October 6, 2013

Elna Special (1969)

I see these things occasionally and because they are not that attractive I never thought to look into them.
But because the Swiss made Elna has such a reputation, devoted following, and the price was right I decided to see what the Special had to offer.

It has a few miles on but not abused, it took a several hours to to bring up to respectable condition; every little corner and part needed cleaning including the foot pedal and ditty box.

It came with no manual so in my "free manuals" search I found the one that Tammy posted up! Thanks very much to her.

It has that crazy box that turns it into a flatbed; beautifully made complex sheet metal stampings, nice interior finish with several attachment straps to hold everything in place. However, the exterior is a military grey crinkle finish of all things, it really doesn't go with the modern looking machine at all. Without the case it is an exceptionally lightweight machine.

Now for the problems; I tried way too long to get the button hole wheel to free up, it is almost unmovable with two thumbs on it. Secondly the electronic slow speed on the foot pedal won't work.

Now for the good part; man can this thing sew beautifully! I tested it on some medium thick upholstery leather and the result was perfect.

Not a "style leader" like the Lotus it was however definitely headed in the right direction. Functionally the big dials are easy to turn because they allow for a "three finger" grip.

It is a fine Swiss made Elna machine.
I'm going to give it a try as a replacement for my 360 which currently I cannot get the reverse to be anywhere near the same length as the forward length.

As for Swiss cars... there are none from this period, or almost any!
We'll have to go to Italy, just across the Alps and look at Design in general.

However, apropos to nothing but color, fashion, and beauty:

Typewriters were a favorite for innovation and design until their demise.

'Valentine' typewriter designed by Ettore Sottsass with Penny King, made by Olivetti & Co, Italy, about 1969

Here is an interesting progression that follows sewing machine design too!
The next few steps continue the decline of the curve until the 70's when none were left.

Fashion History


  1. Hi Tom, I love your Elna Special, so glad you could use the manual. The lever right above the stitch length dial is a reverse lever. When pushed to the right and held Elna sews in reverse, release the lever and it goes back to forward stitching. The reverse on the stitch length dial is great to sew in reverse hands free. The typewrite is totally cool.

    1. Thanks for straighting me out on that, obviously I wasn't looking very hard. Do u use yours very much?

    2. Actually, no Tom I don't use an Elna at all. To date, I have owned six of them, sold five and gave one away. Even though they sew beautifully, I find loading the bobbin correctly cumbersome, sometimes the little bobbin cover plate flips open when I'm sewing. I can't adjust to the top loading bobbin located behind the presser foot. I don't like Elna's. My favourite straight stitchers are Singers the 15-91, treadles and Japanese clones. My favourite machine of all time is a Husqvarna/Viking Lily 555, sewing with this machine is pure pleasure. If it fits under the presser foot the Husqvarna will sew it. I also sew regularly on a Bernina 930, a pink Remington and my Pfaff. I'm embarrassed to admit I own one high end Pfaff Creative Sensation with all the bells and whistles.. I love my purple princess, even though she doesn't belong in my vintage collection.

    3. Tammy thanks so much for the detailed description of your favorites; I love the insights.
      Sorry it took so long to reply I get caught up doing things and don't devote enough time to writing.

  2. I like the simplicity of these Elna machines and designing the carrying case to serve as the bed of the machine is a neat idea. It's a shame they couldn't design the case to have the machine sit closer to the user.

  3. Hello, just found your post, here is a cautionary tale. I got one last year, no plug, needle position wheel jammed. Took the top covers off, it seemed ok, well oiled but I didn't check the cogs under the hook. Repaired a horse rug and the machine seazed solid. Took it apart, pinion wheel is acylic not metal, it had sheared the teeth off, it had loads of brown grease on it which I presume jammed the 2 cogs. So have given up with the elna and bought a singer with metal cogs. Its a shame, I liked the elna but it wasn't quite the heavy duty machine I thought. Its a fairly common to break this cog, you have to take the hook out to get to it.

  4. I remember my grandma had one like that! gritzner

  5. Thanks for informing to us about this issue. I am thankful to you for such interesting blog! SewingInsider

  6. Thanks for such superb info; this in actual fact comes in handy. GrandmaLikesToSew.com