National or international flights: Can you take knitting needles on a plane as part of your carry-on bags? What’s allowed and what isn’t.
So, you are about to embark on an epic trip, perhaps even going overseas? And now you are wondering: Can you bring knitting needles on a plane, right? It would be the perfect way to while away those endless hours in the air, eh? Well, then you came to the right place.
As an avid traveler (I visited +60 countries) and a knitter with experience of more than 30 years, I can answer all your questions. Because I have been in the same situation countless times. So, in this guide, I’ll take a very close look at all the national and international regulations.
Contrary to some other articles I read online, the answer is not as easy as some would make it seem. I’ll share my personal experiences with you and give you some important pointers you might not be aware of.
Still, the easy answer ahead: Yes, in most cases you can bring knitting needles on a plane in both your carry-on or checked baggage.
But, let’s dive right into the (k)nitty-gritty, eh?
Knitting on an airplane: The legal basis
More or less everything that happens up in the air is regulated by a law or a regulation. But here comes the very first important thing you need to know: Chances are high the trip you want to knit on will take you to a different country. And different countries have different regulations.
This means, while you might be able to bring your knitting needles on the plane as you board in the US, you actually might not be able to do the same on your return flight from, say Istanbul in Turkey. I will try to give you a good overview here but if you pick a destination that is off the beaten track I urge you to do some further research.
The good news ahead.
Knitting needles on domestic flights within the US
The TSA (Transportation Security Administration) clearly says you are allowed to bring knitting needles in your carry on bags or your checked backs. The same applies to crochet hooks.
If you take a close look at their list of sharp-objects then you will quickly find out that you can even bring scissors as long as there are less than 4 inches from the pivot point and securely wrapped.
Can you take knitting needles on a plane in Europe / international flights?
Yes you can. Attachment 4-C (c) of the Regulation (EU) 2015/1998 of 5 November 2015 laying down detailed measures for the implementation of the common basic standards on aviation security (find it here) clearly does not list knitting needles among the objects prohibited to bring onboard an aircraft. Scissors, however, can only be 6 cm (2.3 inches) long.
There is one caveat: The legal text excludes “objects with a sharp point or sharp edge capable of being used to cause serious injury“. It is up to the security officer on duty to determine if your stiletto sharp metal needles size 10 actually fall within that category.
Also, please also bear in mind that not all countries in Europe are actually part of the European Union and different rules may apply. Though Switzerland and Norway (to name two) have more or less the exact same regulations – at least when it comes to knitting needles.
The Australian home affairs department has a similar distinction. Here, knitting needles and crochet hooks are listed among the permitted items. They still mentioned that “Sharp items that are not weapons but are capable (with or without modification) of causing harm by penetration” are not allowed. Among them bodkins or metal scissors.
Sadly, from here on it gets a bit more complicated.
On top of the official regulations, most airlines have a ToS as well. While they will never list anything as allowed that the law prohibits the opposite is not true. The reasons are probably insurance issues.
Eurowings, for example, clearly says that you may not carry knitting needles in your hand luggage. British Airways, on the other hand, explicitly allows you to bring knitting needles and crochet hooks. All the middle eastern carriers (like Ethihad) don’t even mention knitting needles.
Turkish Airlines, on the other hand, is a lot stricter when it comes to sharp objects and has not even an exception for small scissors.
Obviously, I cannot go through all the hundreds of airlines on this planet in this article. Most US American airlines (like United Airlines) basically copy the TSA regulations word by word, so you should be safe when flying with these. Still, before your flight, it might be a good idea and visit the official website of your carrier and quickly look up the prohibited items for your carry-on luggage.
Last, but not least, no airlines and no country I am aware of lists knitting needles among the prohibited items in your checked luggage. So, that will always be an option.
My personal experience with knitting needles
After all the legalese, I want to share my own personal experience with bringing knitting needles on a plane. As I said before, I am quite a veteran traveler and knitter. So far, I was never prohibited from taking them onboard.
At the same time, I don’t bring my knitting with me on each trip. Sometimes it’s due to practical reasons and sometimes I am indeed afraid of them being confiscated. So, here are some suggestions for you:
1.Can you bring metal knitting needles on a plane?
As a rule of thumb, I wouldn’t take metal knitting needles on a plane. All metal objects show prominently on the security scans and it will just invite questions. As I said, in a lot of countries knitting needles are allowed, but threatening sharp objects aren’t. Instead, pick wooden or plastic needles over metal.
Some say, you should bring an envelope with you, so you could send the needles back home. I never saw the need and I think it’s not worth your time. Just stay friendly, comply with the questions and directions of the airport staff and you should be fine. I’d stay away from asking active questions as you pass through the security check. It just increases the chance of an inexperienced officer making a different decision on a whim.
2. Bring spare needles in your checked-luggage
In the unlikely case that, despite all research in advance, you still are not allowed to bring your knitting needles into the cabin you might want to take some precautions. First of all: A lifeline will save your projects from unraveling. And of course, spare needles in your checked luggage (where there are definitely allowed in all countries I know) will enable you to pick things up once you arrived.
The easiest precaution: Use interchangeable knitting needles where you can simply unscrew the needle tips and put your project on hold with cable stoppers.
3. Only take small projects / knitting needles
Neither the TSA nor the European Union provides any further details regarding the size of the knitting needles. That being said, if you are flying economy your personal space will be quite limited. I’m not entirely sure your neighbor(s) will approve of your knitting needles or your cozy queen-sized blanket invading their space.
So kindly consider how much space your knitting will take up and then apply some common sense if it’s feasible or not. Respect the privacy of other passengers at all times.
4. Be careful in truly exotic countries
Most travelers don’t end up in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, or Lybia as I do. But if you plan to visit these countries off the beaten path with interesting political structures, I’d be very careful. In a lot of these countries, it often depends a lot more on luck and the officer on duty if they classify an item as dangerous.
To give you an inkling of what I’m talking about: In Uzbekistan, I had to pass 5 consecutive security scans before I was able to board the airplane and one officer probably kept me waiting for 20 minutes because he was toying around with my binoculars.
5. Don’t knit during take-off or landing
It’s probably pretty obvious but I’ll mention it nevertheless: During take-off or landing, you really shouldn’t start knitting. The same applies to strong turbulences. Nobody wants to have needles flying around the cabin in case of an emergency, eh?
Since these sections of your flights are usually a bit bumpier, you will probably not be all that inclined to knit anyway.
6. Don’t bring too complicated a knitting project
The light onboard an aircraft can often be a bit tricky. Likewise, your seat neighbor might want to see the toilet, dinner might get served or turbulence can occur. On top of that, a baby crying one row behind might prevent you from concentrating – the list of why your knitting can be interrupted is quite long.
An easy pattern, like my ribbed beanie, will keep you entertained and doesn’t risk dropping or missing stitches of a repeat. I also had good experiences with simple socks. You should also be aware that the limited space also means you can’t spread your big lace chart all over the place. So, a simple pattern where you don’t need to look up every stitch is much better, in my opinion.
7. Put everything in a little project bag
Following that line of thought, it really pays off to invest in a nice project bag that allows you to store your work in progress in a fast, efficient, and secure way.
8. Don’t bring needles and yarn on trips where knitting has no place
If you’ve ever been on the Maldives or, say, the Baltic Sea then you might know that the fine sand will end up everywhere and will trickle out of the most unlikely corner even months after you returned. Likewise, the humidity in the Amazon Rain Forest will wreak havoc on natural fibers, while the sheer heat in Dubai or Egypt might keep you from knitting altogether.
So, apply some common sense before you bring your knitting needles on your trip. There are other ways to spend the time on board an aircraft as well. You could also read a nice knitting book (<- click on the link for some inspiration) after all, eh?