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4 Tips for Successful Car Knitting

Summertime is well and truly upon us here in the northern hemisphere, and that means a lot of us will be going on vacation. If you’re like our family, most of those vacations tend to take the form of a road trip. Even if we’re flying somewhere, we have to go all the way down to LA to get a plane, and that’s still an extra hour to two hours in the car on each end of the trip. That means car knitting is going to be abundant.

A knitter in the passenger's seat of a car works on a tan hat.

I’ve had a lot of time to think about what makes for a good car knitting project, so I thought I’d share some tips here.

Pick a small project

When you are knitting in the car, you’re working in a confined space. This might be even more so if your car is also full of luggage and other items for a long trip.

Unlike when you’re knitting at home, in the car, you don’t have space to spread out. That means you’re going to want a smaller project. A large blanket that has already grown to five feet long probably isn’t going to be the best car knitting project, though if you’re on a deadline or feeling particularly determined, you do what you gotta do.

For me, I tend to work on socks, hats, and fingerless mitts in the car. These are itty-bitty projects that take up almost no space and require me to pack very little yarn but will take hours of my time to finish.

A ball of tan yarn and a half-knit hat sit on the black dashboard of a car. A parked truck is blurred in the background.

Pick a project with a relatively simple stitch pattern

Many people struggle with motion sickness. One thing that helps is being able to look up and out the window pretty regularly. If you are working on a really complicated stitch pattern on your project, though, you’re not going to be able to do that.

Depending on the severity of your motion sickness, you might want to knit something that is plain vanilla stockinette in the round or garter stitch knit flat. That way, you can look out the window the entire time but still keep your hands busy.

If you have a stronger stomach but still don’t want to live too dangerously in the car, you can choose a fairly simple stitch pattern and look up periodically when you’re at a mellow part in that pattern.

Simple stitch patterns are also great for car knitting because you don’t want to completely miss the sights outside. Sometimes you’re driving through an absolutely beautiful part of the world, and it’s nice to see what’s passing by your windows. Having a relatively simple stitch pattern will allow you to look up regularly and enjoy the world around you.

Holding up some light blue knitting with my left hand while riding in the passenger's seat of my friend's car. Through the windshield you can see the sun-browned California summer landscape.

Pick a project that doesn’t require too many needles

There is nothing worse than working on a project, dropping one of the needles you need, and not being able to fish it out. Then you’re stuck. I have lost so many DPN’s under car seats and not been able to retrieve them until eventually we stopped the car and I was able to move the seat around.

That’s why I like to work on projects where I can use circular needles when I’m knitting in the car. Most of the time, if I’m knitting something flat, I’m knitting it on circular needles with a longer cable. I even knit my socks on tiny circular needles, so I almost never need to worry about losing a needle anymore. It’s really only an issue when I am working the parts of socks where I still use double pointed needles.

Your preferences might be different, though, so this is worth taking into account when you are car knitting. If you tend to use double pointed needles a lot, that may not be the project you want to bring in the car. Then again, maybe you’re willing to risk it—or you can mitigate the risk by packing some extra double-pointed needles in the size you’ll be using. The call is yours.

A ball of tan yarn and a half knit hat in the lap of a driver, with the steering wheel just visible in the top corner. Don't knit while actually driving! This photo was taken while parked in a parking lot.
Remember, always conduct your car knitting safely! If you’re the driver, don’t pull out your knitting until you’ve pulled off the road, come to a complete stop, and put the car in park.

Pick a project that you can put down and pick up easily

When I’m car knitting, I’m usually riding shotgun while my husband drives. That means that I’m also the navigator, so there are times where I need to put down my knitting and pick it back up pretty frequently. If I’m needed for adding a pitstop to our route or seeing if we can find a way around something we don’t want to get stuck in, I need to be able to set down my knitting pretty easily.

This is related to the suggestion that you choose something with a simple stitch pattern, but it’s not quite the same thing. There may be projects where you have a relatively simple stitch pattern overall, but there are pieces of it that require your concentration. When you’re car knitting, depending on your role in the car, you may find that the interruptions are wholly unpredictable and might come during one of the rare times when you have to concentrate more carefully.

This is why, for example, I don’t like knitting garments in the car. Even if the sweater has a relatively simple overall stitch pattern composed entirely of knits and purls, if I am at the point where I am shaping the collar and decreasing the shoulder at the same time, I’m still going to have to concentrate on that. That’s a project I can’t put down and pick up quite so easily as a hat or a sock.

Summertime is prime roadtrip season. If you’re hitting the road this summer, too, I hope these tips are helpful for you!

Got some other tricks that make car knitting easier for you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Andrea Johnson

Sunday 23rd of July 2023

These are also good tips for people who want to knit while traveling, regardless of vehicle. One of the reasons that I ditched straight needles in favor of circular needles is so that I don't poke the people sitting near me on the bus or plane. Small projects with simple patterns that are readily put-down-able are great when you need to keep track of your stops or transfer between trains.

Lauren Rad

Monday 24th of July 2023

Very true! Many of the things that make car knitting tricky extend to other modes of transport, too.


Tuesday 18th of July 2023

I tend to knit dishcloths, dishtowels, hot pads, ear warmers, cowls, boas and scarves in addition to hats in the car. I do carry a spare pair of needles. I knit scarves back and forth on the circs.

Lauren Rad

Wednesday 19th of July 2023

Carrying a spare pair of needles is the best insurance policy, if you have them and have the room for them.


Tuesday 18th of July 2023

If you have a spare set of needles matching the project you are working on (and probably a spare cable for interchangeables), it's not a bad idea to include that in the work bag. I was "riding shotgun" when my husband and I were traveling home on a 6-hour drive, and my interchangeable got cross-threaded. I had to be just a passenger for the rest of the trip!

Lauren Rad

Wednesday 19th of July 2023

My heart hurt just reading that! Agony. Did you both survive okay?


Tuesday 18th of July 2023

There is a method using 2 sets of circular needles instead of double pointed. Put half the stitches on each needle and alternate.

Lauren Rad

Tuesday 18th of July 2023

Yes, that's also an option!

Karin Carlson

Tuesday 18th of July 2023

I have a pill bottle that has all my necessary things like a cable needle, yarn needles, markers, couple of clips - both spring type and regular. A nail clipper instead of a scissors. This is always in my bag. I also make cards for each row when doing afghans. Have a light along so you can knit in the dark - I use a headlamp pretty much all the time.

Rachel White

Tuesday 18th of July 2023

@Lauren Rad, I highly recommend the neck lights! They are double ended lights with a moveable snakelike center that you just set around your neck and position the lights in whatever downward positing you want. No tight straps around your head or blinding your husband! I think they are marketed as reading lights but mine lives in my knitting bag for night knitting in the car!

Lauren Rad

Tuesday 18th of July 2023

Knowing me and my self-awareness (or lack thereof), I'd look straight at my husband while wearing the headlamp and blind him as he's trying to drive 😆

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