If you miss the days of mechanical machines with a removable bobbin case, then you’d probably like the Elna eXplore 240. Reaching up to 800 stitches per minute, it’s also one of the loudest machines we tested, hitting 70.1 decibels at its highest speed. It comes with 24 different stitch patterns, and while that is the second-lowest number of any machine we tested, it’s enough if you aren’t interested in lettering or using a bunch of crazy decorative stitches. It has a straight stitch, zig-zag, blind hem and double overlock, just to name a few.
Installing this sewing machine’s bobbin is slightly trickier if you’re not used to the process. You have to remove a plate at the front of the machine under the needle plate, insert the bobbin into a metal bobbin case and install the case into the large metal mechanism beneath. Winding the bobbin, however, was easy and actually went quicker on this machine than any of the others we tested. It ran so fast, in fact, that the machine started to smell a little bit like hot plastic.
Our reviewers struggled with this machine. You change the stitch pattern with a dial on the front of the machine, but it’s not immediately clear you need to turn a second dial to a specific position – a small white circle with an “SS” on it – to access half of the stitch patterns. The instruction manual explain how to use the machine, but some of our reviewers didn’t like the manual because the translated instructions are jumbled up on the page instead of separated into sections by language. This makes for some complicated reading until you get used to it, but it might not bother some users. The needle also has to be at the highest point to switch stitch patterns, so this machine earned an F for ease of use.
The tension dial is easy to figure out, but the stitch length and width settings – not so much. For overall sewing accuracy it earned a C+ because it didn’t accurately finish a buttonhole, and the satin we sewed on bunched. It did, however, do well on a curve.
As a mechanical machine the Elna eXplore 240 lacks integrated speed control, just like the Juki HZL-355ZW-A and Singer 4423 Heavy Duty. You need to be cognizant of the pressure you’re putting on the foot pedal at all times. It does, however, come with a sewing light and thread cutter on the side of the machine. Four extra sewing feet, including ones for zippers, satin, blind hems and buttonholes, come with the machine, as does a soft case to keep dust and grime from gathering while you aren’t using it.