If you are planning to fly this Holiday season and want to take needlework (knitting, crochet, needlepoint, etc…) on the flight, it’s important to be aware of restrictions on these tools.
This chart gives the restrictions for flights within the US (as of this writing). HOWEVER, keep in mind that restrictions can change at any time – based on the alert level at airports.
…and while we’re on that subject, one more very important point: Everything here is related to TSA and the USA. If flying internationally, check with the specific airlines or their governing agency. Every country makes their own security policies.
Now back to TSA and the USA…
I WISH I could say that TSA agents are consistent with what they allow vs. what they confiscate. Unfortunately, that’s simply not the case. It seems that there IS a ‘general rule’…then there is ‘interpretation’ of the ‘general rule’…and that interpretation can vary by airport…and possibly by the mood or temperament of the agent.
Bottom line… Always be aware that everything is at the discretion of the TSA agent. Anything you take has the potential to be confiscated.
Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to forgo the needlework and take a good book…. There ARE things you can do to smooth out your journey through security; just be aware of the risks.
So, here are a few tips:
- Print and bring with you the guidelines from the TSA website (http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/transporting-knitting-needles-and-needlepoint) If your item(s) fits within their PRINTED acceptable guidelines, you can make a VERY good argument to keep your needlework tools. Have the printout easily accessible – in your carry or purse. If you run into a problem, VERY NICELY and RESPECTFULLY (you catch more flies with honey that vinegar….) show it to the agent. If that doesn’t work, you CAN ask to speak to a supervisor. Just be aware that you may ‘irritate’ when doing this…which guarantees you won’t get your way… ugh…sorry, but true.. The final decision always lies with the supervisor. If he/she says ‘no’, those tools are NOT going on the plane. If you find yourself at this point, it’s best to just surrender them…so YOU can still get on that plane. 🙂
- That brings me to the next point: Be smart!! Don’t bring a tool (needle, scissors, etc…) that would cause GREAT grief if it were confiscated (i.e. your grandmother’s knitting needles, gold plated something-or-other, etc…) 🙂 Always bring the LEAST valuable tool you can ‘work’ with. I’ve watched as people have lost expensive things at TSA security – facial cremes, lotions, gold-plated scissors, etc… all because they either weren’t aware of the restrictions…or just forgot. What they confiscate you never see again.
- In the event that your tools don’t pass inspection, you STILL have a couple of options. Knitters should ALWAYS have some method to rescue stitches when traveling – stitch holder, string or dental floss so you don’t lose your work. You can also bring a padded envelop to actually MAIL your tools back home. (provided the airport has a post office) Of course, if you’ve brought ‘cheap’ tools, it MAY be more economical to just say good-bye to that needlework tool… 🙂
- Now lets talk about scissors. Scissors are just a tough thing to deal with. EVERY person who does any kind of needlework uses them…to varying degrees, but we ALL use them. The TSA guidelines state that the blade must be shorter than 4″. My suggestion is ‘the smaller the better”. I would NOT try to make it through security with a scissor blade of 3 7/8″. Even though it is technically within the guidelines, that’s tempting fate… Instead, take scissors with blades that are 2″! 🙂 🙂 Recently I found a great option at a craft fair – These scissors fold ‘into’ itself. Unfolded, the blade fits well within the restrictions. 🙂 🙂 Other Options: empty dental floss container – or nail clippers for cutting embroidery floss. (probably wouldn’t work well for yarn…)
- Circular knitting needles tend to fare better through security than straight needles.
(though both are technically permissible) However, as luck would have it, the circulars are more expensive to replace…. It’s all a matter of personal decisions on this one.
- Because the restrictions are directly related to the alert level in the country, ANYTHING can change at a moment’s notice. Check the alert level the night before flying…then again before you fly back home.
- Of course, you always have the option of just packing those tools in your checked luggage. They should fare much better through the security checks there – thought there have been reports of passengers loosing scissors, knitting needles, etc…from CHECKED BAGS as well. It seems that nothing is truly safe with TSA anymore.
Some would say, just leave the needle work at home and bring a good book. That’s a difficult thing to consider for any avid needlework fanatic!!! Flights are 4-6-9 hours of MARVELOUS needlework time. It’s hard to pass that one up!!! 🙂
So, I just opt to take the risk and get some WONDERFUL needlework done while flying. (and bring my stitch saver…)
The best you can do is:
- Be informed of the rules and FOLLOW them as closely as you can
- Bring a printed copy of the TSA guidelines and RESPECTFULLY use that to defend your tools if necessary
- Be aware of the risks and come prepared to mail it or lose it….