Vacation Knitting

Summer is almost upon us (well, it is where I live), which is when a lot of people around here take vacations. I love spending summer hanging with my sister and her family at her campsite, taking day trips to Door County (the “thumb” of WI–think orchards, wineries, state parks, beaches, and cozy little main streets with boutique shops), and this year my husband and I are going to FL for a week to sit on a beach and read.

I always bring knitting with me when I travel, even for work, but I’ve noticed I think about crafting differently when I travel.

For me, the size and durability of the project is important.

I like to knit socks on vacation because I can easily store a project in my purse or backpack. Typically sock yarns are durable and washable, too. That means if I drop my project on a dirty floor of an airport or get sand in it on the beach or it smells of woodsmoke from a campfire, I’m okay washing it when finished.

I recently went to a conference for work (gross, I know) and I brought some socks to knit.

A pair of blue and purple socks with a waffle knit pattern

The pattern is Misselthwaite Manor which I really enjoyed because it was a fairly easy repeat to remember. The yarn is Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock in Crystal Rain.

I also prefer patterns I can print and fold up versus using books when I travel, purely for ease of use. I always make two copies in case I lose or spill on one.

One thing that has irked me lately is how hard it is to knit on planes because of how small the seats have gotten. I feel like I’m elbowing the person next to me if I’m not working on something smaller, which, again, is why I like socks.

I’ve only had flying issues with my needles once, when flying out of Mexico their TSA decided to break my bamboo needles. I have no idea how SHARP BROKEN WOODEN NEEDLES are safer than whole needles. I’ve heard of other people having needles confiscated or having circular needles get their cord cut. Personally I’ve never had anyone look twice at my knitting while flying domestic, but to be careful I never bring my nicer, expensive needles with me. If I can manage it, I bring a cheaper pair that won’t break my heart if they do get broken or confiscated.

I’ve also never had anyone domestic or foreign question my double points. Maybe they think it would be too hard to stab someone?

My circular needles of choice these days are Addi Flexi Flips. You use two needles, plus one “working” needle. It’s similar to casting on with two circular needles but less futzy. I’ve used them for socks, mitts, the ends of hats–basically anytime you’d need a DPN.

Three metal Flexi Flip needles

Now, I have had crafting scissors confiscated by domestic TSA more than once. It seems to be fairly random when they decide to take them. Since then I’ve switched to rounded end scissors that don’t seem to trigger any alarms. Worst case scenario, I’ve used a nail clipper to cut my yarn.

A pair of sharp tip embroidery scissors shaped like a crane

These are the specific scissors that I’ve had taken more than one time, basic embroidery scissors you can find at any craft or hobby store.

A pair of snub nosed foldable scissors

I’ve never had an issue with these scissors which fold up and don’t have an especially sharp tip.

Another thing that’s important to me is a project bag that can go in the washing machine or easily be hand washed. Again, we’re talking sand, dirt, and campfire smoke.

Mesh bags, like these from Della Q are easily washable and snap closed.

A set of mesh bags in pink, champagne and beige

If you have hand sewn project bags it’s important to see how they need to be washed. I have many from local vendors and handwashing is often recommended.

Finally if you’re staycationing and need a treat (or just want one), Destination Yarn is offering three summer reading themed yarn boxes. I splurged on the romance box. You get 3 skeins of 50g DK weight yarn, a bag by Erin Lane Bags, notions, a crochet and knitting make-a-long for each box, and a summer reading list. There’s also an exclusive Facebook group. The three boxes are sci-fi, thriller and romance.

I also think it’s cool how often people on flights comment on my knitting and ask questions (often the flight attendants who I imagine get pretty bored). I recently had a man ask me of my knitting, “Is that croquet?” to which I replied “No, it’s Pall Mall.”

What do you like to craft when you travel? Have your needles ever been broken or confiscated? Do you have any cool vacation knitting stories?



Elyse's Knitting

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  1. MirandaB says:

    Trips with husband are of the ‘run around and do stuff’ variety (which I like…we’re in agreement on this). However, I take a girlfriend trip over Labor Day when we rent a house. We do some stuff, but there’s a lot of ‘hang out and craft’ time. My main criterion for travel knitting is ease-of-pattern, so I’ll usually start my Christmas washcloth knitting (lots of people like these). This year, I’ll keep working on the <a href="; title="15th Street Wrap"

    Speaking of knitting, yesterday, I bound off Mowry’s Find Your Fade shawl! I’ve been working on that for YEARS.

  2. Laurel says:

    Your socks are beautiful, & I am jealous. I am still an apprentice knitter. I haven’t taken knitting anywhere, but in pre-Covid times when I used to go to figure skating competitions, I always admired the people in the audience who could knit without looking at their hands.

  3. Zuzus says:

    I’m intrigued by those Addi needles. I’m a loose knitter so my DPNs slide out if I’m not really careful. Those might solve the problem. Now, any advice on how to refrain from buying more yarn while on vacation? Last time I was in England, I brought back some locally sourced and dyed yarn only to find my LYS carried it. I could have saved that space for the Duty Free.

  4. akg says:

    Can you please label ravelry links? Since their redesign, a number of people started experiencing migraines and other issues when spending time there.

    I’m going on a work trip to Ireland next month and need to figure out my knitting plan so I appreciate your recommendations here.

  5. Gwen says:

    Mmm travel knitting. My favorite! Something easy, with a little something interesting going on too. And maybe a more complicated project if I expect quiet time by myself. Usually one project is a shawl in a lightweight yarn. Lots of good knitting time in a shawl. I usually remember to only use non-metal circulars for plane travel. The one time I forgot, airport security in Mexico took one of my needles. But not the other. Oh well. (I no longer remember if they were both metal.)

    I had one of those moments of gratefulness for living in the future. While I waited for my flight, I used the airport wifi to order another set of needles online. They weren’t quite waiting for me when I got home, but it was close. I remember when we had to buy a prepaid calling card and walk to the phone down the street to make a call out of Mexico. (Probably in Mexico too) Now I chat with my nieces on WhatsApp all the time, wherever we are. And buy knitting needles online from the airport.

  6. Queen Victoria says:

    I’m really young, so I’m the only knitter of my friends (though one has taken up crochet). I get car sick, so I can’t read in the car, but I can knit! My friends love watching the knitting because it can be very soothing, even if you’re just watching someone knit, and they sometimes request a particular project for themselves. I’ve knit on several beach trips, but I find that sand can get in the knitting, so I’ll usually use an acrylic yarn that’s easily washed, and I knit something very repetitive, like a simple shawl or the body of a sweater. I do have trouble with “knitting ADD,” where I take on too many projects at once, so vacation knitting is a good way to reset myself because I only have room for one project at a time.

  7. Sarah S says:

    For vacation/travel I like a nice top down sweater project. Before I leave, I get the sweater to the point where you divide the stitches for the body and the sleeves. That gets me past the tricky part and leaves me with a reasonably brainless pile of knitting for flights and hotel rooms that’s all one one circular needle. If it’s a really long trip, I’ll bring the DPNs or small circular needle and do the sleeves too. I’ve got Melanie Berg’s “Risen” in the queue for an upcoming 2 week work/vacation trip.

  8. Kate says:

    The only needle I’ve had confiscated was a metal U-shaped cable needle, thankfully not holding any stitches at the time. I was able to use the plastic stir stick from my coffee pretty successfully. Expecting a delivery of Knit Picks sock yarn today so I can start making little bags for some tarot decks.

  9. Empress of Blandings says:

    Ah, yes, because it makes so much sense to break or confiscate knitting needles and and not be concerned by, say, that nice, breakable glass bottle from duty free.

    On the up side, I needed this reminder to dig into my stash, as I keep promising to make Christmas socks for the offspring, and I’m a sloooooow knitter.

  10. drewbird says:

    I love a sock/fingering weight sweater – top-down preferred for me too Sarah S! They are light and not too bulky, but have plenty of work to keep me busy on planes and trains and standing in line at the Anne Frank museum. No TSA has ever confiscated anything of mine, but I also heard the best trick once – instead of taking scissors, bring an old/empty dental floss box and use it to “snip” any threads that need snipping. Might be harder with bulkier yarns but works great with my projects – plus if I lose it or it gets damaged/taken it is no big deal 🙂

  11. akg says:

    I went to a quilting convention in ~2010 with some friends. We were taking a class that required a rotary cutter (basically a very sharp round box cutter). I assumed they’d get confiscated so decided to just buy mine there but the other 3 women packed them in their carry-ons. We all flew through different airports and no one had any problems at all there or back. Which is terrifying. Those are way more dangerous than knitting needles.

    My cable needle has been questioned once but the guy just shrugged and let me keep it once I explained what it was. And a flight attendant searched my bag at the terminal for some reason and wanted to take my needles. Since I’d already been through security (and was pretty far along on a baby sweater), I argued. She consulted with someone and came back to sheepishly apologize.

  12. SB Sarah says:

    @akg the idea of flying with my rotary cutter is absolutely ASTONISHING. I would never have even thought to try it! WOW.

  13. akg says:

    With the rotary cutter, I just keep telling myself that the average terrorist is probably not a quilter. And, if they were familiar with the tools, would assume TSA would confiscate anything like that so we’re probably safe.

    I feel that way about knitters too. Anyone flying with needles sharp and strong enough to do damage is not going to risk the needle tips and their project hurting people. We worked hard on those socks. We don’t want blood on them.

  14. Karen Lauterwasser says:

    Great article! I’ve always wondered why they don’t consider the fact that a long circular could be used as a garrote…

    I recently took a trip and it took me until just before I left to come up with a pattern that suited me. I still need to check directions for socks, and I wanted something even more straightforward. Ended up with a garter stitch shawl with just enough repetition (Justyne Lorkowska’s “Close to You”).

    And can you name the source for those lovely sock blockers? Not sure I need them, but I do enjoy pretty woodwork!

    On another recent flight I traveled both ways with what is essentially a box cutter in my purse. The blade folds back into it, so the item would x-ray as a solid metal thing about the size of one’s thumb. I didn’t even remember I had it until the trip was over. Another example of how things can vary…

  15. Karen Lauterwasser says:

    One more thing: if you need relatively small, blunt tip scissors, look for baby mail scissors. I used to carry mine around in my pocket so I’d be ready to trim my little one’s nails when the opportunity arose. The rounded end mostly kept them from poking holes in my pocket, and they were sharp enough to open random shipping boxes and such. Definite win/win.

  16. Sandra says:

    I traveled out of town on business last week, and on the flight home the woman across the aisle was cross-stitching. She had her tablet on the tray table, pattern on one side and movie on the other. It was a full flight, so probably helped that we were in an upgraded extra leg room row and she had the aisle seat.

  17. DonnaMarie says:

    Clover sells a circular pendant with slits around the edge for access to a round blade. Apparently that works d it TSA.

    Funny quilter story. A fellow guild member was gifted with and vintage Singer Featherweight. She puts it through the scanner and the line stopped moving. So he’s waiting and waiting and the line is getting longer. Finally another (female) TSA agent walks up behind the (male) agent reviewing the images, snorts and says “For @!#:×÷’s sake it’s a SEWING MACHINE!”

    I’ve had good luck with Clover’s pendant cutter.

  18. Todd says:

    Those socks are beautiful. I kind of wish I could knit, but I don’t want to take up another craft.

    And for quilters, I once saw a t-shirt that said, “fat quarters are NOT a body part”

  19. Lynda says:

    I’ve found if I stick my knitting next to my electronic stuff (Charges, iPad, etc) they don’t notice the needles.

    Floss packs can work in a pinch for yarn cutters. I haven’t checked recently, but I thought those Clover round cutters used to be specifically names as being banned by TSA.

    Actual convo with Elyse;

    E: hey, I bought the summer reading romance knitting box.
    Me: SOLD!

    Literally 30 seconds after her text. I’m so easy. Lolol

  20. denise says:

    Beautiful socks.

    I know quilters and sewists use the dental floss cutter for thread. Probably won’t work on yarn.

  21. Lynda says:


    It worked for me, but most of my projects are Sport/DK or fingering. But YMMV.

  22. Valency S says:

    This is not a vacation knitting story but years ago, I worked at a large yarn store in central MA. Most of the customers were nightmares to deal with but one day there was a delightful mother and daughter pair. They were both flight attendants who loved to knit and they had heard about this particular store from a passenger so they flew to Hartford, CT and rented a car so they could come to the store. I spent about two hours helping them find their yarns and hearing stories about their adventures.

    And I also recommend the Clover’s pendent cutter- they’re great!

  23. Nina says:

    I store my DPN in a pencil case with some camouflage pens and they don’t blink twice. I don’t take long circulars on planes through as I have heard too many horror stories.about grabby inspectors.

    In the realm of that makes no sense, last time I had jury duty in Santa Barbara county the paperwork specified that crochet hooks were fine but knitting needles weren’t. Go figure.

    Just flew from Australia to Honolulu and then to CA and whenever I wear the shawl I was working on I will remember this trip.

  24. FelisC says:

    I take the Hiya Hiya puppy snips with me, those have survived both domestic and international travel. They come with a small chain so you can attach them to a bag, belt loop, etc. I also related to people’s long-term projects. I spent 10 years travel knitting a drop stitch stole

  25. I love those socks (and The Secret Garden) — beautiful job! I just added the pattern to my (miles-long) Ravelry queue.

    I almost always have a pair of socks on the needles. They are my go-to “easily portable” knitting project. I tend to carry a largish purse, so I can just stick the sock project bag in it whenever I’m headed out for any reason.

    I usually use the 2-circulars method for socks and other projects where a single circular won’t work due to the project’s small diameter. I’ve never had a problem taking them on a plane when flying domestically. I did have my baggage searched once, when the knitting project was next to my digital camera in my carryon. Aparently it looked like a potential bomb, with the circular cables as the wires. Now I make sure to keep the knitting bag well away from electronics.

    9 years after my offspring quit ballet, I still use the bags their pointe shoes came in as project bags for small things like socks. I used to have six or seven of them, but I think I’m down to about two now. They are bright yellow — not my favorite color, but easy to find in a capacious purse or tote bag! (The pointe shoes were Gaynor Minden, in case anyone is wondering.)

    As for scissors, I carry a pair of blunt-end kindergarten scissors in my knitting notions bag. They are inexpensive and easy to replace, but I have never had a problem with getting them through security, either.

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