Public Transportation Tips for Knitters

Airline TravelerSince September 11, 2001, I have traveled across the country and overseas using air transportation and I have been able to knit on every trip. I have only had one episode and that was with a passenger on a flight in October, just a month after the September 11th events.

We were sitting beside each other in the front row of the coach section. I noticed that she kept staring at me with her jaw set in a nasty frown. I ignored her and kept knitting. I was knitting  a sweater on lovely carved wooden knitting needles. The flight attendants had already spoken to me about my knitting and were more than happy to see someone knitting on a flight again. The female passenger beside me started to make “humph” sounds that I knew were her way of registering disapproval. I couldn’t stand it any longer so I asked her if she had something she wanted to tell me. She looked at me with her eyes wide open and said, “Most certainly! Why are you knitting on this airplane? Why do you have those horrible attack weapons out in the open on this flight? Those horrible things should be confiscated and you should be made to leave the plane and be searched for more weapons. Then they should put you in jail!”

Wow! I was shocked at her harsh words. I didn’t know how to respond with all those images rushing through my brain. I could see myself being searched in front of everyone and arrested and handcuffed and hauled off to jail with her laughing the whole time, and then I spied her shoes.

She was wearing a pair of white athletic workout shoes with long shoe laces. Ah ha! I had my retort. “Mame, my knitting needles are not lethal weapons. Any passenger is permitted to knit or crochet while on board an airplane provided that they use wooden or plastic needles and don’t have scissors or other cutting tools in their carry-on bag. Just as you believe that these needles could be used to murder a crew member, the same could be said of your shoes.” She indignantly said, “MY, shoes? Never! There is no way that anyone could murder someone with a pair of work-out shoes.” With that she defiantly crossed her arms over her chest and looked the other way. I quietly said, “Yes, I do believe that someone could remove your shoe laces and use them as a garrotte to quickly end the life of another. Perhaps, you should be searched as well?” She never said another word about the knitting needles or my being searched or arrested the remainder of the 4 hour flight.

I know, I wasn’t being very kind to her and I wish that I had extended to her compassion and offered to pray with her about her fears. That would have been the loving thing to do. Unfortunately, her words caused me to feel very vulnerable and somewhat concerned that she was going to require the airline to search and arrest me for no reason. Eventually the plane landed and I never saw her again.

Here are some suggestions for traveling on public transportation when you plan to knit or crochet:

  1. Take a small project to work on while on the plane (etc.) or airport/station. This uses less space in your carry-on luggage and makes it easier if you are asked to leave it behind.
  2. Only take in your carry-on a few small tools (plastic crochet hook, plastic stitch markers, plastic sewing up needle, etc.) Remember, no scissors or knife type cutters on the plane.
  3. If you are going to check luggage with your airline carrier you can place your regular tool bag with all its wonderful goodies in that suitcase as well as a larger project or extra yarn that can be used while you are off the plane and in your hotel, etc.
  4. Take a medium sized bubble pack mailing envelope with you in your carry-on bag. Ahead of time address it to your home address or to the place you will be staying once you exit the plane (if you will be staying there a  long enough time for the package to arrive.) Weigh your project and affix the appropriate amount of postage to ensure that it will arrive at its destination. Then if by some chance you are asked to remove your knitting project and leave it behind you can simply place it in the envelop, step out of line, mail it at the airport, and then go through security again. This would be an inconvenience but you won’t have to trash your knitting needles, yarn, and all the work that you have put into that project.
  5. I only use plastic or nylon knitting needles when using public transportation. For general purposes I choose to use circular needles. I prefer them to straight needles for many reasons but they are especially good when sitting on public transportation. The seats are usually very close together. This way your knitting will stay in your personal space and will not tap, poke, or irritate the other passengers beside you as long straight needles might. They also look less intimidating to non-knitters.
  6. Treat your knitting project as if it was an electronic device. When instructed to turn off all electronic devices by the flight attendants, place your project in your handbag or carry-on. This demonstrates to them that you interested in safety. Once they notify the passengers that it is safe to use electronic devices again, you can get out your knitting. I realize that knitting is not an electronic device but in my experience it seems to give you favor with both the airline staff and the other passengers. And that is a very good thing.

The following links will give you the Transportation Safety Administrations guidelines on traveling with knitting supplies.




If you have other suggestions about traveling with needlework, please share them with us.

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