Sunday, September 4, 2011

Green Machine, the Elna Supermatic

The Elna Supermatic's design is one of those you love or hate.  It has a very confident look about it, for sure.  That color, that greeeeeeeen!  Myself, I love it.  It has very sleek modern styling, especially considering the year it was introduced: 1952.  Later years had slightly different colors, so if this is too much, consider the other which was light green   Later models were beige and not so flashy.

The Supermatic was the next sewing machine made by Tavaro of Switzerland.  The first being the Number 1, of the The Grasshopper.  It has all of the feature of that little one, notably the free arm, and more.  From what I can tell, this model introduced the cam to the home sewing machine market.  They were called "discs" and fit onto the Elnagraph inside the sewing machine itself.  That was how designs were made.  It can do many stitches this way, but what I use most are the stretch and zig zag.  Because it can use those discs, it's hard to imagine this machine being as old as it is.  The advertisements do place it in time, though.
This was a time for buying a sewing machine, no doubt. Lot s of advertisements to introduce Americans to this Swiss company.  The competition must have been fierce.  In my house alone I have several sewing machines made at this time.  So many new families just starting out after the WWII.  The pressure for innovation made for some great results, the Elna Supermatic was a good example of this.

Technical details

*Low shank.  That means it will take all those fun things like 1/4" foot and walking foot.
*Uses 15x1 Needles
*Uses "Elna" bobbins, available at fabric stores.
* Works best when oiled properly.  Will be noisy of you don't.
*The Supermatic comes with a knee control.
 I do not like those, but it does save floor space.  Many people love the knee control, however.  As far as I know, it was not offered with a foot control. Not a big deal.
Bobbin is inserted behind the presser foot.
 The only part that was a bit of a mystery to me when I first brought it home was this: How do the discs work?  Do you need them to do zig zag?  There were no discs with my machine when I got it so this was not a problem but lo and behold I found a whole box of them later.  They are a mix, some from a later Elna and some from a Supermatic. To answer the main question in my mind back then: Yes, you do need a disc for zig zag.
Single and Double Discs.  Lots of them.

That brings me to a similar topic.  You can use presser feet from later Elnas and Cams as well.  They do fit and work fine.

How to use the Discs
I write this as it did cause me some trouble at first.  Maybe this will help someone. 
Set the stitch length and width to "0".  The manual says to do this, and that is to make room to set the disc in correctly.  I can't tell you how many tries I made before actually breaking down and reading that very thing, and then it worked perfectly (sigh).
Set to "0"

Unscrew the plastic/ bakelite nut on the shaft or Elnagraph.
This knob is removable.
Place the new disc onto the shaft, matching up the little pin on the vase to your disc's hole.  It will snap into place.  Replace the bakelite nut, it must be on tightly.
What the stitches look like
Now you can sew as normal.  Like any cam, it takes a little experimentation as to how long a stitch or width you like.  Here is an example.
To remove, bring it back to "0" on both settings. Unscrew the nut and remove the discs.  I use a screwdriver head very gently as my machine does not have it's disc lifter accessory.  You will need something to help.  When it is loose, I use my hands to get it out.
Be very careful, set to "0" again and lift.
Done!

The Case
The case is so cool, I have to show it.  It is almost as heavy as the machine is, and become a table by folding it origami style.
Sturdy table from the case.

Very nice travel case.

 Problem
The Supermatic has a pretty good reputation but also a flaw many people come up against.  I was one of those people.  If left for a long time, the friction pulley can become flat on the side.  That doesn't stop the machine but will make it very ....and I mean VERY loud.  Like a helicopter.  Thankfully there is a fix for this.  I got a rental tool and a part from White Sewing Center:
  If you are in this predicament, do not give up, try this.  There are many other things for older Elna's there too.

In Summary
There are many sewing machine that are more smooth and quiet.  That said, this beauty is more versatile than most vintage sewing machines.  With the stretch stitch discs it is comparable to most sewing machines made into the 1980's.  It can handle all sorts of modern threads with no problem.  It is not terribly strong, but does very well with garment fabrics from denim to batiste.  Fun to use, simple and not fussy....... and it's green.  What's not to love?


43 comments:

  1. I'm still hoping one of these will come my way someday. Does the grasshopper take cams? I love my decorative stitch machines!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i have one i am selling. chryseliz@earthlink.net

      Delete
  2. No, the Grasshopper is a strait stitch only. I do not use deco stitches much but wish I could use an embroidery machine for a few hours. One may yet come your way, I see them often and inexpensively. The are a good value.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you go to shopgoodwill.com they have cams available for this machine with the Instruction Book. Go to search and at the bottom of that page is Lookup by Number; type in 11381876
      I have no use for these, but was trying to find someone who owns this machine and might be interested in extra cams.
      It's a cool machine, but I already have 5: Kenmore 19233, Singer 833 Stylist, Singer 328k, Necchi BUU, & a Singer old treadle machine in the Tiffany Cabinet. As you can see, I don't need another machine or these attachments. I hope someone can get these, the auction ends in 2 days. :)
      I'll post the link to the actual auction. I am NOT affiliated with anyone, just trying to do a good deed. lol
      http://www.shopgoodwill.com/viewItem.asp?itemID=11381876

      Delete
  3. Pretty machine. I've never seen one in the wild. I might have to look harder, now that I've seen the case.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Look at all those cool discs that you have to play with! Fun!!! I also love the look of the desk.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have a Systematic machine that hasn't had a lot of use. I can't get the bobbin tension to regulate and hence I can't us it. Does anyone know how I can get it regulated or a good technician in Stdney?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just saw that the part I typed about the bobbin isn't there from my post below. You can adjust bobbin tension by turning a tiny screw on the bobbin case. Have you tried this? I mention it because I sewed for years before realizing you could do that. The thread should pull out freely with a slight pull but not get stuck. If you have loops on the top of your fabric that is usually a good fix. If the problem involves the underside, the top tension is your culprit

      Delete
  6. Opps - Supermatic
    And Stdney - should be SYDNEY

    ReplyDelete
  7. I don't know a tech in Sydney but know where you can get help with your machine's tension issue. Join this group and ask. They are very freindsly and helpful. If you can describe exactly what is wrong with tension (ie too tight on top, loops on the bottom of fabric ect ect) a diagnosis and solution can probably be made without going to the shop.

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/elnaheirloomsewing

    First of all I'd clean those discs with some string soaked in alcohol. Lift the presser bar to elease the discs, then pull the string close to the center and clean the dirt away. Oil all the areas noted in your manual too. If you get all that covered and have the right needle, in the right way, then it's easier to uncover what the problem is. Keep me posted about your Supermatic.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi - I grew up with an Elna Supermatic from 1962 and got possession of it again in 2009. After many skirts and a couple of jackets with snaps and zippers I am trying to do buttonholes today. I am following the instructions with the stitch width at the "2" setting and I have the length at 1.5, but I'm not getting the solid stitching created by closely spaced zigzag stitches shown in the picture. What am I forgetting to do? My Supermatic is the more restrained beige with beige metal carrying case. I have 15 cams but never have used anything other than straight stitch, overcast and zigzag.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'll try out making buttonholes with the instructions and see what happens. That will have to wait until this weekend. Usually I use a Singer buttonholer on another machine so I've not tried this out. I too have lots of cams but still use mostly strait stitch! I have seen the beige ones, they are very elegant in design.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I had a chance to try this process out and found out a few things. The cam is #3, the one that does regular zig zag. I set the stitch length to the mark before #1. Try that, it should make the stitches more dense. It also helps to make sure your tension is right - the bottom and top need to be equal for the stitches to be uniform. If you aren't sure test this by using a different color in the top for a sample.

    I still had a heck of time with those buttonholes but after a few got the idea. Still, a Singer buttonholer would be easier and may try to figure out how to use one on the machine when I have a little more time.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thanks for your input. I ended up with the stitch length at the .5 (the one you recommended)
    and got pretty good density, especially on the gingham lining side.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I just bought this sewing machine for 7,5 EUR! Hope it works! But the owner claimed it does. So thanks for the post, it will be usefull :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd love to hear how it works. If it needs anything I may be able to help or find someone who can. Enjoy

      Delete
  13. Do you know where I can get instructions to attach a newer sewing machine ( 1983 ) to an older cabinet. I purchased an old arrow machine ( which still works) and would like to attach my kenmore to the cabinet. The old machine is a brute but doesn't have a free arm which I use all of the time.

    Thanks
    Kelly

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Changing out mahines and cabinets can be done as long as they are a match where the hinges are. Kenmore made their own cabinets to fit their machines. I am not sure about Arrow as a brand but guess it is a Singer clone of some type. If so, it may not be a match. Measure the back hinge pins to see.

      Delete
    2. Thanks. I think my hubby will have to modify the cabinet.

      Delete
    3. I just got a Supermatic at a garage sale, it has no discs....I only want to straight stitch with it can I do that with out a disc?

      Delete
    4. Yes you can strait stitch with no discs. That is what I did for a long time until I found the discs for my own machine. Even now I mainly use the zig zag cam. Enjoy your Supermatic!

      Delete
  14. I have an Elna Supermatic for sale. Can someone give me an idea of what to expect to get for it.It's in great condition and has all the disks and accessories. Grateful for any responses.
    helenobrien.63@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  15. I would check eBay completed listings to see what people have paid for one. Selling there is my best suggestion but you will have to invest time and money into packing your machine for mailing. I send mine off as of they were heading to Antartica.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Warning - man entering secret women's land...
    I have just been given a 1955 version of the Supermatic - it is a beautiful stylish piece of design. I have found a manual online but can't locate the 'chart' for setting up for different fabrics. Does anyone have a spare or a digital copy or able to scan one they have ? supermatic(at)lookaround.com.au
    Many thanks
    Phil

    ReplyDelete
  17. Welcome to secret lady land, a magical place. You would be surprised how many guys stop by as they seem to like old machines. Glad you like the design of the Supermatic, so do I. It is very cool looking and also sews so well. About the chart-I am not sure what one you are looking for. Is it the needle/thread chart by chance? I only have the manual, but if you need help in getting it ready for sewing with a particular fabric let me know.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hi! Thanks so much for this informative post. I'm considering buying a Supermatic, but I am concerned that it won't be strong enough. I don't need an industrial strength machine, but I do need to be able to sew through a double rolled jean hem. Do you think the Supermatic is strong enough to do that?

    ReplyDelete
  19. I have used my Supermatic for mending of denim jeans but she was slow and needed some help. This is pretty common, my Bernina, as good as it is also has some trouble where the seams come together. A stronger machine is a Singer 201, easy to find and not expensive but it will lack the zig zag and deco stitches that Supermatic has.
    With a denim needle and help from a "hump jumper" or similar, you can do it. It may take a pull on the hand wheel. If you plan on a lot of heavy fabric projects, try the Singer or an older Pfaff. The flat bed strait stitch seems to lend it self to better stitches with more power.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I recently got an Elna Supermatic and am excited about using it but even though I've been sewing for 60 years and used all kinds of sewing machines, for the life of me I can't get the bobbin seated properly.

    I read the instructions where it says to make sure the thread is caught under the spring, but it doesn't work for me. Please help!

    I just realized that this machine is as old as I am. :)

    ReplyDelete
  21. My Super is older than me, but so many are older than all of us. I have mine out of state ready for my move so cannot take a photo but maybe can help. There is a small slit opening in the bobbin case. The thread goes through that en under the tension leaf and out. Make sure you have the right bobbin type, the bobbin is counter clockwise and needle position is up. You probably did all that but check the bobbin size especially. I have tried to use the wrong kind lots of times. The bobbin sets flat, no snap but fits precise. For mote help until I can get a photo, try Elnaheirloomsewing machines on Yahoo Groups. Someone there may be able to help right away.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I inherited my grandmother's machine. It is easily twice as old as me, and it works perfectly. I recently sewed my entire wedding party a wool coat as well as myself with it. I only have ever had one problem with it: it would skip stitches. I phoned around, and a repair man told me that if the needle is the slightest bit bent, it could cause it to miss a stitch. He recommended using the more expensive brands of needles, as they are better made and more resistant to bends. As soon as I put in the new needle I have had no problems since! Just thought I'd share that in case someone was looking for an similar answer.

    I hope this machine continues to serve me and my future children as smoothly as it did my grandmother and my mother. Cheers to older machines that were built for quality!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Great to hear of your Elna. I am not at all surprised that your Elna has served you well despite age. They work so well, and in my opinion do it with style too.

    ReplyDelete
  24. You mention you have a manual for your Supermatic. Any chance you could post or email a pdf?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. Because manuals for Supermatics are easily found and there may be copyright issues I do not plan on posting a manual. Ebay has sellers who have inexpensive downloads but I prefer a company called Relics which sells a hard copy spiral bound. Not cheap,but easy to read and use.

      Delete
  25. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  26. My Supermatic is two years younger than myself. Was looking for a machine with my now departed mom in 1986 and when she saw it said buy that one. It is now 2014 and it has been trouble free, curtains repairing the clothing of four kids, been to the Middle East and back. I am certain it will continue with my daughter after I am gone. Tony [M]

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Love this story. Your mom had a good eye for machines!

      Delete
  27. I looked for the elnaheirloomsewing group on Yahooo groups and can't find it.;Has it moved? I'd love to join it! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is still there, try is link:
      https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/elnaheirloomsewingmachines/conversations/messages

      Delete
  28. I have a Supermatic and several cams. You mentioned that you use the stretch stitch cam. Which cam number is it? And is it a single disc or double? I'm starting to sew with knits and am thinking this cam would be useful. Thanks so much!

    ReplyDelete
  29. I am still moving in to my place so can't find my cams now but from notes I recall it was cam 152 with stitch width set to "0". It sews strait knit seams but you can also sew a very narrow zig zag and get a decent stretchy seam. There is a lot of help out there for sewing with knits, all worth reading as I love wearing knits but made so many avoidable mistakes early on when making my clothes. Much better now, thankfully.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for your reply! I haven't been able to find the cam info on the net, so I appreciate it. And yes, I've been reading a lot about sewing with knits, both online and in books. Slowly but surely I'm making progress. Thanks again!

      Delete