Ahhhh, summer! It’s that time of year when vacation spots beckon and when the travel bug starts to tickle!
Whether it’s a road trip or a long flight to a distant exotic destination, you probably don’t want to go without a needlework project. After all, if you’re goal is to relax, what better way than with a project in one hand and a tropical drink in the other?
Today, I thought I’d show you my typical line-up of needlework tools that I tote with me when traveling, and ask you what your favorite (and most successful) travel tools are.
Normally, my goal when traveling with needlework tools is to fit them into as compact a space as possible, and to make sure that they’re tools that I can use in a compact space. If I’m on the road, there’s not a lot of room in the car, and if I’m flying, there’s not a lot of room in the plane. When I get to my destination, I don’t want to deal with a whole slurry of needlework-related baggage.
Whether you’re driving or flying will influence the tools you can take with you, too. Maybe, if you’re driving, you’ve got plenty of room and you don’t mind having extra bits and bobs along with you. If you’re flying, you’ll be restricted by law in the tools you can take.
This is what I think about when packing up a needlework travel kit: 1. visibility; 2. cleanliness; 3. accomplishment.
1. Visibility: if I can’t see what I’m doing, there’s no point in doing it. Good lighting and visibility of my work are essential for me. I don’t have the best eyes in the world and I’m not going to strain them by working in poor lighting conditions. Besides, why would I bother doing needlework when I know I can’t see well? I’d just have to pick it out later.
2. Cleanliness: when you’re traveling, you don’t have the same opportunities for hand washing. You also don’t have the same control over your environment as you do at home. But it’s still important to keep your work clean!
3. Accomplishment: what are the most basic tools I need to accomplish what I want to accomplish on the particular project I’m toting along with me? I don’t want to pack along a lot of stuff I won’t use, but I also want to make sure I have what I need to do what I’m doing.
I’ve reviewed these CraftOptics magnifiers and light here. They are, admittedly, an expensive option for magnification and lighting in one package, but they do an amazing job of both lighting up your work surface and magnifying your work, especially for those of us who already wear specs. Since I have them, I use them!
There are other less expensive options for lighting and for magnification – simple over-the-counter reading glasses, small clip-on lights (book lights work well) and so forth can do the trick for many people. This Beam ‘n Read light that I also reviewed can work well, if it sits right on you. I’ve used it before on car trips with good success.
What I don’t normally do is tote along an honest-to-goodness lamp. It’s just too much luggage, even if the lamp is portable and light. The only exception I might make is if I’m going to a workshop or somewhere that I’ll be doing many hours of needlework every day while staying in the same hotel room. Then I might take a lamp that’s light enough and small enough to carry around, like this Stella lamp, reviewed here.
I always carry a package of hand wipes in my supplies, tucked in a zip-lock bag.
A few extra zip-lock bags never go astray, either. I keep my thread in them, and if I need to sort or separate any threads out, it’s nice to have an extra bag or two. They don’t take up much space.
Cutting Tools for Traveling
The tools themselves can be a bit tricky. The tools you can take with you often depend on your manner of travel. If you’re flying, for example, there are specific restrictions on sharp things, and you should make yourself aware of them before you get to the airport. You don’t want the officials to confiscate your $75 pair of embroidery scissors, after all!
If I’m road-tripping, I always take a good pair of embroidery scissors in a sheath (so they don’t damage anything if I throw them in my project bag). If I’m flying, I consider other options!
If you’re flying, these cutting tools by Clover are an excellent choice for snipping threads. You can string this thing around your neck like a pendant and you just slide your thread into the little grooves to snip them off.
Apparently, according to some of the comments below, they do violate regulations because of the blade inside, but I’ve taken them successfully and never had them confiscated or even given a second glance.
Small, fold-up scissors like the ones above (that I’ve reviewed here) can be an option for airline travel, but I wouldn’t take a pair that you especially like or that are especially pricy. (I wouldn’t take the ones above, for example.)
Here in the US, anyway, it seems confiscation is pretty random. I’ve had tiny scissors with half inch blades confiscated, even though they don’t violate the regulations. I’ve even had fingernail clippers confiscated! So your best bet, when flying, is not to take anything that you’d hate to lose.
Dritz makes small folding scissors for traveling. They’re not expensive and they’d be worth having for using in a pinch. They aren’t the best-cutting scissors in the world and their structure is pretty flimsy, but they’ll get you through, and if they get confiscated along the way, they’re not going to set you back much.
In my tool box, I also carry a small emery board for fingernail mishaps (there’s nothing worse than a snaggy fingernail when you’re trying to stitch) and a pair of fingernail clippers.
If you’re flying, take a cheap pair of clippers in case they get confiscated. Your best bet is clippers without the little file attached.
This particular needlework tool – a small stiletto and laying tool – definitely won’t make it onto an airplane unless it’s in checked luggage, but if you’re road tripping, it is very nice to have a small laying tool in the tool box.
If you’re not willing to use the space to carry one with you, or if you’re flying, consider including a larger tapestry needle in your kit. It can be used as a laying tool in a pinch.
All of my tools fit into a small gift card tin that I slide into my project bag.
Why a tin? Because the lid can do good service as a tray if needed.
It makes a good bead tray, for example, or a good tray for cut goldwork threads. And while I might not dabble with beads or goldwork in the car or on a flight, when I’m at my destination, I find it handy.
When it comes to needles, my absolutely favorite thing in the world (a little partial here, I suppose!) for easy transport are the little needlebooks in my Lavender Honey & Other Little Things e-book.
When I wrote that book, I had to make a lot of samples, so I have about 8 or 10 of these little needlebooks.
They’re small, they’re soft, they hold a decent amount of needles – I usually include every type I need for the project I’m working on, and sometimes, more than one of each type – and they’re darned cute, to boot! They end up being great conversation starters.
Because they’re soft, they can serve as pincushions, too. If I’m switching out needles often, I stick the needles upright into the felt, like I would with a pincushion.
They’re just terrific for tossing into a project bag.
Finally, I do take a scissor pull or some kind of device to hold scissors conveniently around my neck or on myself somehow.
When space is limited, I don’t like having to fumble about for my scissors, so I find scissor pulls very convenient when traveling in the car or working in a hotel room.
You can buy scissor pulls and similar devices already made. This particular one is another item that you can make yourself, from Lavender Honey.
All my supplies get tucked into a project bag. I like these zipper mesh bags, and I can usually fit everything, including hoop, fabric, instructions, threads, and all the tools discussed above into one medium-sized zipper mesh bag.
I slip this bag into a tote where I carry anything I want easy access to on a trip, and that’s it! I’m good to go!
Last week, I took a quick road trip to Wisconsin for some unexpected family business (did you miss me?) and I packed everything very carefully, with high hopes of accomplishing a bit of stitchery along the way so I wouldn’t be too far behind when I got home.
Keep in mind that packing your needlework stuff doesn’t mean you’ll actually use it! I didn’t get a lick of stitching in. But if you find yourself in a situation where you do have down time and you’d love to be able to indulge in a bit of embroidery, it’s nice to have a few basics along.
Over to You!
What needlework tools do you travel with? Do you have any favorite tool that you couldn’t be without while you’re on the road or flying the friendly skies? Any tips for tools to consider, specifically for travel? I’d love to hear your input! Feel free to join in the conversation below!
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