Thursday, May 24, 2012

Knitting on the Go: Transportation and Destination

Knitting by the pool
The type of trip and transportation can make quite a difference in what project(s) you take with you on a trip. The destination itself is also something to consider.

One of the things I think about is how much time I'll actually have to devote to knitting. If I drive to visit my family for a weekend, I'll probably have a lot of time to knit once I get there, unless I'm going to a wedding or other similar event. If I'm on a cross country work trip, I will probably have a lot of time to knit on the plane and in the hotel room after dinner. Of course, things can pop up to provide you with more or less time than you'd originally thought. I usually bring what I think I can knit in the time I think I'll have, and then an extra project. You know, for luck!

Don't forget to tailor your knitting project for the quality of knitting time you'll have. Heading to the in-laws? Maybe pack an intricate sweater so you can tell them you need to count rows and concentrate on the project instead of hearing the story of your significant other's first trip to the amusement park for the umpteenth time. Time for a vacation? Why not bring a stockinette project that will allow you to drink up that tropical sunset (and that Tequila Sunrise!) without needing to wonder what row you're on. Cross country travel almost requires a patterned shawl to help with long boring flights and jet lag; there's no way you could finish that cobweb latvian stole in one flight! Knowing whether your brain (or fingers) need to rest or be kept active will be key in the travel planning process.

Even more pivotal, however, could be the type of transportation you'll be taking. Clearly, if you're driving, you won't be knitting. Doing so is extremely dangerous. Driving, in and of itself, should consume so much attention that listening to the radio and having a conversation might put you over the edge before knitting even peeks its head into the picture (NOTE: I am not suggesting you an knit and drive while driving if the radio is turned off and you're not having a conversation with someone. It's dangerous no matter what!). If someone else is driving, however, (and you don't get motion sick - or you have happy pills to prevent that), by golly, have at it.

If you're travelling by train, while you might have less room to spread out, you should be able to knit quite a bit. PRO TIP: before you sit down in a set on the train, make sure the reading light works above the seat you're looking to sit in by testing it. Oftentimes the lights go off on AMTRAK trains, so make sure you can knit on something that doesn't require a lot of looking at if you're travelling at night (ditto for busses!). Currently, security on AMTRAK trains isn't too stringent, so if you think yo'll need scissors, feel free to bring them on with you.

The same cannot be said for travelling by plane. While most knitting paraphernalia should not hold you up at security in the US (you remembered to put that swiss army knife in your checked luggage, right?), be sure to check the TSA's list of prohibited items to make sure there haven't been any changes in policy (international travelers should check with the airport they're flying out of, and also with the airline). Also (and this is KEY!), be sure to check with your airlines to make sure they're knitting friendly. If an airlines has tighter rules than the airport, the airline will probably win. When in doubt, keep your knitting on the needles and thread a lifeline through the row you're on. That way, if security does need to take your needles, your knitting isn't lost with them. If you're really that hard up to knit on the flight, stop by the food court for some chopsticks, and the convenience store for some floss.

Last year I went on a wonderful cruise of the Caribbean. There were multiple knitting threats to me: no current project on the needles, no swatch for a new project. in-laws were going to be there, and there would be alcohol and pools to compete with knitting time. I decided to bring a shawl with me. The pattern was one I knew I'd done before, so I knew about how much time it took to knit and I was good. Problem was, I hadn't quite figured out the gauge for this shawl. Into my bag went my Addi Turbo Interchangeable set and off to security I went. They stopped me at the x-ray machine. After about 10 minutes, and 2 security personnel later, the needles were given back to me without an issue. The project was a hot mess, but that story's for a different time...

Lastly, keep in mind the climate of your destination. Try not to bring warm fibers with you to Hawaii. I learned the hard way that alpaca might even be too much there (FYI: there is one yarn shop on Maui, but I wasn't in that part of town when it was open). Likewise, if you're headed to New Hampshire or Canada for a nice long snowy weekend, bringing an in progress blanket of wool or a cashmere scarf WIP might help with some chilly afternoons. If you're travelling somewhere exotic, try to remember to bring ball bands with you of the yarn you're knitting with. Maybe someone who has never seen it before will be interested in it and want to know what it is.

I know I said this last week, but knowing what the LYS landscape of your destination will help you should security take your knitting needles or scissors and in the event an emergency yarn need. Plus, yarn makes a great souvenir of the places you've traveled and the best gift for fellow knitters that couldn't join you. Sometimes, a key destination that you return to often might be a good spot to store some stash in case of a knitting emergency. My rule of thumb for this is if I keep a toothbrush and feminine products there, it's probably a spot worthy of stashing an emergency project. To that end, there may, or may not be yarn at my parents' to knit a scarf with. I can neither confirm, nor deny these rumors.

I can, however, say that I am heading to my parents' this weekend. Projects are ready to go!I'm driving up, so while I'll be in a car for an inordinate amount of time, I won't have time to knit (friends don't let friends knit and drive!). It's my mom's birthday, so there's a lot of celebrating this weekend. I know I'll have less knitting time than I'm used to, so all I'm bringing with me is a tank top I started on Tuesday, and a pair of socks that I'm not even 1/4 through with yet. We'll see if the silver bag o' hexipuffs makes it, it probably won't since a sock is perfect for travelling.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Knitting On the Go

Maude's mini sock in action.
I travel a lot. My family lives 4 hours away and I visit them frequently. I used to have a job where I traveled quite a bit for work on planes. My boyfriend and I try to take a vacation once a year. It's great to have time off from work and I actually really enjoy business trips due to the amount of knitting I tend to get done.

I've got packing clothes down to a science, but what about keeping myself occupied? I've got some practice planning travelling knitting projects too.

I have a few posts drafted to include tips on how to plan, pick and pack your knitting for maximum travel fun and minimum knitting tragedy. I'll focus on what to think about before you start travelling, how your destination and type of trip could impact your knitting, and some handy knitting gadgets that come in handy on the go and everyday items that can be used in a pinch in case you're in a spot where you can't find something to help you. These posts will be bolstered by some helpful resources to help you in your planning as well.

Personally, for trips where I know I'm going to have a lot of time to knit (and relaxing ones that I'm super excited to go on!) I start thinking about what project I'm going to take with me about a week before I go. I'm the kind of person who literally packs clothing the day before I need to leave (sometimes only HOURS before she needs to leave!), so the fact that I think about knitting this far in advance, and make it part of my excitement for a trip is telling, I think. Here are some ideas for preparing that go from extreme, to throw-all-the-yarn-i-own-that-can-fit-in-the-bag-in-the-bag. Just some thoughts I came up with, I'll let you in on my own process later...
  • Figure out your rate of knitting. Start about a month before you depart. Knit something small and simple like the leg of a sock or a handwarmer, maybe even a sleeve. Time yourself to see how long it takes you to knit and figure out your time per stitch ratio (Take the # of stitches in a round or a row and multiply that by the number of rows you knit for the total number of stitches you knit and then take the time in minutes it took you to knit all those stitches and divide it by the total number of stitches). Now you can take the amount of time you'll spend travelling and multiply it by your rate of knitting to find out how many stitches you'll be able to knit in transit. Ideally, if you're not intending to knit at your destination, this should be higher than the number of stitches you need to complete a WIP if you choose to bring one. This calculation gives you a realistic picture of how much you can accomplish, which can be rather helpful. Who wants to over-pack knitting that they won't get to? If I actually ever did this calculation, it would probably decrease the anxiety I have over whether I need to bring that 5th project with me or not...
  • Map out the nearest yarn stores. Every time I travel somewhere new, and sometimes even when I travel to visit my parents, I hop onto and search for yarn stores near my destination. Write them down! Yes! Even the Holly Hobby or the Michaels! You'll never know when you might have an emergency! I've definitely stopped at a Holly Hobby in Bentonville, AR because I needed a darning needle to finish a sock. What if a dastardly TSA employee hates knitters and takes your needles? What if you didn't calculate your rate of knitting and ran out of projects before it's time to go home!? Know before you go! This can also be helpful to recalculate yourself after a whole day with either your family,or an in-law's family or a business meeting that just didn't go the way you wanted it to.
  • Jot down some yardages/weights of yarn for projects you are interested in. In today's smartphone world, sometimes we think that cell service is omnipresent. Sometimes we think our own service provider is everywhere. I was recently up in New Hampshire and it seems as though my carrier did not get along with the mountains as well as I did. Sure, I could have asked the shopkeep to check out my Ravelry page and let me know how much yardage I'd need of something, but when you're just browsing and aren't sure, you might not want to talk to the salesperson right away. This is also a helpful strategy in the event that your significant non-knitting other is only allowing you so much time in the Sheep Shrine or when you'd feel awkward making them wait (which is more my case). Jotting down yardages can be an efficient and quick way to get the souvenir yarn you want while saving the relationship with the one you love. :)
  • At the very least, take a sock or shawl. Those kinds of projects are easily transportable, compact, and take a sufficient amount of time to knit so that if you start them on the plane, depending on where you're going, you should at least be able to tide you over until you can get to a yarn store at your destination.

Until the next post on Tailoring Your Knitting to Your Destination, check out these projects that I've knit while traveling with varying degrees of success.

FOs Knit while Traveling