How to Safely Fly with Your Embroidery Machine

Flying with an embroidery machineYou love working on machine embroidery projects but sometimes you gotta get on a plane for business, pleasure, or family. Wouldn’t it be nice to just pack your machine, supplies, and go?  Knowing when you get to your destination you can continue to craft, relax, and enjoy. At first, you might think it’s impossible to fly with your embroidery machine. And the logistics to flying safely with your embroidery machine has to be maddening. You’d need to figure out how to safely pack your machine, so traveling doesn’t equal machine damage. And you’d need to worry about your safety and getting through TSA without a hassle? In reality, it’s quite easy to safely fly with your embroidery machine, supplies, and projects.  All without hassles from the airlines or TSA. Plus, with peace of mind that your embroidery machine will make it in one piece.

Know the TSA regulation when flying with your embroidery machine.

Yes, you can take a sewing machine on an airplane. It doesn’t matter if your machine is an embroidery only unit, a combo embroidery-sewing unit, or a regular sewing machine. On the TSA website, it confirms you can take a sewing machine on a plane as a carry on or checked as baggage. There isn’t any other information given about flying with an embroidery or sewing machine on the TSA website, nor any of the airlines I looked at. The size and weight of your machine will dictate where it can travel and if there’s an extra fee.

Choosing where your embroidery machine will travel.

Your embroidery machine can either fly with you on the plane or underneath the plane with other checked-in luggage. Ask your specific airline carrier the following questions about luggage.

On the plane in the overhead compartment

How many carry-on luggage can you take on the plane? What are the sizes for carry-on luggage? Length, width, height, and depth. All four of these measurements are important. There usually aren’t any weight limits on the plane but you may want to check. If you’re flying on a small commuter plane find out if there are other restrictions.

Under the plane with other luggage

How many pieces of luggage can you take for free? What are the weight and dimension limit of each piece of free luggage? What is the cost for additional pieces of luggage? What is the cost for any additional weight of your luggage? What is the maximum weight limit for luggage? Once you have all the above information, measure and weigh your embroidery machine then you can make a decision about taking your machine with you. Remember you’ll need to add weight and size to your machine’s measurements to include the carry case or box.

Quick Tip:

If you haven’t booked your flight yet look for airlines that promote 2 free baggage checks or more. It could save you money while allowing you to take one suitcase for you and one for your embroidery supplies.
Embroidery machine carry case for air travel
My Janome S-9 Flight Carry Bag
If your embroidery machine, including a carry case, meets the dimensions to fit in the overhead compartment – take your embroidery machine on the plane with you. The travel case doesn’t have to be the case that came with your machine. The case does need to be easily carried and packed to protect your machine.

Does the perfect embroidery machine airline carry case exist?

If the case that came with your machine fits the overhead dimensions, is easily carried, and protects your machine then use it. If it doesn’t meet these three you’re going to need to find a solution. The perfect carry-on case for your embroidery machine would include wheels, space to set your machine flat on its bottom, have room for your embroidery unit either its own case or wrapped up, a handle for easy pushing, and a zipper top for easy access. Plus the case would fit into the specific dimensions set up by the airline. If you have enough time to find or create such a carrier do it! You will save yourself a lot of sore arms and gain peace of mind. If you can’t find the “perfect case” find one that fits the bare minimal dimensions with enough room to properly pack your machine by itself.

Finding the right carry case for you and your embroidery machine

When hunting for the right size carrier case check with your sewing machine manufacturer first, then other sewing machine carriers. If you can’t find what you’re looking for expand your search to different luggage types, and other sturdy carrying cases and bags. Remember, you have to meet the criteria for both the dimensions of the airline and your embroidery machine size. This includes the top, wheels, depth etc. Make sure your embroidery machine actually fits into the carrier opening before you buy it. The dimensions on the bag or suitcase doesn’t necessarily mean your machine will fit into the opening. Many bags may be the right dimensions, but the opening isn’t large enough to get your machine into it. Make sure if you have to carry the machine the bag is sturdy enough to handle the machine’s weight. The carry case is only for your embroidery machine and maybe the embroidery unit. Nothing else will be packed with your machine.

Knowing what not to pack get’s you through TSA quickly

The biggest key to not getting stopped or detained by TSA  is knowing what not to pack with your embroidery machine and not to take on the plane with you. There are different TSA restrictions on what sewing supplies you can take with you on the plane. Such as needle size, scissor length, and any object that appears to be dangerous. Don’t give the TSA agent any reason to stop or detain you. This makes life easier on them and you.

Complete the following before packing your embroidery machine.

By having your embroidery machine packed without any accessories or other items makes it more clear to the TSA x-ray worker that there’s nothing packed in the machine that might not be allowed. The machine will go through the x-ray and there’s no question that it is only a sewing or embroidery machine. Remove everything from your machine that disconnects easily and is metal, could look like metal, or something that is sharp. This includes metal feet, needles, bobbins, and the arm for the embroidery unit. If your machine doesn’t have a separate embroidery unit do not take it apart to fly. You may not be able to get the machine calibrated correctly when reassembled, which could cause serious issues. Plus, taking apart your machine may void your warranty. If the embroidery unit fits into the carry-on bag make sure it is secure in its own case or wrapped in soft fabric. If it doesn’t fit into the carrier or within your other carry-on bag you will need to pack it in your luggage under the plane. Remove the foot control and cord. You may pack it in with your machine if it fits. Make sure they are in their own plastic bag in case you need to remove them. Or pack them in your other carry-on luggage or underneath. Empty accessory storage areas. Put all your feet and accessories into a plastic bag and into another carry on or in your checked baggage. Don’t even leave the plastic bobbins in the accessory case. Sure they can go through, but you don’t want the TSA worker to question what it is and make you unpack your machine. Secure all parts of your machine Using non-acid tape, tape down anything on the machine that can open, slide, or move. This includes such the bobbin case, cover area, top thread area, etc. If you don’t use non-acid tape it will leave a sticky residue on your machine to clean up. Put the pressure foot down without a foot and dog feet down. Place a thick cloth under the foot and drop the foot to help secure it. Padding around the embroidery machine           If you’re lucky enough to have the original packing of the machine use the packing that was under the arm space. If not, roll up fabric into the area. Put extra fabric on the back of the machine where the handwheel is located. If your machine has a soft or hard cover that fits into your travel bag use it with the travel bag. This gives the machine an extra layer of protection. If you don’t have a usable soft or hardcover use fabric to cover the machine including the front screen. Place the machine into your travel bag or luggage bottom down. Make sure it can’t shift inside of the bag easily and there is enough padding around the machine for safety.

Quick tip:

Give yourself a little more time to go through TSA. You won’t feel rushed and you will gain peace of mind about the time. And don’t be concerned about those behind you, you are allowed to bring your sewing or embroidery machine on the plane with you. If you have a chance you can ask the TSA at the screening if they want the sewing machine out of the bag or not. Usually, they don’t if it is just the machine.

Packing your embroidery machine to go under the plane.

The safest way to send your embroidery machine in the luggage area is to pack it in the original box it came in with all of its packaging. After all, it was boxed to ship to you or your sewing machine company and should be safe. Make sure you reinforce the top and bottom with good sturdy tape. Remember the airlines are notorious for throwing your bags onto conveyor belts and into the plane. And if you need to change planes it will happen more than once. Warning — make sure you find out from the airlines the size and the weight that can be shipped underneath for no cost, and how much more it will cost if you are over those measurements and weight. Some airlines allow for larger and heavier luggage for a price, some will not. Check with the airline and your home owner’s policy on what you can be reimbursed if your machine is lost or damaged. If the airline doesn’t cover it — will your home owner’s or renter’s insurance cover it? If you don’t have the original box and packaging for your specific home embroidery machine check with a local dealer.  They may have the packaging from a machine that’s on the floor and doesn’t mind giving it to you. If you can’t find the original packing, you want to pack your machine in a heavy-duty box with styrofoam and other barriers to keep the machine safe and not shift when shipping. If you are not comfortable with packaging your machine you can take it to a shipping place which packages items. These places usually know the best way to ship your machine and keep it safe.

Quick Tip:

If the shipping box is bulky or heavy for you make sure you have a way to get it from your vehicle to the baggage check-in area. You can also call the airport ahead of time and see if they have a curbside check-in.

Packing other supplies or buying then when you get there.

Deciding what other supplies to bring with you in addition to your embroidery machine can be a tough one. Anything you must have for your embroidery project that has a significant cost or is irreplaceable bring with you in your luggage. This allows you to start crafting when you have time instead of hunting down supplies. Think of everything you use everytime you embroider and will need for your project. Start with the list below and add or subtract items you need or don’t.
  • Laptop or tablet
  • Software
  • Security devices
  • USB with design formats
  • Backing and or topping
  • Project parts such as fabric, patterns etc.
  • Sewing and embroidery feet
  • Bobbin thread and/or bobbins
  • Embroidery thread in an array of colors
  • Scissors
  • Hoops
  • Instruction manual
  • Tacky tape or adhesive
Most things can come with you on the plane or in your luggage. Check with the TSA website for prohibited items and sizes. For instance, you can’t bring aerosols such as tack it glue on the plane or in your luggage. And your scissors on the plane have to be less than 4 inches, but there isn’t a limit in your luggage. When packing your accessories in your carry-on or your suitcase put like things together in see-through plastic bags. This not only helps you be organized but if TSA wants to see something it’s easy for them to do so without dumping your luggage. Wrap hoops and any other accessories in fabric for cushioning. And make sure you use the security hooks inside your suitcase to secure items, so nothing falls out when you or TSA opens your suitcase.

You’re Packed, Ready to Fly, and Craft on the other side.

You no longer have to leave your embroidery crafting at home when you travel by plane. You can pack it — take it as a carry on or under the plane. Neither TSA nor your airline restricts traveling with an embroidery, sewing, or combo machines, as long as you meet their required weight and dimensions. Now figure out what embroidery crafting project you’re going to bring with you. Pack it, and go! Happy Embroidering!  

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