Vintage Elna Sewing Machines [ All you need to know ]

Elna sewing machines were the brainchild of Dr. Ramon Casas Robert, a Spanish engineer. Due to the Spanish civil war, he was forced to emigrate to Switzerland, where he sold his patent to a company called Tavaro, that saw the production of Elna Sewing Machines towards the end of the Second World War.

Vintage Elnas were known for their unique features that made them stand out from its competitors at the time. It had a free arm that housed the bobbin and feeder in an arm-like shaped bed, as well as a rotary-hook that ran with ease. Finally, it had an extreme portability feature as it was made of aluminum, unlike its iron-cast counterparts.

Some of the best vintage Elna sewing machines still available to date are the Elna 1, the Elna Supermatic, and the Elna Star series models.

Vintage Elna 1 model

The vintage flagship Elna sewing machine, Elna 1, was popularly known by its nickname – The Grasshopper. It was highly sought after post-second world war. It had distinctive features, unlike its then-popular American featherweight counterparts.

The Grasshopper was smaller, encased in a metal casing, and its stand-out feature was the arm-like shaped bed. It also featured a knee-controlled replacement metal rod where its flywheel was positioned at the bottom left side, unlike the popular upper right side that most conventional sewing machines had at the time.

The Elna 1 was a straight stitch-only machine, stitching at around 500 to 700 stitches a minute which is relatively slow, but good considering its size. There was a little thumb nut to adjust its tension and a two-step stitch size adjuster. The two combined gave a distinctive neat stitch.

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If you have a vintage Elna 1, you will be limited to light materials when sewing, however, it is easy to maintain and very durable. Replacement parts are still readily available to date.

Vintage Elna Supermatic model

The Vintage Elna 2 model, or Elna Supermatic as it was more popularly known, was produced following the commercial success of its predecessor.

The Supermatic had improved features such as the drop-in bobbin and adjustable needle position that meant it could do embroidery stitches faster. However, it still maintained its unique matte green color, and its grasshopper-like metal rod creatively set foot-pedal that gave the Elna 1 its infamous nickname – The Grasshopper!

The Supermatic’s major improvements were that it was easier to thread, faster, and could sew through several layers of fabric, unlike the Elna 1. The Supermatic Elna 2 was produced with a faster engine mechanism.

Its tension was not disappointing, and it worked with ease with various types of fabric without skipping, balling stitches, or even worse, breaking needles. You could sew through light or heavy materials without having to change the tension or needle, giving it an industrial feel.

The Supermatic came with disc or cam ejection buttons that served the purpose of giving different embroidery stitches. This was unique at the time, so if you wanted to do a different kind of stitch, all you had to do was open the disc ejection button, fit in a metal ring with a scallop design and stitch a different design.

The Elna Suprematic sewing machine was durable as it was compactly made of metal. Maintenance was easy too, which made it a popular choice for most people.

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Vintage Elna Star series model

The vintage Elna Super Star Series, unlike its predecessors, was among the first Elnas to feature the conventional flatbed. It was an interesting change from the arm-like bed Elnas were uniquely identified for, along with the matte green color.

Other new features were the additional six built-in stitch features in an already diverse cam disc system. This gave the Elna sewing machine an edge in the market those days, as they were the first to pioneer the use of changeable cams or discs, allowing for different types of embroidery.

The Star series featured stitch length, square stitch width, lever head, and upper tension knobs, in contrast to its older siblings. The threading experience was also easy. With high-a speed rotary hook, the Star could clock in a record 1100 stitches a minute, which was previously a drawback with older models that did fewer stitches.

With a flatbed, the Elna Star series introduced a bobbin case and an extension spring-mounted bobbin extractor. The tension dial was well graduated and easily adjustable and the hook was quiet and worked smoothly. The four-piece feeder dog system that Elna adopted worked better than other brands and allowed for good quality stitches, whether forward or reverse.

The Elna Star Series is an engineering marvel with compact mechanical features and no circuit boards meaning it can be easily maintained with proper instructions. Information and parts are readily available.

Frequently asked questions

How do I identify my vintage Elna sewing machine?

All you have to do is obtain the serial number of the sewing machine. It is indicated on the side or underneath the machine. Before the sixties, the serial number began with the year in which the machine was manufactured. For years afterward, you can check the ISMACS for proper instructions on how you can identify your machine.

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Where can I get information for my vintage Elna sewing machine?

Fortunately, it’s easy to find manuals containing information on vintage Elna machines on their website. You can also consider contacting them directly, as they are accessible and they have a good support page for vintage models.

Why is my vintage Elna sewing machine bobbin piling up thread?

This happens when the thread does not loop around the bobbin properly when the machine is in use. You will need to first remove the bobbin completely from the machine and clean the bobbin compartment. Then reassemble the bobbin properly and make sure you take the thread through the bobbin thread winder guide properly and start all over again. Make sure the bobbin clicks into place before you start.

Wrapping up

Vintage Elna sewing machines offer something not common with modern computerized digital models. There is that hands-on feeling and ability to see how the mechanical parts work that is hidden away in today’s computerized machine.

The ability to see how the cam discs operate and how they can be changed to suit your stitching needs is a thing of beauty and marvel. You get front row seats to the genius behind the mechanism. There is that therapeutic sense of control you have from these mechanically operating machines that current high-tech models just can’t replace.

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