Hey, here’s the first sleeve of my Monomania cardigan.
In my push to finish this sweater, I’ve been dragging it around the city with me in a little cloth bag, getting a few rows in here and there when there is a lull in the action of whatever else I’m doing. I’ve left the bag behind twice now, and both times it nearly gave me a heart attack. To be so close to the finish of a sweater, and to lose not only the sleeve, but the four little balls of yarn needed to knit the sleeves, would be tragic. The first time, I got a text from the host of my book club, asking, “Did you leave knitting here?” (No–someone else left knitting there. YES it was me. Gosh.) It was a simple matter of picking it up from the doorman the next day. But yesterday evening, I sat down to cast on my second sleeve, and couldn’t find the bag anywhere. I had been to three places — that I could remember– with that bag in tow, and all were public places: a gym, a diner, a grocery store. I retraced my steps. It was at the gym, behind the desk. But what a scare. I do not need this kind of stress in my life.
So, Monomania is grounded until the last sleeve is finished. Sleeves are not a good thing to knit on the go, in any event. Too much checking the pattern to figure out which increase row I’m on, is it time to bind off yet, etc. etc. Shaped knitwear is not ideal travel knitting. You can do it, and if you don’t have a choice of knitting, you will do it (not knitting while traveling being an unthinkable thing) but if you are planning out what knitting to take when you are moving around a lot, you don’t choose sleeves, or cardigans with shaping, or colorwork that has you tangling two or more balls of yarn in your bag.
Recommended Travel Knitting
So what do you choose? I’ve had good luck with…wait for it…the Honey Cowl. There is something so neat and portable about a Honey Cowl. It is knitted in the round, which is tidier in your lap than a scarf that starts to drag as it grows, or twist as you turn it, and you use just one color at a time. There are no increases or decreases to keep track of. It’s a two-row pattern sequence, with one row being plain knit and one row being a simple 2-stitch repeat. You can put it down safely without getting to the end of anything, and no matter how long it takes for you to pick it up again, you’ll know exactly where you are.
It doesn’t have to be a Honey Cowl, but cowls in the round are one of my top picks, especially for short junkets.
Right now, I’m besotted with the Wollman Rink Cowl by Michele Wang. I need a new cowl myself, and I have plenty of fingering weight yarn sitting around in my favorite colors. I’m a little concerned that all that linen stitch–which gives that magical woven-look fabric–will be tedious, with the constant yarn-in-front, slip,yarn-in-back business. But if I’m in transit with no other knitting with me, I’ll knit linen stitch and I’ll like it. And then I’ll have this beautiful thing at the end of my vacation. (The Wollman Rink cowl is striped, so it violates my rule against colorwork while traveling. But I make the rules. And on a long flight, I relax all the rules. There is no sweeter zone of zen for knitting concentration than a long flight.)
When I’m going to be away for a week or so, I love to knit a lopapeysa. If you time it right, you can work on the body or sleeves–both are stockinette straightaways once you’ve done a few rows of patterning at the edges–while en route to your destination. Then, when you get there and are relaxing in your mom’s kitchen or other well-lit, well-catered spot, it will be time to work the patterning and decreases for the yoke. Last Christmas, I finished a lopapeysa and left it behind for my nephew, thus freeing up space in my luggage for the kids’ presents.
If lopapeysas are not your cup of skyr, any relatively plain pullover will do.
In 2014 I knitted both enormous pieces of a Relax sweater on a two-week vacation. That sweater has become one of my favorites, and it’s also a sweet souvenir of punting on the Cam, and a 4th of July barbeque in London. It’s a big sweater, but the yarn is light enough that I could always carry it with me in my main bag (thus reducing the risk of leaving it somewhere).
Sock-knitters: when you travel, you should knit socks. They seem like excellent travel knitting, if you are experienced enough not to have to squint at the pattern a lot, or pull out bits that you’ve messed up and start over again. (You want to minimize the need to dig stitch markers out of your airplane seat or chase them down the aisle of a train.)
I will not give advice about how much yarn to take. The human heart is full of optimism. The future is always going to be better than the past; we certainly are going to knit faster in the future than we have knitted in the past. So we always take too much yarn. It’s a waste of space in our bags, but it’s kind of touching how we keep fooling ourselves about the limits of human knitting speed. Remember: at many destinations, there is yarn available to be purchased, if you run out. Or if you just want to purchase yarn.
On Thursday, while my Monomania sleeve was hanging out uptown with a doorman, a friend came over to my house for a knitting lesson. To keep myself from knitting her knitting when she was supposed to be knitting it, I cast on a dishrag.
So if you’re really afraid you’re going to finish two lopapeysas over Christmas and have nothing to knit on the way home, pack a few balls of emergency dishcloth cotton.