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Knitting at the Airport (and another Travel Scarf)

23 August 2010
Heathrow and Knitting Bag

Flying? Bring along some sticks and string.

Several years ago, when I still lived in New York, I saw this ad campaign in several bars at Newark Airport. They had posters up, illustrating the various indignities to which one might be prey while flying: a departures board showing delayed flights, a baggage claim employee shrugging when presented with one’s claim ticket, things like that. The slogan appeared at the bottom, big black letters on a yellow background: There’s Always A Reason to Drink at the Airport. [People, I SWEAR I saw this campaign. The fact that I don’t find it when googling just means no one wants to talk about it.] I bet you now where I’m going with this…

There’s Always A Reason to Knit at the Airport. It’s true: knitters around the world will tell you that long lines, delays, and even lost bags seem much less dire of you have a nice pair of sticks and some string. On our flight back to the US last week, I knit Heathrow, the little brother of the UK Travel Scarf (now to be known as Hibernian, after the Edinburgh football team).  Heathrow is skinnier than his Scottish relative, with a more cosmopolitan feel.  He’s just right to keep your neck warm from the airplane air conditioning, or on a fall day in DC.

I’m not the only one who wants to knit at the airport, either.  As I told you last year, there’s one airport in the UK that provides yarn and needles in its waiting area (passengers knit squares that are later stitched into blankets for charity). There’s even a product out there that I think would be perfect to sell in an airport gift shop: Knit Outta the Box. [You people know how I like me a kit.]  One of the questions I’m asked most often by my knitting students is whether they can take their knitting on the plane.  Here’s what I do:

Heathrow Scarf

The Heathrow Scarf, knit on my flight from LHR to IAD last week.

1. Carry Paperwork.  Check the TSA requirements. They’ve gotten much less restrictive lately, but used to require circular needles made of plastic or bamboo.  I always double-check the page, and then I print out the page and carry it with me in one of those little plastic sleeves you get at Staples. I have never had occasion to use it, but it’s a bit of a talisman against security trouble. Here, too, is a light-hearted post from the TSA blog that includes information on knitting needles.  Who knew the TSA had a blog, let alone one with a light-hearted side?

2. Get Some Needles. I generally carry one Denise cord and one set of needles, broken down into their component parts.  I think they’re less obtrusive if broken down, and this means I’m working on a project from the beginning (which means less chance of finishing before landing!).  Also, if I’m asked to get rid of the needles at the beginning of the trip, I’m not losing any work (not having started yet), and I still have my yarn.  That means I can still knit with pencils if I’m involved in some kind of plane-crash, hostage-crisis, nuclear-winter scenario in which I have only what I carried with me on the plane.  [What, you don’t worry about things like that when flying?  How serene it must be inside your head.]  Plus, if I am asked to get rid of my Denises, I can always replace the individual tips without buying a whole new kit.  One can also carry a self-addressed, stamped envelope in case one is asked to get rid of one’s needles, but I’m never organized enough to make that happen. This is necessary if you’re carrying something you couldn’t stand to lose.

3. Stuff in Some Yarn. Bring more than enough. You don’t want to get caught without enough yarn, do you?  [Yes, you are reading a blog by a crazy person yarn addict. What, the last post on carrying yarn didn’t convince you?]  Yarn, you may have noticed, is squishy.  Put it all at the bottom of your carry-on and cover it with heavier items, and it will squash down so you can add more. Note, please, that other items you love may not be squishy (chocolate, the latest Twilight novel, etc.).

4. Don’t Forget the Pattern.  You don’t want to be caught without this.  Better yet, if you’re an intermediate knitter and have an e-reader, bring the Yarn Harlot’s Knitting Rules (Kindle edition) with you and teach yourself how to improvise a pattern.  Her sock recipe is just what you need — and so are the hat guidelines.  You can also bring the physical book along with you, but note that, like Stephanie Meyer’s books, it will not squish.

5. A Last Resort. Bring a tapestry needle and some waste yarn.  You can transfer your work onto the waste yarn using the tapestry needle if the person next to you suddenly has a panic attack and needs you to stop knitting — or if you make a mistake and have the irresistible urge to break your needles into a thousand pieces.  Plan ahead, is all I’m saying.

Despite all of this preparation, I knit at the gate more often that I do on the plane.  I have this worry that the person next to me will freak out when they see my knitting needles, and who really needs additional stress when they’re hurtling through the air in an aluminum tube? If I’m knitting at the gate, any knitophobe can move if they don’t want to be near me, and I occasionally meet fellow knitters that way.  Last week, though, Mr. Trask and I were seated in one of those two-fer rows, and I know his only fear about knitting is that I will try to teach him how.  So, in between gluten-free airplane meals, I knit Heathrow and watched The Bounty Hunter (passable) and Cop Out (ridiculous, but included the NSFW-due-to-language clip below).

All of which is to say: keep a little yarn in your carry-on. And why wouldn’t you?
One Comment leave one →
  1. 23 August 2010 5:59 pm

    Great tips – thanks! And that silly movie blurb is pretty funny.

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