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Nine Tips for Successful Travel Knitting (Updated for 2024)

I recently returned from a road trip with my little family, and it was my first chance to get in a decent amount of travel knitting in a while. My husband and I traded off driving duties, but whenever I wasn’t driving, I was knitting in the passenger seat.

A woman in a black baseball cap, gray sweater, and black leggings sits knitting on a rocky outcropping with the ocean and some dramatic, looming clouds behind her.
Knitting at the Sea Glass Beach in Ft. Bragg, California. We loved this strange, magical spot.

Knitters talk a lot about how to take our work with us when we travel and joke about how chaotic it can be, but there are some actual concrete steps you can take before you leave to make sure your travel knitting is a success.

Here are some ideas gleaned from 15 years of experience.

For travel knitting, I choose small projects with lots of stitches

Like many knitters, I struggle with figuring out how much yarn to pack on a trip.

When I have limited luggage space, though, I know I can’t pack a big project like a sweater or a blanket. To maximize my storage and knitting time, I like to pack projects that use relatively fine yarn and small needles.

Things like socks and fingering-weight shawls are great vacation knitting projects because they only take up a little bit of space in your suitcase but will provide you hours of knitting entertainment.

I prefer projects with simple stitch patterns and easy construction when knitting on vacation

When I’m on vacation, my brain is in vacation mode, too. The last thing I need when I’m knitting on vacation is a complicated knitting pattern that I have to think about all the time.

That’s why, when I’m choosing a vacation knitting pattern, I look for patterns that have simple, easily memorized stitch patterns. While it doesn’t have to be entirely garter stitch or something similarly simple, a project with lots of stockinette stitch in between the more complicated sections is an ideal travel project for me.

With the exception of socks, whose construction I have memorized, I like to work on flat projects or projects that have almost no shaping involved. That way, I can still get my knitting time, but I’m not forcing my brain out of its relaxation zone.

Think about the weather where you’re headed: what sort of vacation knitting will work best?

When people think “summer vacation,” they often think of hot places. That’s sometimes true, but not always! On our trip, we went to the Mendocino Coast and the San Francisco area, both of which are notorious for being chilly during summer.

Which is exactly why I chose them.

A small, plump hand holds up a half-knit sock leg. Blurred in the background is lots of sand and a playground structure.
Knitting while my kid played at Golden Gate Park. Notice the long-sleeved shirt under a cardigan. Even in the sun, it was chilly!

But this means the kinds of projects I brought would be different from projects I might take to, say, a hot and humid beach destination. Give some thought to whether the fiber mix in your project will be comfortable to work with where you’re headed.

If you worry about dropping needles, try using circular needles while travel knitting

When I first started knitting, like many knitters, I started with two straight needles (Clover bamboo, size 19, thankyouverymuch). As I moved on to other projects, I got more needles, but I kept buying straights.

Until I flew home with my knitting one time, dropped a needle as I was working, and watched in horror as it rolled away under the seats in front of me. I was stuck.

So now I knit almost exclusively with circular needles, and when I know I’ll need to use double-pointed needles, I bring extras. If you’re like me and tend to drop things easily, give that some thought before you choose your needles for knitting on vacation.

Don’t forget to check airline rules re needles (and maybe fly with needles you don’t care about)

We did mainly road trips during the early years of the pandemic, but recently, we’ve gone back to flying when needed, too. Our flights have all been within the United States, so I don’t have relevant experience with international travel or travel within other countries in recent years.

In the past, when I have flown with needles, I check the regulations for my departing locations to make sure it’s okay to fly with my needles. I’ve never had any trouble flying domestically in the US with my knitting needles, but I have heard stories from friends elsewhere who have had needles confiscated.

A late-30s woman with long blonde hair and a white cardigan stands, knitting, in front of a plant wall featuring 37 varieties of plant life.
Knitting at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Masks on indoors and, frankly, I didn’t feel comfortable taking out even tiny pointy things around priceless paintings, but outside works just fine. This plant wall installation made my heart soar.

If you are feeling particularly cautious, you can bring a less expensive set of needles with you along with a darning needle and some waste yarn. That way, if airport security insists that you ditch your needles, you don’t have to unravel your entire project, too.

But here’s a helpful data point: I flew to the H+H Americas conference last June with a full set of interchangeable needles, three full sets of double pointed needles, and several circulars in my rollaboard suitcase. TSA didn’t bat an eye.

I did get searched, but it turns out they were only concerned about the large bricks of fudge I was bringing home.

Bring a small bag of notions in case you need to make a repair

When you’re knitting on the road, things can sometimes go awry! It’s easier to drop stitches when you’re knitting in the car or distracted by fun things happening around you. Sometimes a project slips off the needles in your bag. Sometimes you just make a mistake and have to go back to fix it.

And when that happens, it helps to have all the tools you need to fix things on the go.

Here are the essential knitting tools I always carry. They’ve definitely saved my behind a time or two when I was vacation knitting.

Put Your Travel Knitting in a Small, Separate Bag

When you travel, you’re often carrying a lot of things all at once. If you’re like me, that means your purse or backpack is more full than it usually is. That, in turn, means there are more things to snag and spill on your knitting.

Which is why you don’t want to just dump your WIP into that purse or backpack.

Instead, try to put your project into some sort of project bag. It doesn’t have to be an actual project bag. One of my favorites is a waterproof pouch I got from The Honest Company 7 years ago when I ordered a bunch of diapers (we can talk another day about how I feel about marketing to first-time moms and how often it plays on their fear and sense of guilt). I also love Ziplog gallon bags for small projects like socks and hats.

Whatever you choose for your knitting bag, the goal is just to have a smaller bag that can be tossed into your larger bag. That way, you can protect your knitting while you adventure.

Check for a Yarn Shop at Your Destination

When I travel, I love to buy a souvenir skein or two. That’s when it helps to know where your nearest yarn shop will be while you’re on vacation. This can also be handy if you somehow run out of yarn while traveling (never say never!).

I like to take the address of wherever we’re staying, punch it into Google Maps, and then search that same area for a yarn shop. Then I can use the results to figure out whether a shop is nearby and, if so, how I can get there via car or public transit. It’s good to have options.

The neat thing about visiting yarn shops while you’re traveling is that you can often get yarn that isn’t available where you live. I love buying special yarn that is local to where I’ve been traveling. It’s a neat way to remember my adventures.

Related: if you know you’re going to buy some souvenir yarn, make sure to leave a little extra suitcase space when you’re packing.

Choose a Digital or Printable Pattern

When you’re traveling, every bit of space and weight in your luggage matters, so you don’t want to be hauling around physical books. Instead, go with a pattern that’s entirely digital and accessible on your phone/tablet, or print out a single pattern that you can carry with you. These will be more portable and will leave room in your luggage for more souvenir yarn.

And room for more souvenir yarn is always a good thing.


Of course, if you’re bringing some finished knits with you while you travel, you’ll also want to think about how to keep those clean and fresh. Luckily, it’s not much extra work. I’ve managed just fine with nothing more than a hotel sink.

Liz

Thursday 4th of August 2022

I modified Noodlehead's Road Trip Case to accommodate knitting gear specifically for when I'm traveling. In addition to the essentials you linked to, I pack highlighter tape, couple of mechanical pencils, and a notebook to keep track of where I am on a project. I can't stare at a screen all day without my eyes begging for mercy!

Liz

Monday 8th of August 2022

@Lauren Rad, I see a sewing machine in your future...

Lauren Rad

Thursday 4th of August 2022

I've never seen the Noodlehead case until now and holy moly, that is both brilliant and adorable. I'm going to have to learn to sew, aren't I?

Dawn Burdick

Wednesday 3rd of August 2022

I also love to knit on vacation. My best new thing is a clear vinyl bag with a zipper that came from the packaging for some curtains I bought! I keep all my crochet hooks for dropped stitches, measuring tape, scissors, tapestry needle, DPNs, the works! And it’s clear so I can find what I need, super sturdy so nothing pokes through, and it was free! I keep it in my knitting tote. Ready to go anytime!

Lauren Rad

Thursday 4th of August 2022

I love this! I've been a big fan of the gallon Ziploc, but something sturdier would be even better. What a great idea.

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