Elna Grasshopper portable sewing machine review featured cover - ILQF

Elna Grasshopper Review

The Grasshopper is Elna’s number one from more than one perspective. It was the very first sewing machine produced by the Swiss company and it had no name or number, but it was nicknamed the Grasshopper because of its green color and knee lift. When it first emerged in 1940, the machine had a resounding success. It was in fact the first mass-produced portable sewing machine with a free arm. If you are looking for a nice straight stich machine, Elna Grasshopper will not disappoint. This sewing machine has everything you need and more: a free arm for sleeve and leg hems, case slips for a large flat sewing surface, a vintage flavor and an interesting history.


Stitch Quality


Ease of Use


User Rating

90% Very Good

The Elna Grasshopper is a straight stich portable sewing machine with a unique design that has enjoyed a great popularity over the years.


  • Drop-In bobbin
  • 500-700 Stitches Per Minute
  • Free Arm
  • Adjustable Presser Foot Pressure
  • Straight Stitch Only
  • Knee Lift
  • Two Owner’s Manuals
  • Carrying Case Doubles As Work Table
  • Two Oil Cans

The History of the Grasshopper

Elna Grasshopper was created by Ramon Casas, a Spanish Civil War refugee, in mid-1930’. He designed the sewing machine with comfort and convenience in mind after observing the difficulty of sewing sleeves and hems with conventional machines. The free arm was an innovation much needed in the industry, but his timing was not the best, because war broke out, so his machine was not produced until 1940, when a Swizz company, Tavaro SA, decided to release it on the market.

The Grasshopper, which resembles the insect not only in color, but also in style, was manufactured in a munitions factory. The sewing machine comes in a compact case that closely resembles an ammo box precisely for this reason. The Elna Grasshopper was obviously a bestseller being the only portable sewing machine with a free arm and advanced features, rapidly gaining ground against the Singer Featherweight. Tavaro SA stopped its war line production and focused on sewing machines from that point on. The grasshopper was in production until 1952.


  • Slow Gear
  • Zig Zagger
  • Feed Dog Cover
  • Zipper Foot
  • Ruffling Foot
  • Darning Foot
  • Cording Foot
  • Binding Foot
  • Spare Screw And Nut.
  • Small Screwdriver
  • Lint Brush

Elna’s Grasshopper comes with a lovely accessories set. Just as you imagined, they come in a small black and green tin box, a nice design detail. The slow gear, which is incorporated nowadays directly in the sewing machines, is a black plastic piece and probably the most useful accessory in the set. The slow gear is ideal for very precise work, because it helps slow down the machine’s speed evenly.

The attachments are easy to use on this sewing machine, because it is a low shank machine. The walking foot and zig-zag accessory work very well together, while the feed dog cover can be used with a buttonholer. The purpose of the brush is easy to figure out, because all sewing machines need cleaning, but it takes some time to take in the small screwdriver. After starting to use the machine, however, you will find it quite useful when you need to open the light housing, make bobbin tension adjustments or change the presser feet.

Some attachments that work with the Grasshopper

Although a vintage sewing machine from the 1950s, the Elna Grasshopper is still relevant and useful in the hands of sewing passionate, because it takes common low shank attachments. When purchasing a vintage sewing machine, the main problem is whether you can still find attachments on the dedicated market to work with it. Fortunately, this machine is standard from this point of view, so you can use it with attachments from other models and brands.


You can use the normal Elna type bobbins with this machine, including the 15×1 needles. However, the process of winding the bobbin is different from the normal procedure with other machines, because of the bobbin-winding pin, which is peculiarly attached directly to the motor axle and located behind the balance wheel.

Rubber Foot Pads

You can find replacement rubber foot pads from any sewing center. State the name of your sewing machine and its production year and the clerk will probably be able to help you.

Zig-zag Attachment

A Chadwicks ZigZagger will work perfectly with the grasshopper. Make sure you also use the walking foot to ensure maximum stability.


Making a buttonholer work on this machine is a bit of a challenge. The Singer buttonholer is great with Elna 1 and the key to make it work is to use the feed dog cover from the attachment set.

Useful Tips

  • The sewing machine will not work, if you leave a spare bobbin on the bobbin pin, as you would normally do, so stash the next bobbin in another place.
  • Adjust the tension with a thumb nut. Tension adjustment is a little difficult with the Grasshopper, so a thumbnut might come in handy.
  • You need to keep the Grasshopper clean all the time and oil all its parts carefully to ensure it will sew, as it should.

Little Quirks

  • You can fold the case to sew large objects such as quilts, but the harp space is too small for very thick materials.
  • It might smoke when started, so do not get alarmed, this is normal for this machine.
  • Threading, bobbin winding and adjusting the tension are sometimes a challenge.

Why you should buy the Elna Grasshopper?

This is a sewing machine you simply have to have; no explanation required. One can tell its value and charm at a glance. It is small and light, easy to use and perfect for its age. Not only it works very well, but it also looks marvelous and so different from other sewing machines, not to mention that it is also pretty rare. The unique industrial design and vintage green color are instant killers especially for someone that has a fondness for old sewing machines. The Grasshopper is a classic that has set quite high quality standards in the 1950’s.

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