Can I take my sewing machine on an airplane?
I fly quite a bit. In fact, I’ve been flying an average of once a year since I was 6 months old. Especially as a quilter, I try to stay up to date on the ins and outs of TSA and what quilting supplies you can take on board an airplane.
While most things are pretty obvious, we quilters have a unique set of supplies that you might be surprised are actually allowed on board an aircraft. However, keep in mind that ultimately it is up to the discretion of the TSA agents at each individual airport so it’s a good idea to bring a self-addressed stamped envelope with you, just in case. I learned that lesson the hard way.
A few years back my son and I were flying home from San Francisco. On the flight there he packed his lucky pocket knife inside his checked bag. No problems. However, for the flight home, he conveniently forgot the knife was in his back pack. Be sure, TSA found it. Luckily for my son, the airport had a mailing drop off service. Even though the postage cost me $35, we were still able to mail the knife home so we didn’t lose it. Oh, was the boy surprised when he found out all the extra chores he had to do to pay me back. 😊
Something to Keep You Busy
If you’re just wanting a fun quilting project to keep you busy on your flight and/or on your layover, you can pretty much bring all the quilting supplies on board an airplane you’ll need.
Fabric – Hand quilting are always great projects to take on a plane. However, make sure all your fabric pieces are pre-cut before you leave home. I like to make sure I have more pieces than I think I’ll need. After all, it’s better to have too much than too little!
Sewing Needle and Thread – You can take sewing needles on board an aircraft. However, I highly suggest keeping them pushed in a pin cushion with a piece of thread attached. That way there’s less chance of them getting bent or broken.
If you’re worried about bringing scissors on board, you can always pre-cut your thread as well.
Scissors – TSA allows scissors on board an aircraft where the blades are smaller than 4 inches. However, it is still ultimately up to the individual agent’s discretion so don’t bring your favorite pair. I like to bring a cheap pair of dollar store snips. I definitely leave my Karen Kay Buckley’s at home.
PRO TIP: In a pinch, some good alternatives to scissors are small nail clippers or even a dental floss container.
Other items – Paper templates (pre-cut) for EPP, etc. Small Embroidery Hoops, Knitting and Crochet Needles for our multi-crafting friends are all supplies you can take on board an airplane.
But I need EVERYTHING!
If you’re purpose for traveling is for a Quilt Retreat or a large Quilt Show where you will need most of your quilting supplies, did you know that you CAN take your sewing machine on board an airplane? It’s true! However, there are a couple things to keep in mind.
When traveling with your sewing machine, it needs to fit under the seat in front of you. So, make sure you’re not bringing a big heavy machine. If you can, bring a smaller travel size machine that has a suitcase or carrying case. I travel with my Brother machine. I’ve had it for ages. It has a travel case and travels really well. For an older basic machine, it’s a work horse.
Just to avoid any issues at TSA, I take the needle out of my machine and store it with my other supplies in my checked baggage. Also, you may want to add a little extra time going through TSA security as they will more than likely want to take the machine out of its case to inspect.
Items to pack in your checked baggage:
All Blades longer than 4 inches – this includes your rotary cutter and fabric scissors. You cannot take either on board but can check them with no problems.
Seam Ripper – Because of they’re pointed ends, seam rippers are a no-go for on board travel. So you’re better off tucking them safely away in your checked baggage.
Cutting Mat – Make sure you have a suitcase large enough to lay your mat flat so that you don’t warp it in flight. I usually don’t travel with my big 18 x 24 mat unless I know I’ll really need it.
Iron – You can definitely pack your iron in your checked baggage however, I like to travel with my little craft size when necessary. Most retreats and Quilt show classes will provide irons for you to use but I like to have my little one in case I want to work on something in my hotel room.
Specifically for Quilt Shows I always assume I’m going to bring home extra stuff. After all, there’s always so much pretty!! Therefore, a great tip is to pack an extra bag inside your suitcase. That way you don’t wind up like me at last year’s Quilt Market schlepping out to Target to buy an extra suitcase just to get everything home. Only later did I find out the convention center offered mailing services. Live and learn, am I right?
The bottom line is, if you’re ever concerned about what items you can or can’t take on an airplane, feel free to contact TSA directly and even the airports you’ll be traveling from. Don’t forget your return flight!
Apart from TSA, each airport and each airline may have their own rules regarding what quilting items you can take on board an airplane. Be sure to write down who you talked to and when just in case a security agent questions you.
No matter where you’re flying or for what purpose, the most important thing is to stay safe, be creative and have fun! Every moment can be a grand adventure!
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