The Traveling Knitter

I'm getting ready to take a cross-country trip to visit old friends. From door to door I will travel on planes, trains, and automobiles, accompanied by a trusty WIP: a new pair of socks. Since it's the eve of the busiest travel day of the year here in the United States, I thought I'd offer a few words of advice for the savvy knitting traveler.

I've succumbed to travel-knitting disasters in the past: broken needles, dropped balls of yarn (on a train and a bus!), lost patterns, run out of yarn, and all kinds of other mishaps.  So to ensure that my socks will travel as happily as I do, I take a few precautions.


1.     Choose needles wisely.

There are a few factors at work here: durability, safety, and loss prevention. (You can almost always take knitting on a plane within the United States; if you're traveling internationally, the rules may be different.) Between squeezing bags shut and dropping things, I'm not a graceful traveler, and I've broken plenty of wooden dpns in bags. I've even managed to lose straight needles en route. For that reason, I always reach for metal circular needles for a trip.


2.     Pack a bag.

A dedicated knitting bag, that is. Resist the temptation to put everything in one knitting bag; while you're reaching for your boarding pass, your yarn may escape and roll away. Instead, tuck a small bag just big enough for your project inside the rest of your luggage. Tom Bihn even makes small water-resistant travel bags that double as bowls, which sit securely on a tray table or in your lap; they also have a drawstring to keep your notions and yarn inside. (Check out the roundup of knitting bags in the Summer 2013 issue of Sockupied.)

 A compact, waterproof knitting bag makes a great traveling companion. Here's the Hadaki Travel Essentials Kit from Sockupied Spring 2013.

3.     Don't leave home without it (your WIP, that is).

It's tempting to grab a pattern, needles, and yarn on your way out the door, but you'll probably wind up ripping more than you knit. You want to be seeing the sights and drinking in new experiences, not restarting four times because you got distracted and twisted the cast-on. Work a couple of rows at least before tucking your work in your bag.


4.     The right pattern is your best traveling companion.

You probably know that travel isn't the best time for a highly complex pattern, but there are some other factors to consider. If you choose a cable pattern, practice cabling without a needle before you go on the road. A simple lace pattern can be a good choice if you're comfortable picking up a dropped stitch.

My trusty WIP, a pair of Crystalline Socks by Debbie O'Neill (from the first issue of Sockupied).

5.     See the sights.

Don't choose a black yarn for travel knitting. In dimly lit areas you won't be able to see your stitches well enough to knit (or knit accurately, anyway!). A light colored yarn with good stitch definition will make for happier travel knitting. Similarly, make sure your pattern is large enough to read easily. If you're traveling with a tablet, it can be perfect for easy pattern reading; as someone who loses things, I stick to paper when I'm away from home


6.     Take a notion to pack wisely.

You want to travel light, but a few well-chosen notions can save your knitting trip: A locking-ring stitch marker (doubles as a little stitch holder), a tapestry needle, and a tape measure are my must-haves. If you need one to pick up stitches, a short crochet hook is handy, too. You don't need to bring the full tool kit with you, but these little doodads can really save the day.


7.     Drop the deadlines.

As we enter the holiday season, that list of gifts may be looming. Do yourself a favor and set reasonable expectations . . . which means not planning to crank out a pair of socks on a three-hour flight. Instead, envision yourself knitting socks while enjoying a trip. Think of your knitting as an opportunity to relieve the stress of travel, not add to it.  Imagine getting to your destination with your socks well begun.

Have a good beginning to the holiday season! May your travels (and your knitting) be joyful.


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