These Projects Were Made For Traveling

If you are anything like me, you love to take sewing or knitting projects on vacation. For me, it began with my first love – embroidery. Easy to pack and small enough to stash in a backpack or beach bag, embroidery helped me to be more patient and slow down. Later I added hand quilting and knitting to my travel “necessities.”

In 2019 I attended Quilt Week in Paducah, KY and one of the classes I took was crumb quilting. But first, we drove from Connecticut to Mammoth Cave National Park. Along the way, I cut scraps I brought with me at night in the hotel (required homework for the class). I chopped them in to smaller and more complex shapes (triangles, parallelograms, rhombuses, and more. This experience was so freeing and fun that I had to teach a class and enable others to improvise their quilting too!

“Crumb” or “improv” quilting is a great project when you are traveling. No rules, just chop, sew and repeat.

Now that my husband and I have a Northern Lite truck camper, my options for travel projects has grown in size and complexity. Now my machine can go with me!

My husband doesn’t know this yet, but this is my traveling sewing studio. Nah, he totally knows. (Photo by José Zillich)

Of the four machines I own, my Elna Stella is the perfect traveling companion. Her maiden voyage to Maine in 2021 proved a success when a rare triple digit heat wave sent us inside to the air conditioned camper.

My Elna Stella Air Electronic tsp model 57 packs a punch with 1 amp of power and weighing under 14 pounds! And even with the carrying case flaps attached it still fits the small dining table in the camper with room to spare.

But more often than not, my go to travel project is still knitting. I find it easy to do in the car (no small holes to search for and stab with a tiny needle). I’ve knit in almost every place imaginable – cars, planes and even a pontoon boat we rented in Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota.

Knitting the Graham Hat in Voyageurs National Park. (Photo by José Zillich)
These beauties (Basic Ribbed Sock by Kate Atherley) were finished on our way to Voyageurs National Park, which provided an equally beautiful backdrop. (Photo by José Zillich)
My traveling “sock drawer” I took to Rynbeck NY for my first NY Sheep and Wool Festival in 2021. Socks shown are (clockwise) Undergrass, Harcourt, One Sock, In The Diagonal, Treeometry, Sea at Dawn, Basic Ribbed and Jarvis. You can find these and my other sock projects on my Ravelry page.

My favorite projects that I have made for the camper have been a cooking utensil carrying case and an iron carrying case/pressing mat. Took both of these on a recent trip to Assateague Island National Seashore. The utensil case, which is a modification of ByAnnie’s Fetch Your Sketch pattern, works great. Nothing banging around or lost in a mess of other kitchen tools. My modification was replacing the chalkboard fabric with a mesh pocket. The ironing mat did not get a chance to play on this trip, but that’s how some trips go. I have used it to take irons to classes with me though. I plan to make two more for my other irons.

Here is my top 10 best advice for travel stitching:

  1. Be prepared – create a checklist of projects (and everything that goes with them) that you want to take or shop for.
  2. Make a fun bag – I like to keep all my projects in one place but in separate project bags for a quick grab and go.
  3. Travel light – leave the bulky books at home and pre-load digital patterns or photos onto your phone, tablet or laptop at least a week before you leave. I love uploading my knitting patterns to Knit Companion, so they are ready whenever I am, but I’ve also used it for counted embroidery charts too.
  4. Window shop – Don’t wait until you are on the plane or half way down the road to look up shops you want to visit. Shops can move, close or not have the item you are looking for.
  5. Get ahead – precut fabrics as much as you can, wind those skeins how you want them or pre-cut embroidery floss before your trip.
  6. Less is more – Don’t over pack. Vacations are meant to be fun. Don’t stress yourself (and others) out by taking too many things and then never touching them.
  7. Leave the heirlooms at home – Avoid taking something that you will lose your mind over if it’s lost or damaged. That includes those 42-count hand-dyed linens, silk threads or out of print patterns.
  8. Let your mind take a vacation too – take projects that are a breeze and won’t cause you to miss all the non-stitching fun. Knitting in the round, large cross stitch sections of one color and foundation paper piecing are like a spa day for the brain.
  9. Check it before you pack it – most airlines, trains and boats will allow stitching tools, but it doesn’t hurt to check and save yourself from losing your favorite scissors. If you are worried, take a self-addressed stamped padded mailer to send something back home.
  10. Do your research – you never know if there is a fiber arts museum (National Quilt Museum is a must see), historic home with a fiber arts connection (Woodlawn Plantation in Mount Vernon) or a hidden gem of fiber art in a collection (like the sampler hanging in one of the bedrooms in Hill-Stead Museum).

What’s your best advice for vacationing stitchers?

Until next time, happy stitching,

By stitchingcoach

High school librarian by day, crafter for life. I'm an award winning embroider, quilter and knitter. I advise a high school sewing club as well as volunteer with Days for Girls. Students will find I'm passionate about all needle arts and want to pass that along to all generations and skill levels. Learning to sew, knit or hand embroider can be intimidating, but with the right support can become a lifelong hobby that provides joy to your life. Let me show you how to get started. I look forward to helping you exercise your creative side.

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