Wednesday, August 24, 2011

flying with your sewing machine

It seems like every time I post about a retreat, I have questions about flying with a sewing machine. I thought it would be a good time to talk about my (limited) experience with this. Last November, when I flew to Colorado, I did take my JUKI with me, since it would be very hard to teach machine quilting without my own machine.
The first thing I did was to call and ask the airline about it. The airline I flew with said they had no regulations against carrying on a sewing machine. Phew! I certainly didn't want to check it! Who knows what it would go through until I could pick it up in baggage claim. I made sure to take out the needle, just in case that would cause any issues. I put my needles in my checked bag.

I called my sewing machine dealer to ask the ideal way to travel with my JUKI.  The man I spoke to told me that they aren't ideal for transporting. (Something I had already realized.) I asked about what kind of case and such, but he didn't have any recommendations.
So, I went on the hunt for a suitcase for my sewing machine that would fit my machine and also meet the size requirements of a carry on bag. I found a regular soft sided suitcase at Target (yay Target!) that fit my needs. My sewing machine fit fine and dandy, but with little room to spare! I put a few small quilts around the machine for padding, since I was transporting them anyway. I also put a quilt over the machine, just to be on the safe side. I have to say, it was NOT easy to lift up the machine into the overhead compartment, but I managed. (It's a good thing I lift weights. Ha!)

On the flight there, security did take my bag, open it and inspect it. On the flight home, they didn't. Overall, it wasn't so bad flying with my sewing machine. I was pretty nervous about it beforehand, but thankfully all went well. Here's hoping I can say the same this year!

I'd be curious to hear if you have had any experience flying with your sewing machine. If so, how did it go?

44 comments:

Jovita said...

I have flown with a few sewing machines for various reasons. And when, then always as hand luggage. The first was a heavy clonker that I love but need some TLC from my mom. No problem but getting up there was a tad heavy and I had a few worried looks from passengers around me and one snide comment. This was before 911 so the machine was not checked or weighed. When we moved back to Europe in 2009 I carried my featherweight. It's light and easy and for surety I had an extra strap around it's original case. But the (fill in the blank) security guy made me put in on the belt on it's side, latches facing downward(!) and one was broken. Very frustrating as it was now sharp and there was still a connecting flight. The latch is still broken but all in all things went ok both times.

Happy Cottage Quilter said...

I have only traveled with my Featherweight. When I was going through Security, I just told them it was a sewing machine, and they were fine with it. No one even opened the case. I did find a rolling (knitting) bag that fit the black Featherweight case perfectly after trying to carry the machine myself (which ended up being too heavy for the long corridors at the airport). Hope your travels go well. And be sure to watch for weight shifting in the overhead compartments. You don't want to conk someone in the head with your Juki ;-)

denverallens said...

Thanks for sharing! I am always wondering if I can take my machine when I fly into sisters/inlaws/parents home. Now I know that I can! Yeah! It opens so many possibilities for me!

Dandelion Quilts said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing this experience.

epban said...

When I took my machine back to school when I was in college(pre security days!), I carried it on in it's case and they put it up in First Class! I've travelled with a youth symphony and learned to fill up all the empty space in a violin case with socks, so it would be a good to fill your case with fabric.

~Kristie said...

I've flown to retreats five times (Continental and NWA) and always carry-on my Bernina 135. It fits in pilot case size luggage I found in K-Mart and I also try to protect it as best I can with the fabric I'm bringing along to sew.

Only once did I get a suspicious look as it went through the x-ray machine, but when I told them it was a sewing machine, they let me go by. :)

Annalia said...

You forgot to mention how stinkin cute your suitcase was...but I guess a picture is worth a thousand words. :)

I'm shocked that they let people bring knitting needles on airplanes.

Nicole said...

The little suitcase you found is adorable, and I bet it cost a heck of a lot less than one made specifically for a sewing machine! My experience with traveling with a machine is very much like yours. I needed help hoisting mine up into the overhead bin, but I always had someone near by who jumped in to help me out. The first time I travelled with my machine, I made the mistake of using a case without wheels. Huge mistake, and I never did that again! Wheels are the way to go!

Mama Urchin said...

When I took mine to Colorado I had a similar experience. I checked the airline's website, and my mom had a "sewing machine suitcase" she had gotten somewhere and I used that. I also used fabric around it to keep it safe and a very special quilt on the way back :)

Connie said...

I have flown with my Pfaff several times with no problems. It came with a hard case so I wrapped some fleece around the machine under the case to protect it. It fit perfectly under the seat so no need for the overhead bin. Only 1 TSA agent asked about it-he thought it was a printer, when I told him it was a sewing machine his look was priceless lol. I could tell he didn't understand why someone would travel with their sewing machine. Glad to know others have had no difficulties either.

Goddess in Progress said...

Thanks for the info! I've been debating whether or not to take my machine to Sewing Summit, and one major detraction is the idea of buying a rolling sewing machine case. I'm leaning towards not, simply for the weight and hassle, but good to think about a regular rolling suitcase as an option!

Blue Is Bleu said...

I've travelled with my sewing machine but I've never taken it on a flight. And I've always transported it the same way that you have it there. Nothing's ever happened to my machine so I assume yours will be fine too.

Suzanne said...

That's a very cute accommodation for the Juki. I hope it has wheels. :-)

Mrs Yoastie said...

I have never with my machine. She does come to trips to Hlland with us. There is no way I could cope for a whole week with the in-laws without my machine.

Marg said...

I have a small Janome Jem which I have taken with me on flights. I found a bag that it would fit in which is small enough to tuck under the seat. Its also very light so I don't need to worry about whether the bag has wheels. I had no problems with security, although they did look puzzled when it went through the x ray, until I explained it was a sewing machine. I took the needle out too and put it in my checked in luggage.

Mary said...

I now know I need another sewing machine. There is no way I could fit either of mine in a carry on.

Thimbleanna said...

I used to fly with my machine and it always went well. But now, we are serviced by a smaller airport and we have to check our carry-ons at the gate and pick them up at the gate. I've watched out the window and they treat those bags just like checked bags -- tossing them on the belt here and there. So, not sure what I would do if I needed to fly from here with my machine. Try to carry it in a big soft bag over my shoulder LOL?

Hollie said...

I recently took my machine on t trip with me and didn't have any problems at all. I made sure to remove the needle and feet and put them in a ziploc bag. I used a large beach-style bag to carry it on the plane with me. When I went through security at LAX they didn't even look at me funny. On the way home I did get a strange look from security but they simply did a quick look at the machine and sent us on our merry way.

Nancy James said...

I'm curious if any of the machine oil leaked out. That would be a worry for me. Nancy

Darcy said...

I can't wait to see your new sewing room!
Please share it with us soon!

Paula said...

Thank you for this valuable information. I have dreamed of going to one of those quilt shows or retreats far away but wondered how I would transport my machine. I have one of those wheeled cases specifically for sewing machines that would certainly do the trip. I'm confident it would fit under the seat in front of me. Thanks for sharing!

mblittle5 said...

A few years ago our twin sons turned 21st. We took them and their sister and her husband to Las Vegas for a family celebration. I was also taking a beginning quilting class. My sewing machine (Baby Lock) was in my traveling case (the kind you buy at Joann's). All luggage was gathered in the famiy room. You guessed it. My sewing machine made the trip to Vegas! It made it great without any problems! LOL!!!

Melissa said...

Ooh! Are you doing that retreat in Ft Collins again this year? When will the information be available? We moved to Colorado Springs the weekend of last year's retreat, so I had to miss it. :( But I'm ready this year! I'd love to know more.

Sarah McGrath said...

Unfortunately, in Europe at least, low cost airlines have weight limits for carry-on luggage so it's probably not possible to transport a machine here (unless it's really light!).

The Calico Cat said...

I see that you have a mechanical machine - would you try this with a computerized one?

The Calico Cat said...

& Poo-poo, I'll be in Bermuda when you are in Colorado. (Husband said, "No, we can't move the dates of our already paid for family vacation.")

Terriaw said...

I've never had to fly with my sewing machine, so it's very helpful to read about what others have done. I'm impressed with how easy it's been for some.

Heidi said...

I brought a machine home from my moms one time. I was flying alone with two little kids so there was no way I could carry it on. So we packed it well and checked it with our baggage and then hoped for the best. And all went well! Nothing was broke - not even my back.

etully said...

I have been considering taking my sewing machine on a flight soon, for the first time. Thanks for all the info.

Jenn S said...

I fly with my suitcase every year for a retreat with my Chicago friends. I do pad it all the way around with fabric and put it in a carry-on roller bag. I think that scraps of batting would work really well to pad it, but I always need room for fabric so I haven't used the batting idea yet.

mika said...

You've inspired me. I found a super cheap - hard shell rolling suitcase @ target to put my non-bernina machine in for travelling. My 160 won't fit in it, unfortunately.

I have taken hand sewing on flights before & had no problems taking on sewing scissors & needles onboard in my carryon - which actually kind of surprised me.

Tabatha said...

Hmmm... Maybe I CAN smuggle a sewing machine home from Germany!

hlbalben said...

I have flown many times with my machine. Sometimes they check it out closer and sometimes they don't. I never take my needle out or do anything. I have taken it in a small suitcase and with just its own cover. I have never had a problem with taking my machine. Well, I don't like to tote it through the airport, but I have wheels now.

jessica defibaugh said...

Thanks for the info. I am happy to hear that most sewing machines can travel.

SpinningStar said...

I've taken my featherweight on a plane with no problems. I have a small soft case with a shoulder strap. and I did tell the TSA guys that it was a sewing machine before they looked at it.

Just remember to look thtough all of the pockets of your bag to make sure you don't have rotary cutters or spare blades in the carryon. It's much easier to pack those items in your checked luggage.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant info, thanks.
Love the blog, you are soooo talented, thanks for sharing!

Clair said...

No experience flying with my machine...though there may be a time I want to do just that.

quirky granola girl said...

i've always wondered about that. thank you for clearing it up with words and pictures. if i can visualize it, then i can believe it can be done :)

CraftyGardenMom - Tanesha said...

I don't fly that often with my machine anymore, but years ago I bought a Tutto rolling case at Houston Quilt Festival and it was the best investment I made in a sewing machine carrier, including just transporting it to classes/local retreats. I don't have the web address of the retailer I bought it at Festival, but I found the Tuto website here if you want to check it out: http://www.tutto.com/index_sewingmachine.htm

Mine is hot pink so I can easily find it among a bunch of other bags/suitcases. I love it!
Tanesha (CraftyGardenMom blog and podcast)

Live a Colorful Life said...

I flew with my precious Featherweight to Minnesota in July and had no trouble getting through security. That being said, I HATED the case I had purchased. I got it at Joann's and in my opinion they placed the wheels on the wrong side, on the wide side. So I couldn't roll it through the airplane aisle. Frustrating. I'm getting a different case for the next trip.

AMD said...

This year? It seems like that last quilt retreat wasn't that long ago. Where does the time go. (I'm sounding old, aren't I?)

Beth said...

Thanks so much for sharing. I'll remember this next time I travel. (What vacation wouldn't be better with your sewing machine along?)

Whosies said...

even if you aren't flying it is a good case to travel local with.
my hint: put your needle in the down position with your foot lever down also. makes it so you don't loose that sewing foot or get pocked by the needle!
www.patchworkposse.com

Stephanie said...

I've been curious about traveling with a sewing machine myself, so thank you! This was a great post.

I have the same travel bag from Target. I got mine last year and actually just used it again last month to travel to my brother's wedding. It's a great bag. I find I can fit soooooo much inside it and it still isn't overweight limit for the airport.