Vintage Elna Swiss sewing machines

by tealmermaid

How to identify various models of vintage Elna sewing machines.

For those with an interest in vintage sewing machines, the clear fore-runner of collectible sewing machines is the Elna: the pioneer of modern sewing machines. The Tavaro company of Switzerland began to manufacture Elna sewing machines in 1940, and the company has been going strong since that time.

Elna machines are renowned for the innovative features, their reliability, their quality, and their ease of use by even the most unskilled operator. Older Elna machines function by means of a cam system which allows the quick addition of new stitches by simply dropping in a cam with the key for that stitch. This makes the stitch capacity of Elna machines easy to expand.

Identify your Elna model

Elna #1

Affectionately called the "Grasshopper", the first model of Elna was produced from 1940 to 1952. The small green machine has a free arm and knee lever, and came in a black or green metal case. It's a very sturdy basic machine that does a mean straight stitch.

Elna Supermatic

The Supermatic series was produced from 1952 to 1977.

  • 1952 to 1956: dark green body with a green metal case. Accepts Elna discs. Option of knee lever or foot control.
  • 1958 to 1963: beige body with beige metal case. Accepts Elna discs. Option of grey foot control or knee lever.
  • 1956 to 1958: light green body with light green metal case. Accepts Elna discs. Option of knee lever or foot control.
  • 1963 to 1964: light grey body with grey metal case. Accepts Elna discs. Option of grey foot control or knee lever.
  • Star Series (1964 to 1972): white and light blue body with grey metal case. Accepts Elna discs. Foot control.
  • SU (Super) Star Series (1972 to 1977): white and light blue body with blue metal case. Accepts Elna discs. Foot control.

Elna Supermatic repair

Elna Zig-Zag

The Zig-Zag series was produced from 1956 to 1977.

  • 1956 to 1958: light green body with light green metal case. Straight and zigzag stitches. Option of foot control or knee lever.
  • 1958 to 1963: beige body with beige or grey metal case. Straight and zigzag stitches. Option of foot control or knee lever.
  • 1963 to 1964: grey body with grey metal case. Straight and zigzag stitches. Option of foot control or knee lever.
  • Star Series (1964 to 1977): white and grey body with grey metal case. Straight and zigzag stitches. Foot control only.

Elna Automatic

The Automatic series was produced from 1959 to 1973.

  • 1959 to 1963: The body is beige with a beige metal case. It takes Elna discs, and it comes with either a foot control or knee lever.
  • 1963 to 1964: The body is grey with a grey metal case. It takes Elna discs, and it comes with a grey or beige foot control or a knee level.
  • Star Series (1964 to 1971): The body is white and green with a grey metal case. It has 7 built-in stitches and also takes Elna discs. It comes with a foot control.
  • ST (Star) Star Series (1964 to 1971): The body is white and green with a grey metal case. It has 7 built-in stitches and also takes Elna discs. It comes with a foot control.

Vintage Elna sewing machines for sale

Vintage ELNA Supermatic Swiss Sewing Machine Great Condition W...

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Elna Special

The Special series was produced from 1966 to 1977.

  • Zig-Zag Special Star Series (1966 to 1967): The body is white and grey with a grey metal case. There are 4 built-in stitches, and it comes with a foot control.
  • Special Star Series (1967 to 1972): The body is white and grey (rose after 1970) with a grey metal case. There are 4 built-in stitches, and it comes with a foot control.
  • SP Star Series (1972 to 1977): The body is white and rose with a blue metal case. There are 7 built-in stitches, and it comes with a foot control.

Elna Lotus

The Lotus series was produced from 1968 to 1980.

  • SP (1969 to 1977): The body is light grey with grey metal cover flaps. 4 built-in stitches. A foot control is included.
  • Zig-Zag (1968 to 1977): The body is light grey with grey metal cover flaps. Straight and zig-zag stitches only. A foot control is included.
  • EC (1969 to 1977): The body is light grey with grey metal cover flaps. Straight stitch only. A foot control is included.
  • TSP (1975 to 1977): The body is beige with dark beige metal cover flaps. 8 built-in stitches. A foot control is included.

Vintage Elna sewing machine accessories

ELNA 65 CARINA Electronic Sewing Machine with Accessories

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Elna SU Sewing Machine 62C With Manual and Accessories

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VTG ELNA SUPERMATIC SEWING MACHINE W/HARD CASE WORKS PARTS ACC...

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Elna Top Special (TSP)

The Star Series Top Special was produced from 1974 to 1977. Its body is white and ochre, and it comes with a blue metallic case. There are 14 built-in stitches to select from, and it comes with a foot control.

Elna Elnita

The Elnita series was produced from 1976 to 1980.

  • SP (1976 to 1979): The body is light grey with a white plastic cover. 4 built-in stitches. A foot control is included.
  • Zig-Zag (1976 to 1979): The body is light grey with a white plastic cover. Straight and zig-zag stitches only. A foot control is included.
  • EC (1976 to 1979): The body is light grey with a white plastic cover. Straight stitch only. A foot control is included.
  • Zig-Zag Air Electronic (1980 to 1989): The body is white with a beige fabric cover. Straight and zig-zag stitches only. A foot control is included.

How to remove cover for Elnita

Elna Air Electronic

The Air Electronic series was produced from 1978 to 1982. All machines are white with white accessory box. A plastic cover was also provided, as was a foot control.

  • SU Air Electronic: 14 built-in stitches, and also takes Elna discs.
  • TSP Air Electronic: 14 built-in stitches.
  • SP Air Electronic: 7 built-in stitches.

Elna Stella

The Stella series was produced from 1980 to 1989. All machines are white with dark brown side panels that function as a protective case. A foot control is included.

  • TSP Air Electronic: 8 built-in stitches.
  • SP Air Electronic: 4 built-in stitches.
  • Zig-Zag Air Electronic: Straight and zigzag built-in stitches only.

Care and use of your vintage Elna

Basic Elna maintenance

If you are used to using a modern electronic machine for your sewing needs, keep in mind that these old Elnas are different. They are fully mechanical machines that will need to be oiled regularly, and they also need regular (read: yearly) maintenance by a certified sewing machine specialist to run in optimal condition. With proper maintenance, even a 60+ year old machine can work like new!

If you cannot find a qualified specialist in your area to handle the maintenance of your machine, you may be able to acquire the repair manual for your model to deal with the maintenance yourself. This is however not advised unless you are handy with machinery.

Vintage Elna advertisement
Vintage Elna advertisement

Vintage Elna sewing machine manuals

Elna SU Sewing Machine 62C With Manual and Accessories

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Elna Star Series 62-64-72-74-31- Sewing Machine Service Manual

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ELNA SUPERMATIC SEWING MACHINE MANUAL

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Threading your Elna machine

Unlike most modern machines, a vintage Elna is not marked with a needle-threading guide. Follow the instructions in this video to get your machine threaded, then make adjustments to the tension as needed.

Always use a good-quality thread with your Elna. Cheap thread is linty and will harm the machine if used for an extended time.

How to thread an Elna sewing machine

Elna cams: how to use

Most vintage Elna sewing machines use a cam system to add stitches to the machine. These cams are small black plastic discs that can be dropped into the cam feed to use that particular stitch.

Once your cam is set up, you will be able to use whatever stitch that particular cam is designed to do. This makes the vintage Elnas almost infinitely expandable so long as you can find the cams for sale.

When you are done with that cam, press down lightly on it and it will pop up for easy removal. The oldest machines require a special cam removal tool, so be sure that is included when you purchase one.

Elna Supermatic Cam installation and removal

Embroidery on your Elna

The easy to use cam system makes a vintage Elna a treat to use for embroidery.

If you are new to machine embroidery, I would suggest acquiring a guide book to walk you through the ins and outs of how to machine embroider on an older machine. The basic principles are the same for many older mechanical sewing machines.

Machine Embroidery Crash Course: How to Master Machine Embroidery at Home

This book covers how to do basic embroidery stitches on a normal (non-digital) sewing machine. With a bit of practice, these techniques can be used with the Elna cam system.

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Do you own a vintage Elna?

Updated: 09/10/2015, tealmermaid
 
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