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The Truth about Knitting Needles on Airplanes

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:

  1. Play it safe, and put your knitting needles in your checked luggage.
  2. 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…

Be nice

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!

Did you love this post? Then you might want to subscribe to my blog!

38 Responses to “The Truth about Knitting Needles on Airplanes”

  1. Right on, especially the bit about being nice. Unfortunately in the US, even though we do have a “safe to fly” list, it is ultimately up to each TSA agent’s judgment as to what they will and won’t allow through at that moment. So, if they don’t like your ball of yarn/pencil/hairbrush that day, you ain’t taking it through. So keep that smile big and genuine!

    No, seriously. Flying these days makes me want to bash my head against a wall. Our security theatre drives me crazy.

  2. Fiona-grace says:

    We recently moved from the uk to Australia and with the various security, weight and quarantine restrictions for handluggage, checked bags and shipping containers, my projects have been scrambled.

    I ended up taking many balls of hands spun welsh wool in the handluggage, and all the appropriate crochet hooks on the ship. Cross stitch WIP in the cabin, but folder with 20 sorted and threaded tapestry needles in the hold. Aaargh!

    I’ve spend the last three weeks breaking off yarn with the power of my glare alone, as I have yet to be reunited with my yarn snips. or possibly I lost them at changi somewhere. Who knows?

  3. This is one of the reasons I try to just take the train as much as possible. SO much easier, and I don’t have to worry about restrictions. Being a private person, I find the whole TSA rigmarole really invasive. I understand that people feel it’s to make them safer – so I just choose to take alternative means of transportation.

    That said, I’ve never had a problem traveling with knitting needles, but then I normally take wooden tips, and use circulars if I’m working on a pair of socks.

  4. Sharlenay says:

    I have a flying tip. If you know you are going to be stuck in the airport for a significant amount of time (the boyfriend and I had two layovers that were over six hours long) take empty reusable plastic bottles in your carry-on, put the empty bottles in the bin with keys and other things so that it is obvious they are empty when you go through the scanner. We did that at both a small regional airport and then an international airport. After you go through the scanner just head to the water fountain and you have free water for the flight and the wait.

    • Stacey says:

      @Sharlenay that’s a great tip! I ALWAYS bring a water bottle with me (whether it’s at the airport or not)… but that’s a must for long flights. When I fly to Australia, they will only give you tiny cup-fulls of water at a time, and I’ve been on flights where they’ve run out. So, I’m really happy to have my big, full water bottle!

  5. Cindy N says:

    Thanks for this great post, Stacey!

    To add to your information, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) allows “knitting needles and crochet hooks” as carry on. The extensive list can be found at
    http://www.catsa-acsta.gc.ca/Page.aspx?ID=58&pname=CompleteItemList_ListeCompleteArticles&lang=en
    Knitting needles and crochet hooks are found in the Household and Tools section

  6. Jean in NH says:

    Instead of taking scissors in your carry on, put an empty dental floss container in your project bag. You know that little metal piece that you use to cut your dental floss? It works fine for cutting yarn and who is going to stop you for taking dental floss on the plane?

    • Stacey says:

      @Jean- That’s a clever use for a dental floss container!
      But, scissors really are allowed on the plane in most countries. So, why compromise with a sub-par cutter when you can bring on the real thing, instead?

  7. Maria says:

    I checked this out when flying from Denmark to New Zealand last year. What I was told was that knitting needles were allowed as long as they were A) round. B) non-metal. C) in use.

    In other words, cast on to those bamboo or plastic circulars and you’ll be fine :) … on Star Alliance planes anyway.

  8. Melissa says:

    Thanks Stacey! Concise info I’ll refer back to when traveling. I’ve thought of bringing a self addressed pre-stamped padded envelope to mail back to myself anything not kosher with TSA so at least it’s not confiscated.

  9. [...] country you’ll be flying back from to make sure you are safe with your projects.  My friend Stacey Trock has a great blog entry about flying internationally with your needles and hooks.  She’s also got some great ideas [...]

  10. mary jane says:

    Peru is a crap-shoot, I got through with my bamboo dpns and another traveler had her entire bamboo dpn needle collection confiscated. In Chile they almost took my 16″ circular but decided to let it on, as long as I didn’t knit…on a 10 hour flight …Best advice – don’t try to bring anything on that you’re not willing to part with.

    • Stacey says:

      Thanks, Mary Jane! What you say confirms what I’ve heard from other folks: South America tends to be hard on the knitting :/
      Absolutely great advice!

  11. Sue Rose says:

    My hubby & I will be doing a ’24’ hour flight from Sydney to London & return this year. Sydney – OK to take on circulars & crochet hooks. Hong Kong – transit – OK. London – OK. Flying Virgin Atlantic, and they say NO! What should I do?

    • Stacey says:

      Hmm… that’s really strange, because I’ve brought them on Virgin Australia with no trouble.
      If it were me (and I’m kind of the daring sort), I’d bring a low-key project (circulars, perhaps) and just not mention it. Since it’s not airport policy, the security guards won’t take them away… worst case, the stewardess will say something. It’s a risk… but that’s a really long flight!

  12. Cora says:

    When we flew from Canada to the UK/Scotland, I was allowed to bring DP’s and circulars. What I did was pull the projects out (they were in Ziplocs) so they could see they were safe. It was a long flight so I needed to have something to do as I had never flown before. Security was fine with it. However when we were flying domestic, my scissors were confiscated. I actually had no idea they were in the project bag. This is as the Hamilton airport.

  13. Lauren says:

    If you fly from the US to Mexico you can bring your knitting on board no problem – but for the return flight from Mexico to US, put your knitting in your suitcase! There must be lots of knitters in Mexico that need needles as they will confiscate them!

  14. zandperl says:

    I’ve never had a problem with knitting needles domestically. When I flew to China in 2011 however, I brought only bamboo knitting needles to try and make things go more smoothly, but I still was questioned at one of the airports. Of course I don’t speak Mandarin, so the security agent turned her x-ray screen to me and pointed at the needles and said something. In China, they want the passenger only to touch their items (not the security agents), so I grabbed my bag when it came out, pulled out the knitting, and demonstrated a few stitches. They waved me on past.

    • zandperl says:

      To clarify: domestically is USA for me. Knitting’s a pretty good conversation starter I’ve found, and flight attendants don’t care if I keep my knitting out even during take off/landing, just as if it were a paperback book.

  15. Deborah says:

    I flew Mexicana Air from Colorado to Mexico City with my knitting in my carry-on but on my return trip they made me put it in my checked bag. Flew in March to Chennai with my knitting and on the return was told I’d have to check it. No rhyme or reason, just glad it was still possible to find the bags I checked…

  16. Nancy N. says:

    Instead of using scissors, I leave a pair of small fingernail clippers in my travel notions box. The clippers cleanly cut all yarn types. I also use a SUPER cute fabric lunch bag made from an amigurumi-type monster print to carry my knitting/crochet. Every TSA agent and airline employee smiles and comments on the bag and I’ve never had a problem. :-)

  17. Sara says:

    Italy is one of those countries where “sharp object” is not well-defined. I had both my Addi turbos and my Knitpicks options confiscated at security yesterday, despite the fact that they were obviously in use. The security agent told me that it wasn’t just that they were metal, they would have confiscated plastic or wooden needles as well. At least they let me keep the yarn…

  18. Holly says:

    Thanks, this is a really useful post! We are emigrating from the UK to NZ with three small kids, and I’m beginning to dread the flight already. My 5 year old has recently expressed an interest in learning to knit. It isn’t something I’ve done in years but if I can teach us both the basics I thought it could be a good way to pass the hours. Then it occurred to me that the needles may be a problem. Fingers crossed some plastic ones inside a pencil case in a kids hand luggage bag won’t be viewed as too threatening!

  19. Cindi says:

    I just returned from a trip to Mexico. I thought my knitting needles (lace – long tip addi clicks would be fine. I wish I would have read this before the security to return home took them from me. I thought afterward that I should have taken them apart, like you suggest. I was very surprised and upset when they tossed them in the trash.

    • Stacey says:

      Oh, no! What a sad story!

    • Sue Rose says:

      Hi Cindi

      We had a 12 week trip to the UK/Ireland in July – Oct this year. On going thru security @ Sydney International, they asked if I had knitting needles in my backpack, to which I replied yes, and that was it. On our return trip from London Heathrow nothing was mentioned. Didn’t do any flying domestically or into Europe, so can’t comment.

  20. Susan Korgen says:

    I have used fingernail clippers to clip off yarn. Works like a charm and TSA doesn’t seem to mind them.

  21. vanessa says:

    I always have a stamped enveloppe so that if my needles get confiscated i can mail them back to myself. Better be safe!

    • Stacey says:

      Yes, if you can find a post box, then you’re safe! However, not all airports have post boxes available! Also, if you’re traveling internationally, getting stamped postage can be difficult (as you don’t know if they’ll be confiscated on your outgoing (US) or return (European) flight, which would require different postage).

      If this is your strategy, keep in mind that a simple envelope (as is used for letters) isn’t sufficient for packing knitting needles. The needles would likely puncture the thin paper and not arrive home safely. You need a padded envelope with enough prepaid postage to ship it as a *package*, since knitting needles are thicker than paper and require the package shipping fee.

  22. Jayne says:

    I am flying to Spain in October and came across your blog. I just checked the EU regulations and got a list of prohibited items. They don’t list knitting needles or crochet hooks at all (the list has weapons, sharp objects, explosives, tools, etc.). Does this mean my needles will be okay? I had planned to start the projects on the plane but perhaps I should start them early so the bamboo circs look less threatening?

    • Stacey says:

      Usually, countries that don’t explicitly list knitting needles as ‘allowed’ have a statement about ‘sharp objects being up to the discretion of the agent’, meaning that any security agent could decide that the needles are threatening or not.
      Colloquially, I have heard that having knitting on the needles makes them look less threatening (since you can tell what they are used for), but I have also heard horror stories about entire projects (yarn and all) being confiscated.
      I would also like to point out that the issue only arises for flights *from* EU countries, since when you go through airport security in the US, they adhere to US regulations. You may decide to knit on the way there, and pack them in your checked luggage for the way home.

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