Meet the trio:
SuperNellie, my Elna Supermatic, was previously introduced here
SuperNellie opened my eyes to the beauty and simplicity of vintage sewing machines. I fell in love with her clean lines, solid metal mechanical insides and growly tractor sound. I’ve oiled and cleaned her many times, and replaced a rubber friction wheel so she now purrs along cheerfully (the TV volume no longer needs to be cranked right up when she is running). She has been kitted out with some more decorative pattern cams and extra feet. She topstitched through thick woollen coating, and makes beautiful buttonholes.
Of course when we brought SuperNellie home and googled vintage Elnas, we quickly learnt about the Grasshopper, her predecessor.
And the search began.
I don’t know why, but there seem to be a bucketload of Elnas in New Zealand. So I signed up for a TradeMe account and kept my eye out. My Aunt Wendy and Cousin Celia live in Auckland, so when a Grasshopper came up local to them, and was looking like it would go for a reasonable price, I pounced! Much better value than the one listed repeatedly on Ebay Au for $700 that apparently doesn’t have a bobbin.
After a journey across the Tasman sea (and the reverse journey for some KokoBlack Chocolate), Grasshopper took up residence on the workbench. She is only a straight stitch machine; it is beautifully even. I had to replace the drive belt and liberally apply oil in the 17 places indicated in the manual. A rub over with a damp microfibre cloth cleaned off what little grime there was on the exterior.
These two machines are both low shank, meaning their feet are interchangeable with my modern Elna. The different width of feed dogs does make a difference though, so the narrowest feet don’t work so well on the modern machine with its wide feed dog area. I purchased a box of vintage attachments, and have been putting them to good use. I’ll cover them in more detail in other post, as I’ve had a great deal of delight in making my sewing life easier with well thought out tools.
Based on the criteria of “green Elnas” the search continued, albeit at a slightly slower pace for the remaining part of the collection, an Elna Junior. TradeMe came up trumps again, this time from around Wellington from a seller willing to ship internationally.
Isn’t she too cute??? No rust except on the old needle which I quickly replaced. Some oil has worked it’s wonders on freeing up movement, and she sews a chain stitch – meaning you don’t need a bobbin underneath. This is a hand cranked machine – the handle on the side moves the needle up and down. There’s also a music box built in which plays the Blue Danube waltz.
Tiniest niece Isabelle will be encouraged to learn to sew on Elna Junior, as it will be very tricky for her to sew her fingers to fabric thanks to the shape of the presser foot. The instruction book includes instructions for regular straight seams, and, get this, flat felled seams, quilting and draft it yourself doll clothes. Expectations of young girls in the fifties were very high!
All this playing with old machines also got me cleaning and oiling my modern machines more often. They are happier now too.