The Elna Stella TSP is a retro-modern 80s update of the ever-so-cute Lotus. The white with black accents is super stylish and less industrial looking than the matte gray of its older sibling.
Below is the Stella TSP next to a Lotus SP. The Stella is slightly taller than the Lotus.
You may recall, my biggest gripe with the Lotus stems from the inconvenience of its flaps. Lotus shown below.
When fully opened, this portable takes up way more space than most domestic machines! The Stella solves this with a touch of this button.
No more flaps to get in the way of sewing and a free arm to boot! Well, sort of...
Quite honestly, the free arm feels like an afterthought though--it is too wide to be of any use.
The build quality of the Stella is very similar to the Lotus, though it does add a great deal more plastic. The removable flaps are plastic, so along with being lighter, they are less durable as well. The flaps mount via spring loaded pins, which feel flimsy. The rear, no longer features the three-way combo bobbin winder, sewing, locking mechanism in favor of a standard screw on clutch. A welcome addition are two separate switches for powering the machine and the light independently.
The bobbin winder also received an update, now with a built in stopper. I'm not a fan of Elna bobbin winders in general, they're much more finicky than Singers.
One of the biggest changes comes from the foot control. This flying saucer like apparatus is literally a balloon with a button on it. It's super light and compact and amazingly enough, responsive as well. While I prefer the heft of the original foot control, it's very hard to argue with how light this thing is. The air controller attaches via a rubber hose to the back of the machine. All of this packs neatly away into a vinyl cover.
The internals of the Stella are largely the same as the Lotus. You'll notice quite a few nylon gears in there. Thankfully they aren't at very high stress points, but they have been known to crack. A pair of rubber belts has replaced the cleated nylon drive belt found in Supermatics and Loti.
The Stella sports a beefy 1 amp motor, especially for a portable. It features a top loading rotary hook and is capable of achieving speeds north of 1100 spm. This can be toned down a bit thanks to the electronic speed control. I absolutely love the rabbit and tortoise icons. Flip it up for more speed, flick it down for less. Elna recommends that bobbins be wound at about 3/4 speed as indicated by a tiny bobbin icon just a hair below the hare.
There are 8 built in stitches, four standard and four stretch plus a 4 step buttonhole.
- Blind Stitch
- Mulit-step Zigzag
- Stretch Straight
- Stretch Zigzag
- Rick Rack
- 4 step buttonhole
The stretch stitches have a fixed length and require the length dial be set to the stretch setting as shown on the right. You still have full control of the width though.
Like the Lotus, the Stella requires the machine be set to zero stitch width in order to change stitch type. Please see the Lotus review for an in-depth look at the stitch length and width dial mechanism.
The needle plate on the Stella is neatly marked and the diamond shaped quad feed dog configuration feeds material very well. The feed dogs do not drop.
One of the nicest features of the Elna line is their unique bobbin case setup. There is a dial located around 11 o'clock that sets the bobbin case tension. This convenient dial makes it super easy to make adjustments to lower tension--a significant improvement over blindly making micro turns with a screwdriver on just about every other machine out there. Please excuse the grime, I took this picture prior to cleaning and it isn't even from this machine.
This particular Stella is loaded with original accessories!
Let's round up the features shall we?
- Extremely portable
- Built in accessory tray
- Removable flaps
- "Impractical" free arm
- Powerful 1 amp motor
- Motor speed control
- 3 needle positions
- 4 step buttonhole
- 8 practical stitches, including stretch
- Rotary hook
- 4 grippy feed dogs
- Compact air foot control
- Accepts low shank feet
While I have yet to encounter this, I've heard of multiple accounts where the electronic circuit board breaks down. There is really no way to fix this short of replacement and parts are scarce these days.
Overall, the Elna Stella TSP is a great machine. While the build quality isn't quite up to the original Lotus, the new features more than make up for it.