If you’re getting ready to embark on a sewing retreat across the country or just a quick trip for a sewing class down the street, you’ll want to brush up on these quick tips on how to travel with your sewing machine successfully!
It’s a little overwhelming when you first start to navigate the big move… but I promise, you’ll be an expert in no time!
Before you leave home:
- Put your presser foot down on a piece of fabric. To protect your presser foot and ensure machine stability during shipping or just general bumps of the travel process, keep it in the down position on a piece of fabric. The piece of fabric in between is to make sure that your feed dogs do not scratch up your presser foot and prevent any damage due to bumps or other transportation issues.
Removing the presser foot is an option, but I’ve seen women accidentally show up to a class without a presser foot! woops… That pretty much kills the sewing day, even if your machine did make it safely. Keeping the foot attached and in one piece lessens the opportunity for something to get separated or lost.
- Don’t travel with your needle down. Just in case you hit a bump, it’s better not to have that needle down near your bobbin case.
- Box it up! If you’re flying, it’s preferable to re-pack your machine in the original foam and box. The styrofoam is specially formed to fit around your machine and protect it during shipping. it is meant to be supportive and protective. If you’re brave, you can even check your sewing machine in its original box instead of carrying it on.
If you do not have the original box, definitely opt for the hardshell case or look for an aftermarket bag that is specifically for traveling with a sewing machine.
- Car seatbelts for travel! When you’re going across town or taking a driving trip, it’s important to make sure your machine is secure. It could be beneficial to invest in a trolley case and place the machine either on the floor of your car or securely strapped down in the backseat so that nothing can tip over while driving.
Make sure to cushion it with fabric (no sharp scissors sticking out to accidentally slice your car seats!) for an extra layer of protection. That way, when you arrive at your destination, everything will be exactly as you left it – safe and sound.
Another note is to safely cover any computer screens with a soft cloth to prevent any rubbing or scratches during travel.
- The Smart/Easy Way! For easy carrying and less lugging of heavy machine parts… it’s a really good idea to have a trolley or rolling cart for your machine. I’ve seen women DIY all kinds of contraptions from foldable wagons to luggage! This protects your machine from bumps and other things but also is less stressful on your ability to safely carry your machine.
- Don’t forget your power cord! This is very important- Obviously, your machine won’t work without it, but it is one of the most common items forgotten!
This goes for extra bobbins and a bobbin case too.
- Should you carry on when traveling by plane? In short… this is a session that you have to make. There is the benefit of knowing that you’re the only one handling your machine and you don’t have to worry about seeing it tumble down the luggage rack at baggage claim in a few pieces… but you also have the be the muscle that carries it through the airport and keeps tabs on it while traveling.
People who travel with their sewing machines and do carry-on store their machines in the overhead luggage compartment. You may need to scout out a tall, handsome stranger to help you load it overhead, but it is the safest place for your machine if you don’t end up with an empty seat next to you.
Usually, when you’re meeting up with a group of quilters… everyone will understand a few forgotten items! You may be close enough to a quilt shop to replace what you need quickly and not lose too much sewing time… or another quilter will lend you the item you forgot if she has an extra.
When you get to your second location:
- Ask for help You’ve already schlept your machine through multiple locations and loaded and unloaded it multiple times. Others available will be happy to help you remove your sewing machine and help you get settled.
Everyone would much rather chip in and help than have you make it this far, struggle and end up with a loud crack as your machine tumbles out of the car at the doorstep of your destination…
- Set up your space and re-thread your machine. Before you jump into your projects and get on your sewing buzz… do a good once over on your machine and your supplies. Make sure it all made it with you. You’ll also want to give a good once-over to your machine and threads. You may have left with it threaded correctly, but any travel trip is bound to jiggle things more and bounce things out of place slightly. Check your tension and thread for any tangles.
- Uh oh… You Forgot____ Really? after all that planning, list checking and thinking about what you needed to bring, and you STILL forgot something?
It’s ok. It really is. We all realize how easily someone can make a quick mistake with so much to pack and bring with you. The only sewers who never ever forget something are people who travel with their machines often or they are very big type A people who have it down to a science because they’ve stressed about it already.
You can check the area to see if there are any quilt shops nearby that you can pop into quickly (likely, as most retreats and classes are hosted close to quilt shops). You can ask around to see if anyone has an extra you could borrow (and then make sure you return it after use). Or you can check with the retreat host or class instructor to see if they an assist or come up with an alternative solution with you.
Tips for traveling through airport security
It is always wise to check the TSA website prior to traveling with anything unfamiliar just to lessen the stress and hassle while you’re standing in line and feeling the prying eyes of those behind you…. ugh… the stress!
Essentially, with my experience, I’ve discovered that small hand-sewing needles are fine to travel with in a sewing kit.
Scissors should be in your checked baggage unless they are shorter than 4 inches – embroidery scissors are ok.
If you do happen to need to travel by air with your machine, here are a few tips:
- Take the lightest machine you own (only because it’ll be easier for you to carry through the airport. Most airlines don’t weigh carry-on bags). You may be tempted to take your beautiful big sewing machine, but a trip through a large airport will take a lot of strength out of your sewing arms!
- Be patient as you travel. (Actually, that’s just a good rule in general.) It is easy to forget that your stressful day traveling is only really your problem. The TSA officers are just doing their jobs and sometimes they have different interpretations of what is or is not allowed. Also regulations change from time to time and while they may seem like they’re just being difficult… their number one priority should be to keep other travelers safe – no matter how non-threatening you look in your crocheted sweater!
- Your sewing machine is best stored as a carry-on item in the upper luggage compartment on the airplane. Look for someone who can help you lift it up there if you are unable.
- Check into a rolling cart or storage bag for your sewing machine. I like the ones down below.
Congratulations! Now that you have prepared and reviewed what is necessary to take your sewing machine on the road, you are set for an exciting adventure. Your diligent commitment to making sure it is safely packaged and ready for transport will give you peace of mind as you travel with confidence.
The satisfaction of knowing that all components of the packing process have been taken care of will allow you to enjoy every moment of your sewing retreat. Don’t forget to take some time for yourself to reflect and savor your creative processes. Remember, this journey isn’t just about results but about experiences too! Once again good luck in your journey, if ever in doubt look at this blog post as a reference guide along the way!
Also, leave a comment below if you have any other thoughts or suggestions….happy travels!