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A Knitter’s Guide to Commuting

October 4, 2013

I complain about my commute a lot.  When I’m feeling particularly bitter, I like to brainstorm lists of the things I could be doing with the 12ish hours a week that I spend hauling myself to the office and home again.  (In case you’re curious: brush up my Spanish at the community college, write letters, actually manage to exterminate the dog hair dust bunnies, get more sleep, attend community events, make stuff, dedicate extra time to the piano, start an Etsy shop – believe me, the list goes on.  And on.)

On the other hand, when I’m feeling less grouchy, I realize that in some sense, I’m a little bit lucky.  About half of my daily commute time is spent on a the train, which means (other delights of public transit aside) that I have about an hour each day in which no one needs anything from me.  It’s pretty difficult to work on BART, so I rarely do it, and limited cell reception means that I’m largely unreachable by phone, text, or email.  Instead of sitting in traffic like the poor souls in the parking lot that is Highway 101, I can read, blog, or knit for 60 minutes a day.  I thought I’d share with you my sanity-saving commute kit, in case you’re also navigating the public transit jungle.

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  • Reading material.  Pretty obvious, but I’d be remiss to leave it out.  I’ll also say that though I was initially opposed to owning a Kindle, it turns out it’s wonderful for commuting – it’s much lighter than most books, and easier to hold while standing in a crowded train car.
  • Notebook and pencils.  Not everyone will agree with me on this, but I love being able to make lists, plan projects or holiday surprises, and draft blog posts with pencil and paper.  Sure, all of that can be done electronically, but I like this way better.
  • Water bottle and (not pictured) snacks.  I usually have a little bag of trail mix with me, for those times when all that’s sanding between between me and a commute tantrum is the handful of nuts in my bag.
  • Audiobooks (also not pictured).  I have a serious Audible addiction.  I haven’t always loved listening to books read aloud, but audiobooks (particularly those that I’ve read in physical form already, so I’m not worried about missing key plot points) are wonderful for knitting, standing-room-only trains, or while walking between the train station and the office.  Podcasts are great, too.  (Aside: I’m way behind the times, but I learned today about podcast apps.  I’m trying this one at the moment, and so far it’s awesome.)

Knitting

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Most significantly, though, my knitting goes everywhere with me.  I usually have a small project in a drawstring bag (I made mine, but Etsy has a ton of options.), along with a few key notions. (Every now and then I’ll need a needle gauge or a stitch holder, but that happens so rarely that it’s not worth carrying them just in case.)

Project

Socks (Ravelry link), gloves, a laceweight shawl, dishcloths or something baby-sized (Ravelry link) are your best bet.  (All of the linked projects were knitted largely in transit.)  I like easy-to-memorize stitch patterns, since I find it hard to frequently reference a printout on a rocking train. More complicated or bulky things live in a basket by the couch at home, and I always have at least one fussy/bulky project on the needles to round out my commute knitting.  I can’t show you what I’m working on now, because it’s a gift!  I promise to show you sometime.

Needles

Double-pointed needles are a bold choice, both for the poking factor and breakage risk, but I remain loyal (though coveting a solution like this).  6-inch DPNs seem to be the best compromise between won’t-slip-out-of-your-project (I’m lookin’ at you, 4-inch needles) and won’t-poke-your-neighbor-or-snap-in-your-bag (less hazardous than 8-inch needles, but not infallible).  Circulars are perfect for commuting – they don’t get in the way like straights do, and your project is less likely to slide off in transit.  And you can knit back-and-forth on them, just as you would with straight needles.  Wooden or bamboo needles are the most fragile option (metal and plastic are both sturdier), but I prefer them anyway.

Notions

As a longstanding commute knitter, I can say with authority that you don’t need a full selection of notions in your day-to-day bag.  I used to carry my whole notions bag, but in the interests of schlepping less stuff, I’ve pared it down to these essentials:

  • Scissors.  A must-have. I like these little ones, because they’re lightweight, small, and not too poky.
  • Tapestry needles.  It’s so frustrating to get to the final bits of a project (grafting, bind-off, weaving in ends) and not be able to finish because the tapestry needles are at home.  I love this little case (in which (I think) Clover needles are sold), since tapestry needles are wily little guys.
  • Tape measure.  Yours is probably the nifty retractable kind.  This is what I had on hand, so it’s what I use.  Works just fine to measure gauge, which means you can leave that gauge tool at home!
  • Row counter.  I don’t always use it, but it’s good to have.
  • Stitch markers.  When I don’t have them, I want them.  It’s pretty much a guarantee.

And that’s it.  Bam.  Lightweight, takes up very little room, and includes everything I need 95% of the time.

Sanity maintained.

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