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Making Connections

Most experienced travelers know that the best vacation moments are often the connections made, not in busy airports, but in the local communities. Despite my fond memories of temples and busy Tokyo streets, my favorite experience in Japan was a few minutes chatting and posing for photographs with a group of junior high schoolgirls.

Knitters have an especially good opportunity to make these connections through their love of craft. What better way to personalize any travel, for work or pleasure, with an hour or two spent on your favorite hobby?

A few weeks before you leave, consider planning some fiber excursions into your itinerary. What trip to Iceland would be complete without visiting Lopi in it's natural habitat? What is a vacation in England without taking a chance to fondle some Rowan? Some destinations are obvious, but how does a savvy knitter know how to fulfill her fiber dreams, no matter where she goes?

  1. Google it!
    Go to and run a search on "Knit" + location + "Yarn". For example, "Knit Boise Yarn" brings up several results, most of which are yarn company shop listings.  Alternatively, to find shops, visit a directory site like WoolWorks lists stores and resources world wide.

  2. Local Yarn Delights!
    Many knitters love to bring back yarn souvenirs, and why not? If cost is an issue, doing some advance planning can help figure out which yarns may be cheaper in your destination city, especially for international travel. For example, Rowan and Jaeger Yarns can be purchased in England for 30% less than in the United States. You'll have to pay VAT on all purchases, but this is refundable for non-residents.

    To figure out local prices, search for yarn stores in the destination and compare prices on lines of yarn. Also, look for upcoming sales! While in London last winter, I was able to attend Liberty's ( Boxing Day Sale, saving an additional 30-50% on heaps of Rowan!

    Aside from bargain shopping, I like to look for locally produced yarn where I travel. It's especially fun to find small-production companies that aren't well known outside the region. In Alberta, I take trips up to Custom Woolen Mills, about two hours from Calgary. They have a good range of basic wool and wool-blend yarn, at very reasonable prices. In addition, it's fun to buy yarn -- right off the sheep'.

  3. Contact a Store or Two!
    Many stores have websites detailing hours and location. For those that don't, consider calling or faxing to prevent disappointment. Even if you only find out which days the store is open, it could save valuable vacation time! Even better, store owners can be very helpful in finding local treasures, such as that fabulous Alpaca farm just outside the city.

  4. Fiber Festivals!
    If the timing is right, maybe you'll be able to visit a local fiber festival or needlework show. Keep an eye on ads in the knitting magazines, call the destination's knitting guild, or read forums such as Knitter's Review.

  5. Find Some Knitters!
    Even if you don't have a knitting blog, or don't know what it is, the Knitting Blog Webring can be a great resource for making a connection with a local knitter in Canada or the US, or a few select cities in Europe and Asia.

    For a wider search, do a Google search on "Knitting Blog" + location. (For example, "Knitting Blog Chicago".) While I don't suggest becoming a stalker, taking the time to build a few internet friendships can get you some tips on local stores and attractions, or better, a shopping buddy!

    If I know I'm going to be in the same city multiple times, such as for business, I'll try to find a local knitting circle. Spending a few hours in the company of knitters can make any strange city feel like home.

    I've met some of my closest friends through the Knitting Blog ring. While we've never met, or have only met once, I treasure these friendships and enjoy sharing this mutual love of yarn.

TSA Rule Update
The United States Transportation Security Administration recently amended the rules on needlework accessories in flight. Specifically, the Clover Thread Cutter (see my Spring 04 column) is now prohibited from your carry-on luggage.

My readers have recommended using cat or human nail clippers and dental floss cutters as a substitute for often-prohibited scissors. Adele Cannell writes, "You should always take the scissors out of your carry-on bag and place them on top in the bin as you go through the metal detector.  I have had more than one TSA agent thank me for saving them the time to search my bag."

The TSA's knitting and needlework factsheet recommends using bamboo or plastic circular needles, less than 31 inches in length, carrying a SASE, and using only blunt-pointed scissors. Please remember that the TSA is only responsible for airport operations within the United States. When flying through the rest of the world, the rules will vary. For example, some of my readers have reported problems with any kind of needles while flying through the UK. When in doubt, look online or call ahead.

For more tips on in-flight knitting, see my Winter 2003-2004 column.

What tips do you have for the knitter on the go? Email me with your tips and feedback.



When she's not on the road as a Business Analyst, Amy Swenson hangs her hat in Calgary, with her two cats, Cleo and Maddy.

She documents her quest for the ultimate yarn bargain, cheap airfares and Canadian permanent residency at Indigirl. More information on her original knitting patterns can be found at IndiKnits.