It’s that time of year again.

Time when – if gas prices don’t gouge the fun out of life – at some point this summer, bags will be packed, tickets purchased, hotel rooms reserved, and we’ll bail out of reality for a few days of non-reality at a beach, resort, mountains, or some other vacation destination.  Most families realize this means tucking swimsuits, a few days’ worth of clothing, toiletries, needed medications etc., into bags before heading out. 

For quilters (and their long-suffering significant others) these getaways produce an entirely different quandary:  Can I take any quilting and if so, how much can I take?

This is the subject we’re talking about today.  And this “sewing-on-the-go” blog is a little different from other quilting-while-traveling blogs.  This blog touches on how to pack your quilting for vacation, not a quilt retreat.  Having done both, I can tell you each is different.  When I pack for a quilt retreat, the car is loaded down with projects, machines, cutting mats, ironing stations, scissors, and enough quilting notions and fabric to open a small LQS.  Packing my quilting up to take on vacation is an entirely different animal.  For one, I’m sharing my living quarters with at least one non-quilter (the hubs), and quite often my daughter’s family and my son’s (all non-quilters).  So neither the rental house nor our vehicle can be filled with tons of my “stuff.”  There has to be room for arm floaties, boogie boards, fishing equipment, and the like. 

I have to par it down.  Decisions must be made.  Priorities must be set. 

And this is what I hope today’s blog does for you – help you figure out what and how to pack for vacations which may include lots of fun and sun—but also for your sanity includes quilting (because most of us can’t go a week without quilting). 

The first item up for discussion is space, both in your car and in your rental.  If you’re driving separately in your own vehicle, you’ve got a lot more wiggle room with this.  Your car can literally serve as a “quilting annex” where you can swap out items as needed.  If not, compromise is in the vehicle equation.  Is there room for a machine or could it cause too many disruptions?  If I really want to bring a sewing machine on a family vacation (and I only did this once and only because I was on a deadline), I have a small travel machine which takes up less space than a lot of tackle boxes (which I may or may not use to my advantage when my husband’s slew of tackle looks as if he’s opening a bait shop).  If space for your quilting supplies is limited, you may want to only take hand sewing, which can normally  fit into one bag.

Best case scenario, you have tons of car space.  You can take whatever you need to satisfy any quilting itch you may have on vacation.  However, the next point up for consideration is the space in your hotel or home rental.  We all know quilting can be a “big” hobby:  It needs a lot of room.  If you’re vacationing in regular hotel rooms, spreading out a machine and all needed supplies may encroach on other folks’ need for space.  If this is the case, even though you may be able to fit tons of your quilting supplies in your car, it may not be the best (or kindest) thing to spread them out all over your hotel room.  Air BnB’s and rental homes may offer more space.  If it’s just you and your significant other, this would probably work just fine.  However, if multiple people are going – especially if there are kiddos involved– you should consider if all your supplies will remain safely in place or if there’s a possibility someone could decide to play with your scissors or rotary cutter.  It may be best to limit the supplies to ones you can safely keep in your room when you’re not around. 

Finally, the last thing to consider is time.  Will you have the time to quilt?  Some vacays are definitely laid back.  Sand and surf.  Mountains and brooks.  You are there to unwind and refresh.  There is no itinerary.  You can get up when you want to, laze about or go find something to do.  The option of sewing is available, and it isn’t confined to a few minutes here and there.  Other vacations aren’t like that.  Vacations spent with family or vacations spent at family homes are different.  Often spare time is spent with folks you don’t see often, and they want to engage you.  Other trips involve cruise ships or flights or group trips where everything is scheduled.  Sometimes if this is the case, it’s better to either take small hand sewing projects or none at all. 

After weighing the space available in both your vehicle and your lodging and giving your itinerary careful consideration, you decide you can bring some quilting to work on.  Best case situation, you can bring a sewing machine and have the space and time to get up close and personal with some long-delayed projects or languishing UFOs.  Here’s where you build a literal portable quilt studio to take with you.  It’s important to take a critical look at your home sewing area and determine what you must have and what you can live without for a few days.

  1.  Sewing table.  Will you have room at a dining room table or some other area at your hotel/rental home to situate your machine?  If you have a portable sewing table you’ve fine-tuned to your back and neck needs, you may want to bring that, especially if you think you may have hours of sewing time ahead.
  2. Chair.  I know this may sound like a little thing, but nearly all quilters have a chair they sit in to sew which accommodates their height, back, and neck.  Is it vital you take this chair with you, or can you make do with a chair there?  If you opt to go with a chair at your lodging, you may want to take a cushion for your rear and back– especially if the chair isn’t padded.  Most of the time, this is the compromise between taking your sewing chair and using one where you’re staying.
  3. Cutting Station.  In my opinion, it’s always best to do “large” cutting (i.e. cut out the quilt) before you leave to go on vacation or quilt retreat.  I tend to do my most accurate cutting at my home cutting table (because I don’t have to bend) with my large cutting mat.  This means you only need to pack a small to medium-sized mat to do small cutting and trimming, and can use a space available (such as a desk or countertop) where you’ll be staying.  Pre-cutting before leaving also means you can leave large rulers and rotary cutters at home and only need to pack a small cutter and a few small rulers. 
  4. Ironing Station.  One of the great things about rental houses and most hotel rooms is they come with their own ironing board and iron.  A small pressing area (such as wool mat) may be the only item you need to pack.  If applique is part of your quilting vacation equation, you may also want a small iron for quick touch ups or to prepare finished edge applique.
  5. Miscellaneous Items.  These include scissors, rotary cutter and blades, extra sewing machine needles, the manual to your sewing machine, the cord to your sewing machine, pins, pincushion or container, stiletto, thread, Wonder Clips, and spray starch/starch substitute.
  6. Project Boxes.  These should contain cut out quilts, the pattern, and any special notions or thread.

If you find yourself not wanting to haul your sewing machine and everything it entails with you on vacation, hand sewing and hand quilting are easier to deal with and take up less space – unless you’re taking a king-sized quilt to bind.  Hexies, English paper piecing, regular hand piecing, hand quilting, or hand applique are great take-along projects which take up little space.  Honestly except for one or two trips, this is my go-to “quilt-fix” for vacation.  I can fit everything I need in a large-ish bag and I’m out the door.  Projects and/or current blocks can easily fit into two-gallon sized Ziploc baggies.  Beeswax, thimble, several packets of needles in various sizes, small scissors, fabric glue, fabric markers, and thread can nest in a small bag.  This is the bag I take:

This bag was a gift from my son and daughter-in-law. Not only is it a great bag, it also has the Harry Potter theme going on.

There are pockets along the inside to fit all my hand sewing notions in and project bags and small boxes go in the middle.  There is usually enough room left over for my iPad or Kindle.  If you’re hand quilting a quilt, this may mean a second bag depending on the size hoop you use and how big the quilt is. 

Normally, my hand applique goes with me on any trip, no matter how short or how long.  If I have several small quilts, such as table toppers or wall hangings, I’ve found vacation is a great time to bind them.  I can sit and watch TV or talk with friends and family without having to concentrate on my sewing too much.  These go into my suitcase last so I can pull them out first and have them available to work on. 

As I’m winding this blog up, there is one more quilty vacation concept I’d like to throw out – don’t take any quilting with you.  I know, I know…this seems pretty radical for a quilter who would rather quilt than eat, but hear me out.  Time away, whether it’s a day, a week, two weeks, or month, is all about recharging and relaxing.  It’s a time to hit the pause button on your life and spend the time with family or friends.  It’s a time to explore and see new things.  Taste new foods.  Drink new drinks. 

Maybe it’s time to hit the pause button on your quilting.  Maybe it would be a good idea to recharge your creative juices, drool over quilts on Pinterest, or sketch some new ideas.  Visit some quilt shops for inspiration.  You may come back a rested, ready-to-get-back-in-the-studio quilter brimming with new ideas.  If you feel kind of burned out, this may be exactly what you need to do.  Leave your quilting at home, or if you do bring it, give yourself permission to not touch it unless you really want to sew.

It’s up to you.

Anyway, as you’re hitting the road or flying the skies, be careful and take good care of one another.

Until Next Week, Make Your Quilt Yours!

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam

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