So recently I decided to sew on holiday. Yes, I paper pieced by a Menorcan pool (don’t judge me). And since I routinely travel at home and abroad with my stitchy projects I’ve learned a shit-load about how to do everything from rationalise my sewing gadgets through to taking needles onto a plane without it ending in a scene from Midnight Express. So do you want to sew on holiday? Then get your noggin around this lot…
Before you go
Be honest about what time you’ll have to sew. A holiday where you’re spending hours by a pool is different to a holiday where you’re hiking the Himalayas (I know. I’ve done both). Take only the sewing for which you’ll have the time.
Don’t feel obliged to take a complete project. Just part of one is all you need.
Take extra needles and pins. When you sew on holiday it becomes a lot less joyful if you lose your only needle on the first day.
Be prepared. I spend a couple of hours before each trip cutting fabric and templates for my paper piecing or choosing the embroidery threads I want to use. It means that everything is ready to use while I’m away and reduces holiday faffage.
Be organised. I use clear plastic document sleeves when I sew on holiday so I can see what I need quickly without having to get everything out to find it.
Pick a project that will remind you of the holiday. I took my current quilting pieces because the bright colours remind me of the tropics. Even better, I noticed that the turquoise pieces looked just like the pool. Now I’ll remember that pool every time I look at them.
Put your project in a protective bag or case in case your shampoo explodes somewhere over Abu Dhabi.
Google is your friend if you want small projects to sew on holiday. Look for crimbo decorations, pin cushions, needle books, , keyrings and fabric flowers for garlands because they are all quick, easy and perfect for handsewing.
Use a small, clean, transparent travel bottle for pins and needles storage.
Invest in a sewing travel kit but make sure you’ll use everything in it.
Sharpen scissors before you go.
In the run up to your hol watch out for sewing mags that come with free projects. Mollie Makes routinely includes them on the cover with everything you need contained in a small envelope with instructions. Collect them and keep them in your luggage.
In the air
Want to sew on a flight? Check your airline’s regulations about what you can/ cannot take on a plane regardless of what other travellers tell you. No one wants to land in Guantanamo Bay for the sake of a seam ripper that’s been waved about at security guards.
I always keep a full packet of needles in my purse and they’ve never been picked up by security. The ones I once hid in my bra weren’t picked up by them either which is a relief because that was a really stupid thing to do.
Look on the bright side. You can do one hell of a lot of sewing during 20 years in detention.
Pack your scissors in your suitcase, not your hand luggage. They’re a bit too, well, bladey.
If you want to sew on a plane, take a suitable blade. I use a teeny one encased in plastic, picked up from a local haberdashery for 70p. It’s good for thread and nothing else. I can’t even cut my own finger on it, let alone storm the cockpit and insist that the plane takes me directly to Mood Fabrics in New York.
If you’re sewing on a flight (my uterus hoop kept me going en route to Boston) take a really rationalised kit with you: the project piece, a needle, a protected blade and the only threads you’ll need.
Assuming you’re flying in cattle class, like me, take what it possible to do on your lap or on a fold-down table. Of course, if you’re flying in first class, take an ironing board, a sewing machine and ask Mick Jagger and Gwynnie to help.
When you’re there
Don’t be afraid to sew by the pool. No one else is doing it but don’t let that stop you. I even manage to do it while giving it large to Ibiza classics.
If you sew on holiday, do it because you want to, not because you have got to. There’s a big difference between calmly stitching for fun and furiously attempting to meet order deadlines when you should be necking sangria.
Just because you’ve decided to sew on holiday it doesn’t mean you have to do it. If you reach your destination and fancy laying face down for two weeks then just lay face down.
Take a project for only you, unless working on a piece for someone else gives you genuine pressure-free pleasure.
People may be interested in what you’re doing next to the pool. Embrace it.
Machine sewists, use a holiday to practice hand stitching. There really is joy to be had in creating a piece that requires you to be precise, slow and patient while slightly drunk on ouzo.
Don’t buy souvenirs. Instead pick up fabric from a local shop and when you use it for a project it’ll remind you of your trip.
Don’t stitch on a breezy beach, unless chasing fabric pieces along the dunes is what you had in mind when you said you’d sew on holiday.
Try something new. If you rarely get the time to practice new embroidery stitches, read sewing mags, investigate new patterns or draw up new designs, do it now.
Check out local fabric shops to get a sewing hit even if you don’t take a project with you.
Keep a notebook in which you have your own body measurements and teeny samples of the fabrics you’re currently using so you can match and buy while away. You can also jot down inspirations from the people you meet or items you see.
Forget perfection. You’re on holiday. The joy should be in the doing and the only end result should be you returning home glowing with relaxation. Now, where shall we go next…