I've been getting lots of comments and emails from people who need manuals for secondhand machines that have come into their possession without instructions. Let me just say up front that I, personally, don't have any spare manuals for anything! (Though if you need to know something about a White 614, I'll happily look it up in my manual and try to answer your question.)
But other people do! It's really funny to me that one of the things the internet is so great for is finding out about old stuff. If you'd wanted a manual for an Elna Grasshopper twenty years ago, you'd have been hard-pressed to dig one up, but now, it should be very possible. I'm documenting my search for this Grasshopper manual to determine just how easy or hard it will be.
I start with the most obvious source -- a website called Sew USA sells copies of manuals for hundreds of sewing machines. I could get the Elna Supermatic or Elna Lotus books for $10 apiece, plus $5.75 shipping, but there's no Grasshopper on the list. Shucks.
Sew USA also has free threading diagrams for hundred of machines on the site. No Grasshopper, but if you need to get started with an old Kenmore or Singer, you'll have a great chance of finding your machine or a similar model. Also, a tip: If you have a store-brand machine, such as a JCPenney or Montgomery Ward, and you don't see your exact model number in the selection, take a peek at the threading diagrams for similar-era White and Kenmore machines, because there's a good chance they were made by the same manufacturers.
Since I haven't had any luck at Sew USA, I decide to send an email to Elna's customer service, which I find in a flash at Elna.com -- they should have these manuals in a file cabinet somewhere, and if anybody gets around to reading my note, I'm sure they'll be able to offer some kind of help.
Meanwhile, I'm off to eBay! After first checking on the digital pianos (doesn't this seem like the sort of thing one ought to be able to find for a good price used online? Like sewing machines? So far, no luck, but I persevere...), I wend my way through the categories to "sewing manuals & instruction" and search for Elna. For most machines, I'd search for the full model number, but since the Grasshopper is officially "model #1" I worry that my search might either turn up every Elna with "1" in its model number, or else it won't find a book that the seller has listed under Grasshopper. There are more than 60 Elna manuals on the site, but -- boo hoo -- not the one I seek!
Now I'm going to generalize a bit and head out to the miraculous Google. A search for "Elna Grasshopper manual" turns up -- hey! Zigzaggers! We're number one! Of course, we don't yet know where that manual is, so we're not helpful at this point... Then comes a site that's all about someone named Amy's gorgeous, shiny, green Grasshopper (can you tell that this is a machine I covet?), but there's no information on finding manuals. And third... what do you know! It's another sewing machine manual site. Sewingmanuals.net sells a photocopy of the Grasshopper manual for $14.99, plus $2.50 shipping. I'm not vouching personally for this site (never heard of it before, and haven't purchased anything from it), but it takes PayPal, which offers some security.
If I had a Grasshopper (sniff!) without a manual, I would certainly buy this photocopy -- $17 seems like a very reasonable price for the book that's going to let you get all the use and pleasure possible out of your green sweetie. In a perfect world, manuals would stay safe and sound with their machines, but alas, this world is obviously far from perfect. Still, it's less than twenty bucks and about half an hour of trolling the web! Hooray for technology, old and new!
Please add your manual-finding stories and strategies in the comments section, so that we'll have all the tips in one place for those Googlers who happen upon this site during their searches!
Edited to add: The nice people at Elna customer service emailed me back to say that, surprisingly, they don't have any Grasshopper manuals; BUT she said a Supermatic manual would be the closest, and she included a pdf of it in the email, for free! Definitely worth trying before you spend the big bucks...
Edited again (2/22) to add: I only just realized that the brilliant and prolific Melissa Fehr actually has a pdf of the manual for her Jo-Ann Sonata 540 (a machine a few different commenters have asked about) posted on her lovely website, here. This woman sews nonstop, and her blog is packed with pattern reviews, tips, and lovely pictures of gorgeous clothes -- check it out even if you don't want to borrow her virtual sewing machine manual!