Tips for Beading While on Vacation

Mar 26, 2008

Wahoo! I'm on vacation. A sleepy Florida beach on the Atlantic Ocean where there are so many shells that every step makes a cruuuunch. It's been so nice to take my long early-morning walks, looking out at the thundering waves and see the sun peaking up from the East. Palm trees and seaside grasses. All is green and blue. A far cry from my subzero white and gray suburban digs.

Did I bring my beads? Heck, yeah! I'm working on a Delica-rich patterned bracelet that's just for me--not for a book, class, or article. Just like this vacation--it's just for me!

If you're going on vacation and can't keep away from your beads, here are some things I find useful when I'm far from home.

  • Unless you're visiting friends that want to spend lots of time beading, bring only one project. Chances are you get so wrapped up in whatever you're doing for R&R, you don't even get to the beads. So don't bring more UFOs (UnFinished Objects) than necessary because, if you're like me, you'll just feel guilty that they're being unattended.

  • Put everything for that one project in a workbox instead of bringing a bag with a bunch of little tubes and supplies and junk bouncing about. You're flirting with tube-explosion danger!

  • Make a workbox that works for you! What I've done is use an old flat wooden cigar box and lined it with a piece of Vellux blanket that's a little wider than the box so a) it cushions the beads so they don't roll around and b) I can pull everything out easily without dumping it all on the floor. There's a thin magnet glued to the side so I don't lose needles. I usually tape the pattern I'm working on to the inside top of the lid.

Cigar boxes have a little latch, but I also put a couple of thick rubber bands around the box, just in case. I suppose you could get fancy by attaching a more elaborate latch system on there, but I don't like to spend too much time on that kind of stuff, so rubber bands it is. This system is nice because it's so transportable: I can work on a project whether I'm in the car, on an airplane, or on a deck chair, and it fits nicely into a suitcase.

  • Speaking of packing up all your supplies, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) guidelines say you can bring a scissors onboard if they have blades shorter than 4 inches. I'm a bit paranoid about losing my favorite scissors (a surgical pair for removing stitches--very hard-won!), so I always put them in my regular baggage. If you must bead on the plane, there are little cutters available at bead shops that you can wear around your neck to cut thread, but I just slip a box of dental floss in my carry-on and cut my thread on the little metal gizmo. It doesn't work as well as my scissors, but it does the job just fine.

  • There doesn't seem to be anything on the TSA website about bringing beading needles onboard, and I've never had a problem with them, but you might want to check on that before you go.

  • The TSA guidelines say you can bring pliers onboard if they are shorter than 7 inches. But I'm a bit weird about that, too. When the restrictions were tighter, I was relieved of a brand-new set of plastic-tipped pliers I forgot to put in my luggage. TSA took them all, even though they were plastic-tipped. My anger was abated somewhat when I imagined one of those big TSA agents popping them in his pocket and going home to straighten wire to complete his French-wire flower arrangement!

I'm sure you all have great ideas about beading while traveling, too. Send them in! In the meantime, I think I'll go pick shells.

Jean Campbell writes about beading and life every Wednesday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Jean, please post them on the website. Thanks!

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JenaT wrote
on Mar 26, 2008 8:35 AM
If you are in Cocoa Beach...welcome!
KatherineV@5 wrote
on Mar 26, 2008 10:42 AM
I have not had a problem traveling with my pliers and wire cutters in my carry on bag. I pointed these out up front as I went through security and said what they were for. Security was glad for the info, looked at them and I went through.
MirelA@2 wrote
on Mar 26, 2008 12:21 PM
I wouldn't risk losing my pliers. I had a pair of children's scissors (blunt edges) taken away from me once before a flight, although they let my crochet needle through (which makes absolutely no sense to me). This time, I checked the guidelines online, and saw that it specifically states that only safety scissors are allowed. I went out and bought a pair and had no problems with it.

BTW- I usually have more time for beading when I'm on vacation, so I bring accordingly. I store my stuff in a Tupperware sandwich box which I line. It closes neatly- no need for rubber bands.
Mtmolly wrote
on Mar 26, 2008 12:23 PM
I just left San Carlos, Mexico for a 3 month winter and collected sea glass and shells as well. I beaded a freeform peyote bracelet and embelished it with the shells and did a cabachon around the sea glass - oh so beautiful. There was even someone in Mexico who had some beads I could purchase.

Molly MT Beads in the Boonies
writhoma wrote
on Mar 26, 2008 12:29 PM
My all-time favorite case for beading when travelling is a gun case! It's raised a few eyebrows when going through customs but the foam inside holds everything absolutely snug. It also makes for a pretty good work surface in a pinch.

Robin Thomas
mssuz wrote
on Mar 26, 2008 12:31 PM
Where are you collecting shells? I wanna do that too! LOL

Pam F wrote
on Mar 26, 2008 12:38 PM
I live in Europe and I fear that currently the security people at the airports are more strict than in the US.
I wouldn't even dare to put my crochet needle in my cabin bag being afraid of losing it.
I carry all my equipment for beading safely packed in my suitcase.
on Mar 26, 2008 12:40 PM
I use a clip board--the kind that opens and closes and put 2 pieces of felt to place my projects between. I can usually keep one project and tools in it. I also bought a small fishing clip light that fishermen use to clip to the bills of their hats or on their shirts so I can clip it to the board and it gives me a more lit up space to work in. I have never flown in a plane so I can't give tips for air travel. But I have made plently of car trips with kids and pets so I needed something I can just close and set aside when needed.
on Mar 26, 2008 12:51 PM
when I travel, I have a medium sized wooden tray with a vellux lining glued to the bottom and sides. It fits into my "busy bag". I have everything I need for my project in a ziploc bag. When we are airborne, I take out the tray, open my bag and bead away. Works great on cruises or in the car or in a hotel. You always have it ready and can take it from place to place. I also glued a non-slip surface to the bottom.
JayelF wrote
on Mar 26, 2008 12:53 PM
I have a comment about the circular thread-cutter you recommend bringing on planes. Ironically, TSA forbids them, yet allows small scissors. Take a look at the last paragraph on this page on the TSA Website, discussing needlework tools: I assume the person who made this decision hasn't seen these discs and doesn't realize how small they are and the fact that they are welded together for safe cutting of threads! I'll bet that some beaders have incorporated these cutters into attractive necklaces,made specifically for travel, so I thought I'd better point this out. If a beader still wants to risk it, a self addressed stamped envelope at the ready would be a good idea. In my experience, airline staff aren't equipped to check small items like this.

barbfritz wrote
on Mar 26, 2008 12:55 PM
My favorite vacation beading project is bead crochet. String all your beads, in your desired pattern, before you leave home. Use a soft foam hair curler to secure the threaded beads (wrap around the curler and your spool of thread, then clamp the curler closed) and you have a neat, travel-ready project. All you need is a crochet hook, safety pin to hold the last stitch made and you're good to go. I even keep a project in a little case in my car for those times when I'm kept waiting at an appointment or arrive somewhere early. "Found" time becomes beading time!
JeanH@47 wrote
on Mar 26, 2008 12:56 PM
My problem with beading on vacation is lighting and the fact that I can not see that well anymore. Was wondering if or what type of light you bring with you?
Anonymous wrote
on Mar 26, 2008 1:07 PM
Hi Jean,
Your vacation sounds great! My family will be joining you down south in the next couple of weeks -- this time on the Gulf Coast side. I am already packing my beads to go, but I really like your cigar box idea. I'm going to have to get myself one of those!

I also love the shell necklace on today's post and have been thinking that I'd like to use my large shell collection to make some jewelry. But recently, I've heard that there are some very real respiratory hazards involved in drilling shells. Apparently, you are supposed to drill them underwater so as not to be exposed to the dust. Have you or any other readers heard about this?
Bjmack1213 wrote
on Mar 26, 2008 1:11 PM
I use a pistol case too! It is made of hard plastic, opens like a suitcase (the two-sided kind that opens like a clam shell), has foam on both sides and locks securely. The best part is the foam inside holds everything in exactly the place I put it so I can leave little piles of loose beads or a full beading dish and nothing spills. When you open it again you are right where you left off. It's small enough to fit into a tote bag. Just be sure if you use a beading dish the case is lying flat and right side up if it is opened at the security checkpoint. Nothing will spill, but they might pick up the upside down dish and your beads will mix.
JanetC@47 wrote
on Mar 26, 2008 1:28 PM
Where could I buy Vellux? I've heard it mentioned before but haven't come across it anywhere. I must not be looking in the right place! :-)
DorisD@12 wrote
on Mar 26, 2008 1:43 PM
Hope your picking up some of those shells your crunching on the beach for your next project. Skip the work on the beach, walk, look up at what is around you or look at the local bead shop for a new stash. Sorry but the working on a beading project on vacation sounds like your missing the vacation!
JaniceF wrote
on Mar 26, 2008 1:56 PM
Jean, you triggered an equally awful experience while travelling by air which reinforces your comments about protecting our equipment. I lost my tiniest, sharpest 4" pair of Gingher's to the TSA. I, too, saw them going home to a wife's collection of cuticle clippers! Always protect your tools!
EliseK wrote
on Mar 26, 2008 2:13 PM
The trays given by flight attendants with meals are great for beading, too. I asked for one and got it. I brought everything in a "tool kit" on the plane the last few times I've flown and checked with the TSA beforehand and they let them go, scissors, pliers and all. Knitters can bring knitting needles, too.
bylynette wrote
on Mar 26, 2008 2:23 PM
With a non-flier husband, my vacations usually involve at least a few long driving days, so my vacation beading keeps boredom at bay. A lap pillow keeps my beading tray from sliding and the tray holds just the beads I need for stitching my favorite peyote stitch designs. I've gotten more than a couple double-takes from truckers who see me with my sunglasses and magna-visor beading happily down the highways. Bringing along several pre-threaded needles helps a lot!
EleanorJ@8 wrote
on Mar 26, 2008 2:24 PM
Greetings from cold, windy England, you lucky lady! I loved this post and hope you have a great holiday and come back with lots of new ideas. I also use the box idea - I prefer rubber bands to secure instead of tupperware-type lids as I've had too many instances of these resisiting and then giving way to my tugging all of a sudden and spraying the contents everywhere.

LOVE the glued-on-magnet-for-needles idea and will definitely give that one a try.