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TIPS and HACKS for quilting on the road and in small spaces

by Paul Leger

Over the last few days, I’ve shown you how to make fun easy quilts using tools such as the SEW EASY Square Ruler – 6½” x 6½”, the TrueCut 360º Circle Cutter, SEW EASY Triangle Ruler 90° – 7½” x 15½” and the SEW EASY Pinwheel Magic 6½” template. Your imagination will take you on a journey to discover how to use these practical tools to make other quilt blocks – easily.

Sew Easy Rulers and the TrueCut Circle Cutter

Sew Easy Rulers and the TrueCut Circle Cutter

Normally I write and prepare these posts from the comfort of my home studio but for the past few weeks, I’ve been splitting my time between my home, summer trailer and hotels. Since I wouldn’t be home much I had to pack and prepare to write these posts based on where I would be. I also had to remember to bring all the tools and fabrics that I would need.

At home, I have the luxury of spreading out as needed to make my projects. However at the trailer or in a hotel room space is at a premium, especially in the trailer, even more so if it’s raining. Having found practical ways to sew and quilt in confined spaces, I decided to share them with you. Some of these tricks will also come in handy if you too have a trailer, or you’re camping or traveling in general.

No matter where you’ll be sewing there will always be room to set your sewing machine. Where to put a cutting mat isn’t always obvious. The one I like to use is the UNIQUE Folding Cutting Mat – 18″ x 24″ because it folds, and it fits nicely on the trailer’s stove.

Unique also makes folding mats in 2 other sizes, 12″ x 18″ and 24″ x 36″ so depending on your available space you can decide to get the smaller or the larger one.

UNIQUE Folding Cutting Mat - 18" x 24" (folded)

UNIQUE Folding Cutting Mat – 18″ x 24″ (folded)

Another space issue I have is where to put the ironing board. The issue isn’t so much where to use it, but rather where to store it. I solve this issue by getting the GO BOARD Tabletop Ironing Board w/Iron Rest. It’s small and compact and fits nicely on the counter and I store it under the bed or sofa. I also like to use the GO IRON Mini Travel / Craft Iron as it’s small, compact and doesn’t take up much room.

The GO BOARD Tabletop Ironing Board and the GO IRON Mini Travel Iron

The GO BOARD Tabletop Ironing Board and the GO IRON Mini Travel Iron

I’m fortunate enough to have a machine that I can leave at the trailer or bring with me when traveling. There’s a small issue with the machine I use – the machine’s threader is broken and I don’t know when I’ll get it fixed…so threading can be difficult. I found these great needles, SCHMETZ #1790 Quick Threading Needles Carded – 80/12. The needles have a slip-in threading slot in the eye. They’re so easy to use and come in handy when your threader is broken or when your machine doesn’t have a threader. I know many quilters that travel with machines such as Featherweights so these needles are a must. These needles are also available in the

SCHMETZ Quick Threading - 80/12

SCHMETZ Quick Threading – 80/12

About cutting tools…I have a great pair of scissors I use when I travel. They’re easy to use when it comes to cutting fabric but not so much when sitting at the sewing machine needing to cut threads. For the thread cutting, I use VIVA INFINITE Thread Snips – 4″. They don’t take much space and do a marvelous job. Bonus!

VIVA INFINITE Thread Snips - 4"

VIVA INFINITE Thread Snips – 4″

Fortunately, every trailer comes with a small table, some have banquette style tables and some have regular tables and chairs. I like to spread out when I work and with my small table sometimes I need just a little more space. So I got myself a small TV tray table – a perfect spot to put tools, fabrics, or even a coffee cup.

A cozy set up for sewing in a trailer.

A cozy set up for sewing in a trailer.

When I’m at the trailer and the weather is beautiful, I do like to sew outside. I use my patio table to sew on and use the GO BOARD Tabletop Ironing Board as I can open the legs to bring it to a comfortable height.

I purchased a 2’ x 4’ folding table that can also be adjusted to 3 heights. This makes a functional table for the UNIQUE Folding Cutting Mat which can be unfolded.

If you’re going to sew at your patio table I would invest in a folding chair. Using a patio chair is fine for a few minutes but for longer periods of time, using a patio chair will be difficult on your back. A folding chair is at a much better height for you to use at your patio table.

Sewing outside enjoying the great weather.

Sewing outside enjoying the great weather.

When I travel I bring and use the same tools as I do at the trailer. When I get to the hotel I get a room with one bed and use the other half of the room as my studio.

Hotel rooms with only one bed offer lots of space to work.

Hotel rooms with only one bed offer lots of space to work.

I was fortunate that the room had an iron and ironing board. I did re-position the table so I would be able to look outside.

Prior to leaving on my journeys, the fabrics I needed for my projects were packed in scrapbook boxes to make them easier to transport and store. As I must document all steps when I write my blog posts all the cutting and work were done from wherever I was, using the tools I demonstrated this week and some of the tools I spoke of today.

As I wrote this week’s posts I showed you that quilting can be done from any location, you just need to find the tools that will suit your needs. If you’re the type of quilter who likes to go and rough it in the deep woods, with no electricity and just a tent, then you might want to simply engage in some hand quilting work.

I just covered a few aspects of sewing in small spaces and showed you some of the tools I use when packing to travel. I know there are many more tips and tricks that I could have shared and I know there are many more out there that I’m not aware of. Should you have any quilting travel tips and suggestions please feel free to add them in the comments below.

Happy travels and quilting.

Come back next week for more fun and informative posts, have a great weekend.

The traveling quilter...loading up for a weekend getaway.

The traveling quilter…loading up for a weekend getaway.



Steve August 20, 2017 - 6:25 pm

Useful tips Paul. I use a similar iron when I go to retreats. It’s comfortable on the hand. I also love the Omnigrid folding book which opens to a cutting mat on one side and an ironing pad on the other. They come in 3 sizes, and work well right at your sewing station.
Looking forward to seeing you next month in Vermont. Just 2 1/2 weeks away!

Janet August 19, 2017 - 8:10 pm

Thank you Paul for this week’s series of blogs. I especially liked the white baby Quilt with the various sized triangles. Today’s post for quilters on the go was also very informative. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

Christina Adams August 19, 2017 - 12:00 pm

This is amazing! We’re likely buying a trailer next year and I wondered how I’d fit it all in! Thanks for the great tips!


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