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Knitting on the go: Six tips for travel knitting

May 30, 2011

A note from Kathleen: I have a lot of traveling planned this summer, and on my packing list I always write "knitting." Such a small word on the list, such a large part of my packing process! I always take more than I need. Always. Even if I'm going to a knitting event. Somehow I think there are more hours in the day when I'm on vacation, and that I'll spend those hours knitting.

My friend Amy Palmer, assistant editor of Knitscene magazine, has a bunch of trips planned as well, and she's come up with a list of tips for taking your knitting along with you. I thought you might have some getaways planned, too, so I invited Amy to Knitting Daily to share her useful tips with us.

I'm about to hit the road for a little late spring/early summer traveling and that means packing.
I'll figure out the clothing situation the day before I leave (I always do), but meanwhile I'm a little stressed out over what knitting projects to bring. Raise your hand if you feel me! Yeah, I knew it.

Last summer, my family and I went to London, England, for six days—six busy, jam-packed days. I took three projects—a pair of socks, a hat, a crochet scarf. And you know what? I finished all of them. (Now that I think about it, I had started the socks before leaving.)

So clearly, taking a lot of projects on vacation is nothing new to me. Figuring out which knitting projects are best for traveling, and how to most easily transport them, is always a bit of a challenge though. Here are some tricks for travel knitting that I've picked up along the way.

Pick easy projects.
"Easy" here is a relative term. I'm not suggesting that everyone knit only flat garter stitch or stockinette stitch in the round, but be honest with yourself about your skill level and choose projects that you can knit without having to give a lot of attention. I know I can knit plain stockinette socks with my eyes closed, so they're a good project for me. Projects like Izumi Ouchi's Clipper Mitts or Amy Christoffers' Shelburne Scarf from Knitscene Summer 2011 would be great on-the-go knitting.

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Clipper Mitts by Izumi Ouchi's
Shelburne Scarf by Amy Christoffers

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Pick small-ish projects. As anyone who's ever traveled anywhere and had to cram a bunch of clothes into a carry-on suitcase (paying for luggage is not high on my list of fun vacation things) understands the importance of maximizing space. The smaller the project, the easier it will be to knit while you're traveling. Bonus points if you finish the project, because then you clearly have to buy a new skein of souvenir yarn, right?

For me, this usually means socks or hats, but it doesn't have to. Mittens or scarves are great travel knitting projects, but if we look outside the suitcase, think sleeves. Sleeves can be knit in the round or flat. Amy Christoffers' Vergennes Pullover or Sarah Fama's Mayville Cardigan both have easy sleeve patterns.

Vergennes Pullover by Amy Christoffers

Mayville Cardigan by Sarah Fama
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Choose your tools wisely. Socks are my number one project for knitting on the go. I tend to switch back and forth between using double-points and using the Magic-Loop method when I'm staying in town (say, going to knitting group), but for longer travel, I usually opt for Magic-Loop—nothing like making friends with everyone on an airplane as you attempt to chase down a dropped dpn.

Occasionally, I'll bring along the double-points, but in those instances I have to have a dpn work-in-progress holder with me. It keeps my knitting needles tidy, saves me from stabbing myself as I reach into my project bag, and possibly makes me appear a little less threatening to the TSA folks (this last point requires more research). Note: Yes, you can generally take your knitting needles on the plane if your departure point is within the United States, but be sure to check the website of the arrival destination airport, or the governing body of travel within your destination country (it's the TSA in the United States). Knitting needles are typically not allowed when flying out of an airport in the United Kingdom, but I had no problem with my crochet project.

Organize everything.
Take this opportunity to break out all those work-in-progress bags you have, or just grab some gallon-sized Ziploc baggies—whatever you use, make sure it has some sort of closure. The last thing you want is a mess of tangled yarns and needles all jumbled together in one bag. Placing your knitting projects in bags also protects them from getting roughed up in transit.

Keep a notebook handy.
When traveling amongst other people (on a plane, on a train, on a bus, packed in the family minivan), your knitting will inevitably be interrupted. Having your notebook and pen or pencil nearby ensures that you can make a quick note of your stopping point, or jot down any modifications you make on the go.

Most importantly, relax!
Vacations are usually a time to relax and maybe do something you've never done before, but that doesn't mean you have to leave all of your creature comforts at home. Travel knitting has all the benefits of knitting at home with the added bonus of having something familiar and relaxing during what can occasionally be a stressful experience.

Look for fun opportunities to document your knitting during your vacation.
Take a picture of your sock toe covering the pyramid outside the Louvre as a "pyramid cozy." Wrap an in-progress scarf around the statue of Phil Lynott off Grafton Street in Dublin (note to self: go back to Dublin). Or just have someone take a picture of you knitting by the lake or on a park bench!

And take along some knitting magazines, like the summer issue of Knitscene! It's full of fun, summery ideas to keep you busy on your travels.

Wherever you're going, whatever you're doing, have a fun and productive summer of knitting! Hopefully we'll all make a good amount of progress on our travels.

Happy Knitting!

P.S. Want to get Knitscene in your mailbox four times a year? Check out our new Knitscene auto-ship program!

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colleenmw wrote
on May 6, 2013 12:21 PM

"DPN" double pointed needles

CactusWren wrote
on May 6, 2013 11:08 AM

I tend to agree with Elisabeth Zimmermann:  a center-out shawl on a circular needle (like her Pi Shawl) is very convenient, because you can cinch it shut and tuck your yarn into the bag thus formed!  Get it well started before you begin your journey, though.  It's not fun dealing with DPNs on the road.  Trust me on this.

AmyPalmer wrote
on Jun 7, 2011 11:11 AM

@Jacklou, here's an example of a DPN work in progress holder:

@Suebush, here's a reference on using the Magic-Loop method


Suebush wrote
on Jun 3, 2011 3:12 AM

I have thing to do. But I want to konw what is Magic-Loop?

Jacklou wrote
on May 31, 2011 12:24 PM

What is a "DPN work in progress holder"?

AmyPalmer wrote
on May 31, 2011 8:30 AM

For those of you asking about the location of the Amy Christoffers' Vergennes Pullover and Sarah Fama's Mayville Cardigan, they are both in the Knitscene Summer 2011 issue (you can find them in the Knitscene section of the Interweave pattern database).

berrylady wrote
on May 30, 2011 8:43 PM

Wood pick-up-sticks from a kid's toy store can be sharpened a little, waxed a bit with a candle end,  and used as size 3 dp knitting needles.  A whole can of them is less than $5.  I bring about 6 of them with my knitting project, usually socks, in my purse or carry-on, on  the plane, and some extras in my checked baggage.  I've never been challenged at an airport or on any trans-continental flight, but if it did happen, I'd just slip the knitting off and let them have the sticks, knowing that I had more "needles" in my checked bag to continue knitting at my destination.

sarahlf wrote
on May 30, 2011 7:13 PM

I think pencils are allowed from the UK.  They're US size 8 right.....?  Seems like a scarf might be in order if you don't won't to crochet.  Note: sometimes circulars are confiscated by over zealous officials.

linnea@2 wrote
on May 30, 2011 5:45 PM

My husband looks on with amazement as I pack my knitting first. His comment usually is "do you honestly think there will not be a wool shop where ever we are."

My inner thought is "what if there isn't."

This is the man who found Webs for me when we were on a driving trip in the East last fall, and then agreed to let me spend as much time there as I needed.

maggiehw wrote
on May 30, 2011 10:23 AM

I am so glad you mentioned that about knitting needles and the United Kingdom.  I would not want to lose my needles right before a flight.  I will take a crochet hook along for the flight.  Thank you for the tip.

sewalaskan wrote
on May 30, 2011 10:14 AM

Speaking of lost dpn on a plane, I once dropped my ball of yarn as we starting our descent. I tried to grab it but it kept rolling forward. Since it was small by then I just broke it off and hastily put away my knitting.

on May 30, 2011 9:38 AM

I like the 2 sweaters here -- Vergemis Pullover and Mayvile Cardigan.  Where are the patterns located?  They are not in Interweave's pattern section. The idea of simple sleeves is a great one.

kbert59 wrote
on May 30, 2011 8:26 AM

I really like Amy Christoffers' Vergennes Pullover.  How can I get directions?

on May 30, 2011 7:58 AM

I just knit a sox on 9" circular needle. It was great and fast - less fooling around with getting the needle positioned.  Had to change to DP or "loop" to do the toe.  I wear a size 8M shoe to should work for most soxs.