Five Tips For Commuter Knitting

commuter knitting

Having spent a year knitting my Heaven And Space Shawl on commutes around the world, I thought I’d share a few tips I have learnt!

Knitting and spade and bucket

This shawl has gone on holidays, retreats, trains, through airport security, smuggled into meetings and even to the pub.

pub knitting

It’s kept me calm, sane and occupied at key times when I needed to blank out my mind or just dodge boredom. I’m dreadful at sitting still.

Karen of Didyoumakethat knitting

If you also want to carry your knitting around with you, here are my five top tips.

PROJECT POUCH

gold knitting bag

Have a protective bag for your knitting project. It doesn’t need to have loads of bells and whistles (in fact, it probably shouldn’t) but you do want to protect your make from the grim items rattling around in the bottom of your tote. Because we all have grim items rattling around in the bottom of our totes.

I made my own project pouch, that you can see here.

CIRCULAR NEEDLES

Knitting at Tilly Towers

Circular needles are made of two needles attached to either end of a flexible cable. They allow you to tuck your elbows close into your body as you knit and you shan’t have the ends of your needles tap, tap, tapping at your fellow commuters’ newspapers.

It’s also convenient to tuck circular needles away in your bag.

I hardly ever knit with traditional needles any more. Do invest in decent circular needles. Cheap versions have sticky cables and ridges where the needle and cable meet.

NON STICKY WOOL

wool the village haberdashery

Ideally, you’ll want wool that has a nice sheen and gloss to it, that slithers easily out of your project pouch as you start a new row of knitting. My latest knitting project has sticky, hairy tweed wool and it’s definitely less easy to commute knit.

PHOTOCOPY YOUR INSTRUCTIONS

knitting equipment

Or photograph them on your mobile phone. You don’t want to mislay your one copy of your instruction booklet in a train station.

BE PREPARED TO HAVE CONVERSATIONS

People shall be mesmerised by your knitting and they’ll want to talk to you about it. Remember that you are the ambassador of knitting (!), so it’s a good idea to be polite, friendly and answer those questions. After all, you can’t help being fascinating!

Festival Knitting

I’ve seen people crochet, embroider, knit, sew … all sorts of stuff on commutes. What’s the weirdest commuter crafting you’ve witnessed?

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39 Responses to Five Tips For Commuter Knitting

  1. Not witnessed this myself but a friend once saw a woman weaving on a train using a mini loom propped up on the train table. Respect!

  2. Katie Hepworth says:

    I agree with all your comments, particularly the one about people talking to you – I now speak regularly to a couple of my fellow 7.10 Maidenhead – Paddington commuters purely as a result of my knitting! I’ve also had people chasing errant balls of wool and cable needles under tables and down carriages (the men in particular seem to find this particularly amusing)
    On the errant ball of wool front, it is definitely worth getting skeins of wool wound on a yarn winder if you can, as hand wound balls can roll a looooong way down a carriage.
    Tube commuters seem to be even more bemused by commuter crafting than train commuters (although I can’t warrant for lines other than the Circle and the Hammersmith & City)
    My last scarf travelled about 17500 miles during construction!

  3. Meg Kundert says:

    I stitched up an entire Alabama Chanin outfit on my daily commute into Boston over many months and finally got it down to a science with the transport. Note, use a magnet for your sewing needles. Folks are always very curious.

  4. Ros says:

    The other really good thing about circular needles is that you don’t drop one, have it roll down through the carriage, and then have to scramble around people’s feet to find it.

  5. helen says:

    I always take knitting when I am on a long haul flight, usually socks. Other passengers are always interested in what you are doing – especially if knitting with self patterning sock yarn!
    Circular needle tip is a good one, I have only recently started knitting back and forth with circulars before I didn’t quite ‘get it’.

  6. Helena Wagstaff says:

    I always have some needle ends I think made by knitpro which go on the needle ends to stop knitting unravelling in your bag.

  7. runsewread says:

    Great set of tips! I take my knitting with me to ball games and on commuter buses, and would add a couple of tips:
    1. Take small projects, or items that can be knit in pieces conducive to fitting in a bag. In other words, don’t take the sweater that is knit all in one piece. Those take up a lot of space!
    2. Take non-metal needles. TSA allows metal knitting needles, but not every security guard at venue checkpoints knows what TSA allows, or cares. Just use plastic or wood and avoid the issue.
    I love the mention of conversations. Yes, people will ask, and then want to tell you about the person they know that knits but does it differently from you. And you know they are actually talking about crocheting but smile and nod anyway. 🙂

  8. Mery says:

    Great tips, thanks! I also use a small Post-It Note marked with a bold arrow to mark my place on the pattern. It takes only half a second to snatch it up and reposition it as I go along, Draw the arrow with the tip pointing to the sticky edge and keep a few spares in the bag.

  9. skaapie says:

    I once got in the elevator where I was working and the lady next to me said “You’re the girl who knits!” I’d never seen her before but she recognized me from the train. She we so excited to see me wearing the cardigan I’d been knitting for months.

  10. LinB says:

    Have gifted socks and/or caps to many bartenders and wait staff in the brewpubs where I knit, or made baby gifts for their newborns. Ensures excellent service at least as much as tipping well. We consider many of these persons to be our “beer children.” (I also knit for my actual children.)

    Dear Husband likes to photograph me knitting at the bar, with a beer in front of me. Sometimes he arranges many extra empty glasses for the photo, too — the rascal.

    • didyoumakethat says:

      I love that knitting for your ‘actual children’ slipped in to this story as an afterthought! 😉

      • LinB says:

        Hahahaha! That cannot always be assumed, my friend.

        We pledged, years ago, not to bother with Christmas gifts any more, in our greater family. Of course everyone still sneaks small remembrances of our affection to each other, anyway. My parents, sister, brother, their spouses, their children and the children’s spouses all get socks or caps or mitts, every year — whether they want them or not.

  11. Trudy Newbould says:

    Not quite commuter knitting but many years ago my I came across a Japanese girl in a Pakastani hostel whilst backpacking with my then boyfriend, later to be husband. I jealously watched her doing her patchwork, and asked her about it – most backpackers in those days just read dog-eared novels they swapped around. She couldn’t find any books in Japanese to read on her travels so sewed instead. I couldn’t quite reconcile myself to carrying around such a bulky project when space was always an issue, but took to meticulously darning our clothes as they wore out instead. Very calming & a good way to while away the time on long bus or train journeys of which there were many.

  12. Irene says:

    Don’t just photocopy your instructions – laminate them. It’s very difficult to lost a laminated pattern and you can write on it with a chinagraph pencil.

  13. Irene says:

    I’ve lost balls of yarn on the train – once a ball of Rowan Kid Classic…. expensive to replace.

  14. craftysurf says:

    I’ve handspun wool on a drop spindle in waiting rooms often 😳😂

  15. Jan says:

    I met a lady travelling the world with her husband who was touring abbatoirs as part of his job. She liked the travelling, but not the abbatoirs so packed her case with many many balls of crochet cotton. She made them into individual motifs for a large table cloth, and sent them home in letters she also wrote by hand while waiting – the recipients each passing them on to the daughter who had offered to join them up. She thus had increasing space in her case as she travelled, and was hoping to get home to a completed tablecloth

  16. LNR says:

    I hauled my Birch Shawl around the country in a ziplock bag for 6-7 years. Rowan Kidsilk Haze- fine mohair. Nuts. I’ve also done inkle weaving and tablet weaving on a small Inklette loom on airplanes. Just fits perfectly on a pull down tray if the person in front doesnt recline. The tablet weaving makes people’s head explode. Lots of bang for the buck there. But knitting is much easier to pack!

  17. Beth says:

    I once saw a quite elderly lady sitting on a bench in a shopping mall with her velvet pillow and the little carved bobbins doing incredibly intricate lacework. She was surrounded by a group of youths – saggy pants, backwards baseball caps – who were absolutely gaping at her work. It was as if she were a tiny spider luring them into her web.

  18. fabrickated says:

    Great tips. Obviously I knit on car journeys. But the thing that attracts attention most is making Poms on the train. People really stare at me.

  19. Sam says:

    Thanks for the tips – I knit small projects in the car – 4000 km to Queensland and return, in dentist, doctor, etc waiting rooms and have had an audience of young children mesmerised for a time 🙂

  20. Jen says:

    I like to knit on the few commuter journeys that I do too. If my project isn’t suited though I have been known to spin my next project yarn on a small Turkish spindle while travelling. That’s guaranteed to start a conversation.

  21. JustGail says:

    The thought of having time to knit or do other needlework during the commute is *almost* enough to make me consider car pool again. Then I remember why I don’t car pool any more. Maybe public transport would solve a couple of the issues, but it’s non-existent where I live. I have taken small needlework or knitting projects if I anticipate much time in waiting rooms.

  22. Heather Mayfield says:

    I did all the hand sewing for a Luna Lapin wardrobe on my commute, on the last day before Christmas I bought in the rabbit and its wardrobe and did the equivalent of a fashion show. People are generally astonished by others who can make ‘anything’!

  23. alibobs says:

    You have forgotten the most important rule for commuter knitting: it is okay to pause in the middle of a row if you need to get off the tube. I was once approaching my stop but had ten stitches left on the row and could hear my grandma’s advice “never stop in the middle of a row”. I quickly knitted those stitches and finished as the train stopped, got up and rushed to the door as it closed and closed and the train pulled away. Unfortunately it was the last stop so I had to wait in the sidings for it to turn back on the other rail! Great start to a Monday morning!

    Learning from this I have learnt to finish a row while standing on the platform, or even on the tube with my arm hooked around the pole. That only really works for a simple pattern you have memorised.

  24. Jo says:

    I always knit in public and it does attract a conversation. The funniest one was on a train from B’ham home with a crowd of drunks who had been to a darts final. They were all wearing deely-boppers with 180 on them! One of them said “excuse me love are you doing that without looking?” I said “yes I can knit without looking” and they were all amazed. I entered into a competitive zone where I had to knit for as long as I could until I looked down. It amused them and frankly me. Luckily I was only two stops away from home! Great post. Jo xxx

  25. MrsC says:

    Karen we designed a kntting nag for commuting necause OUR Karyn at the shop not only knits ont eh train, she knits while walking! It’s a pyramid bag with a gap at the top and a wrist strap. Then you can contain the yarn so it doesn’t make a break for freedom and also carry it. I’m putting a link in here not as an advertising thing but to show you all. xo https://www.etsy.com/nz/listing/254772659/knitting-or-crochet-project-bag-buy-the?ref=listing_published_alert

  26. Sarah says:

    I’ve cross stitched on trains before now …

    • Irene says:

      I’ve a friend who cimmutes to London from Oxford on the coach and she makes lots of cross stitch cards on the journey – sadly it can take her 3 hours door to door…..

  27. Bekky says:

    I love that people around the world can connect with you through the knitting even when you don’t speak the same language. I knit in public on any form of transport while traveling around the world – you get engagement everywhere. My top tip is to match the fibre to the country you are visitings climate – wool for knitting in Finnish winter or cotton/linen for a UAE summer, otherwise it makes for less enjoyable knitting. I wish my knitwear could tell it’s own story of its travels and the friends it made.

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