Quilt Retreat: How to Pack a Sewing Machine

Have you ever traveled with a sewing machine? Pack it up in the car - easy! But how about flying? So many great retreats and events such as Quilt Con or Quilt Market may require you to fly, and you might want to bring your own sewing machine. But how do you fly with a sewing machine?


sewing machine travel case


To Check? Or Not to Check?


When I first signed up for a quilt retreat, the host notified me that there were limited sewing machines available for rent. This may be a good option for you, but I worried I might not like the machine. What if it jammed and I didn’t know how to fix it? I’d feel more comfortable on my own machine, so I needed to figure out a way to pack it!


I quickly then decided that I wanted to put my machine in a carry-on case. The thought of airline workers tossing my checked bag with my sewing machine inside filled me with terror! I didn’t want my machine out of my sight, and I wanted it in the gentlest hands possible.


I found this rolling sewing case that fits the airline’s dimensions for a carry-on case. Make sure to check with your airlines to see what sizes are acceptable. Many were too big, or they didn’t come with wheels. There was no way I was carrying my machine on my shoulder, so wheels were a must!


The handle on my carry-on case was 2 inches past the limit. I made sure I had room in my personal item to slide off the wheels and pack in my personal item just in case. Thankfully, the case - wheels and all - passed security. Yes!


Prep Your Sewing Machine


prep your machine


Before packing your machine, you need to prep it. You don’t want security stopping you because you have needles, pins, seam rippers, etc. in your bag! If you have an accessory drawer full of sewing notions attached to your machine, remove it and place in a checked bag. Also, remove your needle and safely pack it separately. Also, remove your spool or thread and bobbin so that loose items aren’t wiggling around in your bag. Lastly, I have my machine a good clean to get rid of lint and prepare it for a weekend full of quilting.


Remove your foot pedal and the power cord. Make sure you pack these items! Your machine and all the work to prepare its travels will be for naught if you forget them. Go, right now, and pack them. I’ll wait.


How to Pack the Sewing Machine


My sewing machine fit into the case like a glove, and not much wiggle room. That’s good so it doesn’t jostle around during any turbulence. However, that meant I didn’t have a lot of room to place padding around the machine. If your case is roomy enough, it’d be ideal if you could pack your machine with the original styrofoam forms that secured your sewing machine in the original box. I did not have the styrofoam still, nor did I have room in my carry-on case. Time to improvise!


pack batting


I took some batting I planned to use on the retreat and stuffed that into the neck space of the sewing machine. I had some air pocket packaging that I put in the front and back of my machine as a buffer. Backing material ( 1 ½ yard pieces) helped secure the ends of the sewing machine. Bubble wrap would also be helpful!


packing machine


Lastly, but very importantly, double-check to make sure you have your foot pedal and power cord packed either in your carry-on or in a checked bag. Toss in an extension cord too while you’re at it.


With the machine safely packed, and by my side the whole trip, I was fairly confident that my machine would arrive in one piece. Have you ever traveled with your machine? I’d love to hear your tips!


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