Dear Employees of the TSA,
Since it is you who are repeatedly searching my bags as I travel around the United States (at least, I hope it’s you.) I thought I would take this opportunity to explain some of the stuff you keep finding in my suitcase. I understand that the presence of all of those pointy metal sticks is probably what is triggering your attention, so allow me to explain. I am a travelling knitter.
Legends are told of these knitters who knit on one thing at a time until it’s done…but these are rare knitters and you will likely encounter few of them during your luggage searching career. Besides being cursed with a wicked short attention span, it seems to me that not all knitting is suited to every minute of my day, and I always have several things on the go so that I can knit all the time. This is, despite the frowns and odd looks that you give me when we spend time together rummaging my travel bags, is normal knitter behaviour.
My first and truly mighty companion is the perennial travelling sock. I got a comment yesterday from someone who noted that this sock showed, er….little progress despite turning up everywhere I go. True enough. The first time I wrote a book, I knit a pair of socks, starting the day that the book launched and continuing slowly, a few rounds every time I went somewhere, every-time I met someone.
I thought (though I am not usually prone to these romantic notions) that it would be a really interesting way for a knitter to record an extraordinary time in her life. A pair of socks so chock full of memories that you could scarcely wear them. For me it seemed so much more apt than a collection of fridge magnets or postcards.
When I began to celebrate this new book, I did the same thing. This sock (which will eventually be a pair) was begun in Pearson International Airport as I left for the first time and has seen everything I have. I knit a little on it each time to make it last the whole extraordinary journey.
Since I’m trying to make the Travelling sock last, I need another pair or two to take the real sock knitting heat.
The trekking sock, for moments of exhaustion or conversation, when I am only capable of plain vanilla round and round stockinette,
and the Potamo-ma-pus (I simply cannot say that.) socks.
The pattern isn’t difficult but does require attention, and I’m apparently not bright enough to knit from a chart at the same time as I think about anything else. I learned this the hard way, since every time I try to knit them while watching TV or having a conversation, I need to rip out an entire freaking repeat. (You will not hold me in higher regard if I tell you how many repeats I ripped out on these before I copped to this.)
For actually knitting during the flight, I have requirements as stiff as you do. Airplane projects must:
1. Fit in my purse. No afghans, no sweaters, nothing big.
2. Be light. So light that I will not resent it as I stagger through the 5th airport in 5 days hating everything, except you, my dear airport screener.
3. Not be warm on my lap as I sit in the airplane waiting for it to taxi away while the cabin temperature attempts to gently steam everyone aboard. (What is with that? Why are planes only comfortable when they are up in the air?)
4. Be on circular needles. I haven’t run into any airline restrictions (Thanks for that.) but straight needles have a tendency to poke the guy sitting next to you, and I do try to be polite. Constantly knitting, but polite.
5. Be interesting and challenging enough that by the 5th plane in 5 days I’m not thinking about stuffing my mouth full of the wadded up pattern just to break the monotony.
Right now, the Summer in Kansas shawl is fitting the bill.
I only knit on it on airplanes, so it’s going slowly, but it has the added bonus of a chart you can spread out on your lap that makes you look very busy and can deter conversation from the guy in the seat next to you.
Finally, I need to bring the meat and potatoes knitting. This is the knitting for in the evenings in hotels, for in cars, while watching tv, out to dinner in restaurants…etc.
I’ve got a client/friend producing me a set of twins sometime soon and each of them will need a sweater. This is “Rutelilje” from Dale of Norway’s baby book # 129 and though I’m getting a serious twitch from what seems like endless seed stitch on 2.25mm needles, I’m loving it. ( I don’t want you to worry about me twitching while I’m on planes. This is on straight needles, and we’ve already determined that this project doesn’t meet the screening requirements. No worries.)
When I pack all of this stuff I take everything I need to complete all of these projects, even if I am only going for 3 days and no-one could ever finish even one of them in that length of time. This speaks to a deep fear of running out of something to work on and an even deeper delusion regarding the speed at which I knit. This too, dear TSA employee, is normal among knitters. Also normal is the tendency for knitters to pick up more yarn and needles as they travel as both stash enhancement and souvenirs. All of these things together explains why it was absolutely normal and even to be expected that there were 5 sets of DPNs, 2 circular needles, 3 sets of straights and 11 balls/skeins or hanks of yarn in my suitcase on my way home. (Oh. That other stuff is roving. Did I mention I spin? It goes with the drop spindle in my cosmetic case.)
If you feel that it would help keep your employees from looking at me like I have three heads, I would be happy to print out letters of reference from other knitters and spinners who have not only carried this much, but purchased other luggage to hold their projects and acquisitions.
Many thanks for all that you do to make the world a safer place, and please don’t touch my underpants (not even with the gloves on).
Public Service Announcement.
Claudia, everybody’s favourite orange loving knitter and spinner is taking it on the road again this year and riding her bike 150 miles to raise money for MS research. This is a cause near and dear to my heart, and I want you to give her money. (I thought about trying to think of a nice way to say that, but sometimes, directness is best.)
If every knitter pledged her a dollar. Just one….
The possibilities boggle the mind. If you can possibly afford to contribute to this wonderful cause, please do.