Knitting On-the-Go: 6 Essential Tips for Travel Knitting the Simple Way

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, as my mom wanted to see as much as she could (a theory that I do endorse from time to time, though my preferred travel style is to live like the natives and take it easy). I took three projects—a pair of socks, a hat, a crochet scarf. For six days. 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:

1. Pick Easy Knitting 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, top-right, or Amy Christoffers’ Shelburne Scarf, bottom-right, from Knitscene Summer 2011 would be great on-the-go knitting.

If you are looking for the perfect travel knitting projects, try this easy mitts knitting pattern called Clipper Mitts.
If you are looking for the perfect travel knitting projects, try this easy scarf knitting pattern called Shelburne Scarf.

2. 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 more easy 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.

You'll love this small knitting project that includes a knitted pullover pattern called Vergennes Pullover...perfect for travel knitting.
You'll love this small knitting project that includes a knitted cardigan pattern called Mayville Cardigan...perfect for travel knitting.

3. Choose your tools wisely.

As you may have noticed, I like to knit socks. I knit socks a lot. 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. (Knitting Help has a great video on learning Magic-Loop, if you’re not familiar with it.) 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 keep my knitting needles tidy, save me from stabbing myself as I reach into my project bag, and possibly make 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 country (such as 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.

4. 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 at the opening. If you, like me, take multiple knitting projects with you when you travel, 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.

5. Keep a notebook handy.

When traveling amongst other people (on a plane, on a train, on a bus, packed in the family minivan), you will inevitably be interrupted in your knitting. 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. I actually have two notebooks that I use (I have a notebook addiction): Franklin Habit’s Work in Progress Journal and a journal from Make My Notebook (you can see one of my journals in Check It from knitscene Summer 2011, page 7). The Franklin Habit journal is half blank and half graph paper, and the Make My Notebook journal is half ruled and half graph paper.

6. Most importantly, have fun!

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. Take a picture of your sock toe covering the pyramid outside the Louvre as a “pyramid cosy” (I’m not going to Paris this year, but I will probably do this one day.) Wrap an in-progress scarf around the statue of Phil Lynott off Grafton Street in Dublin (note to self: go back to Dublin).

Wherever you’re going, whatever you’re doing, have a fun and productive summer of knitting! Hopefully I’ll make a good amount of progress in all of my travels.

Happy Knitting!

P.S.—Knitting on the go has been made even easier with the invention of laptops, tablets, and programs like Zinio that let you cart around multiple books without the weight, and knitscene Summer 2011 is now available on Zinio!

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