Yes, you can fly with knitting needles

I get this question all the time on planes: “They let you bring your knitting needles onboard?”

Yes, despite the curious, tangled, and sometimes ridiculous state of TSA rules about what you can and cannot put in your carry-on luggage, it is perfectly acceptable to bring knitting needles. According to TSA rules:

Knitting needles are permitted in your carry-on baggage or checked baggage.

Items needed to pursue a Needlepoint project are permitted in your carry-on baggage or checked baggage with the exception of circular thread cutters or any cutter with a blade contained inside which cannot go through the checkpoint and must go in your checked baggage.

Apparently some knitters have taken to carrying this page as a printout with them to security lines, due to inconsistent knowledge of the rules on the part of TSA personnel. I’ve never had a problem with my knitting needles (bamboo or metal) nor the one-inch scissors I bring for snipping thread. (I forgot these scissors exactly once and spent 10 minutes on a plane gnawing through yarn to cut it. I had no idea how resilient yarn is to teeth!)

I think the curiosity about knitting needles arises from the general confusion about the logic behind TSA rules. What is it about 3 ounces of fluid that makes it suddenly safe? Why are matches permitted in carry-on luggage but banned from checked luggage? Why is a pair of 3-inch-long scissors permitted but a 2-inch Swiss Army knife banned?

Another outcome of these rules is that it gets people’s creative juices flowing. If my airplane seatmates are any sample, people who would never have thought to attack anyone with a knitting needle suddenly offer, “But you could stab someone’s eye out! You could get them in the throat!” And of course, since my current needles are bamboo, some immediately conceive of sticking them under fingernails for torture. A reality check reveals how ineffective such attacks would likely be due to the dull nature of knitting needle points, but ultimately it just reminds everyone how any household object could be used to inflict some kind of damage, if wielded by a sufficiently motivated human.

At what point do the TSA rules themselves become an instrument of terror?

0 of 3 people learned something from this entry.

  1. Katie said,

    September 11, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    (Knew it already.)

    I find the TSA rules and regulations fascinating. I am glad, though, that I can travel with my needles. Long flights are a little shorter when one can knit. :)

  2. Susan said,

    September 12, 2010 at 8:52 am

    (Knew it already.)

    Also, these rules aren’t internationally consistent. I have regaled almost everyone who will listen with my rant of losing all my knitting needles to Heathrow airport security. (Fortunately, they were low-quality hand-me-downs, and after I recovered from the experience, I used it as an excuse to buy a Knit Picks Options set.)

    My friend, who flew out either one day earlier or later (I can’t remember), waltzed through Heathrow with hers, only to have a Quantas Airlines flight attendant confiscate them. She was so angry she demanded to see their documentation for confiscating knitting needles, and the flight attendant was able to produce produce the entry in their handbook. She was able to retrieve her needles after the flight landed, however.

    In general, I expect to have no trouble when flying domestically, and I haven’t had any.

  3. Terran said,

    September 17, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    (Knew it already.)

    ultimately it just reminds everyone how any household object could be used to inflict some kind of damage, if wielded by a sufficiently motivated human.

    Totally. The fundamental fact that all of these TSA regs fail to recognize is that humans are dangerous. Period. A sufficiently determined and trained person can kill with bare hands. Having tools — say, a rolled-up glossy magazine from the seat-back, or maybe a ballpoint pen — simply makes it easier.

    My Dad used to relate a story from when he was working as an orderly in a mental hospital. One day they had a fellow who had flipped out in some very extreme and violent way. So five (five!) of the orderlies hauled him down and threw him in a padded room. As Dad described it, the room had a door that was about a 1.5-inch thick wood, with wide, riveted steel strap hinges, a solid steel double deadbolt, and thick canvas padding on the inside.

    Then the orderlies watched as, over the next hour and a half, the guy tore the door off its hinges. No tools — not even shoes. He just threw himself at it. Broke both arms in a couple of places, a couple of ribs, most of the bones in one hand, cracked a leg, and broke a few toes. But he got the door down.

    The point is that taking away tools won’t render dangerous people non-dangerous. It might make their jobs harder, but they will still be able to do damage if they want to. All of the TSA regs are just security theater in the face of that fundamental fact.

    At what point do the TSA rules themselves become an instrument of terror?

    September 12, 2001.

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