Knitting in motion isn’t very difficult as long as your hands are free, but there are several things to consider before you go off and do it. If you think it through beforehand, it will be fun, painless, safe, and take very little effort. These recommendations work equally well for fans of crocheting.

Why knit while walking, standing, or otherwise employing one’s nether regions? Well, here are a few reasons:

  • Boredom. To use myself as an example, I have over 4 hours a day of commuting in order to get to and from work via commuter train and light rail. I almost never get a seat on the 45 minute light rail ride, and I may be standing for 20 minutes on the train going home. Since I often knit instead of read, it would be rather tedious to have to wait until I get a seat. This way, I can knit almost non-stop from each connection until I open my office or car door.
  • Finding time for a time-consuming hobby. I almost never knit at home unless it is something mind-numbingly complicated; I’ve got other things I need to do at home. But, if I always have my PNP convenient, I always have something to do while waiting on line, in a waiting room, etc. and that means projects finish faster, which means FINISHED projects. Finished projects are golden. They are a badge of pride and a mark of dedication. As we all know, they prove that one really is the knitting maven one had hoped to become.
  • Urgency is another aspect of finding time. Perhaps you’ve put off working on that baby blanket and she has gone into labor! Perhaps that promised birthday knitwear kept getting pushed to the back of your knitting schedule until you only have 3 days left!! Maybe you’re broke, but the $3,000 worth of accumulated yarn in the basement is the perfect way to handle all the holiday gifts this year, if you can knit up 17 hats, mittens, scarves, and sweaters in 5 weeks!!! Depending on your schedule of regular activities, being able to knit while otherwise in motion can add significant knitting time to your day.
  • Multitasking your way to better health. Taking a walk is good for you, but finding the time when you’re addicted to knitting or have urgency issues is a problem. Or maybe that treadmill, stationary bike, or small stair machine are sitting in the corner, buried under a pile of laundry while you knit and watch TV. There needn’t be any angst about it, just do them all at the same time.
  • Like all knitting in public, or kipping, it draws varying amounts of attention. This, for the quietly exhibitionist amongst us, is fun. It sometimes leads to conversations or at least pleasant comments from others if you are standing for a while. And, it helps support the idea that knitting is not a declining or dull craft. I’m all for that.

The logistics of knitting: Things to consider when planning to go out into the world.

  1. Circular needles are generally more polite. This is not really up for debate if you are knitting on a crowded train. It doesn’t matter a hoot when you are knitting where there is lots of room, but on a crowded train, bus or elevator, it helps not to poke and prod one’s neighbors, or stab them if the vehicle stops suddenly. Short double pointed needles are another option if you are knitting in the round, but they have a risk of falling out of the project and rolling away. Also, having a project bristling with needles is somewhat off-putting on that same crowded transport. So use your judgement and consider circular needles for flat knitting, and how to use a long circular needle for small diameters. A word of caution about needles breaking. In my experience, Susan Bates brand Quicksilver US#1 double pointed needles are extremely fragile when they are very cold. Also, some wooden needles and crochet hooks are prone to breaking if bent, which can happen when cramming a project hurriedly back into an overstuffed bag. Knitting bags tend to get a bit battered when you have to juggle your other stuff and people too, so keep this in mind when choosing needles.
  2. How large is your project currently, and how large will it get? This will determine its ultimate practicality as a portable project and influence the size of your bag. If it is something small, like booties, it may well fit into something you already carry, such as a handbag, briefcase, or computer case. If it is currently small but will get large, either start with a large bag or be ready to scale up. You will also need to carry enough yarn to last through your planned knitting for the day. Large projects require lots of yarn, and it usually isn’t practical or necessary to carry all of it all of the time. However, it is also worth it to finish large projects at home once they become unwieldy.
  3. How complicated is the pattern? Knitting in motion tends to require looking up, stopping, and otherwise being distracted at odd moments such as crossing streets. It is easier and more relaxing to work on a pattern which doesn’t require constant adherence to a chart or row instructions. Patterns that make sense once they are established, are repetitive within the row so you only have to look at the pattern once per row, and are otherwise somewhat intuitive are best. Being able to see if you’ve made a mistake within a few stitches is extremely useful. So, keep within your comfort level of knitting, or you may end up frogging as much as you knit. If you are really dying to try that complicated pattern, try to do all the establishing rows and especially difficult bits at home.
  4. How many colors are you using? I do not recommend this for intarsia or fair isle knitting unless you are working at home on exercise equipment, and even then I have my doubts. No matter what, your yarn will get tangled, and there is nothing worse than being stuck untangling just as your train pulls in. Horizontal stripes in one color are easiest, and you can use as many as you like as frequently as you like. Just keep in mind which you plan on using that day so that you carry all the colors and quantities that you will need with you.
  5. How is your yarn wound? Most yarn comes in center pull skeins and balls, or in hanks these days. I prefer to use pull skeins or wind pull balls myself from hanks. These are best for ambulatory knitting because the skein can be almost anywhere, and sometimes even be squashed under something, yet still allow smooth feeding of the yarn. Yarn on cones or which otherwise needs free play does best in a Ziploc bag that is placed in a paper bag. The slippery Ziploc will hold its shape fairly well and stay opened enough for the yarn to have play, and it will also help keep the yarn from getting hung up on other objects in the bag. If the bag is not too much wider than the cone in question, its flat bottom and upright sides will help keep the cone standing up, which helps keep it feeding yarn smoothly. You will need to exercise more care as cones usually do not evenly feed upon light pressure. This is also true of many novelty yarns and extremely hairy yarns such as kid mohair. Also, some yarn tangles readily. For these, it is better to feed out less at a time more frequently. Yarn which tangles easily in a center pull skein is often easier to manage if you rewind the remaining yarn into a fresh ball when about half or two thirds of the way through the original ball.
  6. What notions will you need? Stitch markers, tape measure or small ruler, something to cut thread, point protectors, a row counter, a crochet hook or tapestry needle for finishing, et al. Consolidate everything in small tin, case, or Ziploc so that the whole thing can be found quickly and easily, and won’t get tangled up in your yarn or knitting. If you don’t have small scissors, the blade on a box of dental floss will cut most yarn easily although you may need to cut very thick yarn in more than one pass. Point protectors aren’t necessary, but are useful for keeping loose or bulky projects on the needles when they are not being worked upon. A small supply of paperclips is always a good idea. Paperclips are great stitch markers for needles under US#9. Standard sized clips will still fit over #9s, but at this point they start getting a little tight. Paperclips, especially large ones, can also be used if you have forgotten that you need a stitch holder or cable stitch needle. They and post-it notes are also great for indicating what row you are on when using charts and patterns.

This is so important it gets its own section: Bag choice

This depends on a number of factors. Large projects are heavy and long projects dangle, so the growing fabric needs to be supported by a bag. Small, contained projects simply need a place from which the yarn will feed, and something to hold the whole thing when not in use. AVOID VELCRO!!! The hook side of hook and loop closures is anathema to yarn. If your bag has Velcro anywhere upon which your knitting or a loop of loose yarn may get hung up, remove it or cover it up. Keep in mind that hooks may become exposed if you simply press closed the Velcro when the closure is on an overstuffed pocket. If you have spare Velcro handy, take pieces of loop side and cover up all exposed hook sides. Also be cautious with zippers. Fine yarn can get hung up in the float, or even in coarse metal zipper teeth. Also, is the bag waterproof? If the weather is inclement, this is a useful option.

Small projects – approximately 200g of yarn or less. Keep in mind that mobility will also affect the other stuff you can carry. For everything else, shoulder straps that won’t slip are easiest although light bags with short straps can dangle off your wrist or elbow. When I can, I prefer to consolidate everything into one large bag.

  • When you don’t need a bag: If you are knitting at home on a piece of exercise equipment, then you do not actually need a bag. Since the project does not need support from a bag hanging off your person, you can leave your yarn on the floor or a table. Of course, a bag, basket, or yarn bra is handy for keeping the yarn clean and pet free. Their may also be safety issues concerning dangling yarn, so keep that in mind when considering from where your yarn will feed.
  • Pockets: in the winter I often just tuck a ball of yarn and my needles into one coat pocket, and stick notions in another. Pull skeins feed effortlessly from an exterior pocket.
  • A yarn bra: This is just a small, flexible bag designed to hold a pull skein so that it doesn’t unravel from the outside while you knit. These can be fashioned from any sort of small flexible bag-like object, or be knit or crocheted. If you add a handle so that it can be hung from your wrist, it will be portable.
  • A wrist ball holder: These only hold the yarn, and not your knitting, so you will need a place to put your knitting when you aren’t working on it. The ones you can buy are generally made of metal and are comprised of a bracelet, a pin, and a stopper. The pin is about 5 inches long and is attached to the bracelet with a swivel so it can rotate freely in either direction. The pin is pushed through the center of a ball of yarn, the stopper is placed on the end so that the ball doesn’t fall off the pin. The bracelet is hung on the wrist and the yarn feeds from the outside of the ball. I am currently looking at one made by the Lacis company. It is easy enough to make one, instructions for a really easy one are at the end of this write-up. One thing to keep in mind is that these must hang freely to work properly. If any part of your jauntering about involves sitting, the holder will rest in your lap and get hung up.
  • A small bag with short handles: This is a step larger than a yarn bra. This bag generally becomes the home for its project until completion. Find a shopping or gift bag large enough to accommodate all of the yarn and notions, with handles that fit comfortably over your wrist. You don’t need to carry about all the yarn, but if the bag is big enough for all of it, it will be big enough for the finished project. Hang the bag off of the wrist of the hand with which you throw or draw your yarn, place your yarn feed to the most comfortable side of the bag opening, and get to walking. Paper or stiff plastic with stiff handles are ideal as the bag will stay open and standing if you have to put it down. It is often more convenient to put it down if you will be standing for a while, such as on a subway train. The fact that it stands up makes it easier to pick up again quickly, and helps keep the yarn feeding smoothly and away from potentially dirty floors. Since the project is small, the weight on your wrist should not be uncomfortable.
  • A small bag with a long strap: large enough to accommodate all of the yarn and notions, with a strap long enough to cross your chest and still hang at a comfortable height. This is the ultimate in ‘on the go.’ If you hold the bag in front or on one side, you can tuck your knitting away or pick it up in seconds. I like the bag to be soft and light, so that it can be stuffed into a larger bag if necessary.

Large or long projects – things that are heavy or more than 12 inches long: The only thing I have found to work well is a small messenger type bag, wider than it is tall, with an adjustable strap. I wear it crossed over my back and shorten the strap so the bag hangs at a comfortable height in front, the top of the bag level with my elbows. With the bag in front, not only doesn’t the strap cross my chest in an uncomfortable manner, but I can rest my knitting on the top of the bag. Since my knitting is kept in a pocket on the front of the bag which opens at the top with a zipper, I am essentially knitting with the project still in its pocket. If my knitting exceeds the size of the front pocket, I can open the bag and use the large central section for my knitting instead. Any bag with a top opening will work. Everything fits into the bag, and smaller ziploc bags can be used to separate items if necessary. Additionally, unless the project is exceptionally large, then all your other stuff can fit in a different pocket of the same bag. Lunch, newspaper, proposal drafts, homework, books, radio, et al in one bag. A bag this size works equally well for small projects, but is overkill unless you have lots of other things to carry.

Etiquette
Remember to use your judgement when kipping. If everyone is packed like sardines, it is usually not politic to continue knitting. Some people are nervous about those pointy sticks you keep waving about, and will try to give them extra space. That is all well and good when there is space, but if there isn’t, they can get resentful. Don’t let it get to that point. If there isn’t room, then it isn’t polite, and it also isn’t safe.
So you’ve got your gear and are ready to go:
Knitting when sitting sandwiched between other people. Keep everything on your lap or the floor, out of the way of other riders. Try to take up the same amount of space as you would without your knitting. Try knitting with as little arm movement as possible. I hold my elbows in to my sides, and do everything with forearms, wrists, and hands. There is almost no movement above the elbow, certainly less than that of someone turning a newspaper page. It isn't uncomfortable, and I find that I actually stop doing some bad for me things when I do this.
Knitting while standing up in a moving vehicle depends on your ability to balance. I prefer to lean against a wall or door. Be cautious about doors as they open. Falling out is embarrassing, and there are often lots of people who need to get in or out through the space in which you are standing. If there is enough room, but no walls or doors handy, I will hook my elbow around a pole and sometimes brace my hip or knee against the bottom of the pole. Which elbow depends on which hand can release your knitting most easily without loosing your knitting. Again, be polite. If there isn't room to hook your arm around a pole, don't do it. Other people will most likely also need to hold onto that pole. Just stop knitting until the car frees up a bit.

Safety

Stationary:
No matter what, you are doing something with pointy sticks. It may be a mite obvious, but it still bears mentioning. Keep needles away from eyes and ears. If you are standing next to someone sitting down, turn away from them or hold your knitting as far away from them as possible. Circular needles, although usually safer than straight needles, can fling about if one end is loose. Also, keep in mind that you may need to grab something if the vehicle you are in stops suddenly. Be comfortable with dropping one hand from your knitting needles, and make sure there is a convenient pole to that side of your body. I throw with my left hand, so I use my right hand for grabbing onto a pole, pushing up my glasses, or digging around in my bag.
In motion:
if you have to watch your hands, pay attention to your peripheral vision, and avoid walking into people, tripping over things, and walking between a dog owner and the other end of their leash. Look up whenever you need to and always when crossing streets, driveways, parking lots, etc. Check the traffic, and watch for bicyclists. If you can knit without looking at your hands, do so. Be extra cautious and don’t knit if you are in a hurry. What is the point of getting more knitting done if you are frazzled and end up under a bus? Don’t expect people to watch out for you, they often aren’t even looking out for themselves. If they are moving faster than you are, they may not be able to stop in time if you are not where you are expected to be.
Moving parts:
Remember where your yarn is at all times. Don’t feed out so much that it gets caught on things or people, in doors or gears. It is bad for you and your yarn. When exercising, keep your yarn where you can see it, and well away from moving parts on your equipment. Make sure that a firm tug on the yarn won’t have the whole ball spinning into your stationary bike’s flywheel. In crowded train cars, your yarn can get stuck on someone else’s button, and that button may well leave the train at the next stop, taking your project and perhaps someone else on a short ride to disaster. While walking outside, the wind may choose to play with the end of your yarn. It may choose just to tangle it, or it may choose to wrap it around something not attached to you.
One last word of caution:
Don't let it happen to you! Always leave your knitting somehow attached to you. If you sit down on the train, fall asleep, and miss your stop, you may well forget your knitting bag if it isn't at least sitting on your lap. How do I know this? It happened to me last night. I'm still trying to get my stuff back and I just hope I didn't inadvertantly instigate a bomb scare.

Lastly, enjoy yourself!. This is a lot of stuff to consider, but it doesn't have to be this complicated. It can be as easy as 1 circular needle and a ball of yarn in your pocket, with nothing else to hold you down. Or it can be as complicated as a 880 stitch lacy moebius loop shawl done in 11 different patterened sections. It is entirely up to you!


How MacGyver would make a wrist yarn ball holder:You will need some

  • smooth cotton cord or yarn, enough to make a 'rope' 3/8ths or 1/4 of an inch in diameter and 16-20 inches long (depending on the size of your yarn balls)
  • An ID lanyard or any other item from which you can cannibalize a swivel.
  • The cap of a pen with a clip attached. The cap should be somewhat pointy, and the clip should run the length of the cap, not stick out past it.

  1. Take the lanyard and remove any hook or clip hanging from the swivel so that you have just the cord and swivel left.
  2. Holding the end of the cord farthest from the swivel, feed it through the top piece of the swivel to form a loop and tie a knot to block it from slipping back out of the swivel. The loop is for your hand, and should be large enough for your hand to slip out easily. If the top of the swivel is too small for the cord, simply tie a knot along the length of the cord to create the loop. If you just have a swivel, make another 'rope' long enough to fit your hand and then some. Tie it to the top half of the swivel following steps 4-6, but only using knots A and B. Skip step 3.
  3. Cut off the excess cord.
  4. Fold the 'rope' in half and tie the loose ends into knot.
  5. Feed the folded 'rope' through the bottom piece of the swivel. Make sure that the knot is too big to pass through the eye of the swivel. Tug hard to make sure the knot is as small as it will get.
  6. Tie two more knots in the rope:
    -@X@---------@-
     AXB         C
    A is the first knot, X is the swivel. B is a second knot which will keep the rope from sliding about. This knot is optional. The last knot is not optional. C will keep the 'rope' from slipping back out of the swivel, and will keep the pen cap in place. It should make a small loop less than an inch long.
  7. Run the loop formed by knot C onto the pen cap clip so that the cap hangs off the 'rope.' Your wrist ball holder is now complete.
  8. To use it, hold the pen cap parallel to the 'rope' and push it through the central axis of a ball of yarn. When it comes out the far side, turn the pen cap perpendicular to the 'rope.' To remove the yarn ball from the holder, remove the pen cap from the 'rope' and slip off the ball.

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