You must have seen them, those sturdy little green machines with their utilitarian curves and ingenious carry case? When I first started researching sewing machines I fell in love with the Elna ‘Grasshopper’. I could have picked one up on eBay but I couldn’t justify it… I already had my mums old singer 99k so I really needed something that could zigzag and buttonhole. It stayed in the back of my mind, I was allowed to buy one if I should happen to find one at a car boot sale or second hand shop. It became my holy grail! (Well, it certainly became my screensaver for a month or two!)

Then I turned 45 and my very generous friends The Peacocks (also boot-sale buddies!) surprised me by taking the decision out of my hands and presenting me with my very own model! And he’s a beauty! Nice and clean, a few character building scratches, and this fine selection of bits and bobs…!

As you can imagine, I was totally overwhelmed and couldn’t wait for them all to leave so that I could get my new toy out and start playing!

He sewed straight away, the tension looked pretty shonky and when he went fast, he’d start to rattle inside and the speed would go all out of control. I didn’t get a manual, so searched online and found this helpful site…

Elna Grasshopper Blog

I oiled all the parts and tried again…

Still sounding (& behaving) like a runaway train. (Which is particularly upsetting as one of the 10 UNDISPUTED FACTS* of the Elna Grasshopper is that it is surprisingly quiet. Humph).

The tension setting guide was pretty low for normal sewing, so I tried it all the way down to zero, but still no joy.

Then I got my screwdriver out and had a look under the bonnet…

Lo and behold, I found this…

I ran it with the cover off and it was still rattling around, it looked like the bobbin casing was about to fly out. I wish I’d made a video so you could see and hear what it was like… not really behaving true to the Incredible-Swiss-Engineering referred to in the 10 UNDISPUTED FACTS* of the Elna Grasshopper! But to be honest, I was so alarmed by the racket it didn’t even cross my mind to get videoing.

Thankfully, I put a tiny bit of oil on the bobbin casing, so the bit that whizzes round it could move more freely… and… IT WORKED!

Just that one drop of oil in the right place and the rattling stopped**, the tension started behaving itself, the speed transitioned smoothly and he started responding like a playful kitten.

** Albeit replaced by a loud tick, but that sounds louder on the video and is for further investigation…

(Black thread in the bobbin, upper tension set to 1/2… bobbin thread still showing on the smaller stitches…)

Then, maybe I committed a huge sin, but it felt to me like a breakthrough… I discovered that the ‘ankle’ from my Janome DKS30 fits onto the Elna, so I can use my snap-on feet with it! (I immediately ordered Elna his own designated ankle adapter, I can’t leave Janome limping and in pieces just because there’s a new guy in town!)

It’s such a beautiful looking machine. And now that it’s stitching beautifully too, I can’t wait to see what we can make together.

Until next time, Happy Sewing!

*THE 10 UNDISPUTED FACTS of the Elna Grasshopper…

(So far I have not found a great wealth of online information on this machine, but these FACTS* seem undisputed among the various blogs I have managed to find…!)

  1. They are surprisingly quiet.
  2. They are a miracle of Swiss design and engineering.
  3. The needle automatically disengages when winding a bobbin (proof of FACT* 2)
  4. They were made between 1940 – 1952
  5. Designed in Switzerland by Dr Ramon Casas, a refugee from the Spanish Civil War.
  6. Originally called Tavaro type Elna, the name became the company name.
  7. Grasshopper is a made up nickname, also known as Elna 1.
  8. The box folds out into a sewing table.
  9. They operate with a knee presser instead of a foot pedal.
  10. They are BEAUTIFUL!