Knitting on an Airplane

Knitting needles with balls of yarn, close-up

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Knitters who travel on airplanes often wonder if their knitting needles will be confiscated if they try to take them through security. While the short answer to the question of "can I take my knitting on an airplane" is usually yes, at least in the United States, there's a little more to it than that.

What the Rules Say

In the United States, according to the Transportation Security Administration, knitting needles, needlepoint tools, and scissors smaller than 4 inches long may go in your carry on luggage. Circular thread cutters or other cutters that contain blades must be checked.

In Australia, rules say that knitting needles and blunt or round-ended scissors shorter than 6 centimeters/2.5 inches "may be taken on board in your carry-on bags at the discretion of the security screening officer at the airport."

In the UK, the rules say that both knitting needles and short scissors are allowed in hand luggage, but it's not always that simple. Individual airlines and even airports may have different rules, so it pays to check before you go.

Being a Good Neighbor

There are a few things you can do when you choose which project to bring with you on a flight, to make it easier to get through security and to make things nicer for the people around you on the plane.

  • Pick a small project. Things such as socks, a scarf, a hat, or other small projects make more sense in the limited space of an airplane seat than a big sweater or afghan. If you can't bear to leave your big project at home, pack it in your checked luggage and work on it when you get to your destination, or only pull it out in the airport where you'll have more room.
  • Use circular needles. It is a great tip for your sanity and the sake of the people around you. If you are using circular needles, you can't drop a needle and send it rolling down the cabin. Circular needles also tend to need a smaller range of motion in which to work, so you'll elbow the person sitting next to you a lot less. It is recommended that your circular needle is no bigger than 31 inches in total length.
  • Try plastic or bamboo needles. There's something completely non-threatening about plastic needles (except maybe Speed Stix) that makes it unlikely anyone would question your freedom to knit on a plane. Metal needles can look a little more intimidating, especially in larger sizes, so think about that before you choose needles for your traveling project if you aren't using circulars.
  • Stick to small sizes. Technically, there is no restriction on the size of knitting needles you take onto an airplane, but that doesn't mean that people haven't been asked to leave their knitting at home if the security officer perceives the needles as a threat. Your best bet is to stick to smaller-sized needles.
  • Choose blunt objects. Knitting needles that don't look sharp are much more likely to pass through security easily. Scissors must be blunt as well, and the blades can be no longer than 4 inches/10 centimeters.

Precautionary Measures

The TSA used to have a page devoted to traveling with knitting, which offered the following additional tips:

  • Pack a self-addressed, stamped envelope that is big enough to house your needles just in case the security officer won't let you on the plane with them.
  • Bring a crochet hook (a stitch holder would probably be allowed as well), so you can save any knitting that has already been done if you don't want to mail it to yourself as well. You could probably also get out of line and quickly bind off to get your work off the needles, then just pull out the cast-off when you get home and put the work back on the needles.