Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A truly modern machine, in 1952 - the Elna Supermatic!



I didn't really go in search for a Supermatic, someone in a forum I read was selling one for a good price, and I had been reading about it so I decided to go for it.  She didn't know if it was working, it turned by hand but like many machines the power cord had been lost, so I got a bargain.

We met up on the streets of Portland where the seller was working.  I had to get it home and order a cord before I got to play, but I was very impressed with this machine.




It didn't come with all of the accessories, I had fun collecting them.  But with just an oiling this machine ran great.  It isn't as quiet as the Grasshopper, but mine didn't seem to have the growl that Supermatics can develop after sitting.  There in an interior friction wheel, called a pulley, that can develop a flat spot and make the machine run noisily.  There is a youtube video that has the sound if you are wondering if you have this issue.

In some ways, this machine does pretty much anything you might need for sewing, it really can be  competition for a modern machine.  It has a free arm, and a series of stitches can be made by changing cams, called "discs".  Here is a bit of info showing available stitch patterns. And this came on the market in 1952!  I know someone who does production sewing for farmers markets using a Supermatic, in addition to the stitches you can use low shank attachments.  Bobbins and needles are readily available.  It just needs regular oiling, unlike a modern plastic machine that needs no maintenance, and also is pretty much disposable.

The first machines were all green, like the one I had, then they changed to two-tone green, then beige.  An Elna was expensive, this was a high end machine when first sold.  Needlebar has a great bit of information http://needlebar.org/main/elna/.  And this ISMACS article has some great info too:
http://ismacs.net/elna/remember_the_elna.html . And this chart helps with dating your Supermatic.


For Elna parts, including the pulley and info on replacing it, I recommend White Sewing Center.  There is also a vintage Elna group on Yahoo that is full of information.

And of course often these vintage machines have lost their manuals, here is a link to a scanned version.

I know this post has lots of links, and not a lot of personal info.  There is a lot out there about Supermatics, I don't feel like I have much to add.  And you may notice that I have been using past tense, I found a new home for my Supermatic, after cleaning it up and playing with it a bit.  No particular reason, I just wasn't using it and there is always another sewing machine to add to the collection.  In fact I had already bought a couple more by then, and space was growing tight.

If you have seen my profile elsewhere, I live on the Oregon Coast, with my office on Highway 101.  The buyer lived down the coast from me, and sent her husband to pick up the supermatic.  So I had the privilege of seeing it leave strapped to the back of a motorcycle, to find it's way to a new home.  Wish I had gotten a picture of that!

Oh, and a final thought - sometimes you see folks describe the green Supermatic as a Grasshopper, nope that is the Elna #1, shown in last week's post.  Yes they are both green, and both have the folding knee lever - but they aren't the same thing.  I think part of the reason it happens, at least on eBay, is the fact that eBay suggests title improvements that will help your item sell -- and it keeps trying to add #1 to my listings for vintage Elna items.  I guess they are more collectible, but it doesn't always apply!  



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