Saturday, March 31, 2012

The "Grasshopper" Elna's Number 1

Elna 1

This was one machine I had to have, upon seeing it.  Not because I needed it, not because of how well it works or even how rare it is.  Just because it is so amazing cool.  The design is unique and color, well I do have a fondness for machine that are colored anything but white.  I introduce you to the Elna company's first machine, the #1 also widely known as "the Grasshopper".  From this view you can see why it got this nickname.  The knee lift and green color has a certain grasshopper quality.

The design was created by Ramon Casas from Spain in the mid 1930's.  His observations about the difficulty of sewing sleeves of garments brought about free arm.  Timing was a problem for this idea as war began in his home country and later in Europe.  Years would go by before the design came to production.  That is why it has a very 1930's look.  The company that finally did make this machine was Tavaro SA of Geneva Switzerland in 1940.  It was a munitions factory that decided to take on this project.  It was a resounding success.  This would explain the look of the case, just like an ammo box.  From the outside one would not guess a sewing machine was inside.  That's also why it has no model number, it is simply 1.  It was the only one they made, but with this success it was not the last.

Post war sales were quite brisk, as this little machine represented a major change in the home machine industry just when it was needed most.  Now, timing was on it's side.  Postwar demand was big for a lightweight (15 pounds) free arm machine for simple basic tasks. It was the world's first free arm sewing machine.
Advertising for a Grasshopper

My particular machine was made in 1950.  By the way, it was good year for sewing machines in general.  I have several made in and around that year, all excellent.  Singers, Pfaffs and Elna's Oh my. As an aside, this model was copied almost exactly.  I saw one in an ad but did not buy it, possibly made by General electric or Westinghouse.  If anyone knows help me please.  Just like the Grasshopper only in grey.  I am so sorry I did not get it.  They are out there still.
Elna 1's accessories set
It is a strait stitch sewing machine that takes common low shank attachments.  The bobbins are the normal Elna type, and you can use 15x1 needles.  I get all those easily but if you need any particular parts are out there.  I got some replacements rubber foot pads from White's Sewing Center.  This is an excellent resource with all kinds of things for your Grasshopper and Supermatics too.
My Grasshopper came with a small set of accessories and a tiny tin box. The one thing it has that has proven to be a really helpful one is the part made of black plastic upper left.  It is a slow gear.  Many machines today have this built in feature but in 1950 not so.  By placing it on the machine it slows down the speed in an even way, perfect for darning or very precise work. It fits on like this:
Elna 1's low gear cover.
Being a low shank machine makes it easy to use attachments.  I use a regular 1/4" foot all the time.
Elna 1 with quilter's piecing foot attached
Using the Zig Zagger
There's more.  It works well with a walking foot and a zig-zag attachment.  In my case, I use a little one called a Chadwicks ZigZagger.  
NEW EDIT
When I wrote this post some time ago, I was not able to get a buttonholer to work on this machine.  Since then, with the help of a reader, I was able to get it to work.  I was just not thinking about it enough.  Here is how it works:

Singer Buttonholer with Elna 1
The key to success here is using the little feed dog cover that comes as part of the attachment set.  Normally the buttonholer has it's own plate but that does not fit e little free arm of the Elna.  Use the accessory shown in the photo.

Now the buttonholer will work fine.  

Adjusting the Stitch Length
Elna can be adjusted by lengthening the stitches but that's about it in the fancy automation area.  Here is how to set the length and an example of the stitches it makes.

To set the stitch length.
Stitches for Elna 1

The size makes this a easy machine to take places much like the famous Singer 221 Featherweight.  The case also folds out to make room for big things like quilts.  I have used it for that but really, the space to the right of needle (harp space) is waaaaay to small to do this all the time.

Some things to know about the Elna #1.  They are quite simple but like everything to be oiled.  I keep this little one very clean and oil all parts as required.  This leads me to mention a starting discovery:  It will sometimes smoke when first started   Boy this scared me first time!  I later found out that it's pretty normal and not to panic.  This great help came from a Yahoo group for vintage Elna machines.  I recommend finding help if you need it, there are many fans of these old timers.  This machine is also prone to running slow.  This could be mine, however.  I prefer a foot control but these come only with a knee lift.  It does make it easier to travel with as there is one less cord to tangle and that's nice.  That leads me to this last topic, it travels so well and is interesting to all who see it.  You will, however, be pounded with questions and comments when you take this out of it's case.  It's impossible to quietly start sewing on it if there is anyone else around.  That includes people who do not sew.

If you live in a complicated world, sometimes it's nice to just enjoy the simplicity of an old sewing machine.  This one is all that.


40 comments:

  1. I'd love one of these machines. I haven't seen one yet, except in pictures. What fun!

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  2. I have never seen one before, I love the color!

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  3. Hi, I am Laura from Argentina. I have got one. It is Beautiful. I love it. It was my granmother.

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  4. Glad you stopped by Laura. These are cool machines and yours being from your grandmother makes it even better.

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  5. Hello, I'm Sophie from Belgium. As Laura, I received an Elna 1 from my grand mother few times ago. My only problem is that she lost the manual and doesn't really remember how to use it. I was thinking that maybe you have a manual or maybe some explanations that could help me to use it? Thank you anyway for that post:-)

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    1. The Elna 1 is very easy to use. I can make photos of the thread path if needed but thhe manual is what you need. Here is one source:
      http://www.2shared.com/document/ki7GimJb/elna_1_sewing_machine_owner_ma.html

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  6. (continued)...I could not test this as my internet browser would not accept the file. Elna may be able to help and possibly get one for you in your language.

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  7. Hello Yarndiva,

    Thank youfor your help, I managed to get one in french(my langage).

    Thank you very much and I wish you the best for this coming soon Christmas time!!!

    Sophie

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    2. Sophie,

      Un peu tard mais sait-on jamais ?

      http://mesnotices.fr/manuel-notice-mode-emploi/ELNA/ELNA%201%20SERIE%202-_F

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  8. he, I've one like this and I would like to sell it, do you know where ? and how much ?

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  9. I suggest Ebay, and you can check competed listings for what the machines actually sold for to give an idea of current value.

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  10. Hi. I have one of these original Elna's, but I don't use it, it is still in working order and would like to sell it to go to a good home, eBay don't have any on at the moment, I was hoping that some one may see on here and be allowed to contact me. I think more deditacated Elna lovers would see it here.

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    1. I'm interested. Still for sale?

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    2. I'm interested. Still for sale?

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    3. I'm interested. Still for sale?

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    4. I have one for sale. Email me. Sugar1492@gmail.com

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  11. Hello Zigzagdi,
    I am looking for a Grasshopper.
    Where are you?
    I am in the UK, in Manchester.

    Kind regards

    Chris

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  12. Thank you so much for all this information. I will be looking to other sites that you recommended as well. I bought a Elna at a second hand store for 5 dollars. It works but there is no manual that came with it. I have been looking on the web for some time for information. I bought a second older sewing machine. I have been using it. I could see that these older machines were well made and had more than enough adequate for my sewing needs.
    I am so glad that I found your blog.
    Honey

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  13. I loved all the information you put in this post. Thank you!

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  14. You had asked about the "Grasshopper clone" in grey. I found one on E-bay & it's on it's way to me now...It was from Montgomery Ward originally, don't know who the manufacturer was that made it for them...and it was indeed a mottled grey in color...It will need a new bobbin case before it can be used, but otherwise is in working condition. From the looks of the photo. it will need a good cosmetic cleaning & polishing but I am up to the task. Hope I will be able to find a bobbin case to fit it....will keep you posted on it's progress once I receive it.....This little gem will be a nice addition to my growing collection of vintage machines from Singer and my Elna Supermatic.....

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    1. Great find, and I would love to hear about it's progress.

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  15. OMG....Just found another clone on E-bay...this time by New Home...Please, someone buy it right away so I won't be tempted myself...has case, and piece that fits into machine for larger work space & their asking only about $115.00 + shipping...OMG...please help me curb my temptation...............

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  16. It arrived today and indeed is a clone of the Grasshopper with the exception of a foot control rather than a knee control...and of course the color is a mottled gray rather than the lovely green...now my hunt is on for a bobbin case to fit it...I have contacted White Sewing Center in MO...they seem to be Elna specialists & think a Grasshopper bobbin case will fit since the machines are so similar...other than that, the machine runs smoothly & has been fitted with a new power cord & pedal cord & the lamp lights up...will follow up with news as it progresses.....

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  17. As of today, I see that 2 more of Montgomery Ward clones, model-J, have popped up on E-bay...I have a new bobbin case for mine coming to me & I am hoping that it will fit...The bobbin case is actually for the Grasshopper, but when I put the machines side by side, the bobbin area looks exactly the same, so I'm crossing my fingers that it will fit...Will keep you posted......

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  18. Hope your new case works. Mr White of White Sewing Center is a gem, there are many parts there. He is often away so response time can be delayed but he will get to you. You are sorely tempting me with the thought of adding a new baby....but am trying downsize!

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  19. Hi! I am from Chile, i have a sewing maching very similar brand Elredge Rotary. I need some information about this. I really appreciate if you can help me plis.

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  20. Hi! I am from Chile, i have a sewing maching very similar brand Elredge Rotary. I need some information about this. I really appreciate if you can help me plis.

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  21. Hello Lisetina. I wrote about the Eldrege Rotary here in this blog so yoy must have read it. My Eldrege is a fine machine. Is there something I can help you with in particular?

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  22. Hello ! I am fron Belgium. I have just bought a Grasshopper yesterday and it comes with some feets. There is one I am not able to determine what it is used for. It is the one on your picture Elna 1 Accessories set, bottom line, extreme right. I think it is a hemmer foot, but can you give me some explanations about it ? Thank you.
    Kind regards'
    Françoise

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    1. I think that is a rolled hem foot or narrow hem foot. It is one I have not used, as I have never gotten good results from those with other machines. Will check this out further and get back to you with a more definite answer.

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    2. Hello again, did check on this attachment and it is a narrow hem foot. It shows how to use it in the manual. Enjoy your little Elna!

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  23. Hello all Elna lovers.
    I’m sorry if this is considered misuse of this space, but I see that you care about vintage sewing machines. My late grandmother left me an Elna no. 1 in mint condition. A little worn on the outside of the box, but sparkling green and almost unused inside. My (also late) grandfather was a mechanics engineer, so it was probably looked after like a baby when it was occasionally used. I don't sew much myself and when I do, I prefer a modern machine, so Elna is looking for a new home with somebody who cares about and will take well care of this marvellous piece of machinery. It’s located in Denmark but I often go to the UK. If you are interested, drop me an e-mail at sune.olander.rasmussen@gmail.com.

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  24. Elna is a good brand.Your blog is good. Elna sewing machine is good.Keep posting and sharing

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  25. Good Work and Good site. Your all blog is very good. Keep sharing and posting.

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  26. Vary nice site. Blog is good. Your site design is good. blogging style is awesome so Keep sharing and posting.

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