Can You Take a Sewing Machine On An Airplane? (Travel Tips)

can you take sewing machine on airplane as carry on

So maybe you’re moving. Everything’s packed on the truck, and you’re ready to leave on a jet plane. The one thing you don’t want to wait for when you get to your destination is your sewing machine. Yes, it’s that important. 

Or you’re going to visit the grandkids, another family member, or friends with a sewing mission of mercy in mind. I’m sure there are other reasons to carry a sewing machine along that I haven’t mentioned. The question is, can you do it? Are you allowed to take a sewing machine on an airplane?

Can You Take a Sewing Machine On An Airplane?

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says yes, you can. After your sigh of relief, there are some important considerations before you drop your favorite pastime in a canvas carry bag and hit security.

First of all, there’s no way to move a tool as heavy and bulky as a sewing machine without a few bumps, vibrations, and possibly some significant air pressure changes. So if your machine is old or seems particularly fragile, I don’t recommend taking it on an airplane. 

Even if you’re confident in your machine’s ability to take the bumps, it needs to be packed carefully to ensure both it and you make it to your destination without machine damage, pulling a muscle, or being suspected of terrorism. 

Airline Regulations

Different airlines have varying regulations about the size and weight of carry-on baggage. If you plan to keep your sewing machine with you, you’ll need to research and make sure it will fit either under your seat or in the overhead compartment. You’ll need to use the carrying case size instead of the machine itself for the correct measurement.

The best way to pack your machine for travel is in the original box with the original packing if you still have it. If you do pack it in this way, be aware that airline security may decide to unpack it for safety reasons. So don’t tape the box up before it’s been inspected.

If your machine does not meet the parameters set by your intended airline, you might consider investing in a smaller, lighter travel machine. Many domestic airlines allow up to 40 pounds in carry-on weight, which would be way over the average-sized sewing machine weight limit. But you also have to consider how far you may have to carry the machine before it’s all said and done.

Your machine should be packed in its own bag and placed in a separate bin at airline security. This will make inspection easier. The following items are not allowed on an airplane:

  • Razor or razor-style blades
  • Scissors longer than 4 inches from the pivot point
  • Box cutters

That said, there are a surprising number of sewing accessories you can carry on the plane. Pack extra items separately for inspection purposes. Or pack any questionable items in checked bags. The following items are allowed in carry-on bags:

  • Sewing, knitting, or crocheting hooks and needles
  • Scissors with a  blade shorter than 4 inches, measured from the fulcrum
  • Safety pins
  • Straight pins
  • Multi-tools without blades
  • Nail clippers
  • Tweezers

Double-check regulations for the specific airline you’ll be using, especially if you’re taking an international flight. There can be a huge difference in what those airlines allow.

And just as an FYI, you may also need an adapter if the country you’re flying to has a different electrical outlet configuration.

How To Prepare a Sewing Machine For Air Travel

Here are some tips about how to prepare your machine for airplane travel. If you plan to check your sewing machine, expect it to endure some bumps along the way, even if you mark it as fragile. Here are some tips to avoid damage.

The Machine

  • Remove the needle and bobbin.
  • Put the pressure foot down. Some recommend the foot also be removed. But lowering the foot onto the plate can add stability to the needle area of the machine.

Accessories

  • Empty all storage compartments in the machine itself. Pack items in checked bags or a separate bag to make security checks easier. If you have a carry bag with see-through pockets, placing accessories  there will suffice for easy inspection.
  • Remove and store the foot pedal and cord separately or in a side pocket. If you are using the original box, go ahead and leave them with the machine. But consider that removing extra items can also be helpful if weight is an issue.

Carrying Case

  • For maximum protection, a hard-shell case is recommended for a checked bag even if you’re using the original box. If the machine is loose in the carrying bag or case, add packing materials to avoid jostling in transit.
  • Use a secure, zippered bag with a comfortable shoulder bag for carry-ons. It would still be a good idea to wrap the machine to protect it from damage and you from bruises while carrying it. 
  • Wheels are a tremendous plus if you have to walk some distance through airports or to and from the terminal with an item as heavy as a sewing machine. Your budget will be the deciding factor about which carrying case to use, as sewing machine carrying cases range from $30-$200. 

A wheeled case can be a back saver, so do some shopping around before giving up the idea. It may be worth the investment if you need to transport your machine a great distance or more than once.

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