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There’s Nothing Crafty About Airport Security

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There’s Nothing Crafty About Airport Security

As a knitter I always wonder when I travel, “can I bring my knitting needles with me?” That’s a question that maybe you ask yourself too.  My co-worker Sarah wrote this post which offers some helpful tips for traveling with knitting and what handy dandy tools we’re allowed to use. I always use it as a guide, and this past trip I traveled to Montego Bay, Jamaica with no reason to worry, but I guess who doesn’t worry a little about getting their needles taken away from them.

Well now to the tale…

As I mentioned, I was just on vacation in Jamaica and  I stayed in beautiful Montego Bay. Of course, being who I am — a diehard knitter —  I brought my knitting along as I always do. I love to knit on the beach. I find it creates an ultra-calming feeling; the ocean, the knitting, no way to be stressed! I was working on my sweater and a gift for my friend. Everything was great.


But then it was time to go home.

I was going through security in Jamaica and I usually never have a problem with my bag, but this time I did. She asked if she could check my bag and I said, “of course.” What do I have to hide? But then as she went through my make-up and other bags inside, I realized “MY NEEDLES!” I started to get really nervous, not only nervous, but a slow-motion anger was building inside my belly!

 I thought I was going to need to fight someone!

Thank goodness I didn’t have anything on my needles, but she was looking at them in question, like “what are these?” She then went to her supervisor and asked if they were “ok?” I felt like she was talking about my children. I mean she was holding at least $60 worth of needles in her hands … needles I hold like they’re new borns!! I was standing there thinking, “How could she be treating them like this?!” Not to mention the fire in my belly that was growing faster and faster…. These are my identity! Don’t you …. And then she threw them back in my bag and attempted to be neat, but wasn’t. I closed my bag up and it took about five breaths to bring me back down to this planet.

Tell me I’m not the only one!

 I know I can’t be the only one who has been through this scare. Have your needles or crochet hooks ever been taken away from you? What did you do? How did you feel?

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  • I travel quite a bit in the states and have never had my needles taken from me. I have only had 1 time that was funny, and that was when a stewardess told me to be careful that I don’t stab myself during take off. She was serious, it was not a joke! Makes me wonder if someone had…… 🙂

  • I went to Cancun in 2009. On the way home the authorities in Mexico tried to take my circular needles, even though I had half a sock hanging on the cord! So I got out of line, leaving my husband behind, and started over. I checked my knitting bag and had to fly back home with nothing to knit. Not only that, the agent literally broke the tiny, 1/2 inch nail file off of my nail clippers. I mean really, what in the world could anybody do with that tiny thing. I couldn’t even properly file my nails with it. I haven’t gone back to Mexico and don’t plan to either. They can keep their nutty regulations and I’ll keep my US dollars at home.

    • I had needles taken flying back from Mexico to the US. I spent about 20 minutes arguing with the agents and was the last person to board the plane, crying about my lost needles. However, the agents did tell me that the regulation came from the US NOT Mexico (apparently if you are flying domestically the US allows knitting needles but has different regulations when flying in from different countries). The agents were afraid about what the US would do to them if it was found out they let me travel into the US with the needles, they even showed me the printed regulations. And yes, I had two projects on the needles that were taken.

      • Hi Jen, My knitting was confiscated in Puerto Vallarta last year. 2 sets of 16″ circular needles ,yarn (project already started for the trip home) pattern, measuring tape,etc. Agents told me to go back to Airline with it and so I did.
        Air Canada representatives said “Don’t worry we will give you your bag at the boarding check in. Well then I was told they would loose their jobs if they allowed me to have my knitting. Hog Wash ! etc. Went through hoops to get some compensation from trip insurance afterward. Certainly makes me think of Mexico in a different light now.

    • Hey, I had to respond to this. I just got back from cancun and had my crochet hook on the plane both to and from and luckily no problems. They didn’t even take them out to check. But I know how you feel, I had back up needles I’m my luggage in case I needed them. Lol.

  • Travelling in Turkey a few years ago, I had my sock knitting on two circular needles. It took three airport security agents to discuss and tell me that I may be allowed to take one on the plane, but two was not allowed. I whined about how I would be able to finish my sock, and worried that they would take the stitches off one (which fortunately did not happen). I even suggested that they keep them while I was on the plane (it was a short flight of 50 minutes, from Istanbul to Ankara) but was told that they could/would not do that. I ended up waiting in line to check in my carryon bag and protested when told I had to paid extra for it. Kinda happy end: I did not have to pay and had my needles safe when I landed in Ankara.

  • A few years ago I was flying back from Mexico with a tin birdcage wrapped in newspaper and a carry-on, with socks on needles. Nice Addis, to be precise. They wouldn’t let me through, so I stepped out of the line and told them I’d see if I could mail them back. But what I did was to thread some scrap yarn through, pull the needles out, and slip the needle through a hole in the newspaper, hoping the tin of the birdcage would hide the metal of the needle tips. It did. But I forgot about the crochet hook, which they did confiscate.

    Coming in from Canada, however, with two items on needles just last week was no problem. I often use bamboo needles when flying just to minimize the risk.

  • I’ve never had a problem but some of my friends have had their knitting needles taken from them. I play it safe and just travel with cheap ones so if I lose them no big deal.It can be annoying and certainly nerve wrecking in many cases .

  • I’ve never had problems with them. Now I did have to buy myself some little rounded blade scissors (and they looked hard at those) but no problem with my needles. I always take my bamboo needles with me. I’ve flown to France to US and had no problems either way. Maybe it’s just Mexico.

  • Ooh, grrrrr! I’m still angry. Wooden circular needles, dull points, as scary as a wooden pencil . White yarn. Guatemalan security took MY YARN!!!! Of course, everybody on the plane had electronic chargers, diameter the same as yarn, and no one touched those. I also had some fancy expensive variegated thread for a quilt block appliqué … Gone. Also plastic folding scissors, maybe an inch and a half cutting edge and rounded tips…Those had made it through any number of European securities.

    • I had bad luck leaving Guatemala a couple of years ago…was into cross-stitch at the time. The security guard motioned as if I might try choking some one with the thread! She kept saying, “Pretty, pretty” and I noticed the confiscated items did NOT go in the trash. I just hope her Grandma made something pretty with them! 🙂

  • I have taken my knitting with me on US as well as international trips. I have never had a problem. It seems as though if you have a few rows of work completed they are less scary looking. Always check each country’s airline rules. USA, UK, Australia, have all been a-okay with knitting in the carry-on or me actively knitting during the flight.

  • I went on the TSA website and printed out the portion that said that knitting needles were allowed in carry ons and stuck it in my bag so that on the off chance I am stopped, I can show the paper that says it is ok. I only had to use it once, and the guy was SUPER angry at me that I had proof that he was wrong and that they were in face allowed, to the point that another worker had to intervene

    • That’s a great idea! I’m flying from the east coast to the west in a few weeks, with 2 hour layover. Crochet is my therapy! I don’t go anywhere without mu hooks.

  • I had a security person search my bag and find my dpk on an early attempt at knitting socks. She pulled them out of the yarn and said I couldn’t have them in my take on bag. She only found the 3 attached and I didn’t tell her about the fourth one so I still have that as a reminder of that terrible encounter. It was just after the change in the rules.

  • Travelling internationally can be tricky because regulations vary by country and you have check the regulations for the countries you’re traveling to and from. For example US and UK no problem with needles in carry ons. But, France doesn’t allowed needles onto check bags. So, when leaving the US and going through TSA I could have my knitting with me, but when leaving France and going through French security, I had to check my needles.

  • Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. The gruff female agent took my tiny 1″ long clippers that fit in a place in my sewing repair kit. But then she saw my bamboo needles. She was ready to take them too but apparently I complained a little loud and her supervisor came over. I was allowed to keep my needles. But I’ve travelled to Europe, Hawaii and several places in Mexico many times (including about a month after 9/11) and never had an issue with my knitting needles. Just that one time in Paris.

  • If I fly, which isn’t often, I use cheaper needles just in case they want to take them. And I carry stitch holders in hopes that I can at least put my project on those if they take my needles. I always have more needles and yarn in my checked luggage just in case. But I’ve never had any problems yet.

  • I’ve taken all sorts of needles on domestic flights in the past ten years or so, and never had a problem. Wooden or metal, dpns, circulars, metal interchangeables, even two pairs of 14″ metal straights. Along with small scissors, and a flat magnetic case full of sewing and tapestry needles. Maybe I’ve been lucky.

  • Needles are not allowed between New Zealand and Australia, but as I was knitting a spiral scarf I just used disposable chopsticks, not problem with those

    • That is brilliant! 🙂

  • Rules are rules. Be a savy flyer and print out the airline rules/country rules before you leave home. Do not whine about it be knowledgeable. Flying is not easy and like everyone else I knit while I fly but safety first.

  • I was leaving Amsterdam once and wanted to start a project on the flight home. I put my bamboo circulars next to my pencil case so they would hopefully look like more pencils during the xray. I forgot to look up their rules and regs, ahead of time. No problem though, the bag went through without any issue.

  • Every time I travel or take a cruise had no problem because I alway have a project on them plus is I have any problem I travel with a self steam envelope big enough to put my project and the needles inside and send them back to me so I can continue with my project when I return from my vacation. I travel international every other year and no problems at all.

  • I also travel a lot but when i take my crochet I buy plastic hooks they have never flagged security, for my thread cutter I use a empty dental floss box the cutter is great for cross stitch floss and yarn.

    • I am always trying to figure out how to carry my projects and am always forgetting something to cut the yarn with because I first think that I can’t bring anything on and don’t need too, but then I remember my yarn… The empty dental floss box I never would have thought of, I’m always scared I won’t make it through with my tiny scissors or nail clippers. What a great idea!

      • I have a couple pairs of collapsible scissors and keep one in my travel kit. Don’t know if it’s because they look like a couple of circles on the xray or what, but they’ve never been challenged. Total length of blade would be about an inch , but enough to cut yarn or thread.

  • Actually, I’ve got a flight coming up in the next few months and I’m quite nervous about my hooks being taken away. Living in Los Angeles, I had to take my husband to the e.r. one early morning. I had my small project bag and my plastic crochet hook (no scissors) and sent it through the scanner. Everything went fine, but when I was sitting in the waiting room, a guy said we couldn’t have them in there. He was just a regular patron. He went and grabbed security and brought them over because he was spurned before. I explained that my hook was no sharper than car keys. She said they were dangerous and we couldn’t have them. I left, but was pissed that there aren’t better regulations.

    • Wait…ER as in emergency room??? And there was a scanner there? WOW…

      • You got it. It’s around downtown Los Angeles, and it can get some very feisty people. It was just quite disconcerting for someone like myself who just wanted to keep myself busy. Not all our hospitals have one and that was a first. They are at every entrance to the one we visited.

        • I wasn’t aware things have gotten quite that bad in general, that a hospital would need such a thing. I live in the DC area, and I will need to keep this in mind should I have to go to an ER or hospital for anything. I guess to play it safe I’d better just bring something to read instead!

        • Interesting. I just read an old speech by a Dr. Richard Day circa1969 that was transcribed by a pediatrician named Lawrence Dunegan MD
          :”..access to hospitals would be tightly controlled. Identification would be
          needed to get into the building. The security in and around hospitals would
          be established and gradually increased so that nobody without identification
          could get in or move around inside the building. Theft of hospital equipment,
          things like typewriters and microscopes and so forth would be “allowed” and
          exaggerated; reports of it would be exaggerated so that this would be the
          excuse needed to establish the need for strict security, [ since this speech was in 1969, 9-11 was used as the ostensible reason behind the security] until people got
          used to it. And anybody moving about in a hospital would be required to wear
          an identification badge with photograph and . . telling why he was there
          . . employee or lab technician or visitor or

          This is to be brought in
          gradually — getting everybody used to the idea of identifying themselves
          — until it was just accepted. This need for ID to move about would start
          in small ways: hospitals, some businesses, but gradually expand to include
          everybody in all places! It was observed that hospitals can be used to confine
          people… ”

          Well in 1969 this idea sounded fantastical, futuristic, post-apocalyptic. We now know it has come to be.

          • There’s are reasons why security needs to be tight in and around hospitals: drugs that can be stolen, newborns who can be snatched, patients who need to be protected, etc.

            I don’t have a problem with wearing a badge at work, or a visitor’s badge if I’m visiting someone in the hospital. Perhaps because I have nothing to hide.

    • Wow, that is amazing. I live in a city that borders Detroit, Michigan and have always had my knitting with me (KnitPicks sharp metal tips!) when taking husband or parents to the hospital. (And, yes, I’ve been through a metal scanner at an ER, too). Maybe because on the two ER trips I followed the ambulance in?

      I was more concerned about how I’d occupy myself during jury duty and visited the courthouse before my date to serve. I showed them my wooden crochet hook/project and they said, sure, bring it. I admit, I didn’t try to bring knitting or metal there. I got in the jury room and there was a gal, knitting away with size 13 or so metal needles!

  • Every country is different. When passing through Turkey to Kenya a couple years ago, I had my circular bamboo needles confiscated in Turkey – even though I had checked ahead of time. I had a project on the needles and had them cut the needles off and save my almost finished dishcloth. I had an extra pair of needles in my checked bag just in case this happened, so I was good for the rest of the trip. I just check them now when I fly back to the US from any Country and if I have a layover in another country.

  • I have never had anyone question my needles, but just in case I went on the ATF website and printed out a sheet that states that I am allowed to bring needles on board an aircraft.

  • I travel South West and they permit needles!

  • The TSA guidelines STRONGLY recommend that you DO have some kind of ‘work in progress’ on your needles.
    Should some TSA person be overly zealous (I once had a TIDE stain remover pen confiscated – though it is CLEARLY UNDER 3 ounces), the guidelines also recommend that you have a stamped, self-addressed, padded envelop ready to mail items back to yourself.

  • I have had to put my double pointed needles in the checked bags when I was traveling in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. No problems in the US. Overseas they don’t like scissors. I have lost scissors at Heathrow, London, UK when I was coming back home. Leaving Belize this spring break they let me keep my scissors but told me I should have packed them.

  • In my carryon, I keep a new, padded envelope, addressed to my home, stamped with enough postage to get all my knitting tools there from anywhere in the US. If they tell me I can’t bring anything on the plane, I can just drop it all in there and send it home. Haven’t needed it yet, but it eases my don’t-take-my-needles anxiety.

  • I’ve never had anyone look oddly at or try to confiscate my needles, but I do always travel with cheap bamboo – steel and aluminum seem to be regarded as more of a threat. The newest twist I’ve heard, though, is that you can’t take a circular thread cutter on board, because it might be dismantled and the round blade used as a weapon. Those were invented for the express purpose of passing airport security, so go figure! I carry one of those sliding letter openers, instead, never had a problem.

  • I always take my crochet hooks and yarn when traveling. I think crochet hooks look less threatening. Never had any problems in US or Europe. Sizzles now that is another story. Had forgotten to pack my small craft scissors in my check in and those got confiscated in Spain. Take the cheap hooks just in case.

  • I just realized last night that my long #8 needle has lost it’s mate, and to make it worse it was with my long #6 who also has a MIA mate. Now I am upset because thats two needles I have misplaced. These are very sentimental to me, I think they are about………..well, I wont say, let me just say as long as I have been knitting they have been with me. I felt upset, so I can imagine what you went through.

  • About five years agi I went to France with a blanket that i was working on for a soon to be grand daughter took knitting kneedles with me and road the Chunnel to London. No problem and,even returned to the US with them.

  • I sometimes take my entire crochet hook case with me in my carry-on. When I’m starting a new project, I’m not sure which size I’ll want to use. The case is the kind that folds and zips, so it must look quite interesting going through the security x-ray. One time I was pulled aside and asked to empty my bag. The agent actually gave a little chuckle when I unzipped my hook case and sent me on my way. Now, if I haven’t pulled out the hook I need before packing, I unzip and open the case so each individual hook can be seen and is recognizable as what it is.

  • Several years ago, coming back from visiting family in Canada, when they pulled me, and my 2 little girls over and GRILLED me like a criminal! The lady did NOT like my wool I was carrying in my carry on luggage– I was crocheting (with a plastic hook) some children’s mittens for a charity who only uses woolen items. My sister had bought me the wool– $18 a skein!! I told her what it was for (charity) and she was furious. I showed her the TSA regs but she refused to let me have my wool back. I asked to talk to someone who was higher up than she was and she called another lady over to talk to me. This lady told me the whole thing was ridiculous and she got me tags to put on my bag. I only got to take my purse on which had a crossword book in it.
    I have fibromyalgia and sometimes knitting or crocheting helps me forget the pain for a while. I did ask the TSA lady how yarn could have been dangerous, and she indicated that I could strangle someone with it?!! I’m like “are you kidding?” She wasn’t! Later I realized that everyone had shoelaces, or bare hands if they really wanted to strangle people!
    Oh yea, we barely caught our flight because of this HUGE delay! I was not a happy mama and my girls were very scared sitting there while I was being treated like a criminal. 🙁

  • One specially insane TSA person decided that my tiny scissors, the ones that are shaped like a stork, would be extremely dangerous on the plane and confiscated them. I had an interesting scenario on my head… did he imagine that I would boldly step into the cockpit and tell the pilot “Take me to Tahiti or I will snip away a button?”

  • I was going from Chicago to South Dakota and had my half inch safety sissors and wooden needles taken. The security line was over an hour long and would have missed my flight if I went to mail them. Odd thing was when I got to the hotel I realized I had a 4 inch blade pocket knife in my pocket. Great to know airport security finds the important things that are dangerous.

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