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Traveling with a Sewing Machine

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It was a few days ago that I hopped on a plane and flew across the country to film a tutorial for Mimi G’s Sew It Academy. Just one week after the shooting incidence at Fort Lauderdale airport, I was hesitant to take my PFAFF Passport 2.0 with me. I mean, my outfits are always a little suspicious… throw a sewing machine into the mix and I’m a security risk ; )

Thankfully, I had ZERO trouble traveling with my PFAFF. Security risks aside, it was easy to carry and fit in the overhead compartment on the plane. Before leaving, however, I did my research on traveling with sewing machines, and here’s what I found out:

  • First, determine if the machine and the carry case are within the regulation carry-on size and weight restrictions imposed by the airline. If so, you can bring it on the plane.
  • While I don’t suggest it, wewing machines can be checked. If you go this route, be sure to pack it really well to avoid any damage.
  • When going through security, the machine must go in its own bin.
  • Remove needle(s) and tape down any piece you might be worried about coming loose. I put a pack of needles in my checked bag. Also remove the thread.
  • After I posted this photo, a few folks commented that per @TSA, scissors are acceptable as long as they’re under 4″ long. Thanks @baylore and @ateliebasile!
  • Have any questions about do’s and don’ts of flying? You can literally ask @TSA on Instagram.
  • According to this page on TSA, sewing machines are not a prohibited item. I saved that page to the home screen on my phone just in case I was questioned.

Thankfully, I had no problems going from PHL to LAX and back. They didn’t inspect it, but did ask if I sewed. No, I just carry a sewing machine with me for fun…

Have you ever traveled with a sewing machine? What are your tips? Did you have any trouble?

Please note that when I was traveling, I DID have the hard case on the machine. I took it off for the photo.

 

21 Comments

  1. Reply

    Pamela Coughlin

    I traveled with my sewing machine from MBS in Freeland, MI to Detroit. In Detroit I was told I had to check it. Told the attendant it was a sewing machine and she said OK. I sat down, and looked out the window just in time to see the baggage people throw it on a top shelf on their rack and down to the ground it went. I was in tears! It was ruined! all $5500 of it! I was so mad when I got to Springfield, MO to the airport.

    • Reply

      Leila

      I’ve heard other horror stories like this from people who planned to carry on their sewing machines, but were forced to check them. If you have the original packaging for your sewing machine, it will likely survive being checked, especially if you put the original box inside another box or suitcase with padding around it. The original packaging has hard foam shaped to fit around the sewing machine. The key to shipping a sewing machine is to make sure it can’t move, and no pressure will be put on delicate parts, then double box it with more padding around the first box. Still, I don’t think I’d risk traveling with an expensive sewing machine.

      • Reply

        maddie

        I’m so sorry to hear that horror story about your sewing machine. Ugh! I definitely wouldn’t check it unless it was packed properly. The fact that they just threw your machine makes me so mad!

  2. Reply

    Bianca aka @baylore

    Putting up a post about travelling with a sewing machine is a brilliant idea. I think a lot of people don’t know that they can actually do this.
    I am glad, that you had no issues =D and am happy that I was able to confirm the “4 scissors situation!
    My partner had to hand-carry my serger from the UK to Germany (I bought it in Germany and could only have it serviced there) TSA stopped him and asked him what on earth he was doing with the sewing machine.
    His reply was: “This is a serger”
    TSA agent “????”
    Other TSA agent:”What is the difference????”
    My partner :”I have no idea”
    HAHAHAHAH

  3. Reply

    Lodi

    First of all, I’d love to see the picture of you in your suspicious outfit at the airport! As for traveling with my old avocado green Singer… I just threw it in the back of my 67 Chevy pickup. I don’t travel with my Bernina!

  4. Reply

    karen

    I use vintage machines because I love their durability and power. If I were to travel, I would have to bring one of the more modern machines, like my Singer Genie, (circa 1970’s). It has enough plastic and aluminium to lighten the weight a bit, but still be able to pnch through heavy fabrics without a problem. Works well on delicates too.

  5. Reply

    Mattie Nieves

    I was interested in your experience, because my oldest son now lives half the USA away, in CA. When he was living in PA, I just put my 25 year old Pfaff electronic, and Pfaff Hobbylock serger, and a rolling supplies cart in the back on my SUV and kept on trucking. I was able to do all his miscellaneous mending, and shortened his drapes to accommodate baseboard heating, using a folding picnic table. I was wondering about flying with the sewing machine, but it is too heavy for me to carry it on, and after hearing Pamela’s horror story, I guess that’s out. Sounds like another ‘road trip’ is in my future.

    • Reply

      maddie

      Road trips ain’t bad! I’m wondering however, if you could call the airport and see if someone could help you carry it?

  6. Reply

    Susan Thomason

    Just last month, I flew from Qatar in the Middle East to Seattle, Washington. I had my beloved Pfaff Creative Sensation Pro very, very carefully wrapped. padded and packed in a suitcase that traveled in the checked luggage. Despite all the juggling, bouncing and banging it received on the trip, it arrived in perfect shape and running order. I’ve decided to take my Passport 2.0 back to Qatar with me next month, it is much smaller, lighter to pack and carry.

    • Reply

      maddie

      So glad you packed it well and even more glad that it made the international trip safe and sound.

  7. Reply

    Catherine Erickson

    I traveled with my sewing machine from Raleigh North Carolina to Kansas City, Kansas. I was allowed to but it in the overhead bin both ways. The only problem I had was they wiped it down with some kind of wipe. It did not pass the “bomb” test. So, they had to do a complete examine of the machine. They x-rayed it several times and did a complete body search of me. Finally, they released it for flight.

  8. Reply

    Carol Arendt

    I took a small Janome sewing machine with me on a mission trip to Nicaragua. I packed it well inside my carry on and had no problems. Going through customs they laughed that I had a sewing machine in there. I guess they don’t see that very often! Lol

  9. Reply

    Kathy P in Pittsburgh

    About scissors: I have had 2 pair of tiny scissors, a tiny sewing swiss army set and a pendant cutter confiscated at various airports, even though the packaging on all says TSA approved and the TSA regs on their website said they’d be allowed. On one flight, I had a piece of stitching taken away because of the size 8 crewel needle. The army knife was allowed from PIT to SFO, but SFO TSA said “nope, nope”.
    If you love it- check it. I wish I’d been able to film the agent who was checking my Ott light through; she had apparently never seen one and was confused by it. She wiped all the surfaces and finally allowed it was safe, but asked me what on earth it was for. So, I plugged it in and opened it for her. Her eyes lit up as much as the bulb and she declared she was going to find one for herself as soon as she got off work. I directed her to the nearest sewing store. A bonding moment, indeed.

  10. Reply

    Laura Barnes

    I was traveling to a Pfaff convention after 9/11, I did not have my machine with me, I had all my best scissors on my carry on. TSA proudly threw all in the trash, I was heart broken. Oh well you live and learn. I am glad it wasn’t my precious Pfaff sewing machines.

  11. Reply

    64colorbox

    I once travelled with my serger. Thankfully, I had the original box and styrofoam. I packed it tight in the box and checked it for the flight. Had I realised I could carry it on, I would have. Thankfully, it made the trip with no issues.

  12. Reply

    Daniel L. Pelzl

    Child’s blunt nosed scissors taken, packaged and given to my wife to take back home at check in. TSA are selected for their low cognitive function. Be kind to them and call ahead to the specific airports for local practices. Packing within another package is a good idea.

  13. Reply

    lapetitemoderouge

    I have an older mini Kenmore that I just love. it fits in a small carry on bag. The only time that I found that TSA had problem was when I came back from Baltimore. they swabbed the machine with some q tips. when I asked them why they did that they said they were checking for gun powder.

  14. Reply

    Fammy

    I bought a singer sewing machine for my mom and I’m taking it to Pakistan from Miami via 5 hours stop in Istanbul. I’m traveling with kids so I would like to check it in. Now it fits perfectly in my suitcase. It’s still in the original box. I’ve padded it well with clothes all around it. Now my concern is will it be allowed in the check in just like this or will they remove it???

    • Reply

      Kathy Pennock

      Fammy- They may unpack it to check contents, but will pack it up as closely as possible to the way you had it. Be sure to put FRAGILE stickers on all sides of the suitcase, and you might even ask the person who checks you in to your flight if that suitcase can be hand stored rather than tossed into the baggage carts.

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