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Singer 15 Clone Vintage Sewing Machines

Clone sewing machines are something I'm pretty passionate about.  I know that sounds odd since you hardly see me sew on anything but my Necchis.  There are so many misnomers out there about the clones.  Many think because they are a clone that they aren't as good and that's not the truth.  Today we are going to focus on the Singer 15 Clone vintage sewing machines.  They are the ones you see the most.  We currently have 3 Singer 15 clones and 2 actual Singer 15 sewing machines.  I have seen a couple Singer 66 clones but those are few and far between.  So are you ready for a history lesson?  I promise to make it fun!

singer 15 clones

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Let's start by what makes a class 15 sewing machine.  On a class 15 sewing machine, the tension is off the left side of the machine head and not on the front of the machine.  That's it, it's as simple as where the tension is located.  Now many sewist and quilters prefer the 15 machines because of this, there is nothing obstructing the view of the needle.  So now that we know what a class 15 machine is, let's jump into the history of them.

Singer Sewing Machine Company started making class 15 machines in 1879 and stopped making them in the mid-1950s.  I have one of the last ones, a 15-125.  It is a celery green color.  The Singer 15 brought us our standard needles today and the standard bobbin of today.  The class 15 bobbin hasn't changed much since 1879 and the needles you buy at any of the big box stores are 15x1 needles.  Now there are machines that take other needles or other bobbins but the vast majority of machines on the market today use the bobbin and the needle that Singer devolped for the 15K in 1879.

So how and why did they get copied?  At the end of World War II the US government basically gave the Japanese the blueprints to the Singer 15 sewing machine.  This was done as an effort to help rebuild Japans economy.  Many different companies made these machines to get started and many are still in business today.  Like I said earlier we have three of them, one has no manufacture marks, one is stamped with Brother on many of the parts, and the one that actually says Singer on it is stamped in many places Juki.  How the US was able to give the plans away for this sewing machine is fairly murky.  Singer may have offered it up since they never really focused on that line of machines or the patents may have been up so the plans were free game.

The whole reason I bought the one that says Singer is for the copyright infringement.  In order to gain customers, the Japanese manufacturers would often badge their machines with names that the US consumer was already familiar with.  This continued long after the companies stopped making class 15 machines and started producing their own machines.  Many companies faced lawsuits and fines for using copyrighted and/or trademarked names.  I didn't find anything about Singer suing Juki but I'm guessing that Singer didn't take too kindly to Juki using their name.  If you are unsure if your machine is badged from Japan look for a DeLuxe tag somewhere on the machine.  This is usually the tale tell sign that the machine was imported.

So are the Singer 15 clone machines bad?  Absolutely not!  Many prefer the clone machines over the original machines.  There are even many people in the vintage sewing machine world who refuse to call them clones because they aren't carbon copies of the Singer machines.  Singer was slow to introduce reverse but all three of our "clones" have that.  In many cases, the machines out of Japan were manufactured with better engineering making the sewing machine a smoother machine overall.  For those that do their machine quilting on a domestic machine, the clones often have the ability to easily drop the feed dogs when that's not always the case with the Singer machines.

Ready to look at some sewing machines?  Let's start with the Singer 15 clone I just had to have.  When we were looking around at the auction I spotted this machine and told Paul, if I can get that machine it is going home with us.  I have a fascination with oddly marked machines like this one and I snap them up if I can.

It clearly says Singer on it and it has the typical 15 tension.  I knew instantly though that Singer never did a green plaid decal set.  I don't know why, green is my favorite color and I adore plaid but Singer wasn't designing decal sets for someone who wouldn't be born for 20 some odd years after they stopped making the 15.  The other tell on this machine is that big gold tag.  It says DeLuxe on it.  No one other than Singer ever made Singer sewing machines.  Singer certainly wouldn't have put made in Japan on their machines in the late 40s but that's exactly what that little gold plate says.

I find it interesting that these companies put well known US companies on their machines but still marked that it was made in Japan.  Also, some of the machines have no marker's marks and others are marked all over with who made them.  That's how we know the Singer and the Sylvania are made by Juki and Brother respectively.  They were proud that they made these machines.  That's what makes these two machines some of my favorites.  I love the history of sewing so to own one of the first machines from a company that isn't just still in business but widely recognized.  Most people know Brother sewing machines and Juki is a widely recognized industrial brand.

The bobbin race might be hard to see but it's marked Juki and the other two are clear.  The bed of the Brother machine is even marked Brother on the bottom side.  There's no denying who made either of these machines no matter what the tops say.

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singer 15 clone sewing machines

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Would you like to comment?

  1. LOVE vintage machines. Sew with them exclusively. They just never break, and if they sound wonky, easily fixed!

  2. This post was so informative and gave me some insight to my Humen that I've wondered about for years.

  3. I just bought a turquoise machine with a tag Home maker and it says Japan on the right side. Came in a Queen Anne cabinet and looks in great condition with all the accessories. I’d like to know more about this machine. I can’t find anything on the Internet exactly like this one. Any suggestions? Thank you for any reply.

    1. Hi Alec,

      Does it have the same body style as the ones in this post? The downside of the Japanese imports is there’s not a lot of documentation on them. Some companies did stamp their names on the metal, like the Juki above. Others do have a number that can be traced to the company that made them stamped into the metal. Then some have nothing.