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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2 Responses to Airplane Knitting

  1. Jenny says:

    Do you ever have problems getting your needles through security? I always puta lifeline in just in case. Although, having said that I’ve never been stopped. And I often end up sleeping through flights so not actually taking out my knitting.


    • Nope – I’ve never had problems with security, and I’ve taken all sorts of needles: metal, wooden, straights, DPNs, circulars. A lifeline isn’t a bad idea, though. If your needles come out of your knitting during transit, you’d have the lifeline there to pick up where you left off.


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