What follows is some common sense & practical tips for how I travel with knitting. It isn't a guarantee that you'll be safe with your knitting, or that it won't be confiscated by vigilant airport security - nothing and no-one can promise you that. I'll be sharing what works for me, but if you give it a go, you do so at your own risk. Sorry to have to say this, as I'd kinda hoped it would go without saying, but I don't want to get angry emails from knitters who've lost their projects.
Airport security & airline staff are a law unto themselves, and as the carrying of knitting needles is such a grey area, *especially* in Europe, you should always be prepared for the unexpected.
I fly with Ryanair frequently for 2 reasons. 1) they're dirt cheap. 2) they're the only airline that serves most of the areas I travel, and the only airline that serves the Stansted-Rimini route. So I'm kinda stuck with them. And they're notorious for being anal about what they will and won't allow on the plane. I won't break into a tirade about their policies, but if you've never travelled with them, be prepared for a few raised eyebrows.
The policies for carrying knitting needles vary wildly with the different airlines. When I went to the States earlier in the year, it was no issue. We sat and knitted in the departure lounge, on the plane, anywhere, really, and no-one was bothered. But then we also got a 23kg checked luggage allowance; Ryanair make you pay extra for a mere 15kg (so I fly hand-luggage only a lot). Free drinking water was available on every flight we took in the US, even the short domestics, heck on some, we even got free coffee and snacks (there was tea on offer too, but it was rank). Over here, you have to pay through the nose for the same basic things.
Also - airline policies are different from airport policies. The UK government website say knitting needles are safe. But that means zilch when the final decision is left to the staff. Heathrow decided last year some time that they were cool with needles. Gatwick doesn't say either way and Stansted also permit them.
But as we know already, none of this means anything. The security officers have the same kind of power that Customs & Excise have, and they have the final say. So if they're having a crappy day & they think your needles are dangerous, be ready to say goodbye to them, 'cos there's no way those folks will be reasoned with.
Knitting in the cabin is down to the airline and their staff, and Ryanair have reportedly given time and time again a big fat NO when asked if they're permitted. But they only run short flights, and for anything 2 hours or less, I'd sooner not have the hassle. Since twittering this morning about how I travel with my knitting I've heard from one or two knitters who've never had trouble - which is really good! - but sadly that's not everyone's experience. The airlines & airports are slowly waking up to the fact that knitting needles are no real risk, provided we're sensible, but they all carry the disclaimer. Until all the airports & all the airlines are in agreement, we'll never truly know where the goal posts are.
So here's what I do, because there's no way I could go away for 2 days without taking my knitting. 2hrs, fine, but 2 days?
My projects are always small, they're Hats. And I use interchangeables for most projects. My knitting is kept on the cable (a short one, probably one we cannibalised back before they made shorter lengths) and use the stoppers that come with the needle tips to keep it all together.
(ps - I use Knit Pro/KnitPicks Harmony Interchangeables. What's not to love? And I've just this minute discovered they now do a Cubics (square) range of tips... late to the party, as always)
Then it goes into it's unassuming project bag, stuffed in with the rest of my hand luggage. This Della Q bag was one of my treats from TNNA; rather apt, don't you think?
Short tips work best for Hats, and they're also pretty unassuming, especially when they're kept separate from the cables and the rest. I keep the tips next to my pens, and the little metal tightener thing gets dropped to the bottom of a very long pocket.
I normally only take one pair of tips, and maybe a 2nd pair if the pattern needs them. I plan ahead, so that I can keep my kit minimal. I don't take scissors or a blade cutter, yarn can be broken easily without them. And I leave a tapestry needle behind - finishing can wait until I get home and if it's really necessary, I can play MacGyver with the cable tightener.
So the trick is, if it doesn't look long and pointy like they think knitting needles should look, it'll probably be fine, but there are no guarantees. Other knitters have reported no problems when they use circulars, which is a similar tactic. I've taken cheapy wooden 20cm DPNs on hand-luggage with them stashed in my pencil case. I mean, common sense says not to take your prized 16" metal straights, right?
PS/ curious about what's on my needles in the photo above? I'm knitting with some yummy Shibuiknits Baby Alpaca DK, and the design is one of the annual Mystery Knit-a-long Hats, scheduled for November.