Sunday, March 17, 2013

My little Elna

Several years ago when my dad started working in the auction field, I asked him to look out for just two things on his travels around Far North Queensland.

1. A 1972 Blythe doll
2. An Elna Lotus sewing machine in working condition

He hasn't come across a Blythe doll yet, but a few years ago I was at the Canberra Quilters quilt show and he called me on my mobile phone. He was at a Salvos in Cairns, he said, and they had an Elna Lotus with a certificate from an electrician saying it was in working condition. And they wanted $40 for it. Did I want it?

Elna Lotus SP

I think he ended up paying $30 for it. The intention was always to bring it back to Canberra, clean it up a little, and sell it for a profit, splitting the proceeds. You see Elna Lotus sewing machines, even those made in the 60s, are very popular with quilters. They are light, very portable, sew beautifully, are known as absolute workhorses and are as cute as all get out. And they go for hundreds of dollars.

I did a little sewing on it when I got home but it sounded like a loud boat motor (like the boat motor was in the room next to the machine), and was a bit slow to get going when you pressed the foot pedal. It has a few little chips and scrapes, and a tiny bit of rust has crept in and the chrome on the handwheel has mostly gone (a victim of living in the tropics) but you could hear the mechanics as it sewed and they sounded great (noisy but great), and I thought I had a good little machine which someone else would love to buy.

For years when I mentioned I had an Elna Lotus I had offers from other quilters. LOTS of offers. But I always turned them down. What was wrong with me? I had this sewing machine for the sole purpose of selling it! It was only after the last offer from a very dear friend a few months ago that I realised something.

I actually wanted to keep my little Elna Lotus. Better - I wanted to sew on her. So I had her checked out and serviced by my sewing machine guy. He loved her as much as I did. And he agreed that she was too noisy. So he fixed her, and now she's a lot less noisy, and I probably won't get kicked out of my quilting class in Sydney later this week anymore. Phew.

Elna Lotus SP

Isn't she cute? She is so light, and she has the fold down sides for a sewing area. The foot pedal fit perfectly under the arm.

Elna Lotus SP

Elna Lotus SP

Elna Lotus SP

Everything about her is beautiful, and clever. Check out the accessories area at the top of the machine.


And the little thread holder that pops out of the top.

Elna Lotus SP

The dials are clean and functional.

Elna Lotus SP

I love the brownish yellow glow of the light - none of that harsh blue light in the more modern machines.


I love the spring than comes down to pull the bobbin out.

Elna Lotus SP

Elna Lotus SP

Best of all, her stitch is perfect. I'm sewing the last three blocks of my second scrappy trip around the world quilt on her. It only feels right to. The smell of sewing machine oil fills the sewing room. You don't get that smell from computerised Berninas.

Elna Lotus SP

Did you know that the Elna Lotus was designed by the famous industrial designer Raymond Loewy? He also designed the Shell logo, the interior of the 1975 Air France Concorde, the interior of the Skylab, and  the Studebaker Avanti.

1963 Studebaker Avanti
Photo by carphoto

I can see some similarities, can't you?


The Elna Lotus was considered such a siginificant design of the 20th Century that it was included in the colllection at MoMA. I mean, it is pretty special.

I'm so glad I decided to keep her, get her fixed up and start using her. I think we'll have years of fun together.

And Dad? Thanks. I owe you $30.


  1. I had a friend give me one a few years to 'see if I could get it working'. It sat in my house for about a year, and I eventually gave it back still unworking! I asked her for it, and she (rightly) refused haha. and she's not even a sewer! They are really cute, and grandma (there with her grandchildren, one of whom was using it) in a quilt class once had one and I was impressed!

  2. oooo I have a lotus too - since about 1986 when I got her in Canberra for about $75 which at the time I thought was ALOT of money.

    She has been my only machine until last year when I bought a bernina

    My lotus has sewn hundreds and hundreds of kilometers of fabric for events, theatre shows and tv shows and i get her regularly serviced and she still goes like a dream -

    thanks so much for the post I had no idea of the design history of this fantastic machine

  3. I have one of those! It was my mums when she moved out of home in the early 70s, then I had it when I started sewing about 11 years ago. I made my first quilt on it. Then I bought a modern machine and I haven't used the elna since. It's being stored at mum and dads again. I didn't realise they are worth so much, but then I don't want to sell it. Like you I want to keep it for love!

  4. My Mum has one of those machines too - I'd forgotten some of those details - you've brought back many good memories for me. x

  5. I do all my sewing on a Lotus. Mine's the model below yours, the ZZ. I have all the original accessories in the top tray, except the quick-unpick, although I have bought one which fits in the slot. In the time I've owned it, I've sewn everything from jeans for my son, suede footstool covers, curtains and blinds, through to dresses for me, and of course quilts. It's the one possession I would want to grab if my house was on fire.

  6. Love these little machines ... I learnt to sew on one of these at school ...way back in 1980 ... they were fanastic. Great find, and many happy hours of sewing :-)
    Happy stitching, P

  7. I have an Elna Stella which is very close to the Lotus. It used to be my Nan's sewing machine but now it is the spare for if my or my mum's machine needs to be serviced - because we don't cope very well with being sewing machineless. It's also there if an interstate craft camper needs a machine and for Grace to play on. It's brilliant. Although I love, love my big old heavy as anything Elna. Yep, we are an (old) Elna family.

  8. I saw a new one of these in Spotlight on the weekend for $999! I thought of you immediately. It's not a sexy as these models, but it still has the fold up sides which is funky.

    I know you don't go in much for the "blogging" but I just wanted to let you know that I've nominated you for the Liebster Award because I think you're grouse! You can find out more here:

  9. My friend/writing tutor,Jenny,gave me one of those little Elna's a few years ago, when I asked her if she knew of anyone who had a machine to sell.It is so compact and a great little sewer. I didn't realize they were so highly prized...not that I want to sell it. It's a lovely gift from a thoughtful friend.

  10. Hello I have an elna Lotus and read your blog I live in an Airstream Trailer and the machine is a perfect fit for my little home on wheels I had to get rid of a lot of sewing equipment but I could not part with my special tiny Elna so it is the perfect tool in small space living

  11. I've just moved into a very small house in Hobart and have been on the lookout for a small sewing machine at Op shops and garage sales. I finally spotted a compact sewing machine, an Elna Lotus SP, at a garage sale which was in lovely condition, with user manuals and original warranty card from 1971. I've never seen this machine before but it was love at first sight! It is indeed a design masterpiece.
    It's working beautifully and I will treasure it always.
    Thank you for the great blog post and excellent photos.

  12. I have the exact same machine. I love her, she runs like a dream. I am doing quilting and she is struggling with the thicker layers. I don't think i can get a waking for for her. Any suggestions.

    1. I'm so sorry. I'm not too sure! You could try to contact your Elna dealer. I got a 1/4 inch-ish foot from them which was new.

  13. wow, fancy me stumbling over this blog post 3 years later!
    I have an Elna Lotus. She was given to me by my mother in law.
    She has been working just fine for 2 years without major problems, but now I have one: I'm looking for the Sewing Guide 2 that is mentioned in her Instruction Booklet.
    Or maybe you can help me? Something is out of wack with her stitching. On top the stitch looks fine, but when I turn the fabric over it looks like a crow's nest! Then finally the rotary hook will cease.
    Anyway, I know this is a long shot, but hopefully someone can respond.
    Lovely post thank you

  14. Me again ..... if you got my message, don't worry about it. I found the error, thanks to
    the rotary hook tension setting was incorrect on my machine.
    Let's hope she runs smoothly now and I can finish the roman blinds for the children's room.

  15. Anyone have a needle plate or bobbin accessory spare, or a machine with these that they do not want. I have an Elna LotusZZ which I use constantly but want to do some machine embroidery on it, and it is missing the plate that goes over the teeth.

  16. I have an Elna Lotus minus the power and foot control, lovely little machine. I rang a sewing centre on Goodwood Road Adelaide for the cost of a second hand foot controller, he told me the price would be $60 Australian, WHAT A RIPPOFF. The dealer will probably never use the pedal again but they like to ripp people off when they can. Good luck to the dealer I hope no one buys it.

  17. I have an Elna Lotus, lovely little machine, it dose not have the foot control so I called a sewing centre on Goodwood Road Adelaide to see if they had a second hand one. The sewing shop had a second hand one and the mechanic wanted $60 Australian dollars for it, WHAT A RIPP-OFF, I told him I would go somewhere else.Its best to look around and be patient rather than pay for something at a ridiculous price. Wonder if he would do a trade in on a foot controller I have of another machine I do not use.


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