The question I see most often popping up on knitting/crochet discussion forums is:
Are knitting needles/crochet hooks allowed on airplanes?
There’s some helpful advice out there, but also a lot of advice that ranges from weird to just plain wrong. So, let’s clear it all up, shall we?
Today, I’ll talk about (and link to!) the actual travel regulations in various countries. I’ll also share helpful tips for traveling in countries without clear policies regarding knitting needles.
In this post, I’m going to say ‘knitting needles’ (for brevity), but I really mean ‘knitting needles and crochet hooks’, since I don’t know of any policies which specifically distinguish between the two types of tools.
Knitting needles on domestic flights in the USA
According to the TSA, knitting needles are permitted on domestic flights. You read it! That’s the word straight from the TSA blog.
And guess what? Many of your helpful tools are allowed, as well! Blunt-point scissors with blades less than 4″ long (think: child scissors) and tapestry needles are also permitted. What’s not allowed? Those circular thread cutters (which are erroneously rumored to be ‘airline safe’).
Click here to read the full list of prohibited items.
I’m sure you’ve heard horror stories that have you scared to bring your needles along. But it’s okay! Many of those stories occurred immediately after 2001, when the regulations were super-strict and not as clear-cut or consistent as they are today. If you’re still worried, scroll down and read my tips about how to carry your needles to attract the least attention.
Knitting needles on International flights
Perhaps I’m stating the obvious, but I’ll say it: if you’re planning an international flight, you’ll need to check the regulations in both the countries you’re visiting.
There are three types of countries:
- Countries that officially state (in the flight regulations) that knitting needles are allowed. These include the US, the UK and Australia.
- Countries that explicitly prohibit knitting needles on flights. (Greece and other countries in the EU fall into this category.)
- Countries where the official policy states, “sharp objects are prohibited”. In these countries, the determination of what counts as ‘sharp’ is left to the security officer.
Not sure about a country’s policy? The easiest thing to do is Google “[name of country] prohibited items on flights”, and you’ll find the official website (usually) in the top 5 search results.
If you’re flying in between countries where knitting needles are permitted, but you’ve heard rumors about needles being taken away, it can’t hurt to print out the page that clearly specifies the policy, and carry it with you.
Tips for carrying knitting needles
Unfortunately, many countries fall into the third category: sharp objects aren’t allowed on board, but it’s unclear whether a knitting needle counts as ‘sharp’. In this case, you have two options:
- Play it safe, and put your knitting needles in your checked luggage.
- Put your needles in your carry-on luggage in a way that minimizes the possibility they will be viewed as threatening, taking the risk that they may be confiscated.
I’m not encouraging anyone to break the rules, so if knitting needles aren’t allowed, don’t bring them in your carry-on. However, keep in mind what the security agent’s job is: it’s to confiscate items that look threatening and could be used to harm others. If your knitting needles don’t look like they will harm others, then they’re less likely to get taken away. Makes sense, right?
Here are a few tips that will help your knitting needles look more ‘safe’:
- Long, straight needles look scary. (I’m just being honest!) Try circular needles or double points.
- Metal looks scary, too. Consider wood or plastic needles.
- If you have a crochet hook or double points, put them in a pencil case with some pens and pencils. They’ll blend in.
- If you have interchangeable needles, disconnect the tips from the cord. Store the tips in a pencil case (above) like you would double points.
Those are a few quick and easy tips. But that’s not all! I have two more tips that are so important that they’re too big to put in bullet points. Want to hear them?
Don’t bring anything you can’t stand to lose
Your pricey Signature needles? Leave them at home. A cashmere lace shawl (containing hundreds of dollars in yarn and hundreds of hours of work)? Don’t even think about it.
In the case where a security agent confiscates your ‘dangerous’ item, they may take the whole bundle… knitting included. You can try to negotiate for your knitting back, but there aren’t any guarantees.
Did I say ‘negotiate’? That brings me to another really important tip…
I’m serious. I fly (domestically and internationally) really often. And since I don’t check my bags, I put lots of weird stuff in my carry on. A one-gallon lead-painted (i.e. x-rays can’t penetrate) sauerkraut crock? Yeah… I’ve done it!
The security agents aren’t trying to ruin your day. They don’t have the goal of making your flight boring and miserable. They have the very difficult job of analyzing thousands of pieces of luggage for dangerous items… by giving each piece of luggage a 5-second glance. They make mistakes.
I’ve been pulled aside often. The security agent asks about [whatever weird thing] I’m carrying. I politely and calmly explain its purpose. Remember, the agent is still judging how safe the item is.
What do you think the agent will do if you get hysterical and start yelling about how ‘it’s your right to carry on this item’? Uh… he’ll take the scary item away from you (the crazy person).
So, be nice.
There you go! Now you know the truth about traveling with knitting needles!
Do you have any travel plans or stories? Do share!