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Knitting on planes

The question of “can I take my knitting on a plane” has been doing endless rounds online. The definitive answer is MAYBE.

I fly abroad three to four times each year, and have never had a problem bringing my needles with me. I work by a few rules: never ask (refusal can often offend); always take bamboo; be prepared (bring printouts of the airport/airline’s policy).

Never once has anyone asked for clarification or needed a second look. I’ve often wondered if this is because they really don’t mind, or just don’t know what they’re looking at.

So I decided to look for myself. Not having ready access to airports, the scanner I used belongs to the global headquarters of the world’s second-largest bank (not to give anything away).

Here we have the handbag (Jordana Paige Knitter’s Purse)

Bag

[click on pictures for larger image]

and the contents:

Contents

We have a notions holder pack full of illicit goodies (metal and plastic crochet hooks and cable needles, nail files, stitch holders); scissors; addi turbo baby circs (the purple yarn); plastic baby circs (red yarn); bamboo DPNs (green socks); compact umbrella and mobile phone (as well as purse and maybe a few pens).

Now this is what the security guy saw:

X3

The metal addis are immediately identifiable. The notions holder (to the left) is a muddle. Notice the umbrella to the right, we’ll come back to this later. I can’t make out the scissors.

I sent the offensive articles through by themselves, just to make sure what everything looks like.

Before:

X2

After:

X1

Once again, the addis are as clear as daylight (no surprises there). The plastic needles are fairly clear, which I find curious. I’m not sure if I can make out the bamboo DPNs – they’re possibly obscured by the edge of the box. The notions holder is obviously screaming for attention.

With so many potential hazards, how have I never been stopped? Quite simply, the rules have been changed. BA was the first to review the ‘no needles’ policy:

Tweezers, nail clippers, small nail scissors (where the blade is no longer than 3 centimetres), safety pins, sewing needles (up to 2 inches in length) and knitting needles are permitted in hand baggage.

However, the final say is up to the security people around/running the scanner. From America’s Transport Security Administration:

Knitting needles are permitted in your carry-on baggage or checked baggage.  However,   there is a possibility that the needles can be perceived as a possible weapon by the TSA screener.  TSA Screeners have the authority to determine if an item could be used as a weapon and may not allow said item to pass through security.  TSA recommends the following when bring knitting needles on an airplane:

  • Circular knitting needles are recommended to be less than 31 inches in total length
  • We recommend that the needles be made of bamboo or plastic (Not Metal)
  • Scissors must have blunt points
  • In case the screener does not allow your knitting tools through security it is recommended that you carry a self addressed envelope so that you can mail your tools back to yourself as opposed to surrendering them at the security check point.
  • As a precautionary measure it is recommended that you carry a crochet hook with yarn to save the work you have already done in case your knitting tools are surrendered at the checkpoint.

Most of the items needed to pursue a Needlepoint project are permitted in your carry-on baggage or checked baggage with the exception of circular thread cutters or any cutter with a blade contained inside.  These items cannot be taken through a Security Checkpoint.  They must go in your checked baggage.

For once, Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world with the decree

Don't pack sharp objects such as knives, scissors, cork-screws, or knitting needles in your hand luggage.

Back to the compact umbrella. No Londoner is without one, nor should you be. Not because of rain, but rather it is the easiest way to carry your needles without rousing suspicion. See in the picture above it is just a jumple of lines. Now add some further inocuous lines in the form of bamboo needles and who could tell?

The key is to take your knitting off the needles and onto scrap yarn. Fold the needles neatly into the umbrella. Reassemble once you‘re safely on board. And if you get someone who needs to inspect everything and raises an eyebrow… explain that it’s a great place to ensure your needles don’t get broken in transit.

Brollies

Tips

DON’T take your favourite needles or anything you can’t bear parting with.
DO print out your airline’s policy.
ALWAYS smile and be pleasant – more bees with honey and all that. (But do take a biro for illustrative purposes: „c’mon – you can’t tell me the needles are hurtier than this!“)
NEVER ask „Is it ok if I bring my knitting?“ If you’ve already checked the airline’s website, IT IS.

Useful links
BAA (Heathrow, Stansted and Luton)
US Transportation Security Administration downloadable Prohibited items list

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