Thursday, June 18, 2015

Truly portable Elna #1 - the Grasshopper.

I kept reading and looking at smaller, hopefully more lightweight machines.  I soon fell in love with the Elna Grasshopper, and hunted one down.

It's cute, it's green, it's light!  Made out of aluminum it isn't much heavier than the famous Singer featherweight.  It's truly a different machine, designed in the 30s, the first one was produced in 1940 in Switzerland. Pretty much everything about it is different, from the color to the case that converts into a table, to the placement of the hand wheel.  But it also takes low shank feet and easy to find bobbins.  Here is a bit of history according to ISMACS  http://ismacs.net/elna/history_of_the_elna_sewing_machine_company.html  and a little more here

Nicknamed the Grasshopper for the folding knee control lever, it is truly portable with an accessory case that sits behind the free arm and fits inside the sheet metal case.  The case is truly ugly, mine is really thrashed.  It used to have a leather handle, but all that is left is a rusted metal strap.  The color looks like an ammo case.


But it folds out into a neat table.  



My case is especially beat up on the outside, with a rusty handle.  I am really considering spray-painting it a fun color on the outside.  Have to figure out what goes with the green.


My grasshopper came to me without any extras, so of course I had to accessorize.  First thing was to get a power cord.  Not hard to find, the plug looks like this

So not hard to find, but the one I got doesn't fit that well so it is kind of annoying but it does work.  I should have ordered from White Sewing Center http://whitesewingcenter.com/elnaparts.php this is the authoritative source for vintage Elna parts.  I later ordered a light bulb and a replacement belt from him, and they are nice quality.

The big thing I was missing was a manual, I would love a paper copy, but was able to find a free pdf version online.  You can find one in the Yahoo Elna Group files (after you join) or here is another version.

One of the things you will read about in the manual is oiling, and using kerosene in the bobbin race.  Originally it came with two cans, one for oil and one for kerosene.  So far I have only oiled it, and it is super quiet.  One of these days I will get a bit of kerosene and try it as someone mentioned it made it even smoother.  

It does seem to to need oil each time I use it, but I don't get it out that often.  But when oiled, it is so quiet.  One of my favorite things to do with this machine is to bring it out into the family room and do quilt piecing.  It sews a beautiful stitch on two layers, I did have a bit of trouble with a thicker project involving several layers and batting, but I think if I had changed feet and adjusted the tension it would have been fine.  I don't think this is the machine to stitch jeans on, but I haven't tried it.

Speaking of different feet, I have collected most of the standard accessories

The manual lists standard attachments:  Presser foot (on the machine), mobile foot (not in picture, its gunky and soaking in tri-flow).  Darning foot and darning plate, and 4 mm Hemming Foot.  I also got an attachment box with the screwdrivers, some bobbins, needles and the green oil can.  The black thing is a speed reducer, I haven't tried it yet but it slows the machine speed for darning and other special techniques.  This blog https://elnagrasshopper.wordpress.com/tag/elna-1-speed-reducer/ tells all about it. 

My Grasshopper serial number is 8210209, and it was made in 1948.  Pretty nifty little machine.  I loved the look of it before I got one, but I bonded with it when I first sewed, it is so quiet and makes such a pretty stitch.

Next week I will talk about the Grasshopper's big sister, the Supermatic.  





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