This is a tip that I hope you never need to use. Ideally, when you purchase your sewing machine, you will have space in your home to keep the box and padding that your machine was shipped to you in, just in case you need to ship or move your sewing machine in the future. However, if you are like me and did/do not have the space to keep the original box, this post shares how I safely packaged up my Juki TL-2200QVP Mini domestic sewing machine to be safely moved from Hawaii to California.
Step 1 – Materials
Prior to gathering materials, I recommend you read through this entire post so you can get a feel for the quantity you will need. Every sewing machine is a bit different, so you may need more or less than what I used.
- The most important thing you will need to acquire is a sturdy cardboard box large enough for your sewing machine. I highly recommend the Heavy Duty moving boxes that you can purchase from Home Depot. The Heavy Duty Medium was large enough for my Juki, with a little room to spare.
- Prior to committing to using your selected box, place your machine INSIDE the box to make sure that there is a least 2″ of clearance above the top of your machine. It is better to have a box that is too tall (it can be cut down if needed) than one that is too short.
You will also need:
- Thick plastic drop cloth (we used between half and three-quarters of a 10ft by 25ft 3.5mil thick piece of plastic sheeting; I would recommend nothing thinner than 2mil).
- One or two large sealable plastic bags or large quilt shipping plastic bags – something that is big enough to surround all or most of all of your sewing machine (I did not have a bag big enough to fully enclose my sewing machine, so I used two large quilt shipping bags).
- 2+ spray cans of expanding foam
- Packing tape
Step 2 – Prepare Sewing Machine
Remove as many parts from your sewing machine as possible and make sure to collapse any thread holders. I personally placed a scrap piece of fabric under my normal presser foot and lowered both the presser foot and then the needle into the fabric. Once your machine is as small and secure as you can make it, carefully enclose your machine in an oversized sealable plastic bags.
As I mentioned above, I did not have a large enough bag that could seal around my entire sewing machine, so I opted to place my sewing machine in two large quilt shipping bags. I put the first bag over the top and then I set my sewing machine down into the second bag and lightly taped the edges of the second bag to the first in a few locations.
As you will see in a photo below, I also opted to wrap my machine in an additional piece of thick plastic drop cloth. I didn’t want to find out after the fact that one of the bags I used had a pinhole in it, allowing expanding foam to come into contact with my sewing machine; you don’t want that to happen (it’s very sticky)!
Step 3 – Prepare Box for Sewing Machine
Tape together one side of your sturdy cardboard box. I recommend taping across the joint in the middle, then taping at least twice in the opposite direction to help stabilize the important piece of tape that is sealing the flaps. Fold back the upper flaps of the box and line the inside of the box with a single piece of thick plastic drop cloth.
Note: It is important that the plastic fit nicely into the bottom of the box. It is better for there to be extra plastic at the bottom of the box than for it to “bridge” or gap in the bottom corners. This plastic is to prevent the expanding foam from sticking to the box.
This will take a bit of time. I found that it worked best if I started by inserting the plastic drop cloth in to make a “U” shape and then carefully folded in the short sides. It was a bit like wrapping the ends of a present, but inside out. Then I used a bit of extra packing tape to keep the plastic from falling down or into the box.
We then used one full can of expanding foam to fill the bottom of the box, as shown above.
Step 4 – Insert Sewing Machine
After letting the expanding foam expand for a few minutes (I think we waited 2-3 minutes), we settled my plastic wrapped sewing machine down into the center of the box.
A few things to pay attention to here: Make sure that the top of your machine is below the top of the box. Test folding down the top flaps to make sure that they will not hit or rest on the top of your machine. Press your machine firmly into the foam to settle it more if it is too tall.
Step 5 – Wait
The expanding foam requires time and moisture to fully expand and cure, and we didn’t want to finish sealing off the top of the sewing machine before allowing the bottom expanding foam to cure. We waited about an hour and kept checking on the progress of the expanding foam before moving on to the next step.
Step 6 – Prepare for Final Expanding Foam on Top
I apologize for not taking more photographs of these last steps: we were a bit focused on getting everything packed up and I just forgot to pick up my camera and document these last few stages. Hopefully this written description will be helpful.
Just like when you prepared the box by lining it with thick plastic drop cloth, you will now insert another piece of thick plastic drop cloth at the top of the box over the sewing machine. We used a much smaller piece of plastic and draped it down into the gaps on the long sides of the sewing machine, but we were most interested in creating U shaped shallow pockets on the two short ends of the box. Remember, this is especially delicate work when you are working around your thread stands. Take your time. These pockets do not need to be full depth; about 3-4 inches lower than the top of your machine is all you need.
The general idea is to make nice foam bumpers on the top of the sewing machine and the ends of the sewing machine that are encapsulated in the plastic sheet that drapes over the sewing machine. The goal is to have foam that goes side to side on both ends and slightly over the top of the sewing machine. See red outline shapes above that show the rough areas we filled in, and note we took care to avoid spraying the expanding foam close to the thread stands.
Step 7 – Add Expanding Foam on Top and Wait
Add the second can of expanding foam and fill the U shaped shallow pockets on the two short sides of the box. We were amazed at how much quicker the expanding foam expanded and cured. I think that it was harder for the foam to cure when it wasn’t getting good air circulation at the bottom of the box.
Once the expanding foam is cured (we waited 24 hours), shave off any expanding foam that bubbles too tall above the fold line of the box, and seal the top of the box. Handle with care, mark and keep the box right side up while it is being moved, and enjoy a safely transported sewing machine when you unpack it!