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How To... Elizabeth knitting while on an airplane

Published on May 22nd, 2014 | by Elizabeth Bagwell

30 comments

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, 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 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 gonner 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.


About the Author

Elizabeth is a keen knitter, occasional designer, enthusiastic traveler and a professional freelance writer. She spent three years working for British knitting magazine, Simply Knitting, and has also written for The Knitter and other craft titles.


Last updated: August 4th, 2017.

30 Responses to Can I Knit On A Plane?

  1. Jo Phillips says:

    I also knit on flights and have only once had a lady at the check-in desk tell me to put my knitting in the hold luggage – which I did. I have what I call my “flight” knitting which is a simple lace weight scarf pattern (guess what people get as Christmas presents!) and I always try to use a bamboo circular needle to be less “threatening”. Like you Elizabeth I think I would die of boredom or chew my nails down to my elbows if I couldn’t take knitting on a long haul flight!

    • Gill Mason says:

      I am flying to New Zealand in a few weeks with Cathay Pacific. My travel agent rang the airline who say they do not allow any knitting needles in cabin baggage, not even bamboo. Can’t understand it, having read all these replies. But I’m not beaten yet; I will keep it in my handbag and ask again at check in …….

  2. Susan Enders says:

    I regularly travel between Turkey, Europe and the US and have had my knitting needles taken from me by a stewardess on Pegasus Airlines only. She returned my double pointed needles and the mitten I was knitting at the end of the flight! But other airlines do not have a problem with my knitting on the flight. Security at airports have never taken my knitting needles or accessories. I do not travel with a scissors in my carry-on luggage.

  3. Yvonne Teunissen says:

    I saw a young lady knitting with wooden pencils many years ago and thought it was the most spectacular thing I’ve seen. Ever since I have switched to bamboo needles and usually have a simple small project with me (socks, scarf). The scissors go in my checked baggage.

  4. Happy to hear other people have been knitting in the sky with no (or few!) problems. I’ve just got off my third flight in two weeks, took my knitting on and no problems at any point.

  5. Brenda English says:

    I have travelled long haul through to New Zealand from London Heathrow this year and only got questioned once coming home at Wellington airport at check-in, but customs said it was fine. Like everyone else I use wooden needles, just in case they set off alarms, and so far so good. Also did an internal flight to Ediburgh, Scotland and again no problem. I think things are getting better for us knitters and crocheters.

  6. Sara says:

    I have knit on many international flights over the past 6 years, as well as domestic within the US. I’ve only has my needles taken once; by security at Lisbon airport. They were large gauge (blunt) metal circulars. I was able to save my knitting by asking them to just cut off the needles and leave the cable! Now I always use wood or bamboo and check the airport website carefully before packing. Lisbon did have a notice on their website saying that knitting needles were prohibited but I hadn’t bothered to check.

  7. I’ve been crocheting regularly on domestic flights within Australia for years and have never had any issues. I tend to crochet small or lace patterns when I fly, and it certainly makes delayed flights more enjoyable. Most times I end up having a conversation with a crew member about what I’m making.

    Cheers,
    Lynda.

  8. Janet Blinston says:

    I have a set of Denise knitting needles and they are airline approved. Also when I travel using my circular knit pro needles I take the needles off the cord and attach the end buttons then put the needles in with my pens. I found this advise on line and it works well. You can down load an information sheet from the Australian Govt listing the things approved on flights and knitting needles are listed. But the Denise airline approved are great as they make a special travel pack of the most popular sizes in a small pouch. My daughter bought this for me. such a lovely gift.
    Janet

  9. Morag Reynish says:

    I recently flew to Copenhagen and back and had no problems with my wooden sock needles at security. Even though it was a relatively short flight I managed to knit a few inches of a sock.

  10. Caz Mumin says:

    I travelled from Gatwick to Finland last year and asked the airport and Norway.com airline in advance about knitting and crochet needles. The airline was not too bothered but Gatwick said a firm no, even to wooden or plastic needles.

  11. June says:

    I asked at Bristol airport recently – both airport security and Easyjet staff. They would not allow knitting needles (plastic or metal) to be taken on fights as hand luggage. They said they would only be allowed in the hold. Maybe different airports have different policies. I’d check first.

  12. Margaret ford says:

    Can any one tell me what thompsonholidays long haul flight regulations are about knitting pins in hand luggage and on there dream liner flights I would be happy to use bamboo pins

  13. Gina Price says:

    I was thrilled to read of the success that many knitters have had when flying. I hope to go to Boston in the spring from the UK so will attempt to out some bamboo needles in my carry on and see what happens. Thanks for sharing your experiences everyone.

  14. Linda says:

    June, I regularly use Bristol airport as I have family nearby and a home in France. I travel all across the world as my husband works abroad. In my experience the only airport I have visited with security staff more ‘picky’ than Bristol is Amsterdam. I’ve never taken knitting or crochet with me on a flight, but this article and conversation has inspired me to give it a go!

  15. Sonja Kalmbach says:

    I always take my knitting on airplanes – and I’m so used to getting through security without any troubles that I have become quite careless about what needles to take. Last week I took my favorite Carbonz – and kept myself thinking that taking this risk maybe was a little unnecessary. I had a discussion with a tiny little domestic airline in Sweden once: I was going on a plane on Monday morning, the flight attendant saw me knitting and thought this was really nice. On Friday I had the same flight attendant coming to me, saying “I told my colleagues about you knitting when we had a coffee break. And they said, that it is forbidden.” I thereupon printed the American Air security’s document about craft supply and handed it to the airline the next time I was flying with them. Never had any more discussions with them. Once at Heathrow a security person said “You have a pair of scissors in your bag”, whereupon I replied. “I know, actually it should be two pairs if you look closely, but both of them are under 6cm.” And that settled that. So, keep on knitting everybody! No more dull flights.

  16. Jessica says:

    I think it specifically depends on where your flight is originating as well. I travel frequently with my knitting. For the first time I noticed when checking in on a plane between Argentina and Chile that needles are prohibited. “Agujas o palillios de tejer” translates to needles or sticks for knitting. They don’t have or sell circulars in Buenos Aires, but that phrase would cover all the bases. You can see it listed in the prohibited items linked below under weapons and short stabbing elements or “Armas y cortopunzantes.”

    http://www.lan.com/es_ar/sitio_personas/reservas-y-servicios/todo-sobre-equipaje/elementos-prohibidos/

  17. Katrina says:

    Had to check a bag in Mexico so as not to lose my Chiagoo needle kit (they were metal/steel type). I actually argued with security for a long time, and they were pulling out books and photos of prohibited items (and knitting needles were on the list). I didn’t win and, luckily I had not checked any bags so I was able to do so so as not to lose my needles. I went through the same airport a few months later with bamboo needles and was not stopped, but I assume if they had realized it there were needles, they would have done the same….

  18. Lois o'Brien says:

    Comment on taking knitting on flight……..while travelling Australia to Norway in Sep 2014, I checked with Qantas, in Perth, if could take knitting on board, no scissors. No problem. I was flying Emirates which is affiliated with Qantas. In Dhubai, I caught another Emirates flight to London. Emirates security confiscated my circular knitting needles and MY YARN which was longer than 1 metre. This was a major blow because that yarn was needed to finish this coat for my grand daughter. The result being I could not get more yarn and match up the dye lot. So it depends on the airline and not the country where you are embarking.

  19. pinkki says:

    I was just informed firmly by Barcelona airport that any types of knitting needles from any material are strictly prohibited as seen as dangerous sharp objects. I also read from tripadvisor that while Heathrow airport in London allows knitting needles and the UK flight regulations state them as allowed, Gatwick airport however will not allow them in any sense. I also read it should not be even up to the airport security, but the flight company themselves, and they decide what’s allowed on their flights. I even read someone had their expensive set of those attachable needles confiscated somewhere randomly! It’s all very confusing. I wish someone kept a list of airports and their customs, I don’t want to loose my tools and ruin my work 🙁

    (while mostly very confusing I gotta love our own airport; the Helsinki-Vantaa airport in Finland. They actually have a webpage where you can type in the item in question on a search-field and get a very clear answer can you bring it! I wish all airports bothered to do such system)

  20. ddix says:

    We fly from the U.S. to Mexico for our yearly warm weather vacation. I have not had trouble recently taking knitting needles out of the U.S., including circulars. But in Mexico each airport can set their own regulations. I had a couple of nice sets of circulars confiscated including one that had a sweater project on it for my granddaughter confiscated in Puerto Vallarta. The agent was fairly apologetic and said that in Mexico City (a different airport) it would not be a problem and she allowed me to gently take the stitches off onto a thread of yarn so that I could pick them up again at home. (Of course then she confiscated my darning needle.)

    Here’s my solution: take two projects – one with the circulars or whatever you are working on for the outgoing flight leaving the U.S. and another simple project for the return trip.
    For the return trip, pack your first project in your checked bag. In your carry on luggage take two bamboo double point needles and two rubber bands. Use the rubber bands as the “end” of your needles and use the DPNs as straight needles. Don’t start the project until you are in flight. When going through security the DPNs look like they could be pencils and don’t cause any alarm. Once you’re in flight (especially if the airline is a U.S. airline and the crew American), you are free to knit.

  21. Jessica Clark says:

    I was recently traveling domestically from Newark International to Salt Lake City. My return flight I flew to San Francisco International Airport to connect to Newark. Because of construction on one of the terminals I arrived in the international terminal and had to go through security again. So in one trip I went through 3 sets of security checks, and my acrylic interchangeable needles didn’t set off any alarms.

  22. Sonja Kalmbach says:

    I am a frequent traveller and I always, I mean ALWAYS, carry my knitting in my handbag. Never getting into any trouble – that’s why I didn’t even check how many pairs of circulars were in my handbag when confidently stepping through security at Tallinn airport last week. Just to have two circulars destroyed and my knitting messed up really badly. Since Tallinn really is a knitting mekka and I spent hundreds of Euros on pattern books, knitted samples and yarn, this felt extra stupid. I even muttered to the stern security guy while pulling off my stitches from the needle (he was about to CUT the thread within the knitting!!!!): “Oh boy, your mum should see this. She would cry…”

  23. Marla white says:

    Anyone know about flying out of Venice if I can take knitting needles through?

  24. Jenna Simcox says:

    We are heading from Heathrow to Newark for New York in January. We are flying with United and I purposefully rang them last week to check on their policy regarding knitting needles. I rang United on a London number so the American lady I spoke with must be based at Heathrow. She said knitting on board was absolutely fine. And I think I also saw in Heathrow website that knitting needles are allowed. I guess it must all be down to the individual airport and airline combined

  25. Lesley de Bruijn says:

    South African Airways does not allow knitting needles in hand luggage.

    • Angelina says:

      Hi Lesley!

      We will be updating this post soon to reflect more airlines and country guidelines. Even though some countries or airports allow knitting needles, the airlines might not – and even then it depends on who might be working that day! Thanks for the heads up about South African airlines, it’s good to know. Happy knitting!

  26. carol embleton says:

    19th September 2015 just had my metal circular pro needles and short needles taken of me at murcia airport spain hand luggage – gone through security 3 times on seperate ocassions no problem but murcia security gurard held the needles in a pointed dangerous position as if I was going to stab someone and hang them in my circular wire – had to remove my stitches – I will try again with wooden needles next time I go

  27. Lesley-Ann says:

    I rang Birmingham airport (BHX) today to ask about their policy on knitting needles – the lady who answered immediately said that she would not have known the answer, but someone else had rung with the same question just a couple of days ago and the answer that security had given her then was that there was no problem whatsoever. Now hoping that the other arports i will be flying out of on this trip (Newark NJ, Boston and Ottawa) as well as United Airlines and Air Canada are gong to be as unproblematical!!

  28. Leanne says:

    I wear a pendant yarn cutter made by Clover when I travel by airplane. Never had a problem and it allows me the ability to cut the yarn without resorting to using my teeth as scissors.

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