Friday, March 24, 2017

The travel knitting plan

Springtime is travel season at our house, and this year it's the southern part of Germany.  Yay!  But more on that another day.  Today is all about packing.

I don't usually take knitting on these trips but when we were in Newfoundland two years ago I got antsy and had to buy yarn and needles and so on under pressure - which reminds me, I still haven't finished the cowl I started there - and I don't want that to happen to me again.  For one thing, I checked at Ravelry and apparently knitting is not such a big thing in Germany!  What you can get is mostly acrylics.  So I will have to bring my own. 

There is a chance I will want to knit on the plane this time.  The last few flights we've taken have been not so fabulous, and I need to do some more cognitive behaviour therapy work to be okay actually stepping into the plane, but so far what little refresher work I've managed has been enough to make me think I could, and I want to be ready and 'normal' if possible.  Though it's probably not possible.  In my experience, my hands are usually too sticky with nervous sweat at the moment I decide knitting is what I need to be doing, so even if I bring something to work on I have to put it away again... but our flight is super long and then there is a second flight and after that a bus ride to get to our first port of call (Cologne) and even though I will be exhausted by the end of all that, there is a lot of potential knitting time in there.  Some of it isn't even in the air!

Here's my thing about the stuff you take on a plane.  There are SO many restrictions now, and knitting needles are pointy, and I feel like even though they have been okay'd by most staff at most airlines up to now... there is still a risk that the day we board our flight, somebody will take offense to my needles and want them not to board with me.

And I've heard that sometimes, if the needles are attached to yarn, they want the yarn too.

So here is my plan.

Part One:

Wind a skein of sock yarn into two smaller cakes. 

Assign each cake with its own set of wooden needles (I feel like wood seems less threatening than metal, given how quickly and easily a thin wooden needle can break.) 

Put one cake/needle combo into the carry on luggage with a sock pattern, separating the needles from the yarn within the bag.  Put the other cake/needle combo into the checked luggage with a fingerless mitt pattern.  And also, a third set of needles.

At this point, several things could happen.  I might be allowed onto my flight with my sock knitting gear. I might be allowed to move them to my checked luggage.  I might have to hand over just the needles, since they are packed on their own, or I might have to hand over everything because yarn is string and who knows?

In the worst case scenario, I have no knitting for the flight, but I still have books (and more on that later).  In the maybe-kinda-crummy case, I have yarn I can knit during the holiday with the third set of needles wisely packed in my checked luggage.  In the best case scenario, I have knitting to cast on into a sock during the flight, or maybe just a cake of yarn to squeeze during really heavy turbulence.

Part Two:

Packing for the return flight. 

In the best case scenario, a lot of knitting happened during the first flight and the trip and I have a finished sock.  But even if it's only partly finished, it goes into checked luggage for its safety. 

Instead, the carry on bag gets the second cake and needle set, packed separately as before, with the sock pattern, to be cast on during the flight.  In the worst case scenario, instead of the sock pattern, I will pack the fingerless mitt pattern - because I can knit a pair of those out of a sock's worth of yarn, and that half of the skein will still be useful.

Again: several things could happen.  It may be that the second cake of yarn is confiscated, rendering the first sock forever mate-less.  Or I might keep the yarn and lose the needles.  Or I might get on the flight and knit a second sock. 

Part Three:

Home again.

What am I unpacking?  Two mostly finished socks?  A pair of fingerless mitts?  A single sock, forever alone?  A sock and enough yarn to finish the mate?  The memory of beautiful sock yarn and a single set of wooden sock needles?  Only time will tell.

The key to making this work is to choose yarn and needles that are easily replaced, but special enough to work with and enjoy.  So I picked this Viola yarn in Sea Storm - it's one of Emily's most popular colours and I have a second skein at home already that I'd set aside for socks for Wayson, but I can certainly get more. 

Needles, too - I really prefer square needles and the ones I like best are out of production so there is NO WAY I would risk taking them on a plane.  But thankfully, I was able to get square wooden ones in my usual size from Knitter's Pride.

And that's me, flight-ready except for the actual winding and pattern setup.  And, you know, calming scripts to read to myself if I start to freak out about being on a plane again.  They work very well but you have to take the time for them and remember to bring them with you.

Books: I was smart this time and have already looked into what I want to read in bad turbulence. 

When we were flying to Boston on a tiny propeller plane, I turned to my funny book for comfort only to find it was full of Zombies amusingly dining on entrails, so I have learned my lesson about making sure a book is going to be helpful before I pack it.  I have rejected The Economist for similar reasons - too dry, and then abruptly horrific, and only engaging for short installments because each issue is after all summarizing what's going on all over the world.

This time, I decided on the Mapp and Lucia books by E. F. Benson.  The series was written in the 1920s and about two hilariously socially competitive women - there should be no entrail surprises at all, unless possibly in the kitchen being cooked into a pie?  I listened to the first one many years ago as an audiobook and it is VERY funny, but for some reason never hunted up the rest... and they aren't consistently in print, except in trade paperback size, which is a bit big for a flight.  So I decided to order second hand Penguin copies from Biblio, and they've already arrived and are nice and compact, and I'm just not looking at them so as not to spoil them. 

While I was hunting for those I found an Anita Loos book I hadn't read - No Mother To Guide Her - and decided to get that too, for insurance. 

I feel the 1920s is a safe period to read about on a plane because people were looking for distractions then and all the social commentary is so far in the past as to not be painful to read now (except in that we are going through all the same social scenarios we did then, because humans will never learn apparently, and this is something I plan to ignore while stuck in a narrow seat far above my preferred level of Ground.)

Oh, and you know what?  When all this is over, even if I come home with just one sock, it will be exactly the right colour to match our living room sofa.  So I can hang it on our mantel at Christmas.  That's what I call a good travel knitting plan.

Have a great weekend guys and I'll see you again in a few days!

ps I just had a terrible thought.  Sea Storm.  Maybe not a good colour name to choose for an overseas flight at night?


Gwen said...

Maybe a pair of 9" circular needles would be less likely to be seen as a threat? I prefer dpns but they make me nervous in a car with the airbag ready to go off. The circulars take a little getting used to but they are a good alternative.

Mary Keenan said...

You make a really good point Gwen... I don't like knitting socks with two circulars but in the past I've packed gear for making cowls. And I would probably appreciate a cowl halfway through this trip, in the evenings! time to check the yarn supply again...

Laurinda said...

Oooo- what a great idea from Gwen! It sounds like you've planned for every contingency(so smart), even if you switch to knitting a cowl on the plane & socks on the ground. I've read that it helps to have the airline's guidelines printed out & with your needles.
I have so many sets of those wooden Cubics DPNs too. They're my favorite!

Mary Keenan said...

That is a good idea too Laurinda, I can so easily print off the guidelines to keep with my needles, and that would give me peace of mind - one less thing to worry about before a flight is an excellent thing ;^)