to look for is buttonhole capabilities. You aren’t going to get by without making a buttonhole. I like an automatic buttonhole because the math for buttonholes has always confused me. Any machine with that will also have your stretch stitch, zig zag, and should have a zipper foot too.
A note about clothing construction, if you are wanting to sew heavy fabrics like denim or leather a domestic machine isn’t for you. You will want to get a commercial sewing machine. While vintage machines will sew those fabrics once in awhile a steady diet of those fabrics will tear the machine up.
So if you are wanting to do a little bit of everything you are going to want a machine that does most things. You are going to want a zig zag stitch, a buttonhole, and a few decorative stitches.
Vintage Singer vs Vintage Brother Sewing Machines
If you have been following The Quilting Room for any length of time you know we have lots of vintage sewing machines. If you are considering a vintage sewing machine please take some time to see what it takes to resurrect a vintage sewing machine. There are a lot of great vintage machines out there that can be picked up for little money but you’ll need to be willing to put a little effort into fixing them.
Vintage Singer Sewing Machines
Vintage Singer sewing machines are what you will find the most out in the wild. Singer made a lot of machines and they had a trade-in program that destroyed any machine traded in that wasn’t a Singer. This kept the competition out of the market and makes the Singer machine much more abundant. If you are looking to just piece a quilt you can’t go wrong with the Singer 301. The Singer 221, aka The Featherweight, is also an excellent choice but the Singer 301 is a more affordable option. If you need more stitches the Singer 500A is a great machine but it isn’t portable. The Singer 401A also has many built-in stitches.
Vintage Brother Sewing Machines
As far as vintage Brother sewing machines go the best that I have found are the Singer 15 clones. We have a few of them and they are smoother than the original Singer 15s that we have. They have the ability to drop the feed dogs and have reverse as well. They might not say Brother on them. Remember from the history section that I said Brother made machines for other companies? They’ve been doing that for years. Our class 15 machine has Bendix on the front but when you look underneath at the parts they are stamped Brother. As far as the other vintage Brothers I’m not a fan of them. They aren’t as smooth as other machines of the same period. The Brother machines tend to be louder and clunkier than other machines from the same time period.
New Singer vs New Brother Sewing Machines
If you have seen my post about the best sewing machines you might notice that I don’t have either Singer or Brother on my list. That’s not to say they are bad machines it’s just that I found better in that price point. I will be honest and say I have no first-hand experience with any Singer machines after the Singer 2404 Merritt. My family wasn’t a fan of Singer machines so they weren’t purchased. I do have first-hand experience with Brother because that’s what my grandma swore by. I do understand that people do have brand affinity though.
You can find both Singer and Brother sewing machines at dealers and at big box stores. There is a difference between the machines, the machines at dealers are of higher quality. It’s similar to big box store fabrics and independent fabric shops. You will need to decide what is the best for you, a little cheaper but won’t last as long, or spend a little more and keep the machine a little longer. Sometimes that will change as you go along in life and your sewing journey.
New Singer Sewing Machines
Singer sewing machines are beginner machines really. They aren’t expensive and you do get what you pay for. You aren’t going to get years and years of heavy use out of them. Based on what people have said in several sewing groups I belong to the HD, heavy-duty, models are your best bets.
Singer HD 4411
It has eleven stitches and has the ability to drop the feed dogs. It’s not a huge investment. It would be great for a kid who wants something new but you aren’t sure if they are going to stick with sewing. The biggest complaints were about bobbin nesting which is a tension issue and easily fixed at home. Full review of the sewing machine.
The next step-up is the Singer HD 4452 and it has 32 built-in stitches along with the other features of the 4411. There were very few complaints about the machine itself in the buyer reviews. You have to keep in mind that while it is marked HD it isn’t an industrial sewing machine and it wasn’t made to do commercial style work. Full review of the sewing machine.
The third top selling Singer sewing machine is a computerized machine. The Singer Quantum Stylist 9960 Quilter Sewing Machine has been on the market since around 2010 and the poor reviews that I found date back to those early years, nothing recent. It has 600 built-in stitches, automatic thread cutting, speed control, and a free-arm. I didn’t find a good independent review, one thought it was too expensive which it’s not and the others just seemed like a re-write of the specs and not a hands on review.
New Brother Sewing Machines
Brother has a much wider range of sewing machines. I know a lot of people that swear by their embroidery machines but since we are looking at sewing machines those will be skipped. They have some great embroidery machines though if you are shopping for one.
Brother is also different from Singer in the fact the top selling machines from Amazon and Walmart are very different from dealers like Sewing Machines Plus and I found that very interesting since the Singer machines were basically the same. So with that in mind I opted to do two machines from each, the big box retailers and two from the dealers.
Big Box Store
First up is the top seller on Amazon and Amazon claims that they’ve sold 2,000 of these machines in the last month. The Brother Sewing Machine XM2701 is a mechanical machine with 27 built-in stitches, drop-in bobbin, and has a 4.7 rating. You can read a full review on the sewing machine.
The top selling machine at Walmart is the Brother LX3817. It has 17 built-in stitches, drop in bobbin, and a 4.2 rating. Most of the low reviews were based on bobbin tension issues and not adjusting the bobbin tension but the top tension and there were a few that sounded like they were disappointed that it wasn’t a top of the line machine. It’s less than $100 and it’s going to work like a machine that’s less than $100.
- Walmart – $88.00
- Amazon is only offering refurbished machines at the time of this writing.
The number one selling Brother Sewing from the dealers is the PQ-1500SL and it has a 4.6 rating with only 3 reviews being 1 or 2 stars. One of the reviews was about shipping time, one person knocked it out of time, and another couldn’t figure out the needle threader. It is a straight-stitch sewing machine with a vertical bobbin, adjustable feed dogs, and 1500 stitches per minute. You can read a full review here.
- Sewing Machines Plus – $799.99
The next machine is a sewing and embroidery combo machine that comes in two different setups, Marvel or Star Wars. The Brother LB5000 has 103 built-in sewing stitches, 80 embroidery designs, a full color LCD screen, and an independent bobbin winding motor. Both come with a code to download 10 additional embroidery designs, either Marvel or Star Wars. The machine has a 4.9 rating and you can read the full review.
- Sewing Machines Plus – Marvel – $399.99
- Carolina Forest Vacuum & Sewing – Marvel – $579.99
- Carolina Forest Vacuum & Sewing – Star Wars – $359.99
Singer Vs Brother Sewing Machines: Which one has the best reviews?
The machine with the best reviews on my list is the Brother PQ1500SL, it has almost a perfect 5-star rating. I looked at the three reviews that weren’t 5 stars. One was about a shipping issue and not about the machine, one was about the thread breaking while doing free-motion quilting, and the other was about not being able to figure out the automatic threader. None of those reviews are concerning enough to not recommend the machine.
Which machine would I buy? Singer Vs Brother Sewing Machines
I would buy a Singer 301 hands down. Out of all the machines on this list that’s the machine that I would buy over and over again. I adore my Singer 301, it’s got the features that I need, it’s portable, and it’s reasonably priced.
My second choice would be the Brother PQ1500SL but it is much more expensive than the Singer 301.
What if I don’t like any of the Singer Sewing Machines or Brother Sewing Machines?
I fully understand thinking you are going to go one way but after reading about various sewing machines you end up saying to yourself, “I really don’t like any of these machines. Ugh, I was sure I wanted a Singer or Brother sewing machine.” I have a list of machines that are the best sewing machines for quilting and they are all under $1000. On that list I didn’t focus on brands, I focused on features vs price giving you a better idea of what is on the market for quilters.