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Traveling with a Sewing Machine

Traveling with a Sewing Machine

national sewing monthIt 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.

 

27 Comments
  • January 17, 2017

    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.

    • January 17, 2017

      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.

  • Bianca aka @baylore
    January 17, 2017

    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

  • January 17, 2017

    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!

  • January 18, 2017

    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.

  • Mattie Nieves
    January 18, 2017

    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.

  • January 19, 2017

    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.

    • Jaleesa Pickering
      April 30, 2019

      Hello,

      I’m relieved to see your message. I’m traveling from Canada to Germany with my babylock. It is quite heavy and the base is bulky so I’m having trouble finding a way to bring it as a carry on. I’m trying to figure out what to use to pack it and wrap it in a suitcase. Hopefully you can help

  • January 19, 2017

    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.

  • Carol Arendt
    January 19, 2017

    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

  • Kathy P in Pittsburgh
    January 19, 2017

    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.

  • Laura Barnes
    January 19, 2017

    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.

  • January 21, 2017

    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.

  • Daniel L. Pelzl
    January 21, 2017

    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.

  • January 21, 2017

    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.

  • March 4, 2017

    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???

    • Kathy Pennock
      March 4, 2017

      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.

  • June 20, 2017

    I went with my sewing machine from MBS in Freeland, MI to Detroit. In Detroit I was advised I needed to check it. Told the specialist it was a sewing machine and she said OK. I sat down, and watched out the window without a moment to spare to see the things individuals toss it on a top retire on their rack and down to the ground it went. I was in tears! It was destroyed! all $5500 of it! I was so distraught when I got to Springfield, MO to the airplane terminal.

  • June 20, 2017

    I’ve also traveled with a sewing machine but luckily it fitted perfectly in my suitcase.

  • Eva Boryer
    June 21, 2017

    I’m moving to Savannah, GA for college and will need to fly with my sewing machine across the country, I was really worried about flying with it and shipping it both there and back would be more than just buying a new (more basic) machine but this post put my worries to rest!
    Thanks!

  • Robin M
    August 31, 2017

    I am a missionary and I live in Togo, in Weat Africa. Less than a month ago, we came back to then US for one year. I had shipped my Janome machine in a container with my household goods, but I wanted to bring it back to the US to have it serviced. I was very nervous about flying with it internationally but heres what I found.
    1. The only problem I really had with it was that most international flights now have weight restrictions on carry-ons and on one of my flights, they were enforcing it. It was just some fast talking that prevented me having to check it on the spot.
    2. I had no trouble with security, but because it contains electronics, they did ask me to take it out of the roll-on and put it on the belt separately. They did not ask me to remove the cover, which was a good thing because I had strapped that thing in pace tightly with plastic wrap. (I packed socks and other small soft things around the presser foot so that there was no dead space. Then I put the cover on so it fit tightly and wrapped it with the plastic wrap you use when moving.)
    3. My final flight was a commuter flight- the kind where they make you check roll on bags at the plane side. I explained about the sewing machine and it was no problem at all. The reason they do the planeside bag check is that those planes have tiny overhead bins. They just asked me to take the machine out and put it directly into the overhead bin or under the seat, and give them the bag. I did this without any problems at all.

  • June 10, 2018

    I am taking class in sewing. Cannot carry 27 pound sewing machine. Want wheels….any idea like a rollie for sew machines??

  • Laura Ekstrand
    August 10, 2018

    This article was a lifesaver during our move. Thanks!

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