Can I knit on a plane?

There’s a myth that knitting needles are banned from flights, particularly those into the USA, as ‘sharp objects’. The truth is a little more complex, so we asked regular traveller and knitter, Elizabeth Bagwell, to explain how and when you can take knitting needles on a plane.

For many knitters, the idea of spending a long flight with nothing to knit is enough to make them seriously reconsider a holiday abroad. Fortunately, you can take knitting needles on a plane (we'd opt for wooden, plastic or bamboo to be safe), even in your hand luggage.

Airport security

Knitting needles are not banned from flights. The TSA specifically says knitting needles are allowed in carry on, and that’s standard around the world.

However, you’ll still have to pass airport security. The security personnel doing the screening have the right (and the duty) to confiscate any item they believe could be a threat, even if it’s something innocuous, like the lipstick you forgot to put in your plastic baggie, or your double pointed needles (DPNs). You don’t get to argue with this decision, at least not if you want to make your flight.

As a result, I think it’s important to recognise that you could lose whatever needles you take in carry on. I’ve been flying with my needles for about 10 years, and have never lost a needle to airport security. But I always remember that I could, so try to leave my favourite pairs at home. I also try to avoid taking long, metal needles, as I think they look most dangerous and metal is more likely to set off the scanner. This may be superstition though, as I’ve never had a problem even when security search my bag, like the time I accidentally hid a 2.5mm circular with a 100cm cable in the lining of a bag (I thought that was a goner for sure, but nope!) or on my last flight where I thought my metal sock needles had set off the scanner (again no problem, it was my soap).

Knitting in flight

Again, the key thing to remember is that you are not in charge of what happens on a plane. The cabin crew have the right to ask you to stop doing anything that they think might pose a risk to other passengers. It has never happened to me, but I’ve heard of a few knitters who’ve been asked to put knitting away by cabin crew. Even if the request seems illogical and makes you start muttering about dangerous pens, do it.

As a general rule, you can knit away happily for your whole flight. Try to be considerate to people you’re not travelling with, so something compact that doesn’t make you swear too much would be ideal. If I’m travelling alone and short haul, a complex project can be quite good, as it’s a clear chunk of quiet time to concentrate. Long haul or travelling with friends, I go for something simple so I can chat or watch a movie at the same time.

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