Airplane Knitting

I maintain a subspecies of travel knitting projects just for airplane travel. All of my travel knitting has to be relatively small and packable, and may vary in complexity. My airplane knitting projects tend to be small, simple, and knit on circular needles.

Lots of knitters knit happily away on socks on airplanes. They’re small and portable, for sure. I’m not much of a sock knitter, so I used to take mitten projects with me on the plane. That is, until I had a near-disaster with one of my DPNs.

I settled into my seat and pulled out my knitting, waiting for the flight to finish boarding. I was chugging away at the mitten when the plane took off, and in between switching needles, I dropped the working needle. It clattered several rows behind me, where a quick-reacting passenger fetched it and passed it forward. The look on the other passengers’ faces was somewhere between pity and reproach. I thanked them profusely and continued knitting, only from that point on, I worried constantly about dropping another needle.

I had no extra needles, and my other knitting projects were in my checked luggage. If I lost a needle, I’d have to re-work the mitten on three needles instead of four, and I didn’t want to find out how that might affect the overall appearance of the finished work.

As I knitted, I thought about the ideal airplane knitting project. Until the point of the almost-lost needle, I never gave much thought to travel knitting. Usually, I packed up whatever small project I had on hand. Sometimes, it was something fiddly that required a big chart, which required using the tray table and a whole lot of concentration. Sometimes, it involved slippery yarn on short, straight needles that enabled fast knitting, but also threatened to slide right off the needles when we hit even a little bit of turbulence. And sometimes, it was an otherwise well-behaved project on DPNs, and I’d just experienced how easily they could escape.

I decided that for my next airplane trip, I needed something knit on circular needles that didn’t require a complicated chart. Something where the pattern was either easily memorized or could be read from an easy, small chart or written pattern. Mostly, that’s translated into cowls or shawlettes.

For my most recent business trip, I took along a skein of hand-dyed alpaca I picked up at the Estes Park Wool Market, and knit it up into Safe Harbor.  Lovely drape, isn’t it?

Safe Harbor draped

This turned out to be ideal airplane knitting. The simple pattern knit up quickly, and I finished the project in the span of two plane trips.

Safe Harbor whole

Safe Harbor detail

I even had time to start a second plane project, this Simple Lace Cowl in Dream in Color Smooshy with Cashmere, colorway Black Parade:

Simple Lace started

We’re heading to the beach soon, so this will be tucked into my carry-on to work on during our flights.

I haven’t dismissed the thought of using DPNs on airplane projects altogether, though. I’ve got another pair of mittens to knit between now and Christmas, so I might just take them along on a future flight. If I do, though, I’ll pack an extra set of DPNs in my carry-on, just in case.


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Lucky Yarn

I should have known. It’s one of those knitterly rules, right up there with the Boyfriend Sweater Curse: If the yarn you choose for a project is some super-special, one-of-a-kind thing, you’ll run short.

I try to keep that truism in mind when I choose my projects. Much of the time, I buy a skein or two of something intriguing, without a specific project in mind, and knit it up months or even years later. I buy the yarn knowing that there’s very little chance I could ever go back and buy more of the same to finish up a project. So, for these yarns, I usually choose projects where I’ll have plenty left over, or where I can end the project when the yarn runs out, such as a scarf or cowl.

I thought I was being conservative with my Cedar Leaf Shawlette. This is a crescent-shaped shawlette with a neat leaf border. I chose it well after I’d purchased three skeins of leafy-green Mountain Mohair by Green Mountain Spinnery.

Green Mtn Balsam

Colorway: Balsam

I figured two skeins of yarn for the shawlette and one for the border, and Bob’s your uncle, I’d have another Christmas project added to the gift pile.

I started knitting. The first skein went more quickly than I’d expected, but with the ever-decreasing short rows, I figured the second skein would be plenty to see me through the body of the shawlette. I knitted and knitted, and my concern for my yarn supply grew as the second working ball diminished.

A few days ago, I was closing in on those final short rows. Decision time came. I could 1) add that final skein, keep knitting, and see where I ended up, or 2) call the LYS where I purchased the yarn and find out if a miracle happened and they still had some left, even though it’s been half a year since I bought my supply, or 3) if 2) failed, order more from the Spinnery, deal with the fact that it wouldn’t be the same dye lot, and consider that the difference in color between the shawlette body and the border as a design factor.

Complicating matters, I’ve got travel coming up. Adding the leaf border is a little more complex than I’d like for airplane knitting, but it makes for good hotel room knitting at the end of the day. I needed a path forward so that I could decide what knitting to pack for my next two trips.

I discounted option 1). If I needed to use a different dye lot, I would at least want the difference to be the same for the entire border. I followed through with 2). I called the yarn store. “Green Mountain Spinnery? Oh, I’m sorry. We don’t carry that yarn any more,” said the yarn store owner. Bummer, I thought. Serves me right for playing fast and loose with yarn requirements. Option 3), here I come, I thought.

“Oh, wait a minute,” continued the owner after a brief pause. “How much do you need? I have one skein left in the clearance bin.”

One skein? She had one skein left? It was exactly what I needed. “I’ll be over in a little bit,” I exclaimed, relieved.

I drove over on a busy Saturday and another miracle happened — I found a parking spot right across the street from the store. The yarn was the same dye lot and was discounted because it was on clearance. “You really should buy a lottery ticket,” the owner remarked as she handed me my yarn. “This has got to be your lucky day.”

Lucky, all right. Buying that extra skein about guarantees that I won’t actually need it. Some lucky person will wind up with a shawlette and matching mitts.

Bryn's shawl 75%

And now, off to pack.


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Side Effects

OK, so I can see that I’ve been away from the blog for longer than I like. It’s summer, which is the Season Of Not Knitting As Much, at least it is for me. I tend to have lots more non-knitting gotta-do’s in the summer than at any other time of year, and this year is no exception. I’ve been blanching and freezing greens, making and freezing pesto, and enjoying summertime pursuits.

Last weekend, though, I was feeling under the weather, so I managed to knit more than I usually do this time of year. The side effects of feeling not-so-great?  Two projects came off the needles.

First, this scarf, destined as a Christmas present for my niece:

Maddie's scarf finished

The pattern is Midwest Moonlight and the yarn is Sylvan Spirit from Green Mountain Spinnery in Blue Opal.

The pattern was simple without being boring. The yarn was different from anything else I’ve knitted. It’s a Tencel/wool blend. The Tencel gave it an interesting, sort of papery feeling as it was knitted up. It softened like linen in the wash and will be great for next-to-skin softness. Nice drape, too.

Second, this cowl, which is for me:

Fir Trees circle


Fir Trees flat

Fir Trees model


The yarn is a viscose-wrapped angora called Seraphim by Bijou Basin Ranch. It isn’t the sneezy, floofy-doofy angora I expected. While it blooms nicely, it isn’t overly fuzzy. The project is a one-skein cowl called Fir Trees by Marly Bird. The effect is sort of like a knitted necklace — it may be light enough to wear indoors as an accessory. I’ll have to see how cool my office is come autumn.

Today, I watched the World Cup final and made a decent amount of progress on a baby blanket for a colleague.

baby blanket 50 percent

The yarn is Butterfly Super 10 mercerized cotton in cream, and the pattern is Welcome Home Baby Blanket. I’ve reached that critical halfway mark on the blanket, so I’m hoping that finish-it-up-itis will take over, never mind all of the other summer activities that are competing for my attention.



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