The Pleasures of Vacation Knitting

Last Friday, on the brink of Memorial Day weekend, a young woman walked into the shop, looked up from her phone and said “I need 950 yards of DK weight yarn that comes in balls.” Puzzled by her “comes in balls” requirement (we have a winder), but sensing that she was in a hurry, I walked her over to the yarn that fit her specifications. In short order, she showed me the pattern on her phone, confirmed that the yarn would work, and said “now I need needles.” She grabbed two sets of needles and a package of markers and walked to the counter, glancing repeatedly at her watch. As I rang up her purchases, I made small talk. “Are you going somewhere for the long weekend?” “Yes,” she replied, “I’m on my way to the airport. I have a flight to catch in a little over an hour. And I just realized that I forgot my knitting.” “Ah,” I thought to myself, “that explains her ‘comes in balls’ requirement. I placed her yarn, needles, and notions into the bag and wished her a wonderful weekend.

For me – and clearly for that young woman – vacations and knitting are inseparable companions. Everyday knitting almost always comes with a tinge of guilt. I think about how I should be taking the dogs for a walk, writing an overdue note to a friend, or cleaning out my closet. But when I’m on vacation, I leave the “shoulds” behind; I become a hedonist and indulge my desire to knit.

A quick look at Instagram posts with the hashtag “places you can knit” (my last count is 9,648) confirms that I’m not alone. Knitters knit in mountains, forests, and canyons; we knit on beaches, museums, boats, overlooks, and trains, and we knit in front of waterfalls, landmarks, and campfires. For this sampling of nearly 10,000 knitters (and me), knitting and vacation go hand in hand.

The pleasure I get from vacation knitting begins with planning my “vacation project”. When I was a teacher, faced with piles of end-of-the-year papers and exams to grade, I’d carve out time to plan and buy yarn for my “summer vacation project,” and the thought of that project sweetened my anticipation of the school-year’s end.

The pleasure I get from vacation knitting also stems from its therapeutic effect. When I’m fortunate enough to take a vacation that involves flying, I take a complicated project because it occupies not only the travel time, but also my mind. I’m a nervous flyer, and there’s nothing like a charted lace pattern to supplant the “what ifs” in my mind. And what starts out as an antidote to my anxiety grows into a wonderful memento of my trip. I will always associate Stonecrop by Jared Flood (which I knit in Anzula Squishy), with a vacation five years ago, when my husband and I traveled to Italy in celebration of our 25th anniversary:






The pleasure I get from vacation knitting often comes from the serenity to be found in knitting someplace peaceful. We go to the beach each summer, and my favorite part of our small rental house is its screened-in porch. I’ve claimed a white wicker rocker on that porch as “mine,” and I sit in it mornings and late afternoons and knit. I watch the pine trees sway in the breeze, listen to the birds, breathe in the sea air, and am soothed by the rhythm of my needles. I savor the peacefulness of the moment. When I knit at home, I’m up and down, checking on dinner, switching laundry, or letting the dogs in or out. I find it difficult to ignore the temptation of the television. But at the beach, where the days seem to have more hours, those distractions fade, and I knit in peace. Often, that peacefulness allows me to knit something a little challenging. Here’s last summer’s project, Piccadilly , by Justyna Lorkowska for Loop London (in Claudia Hand Painted Yarns Addiction):






Short or long, a vacation is a privilege; it means we’re in a position to take a break from our daily routine, do something that nourishes us, and return to our everyday lives refueled. I’m about a week away from this year’s beach vacation and am thinking about the knitting I’ll take along. I’m embarrassed to say that, right now, I have four projects on my needles :Starting Point  the Joji Locatelli MKAL,  Meandering Shawl a lovely Stephen West pattern knit in brioche,  Spots & Stripes Fingerless Gloves, cute two color mitts from Churchmouse Yarns and Teas, and the Regen Shawl , a beautiful mid-size shawl by Shannon Cook in the most recent “Making Magazine.” I adore all four – and I will probably take all four along. So in a couple of weeks, you can picture me walking in from the beach, sand still between my toes, and sitting down in that white wicker rocker to knit. And I’ll be thinking of all the places knitters knit and wondering about you. Will you be lacing up your hiking shoes or exploring a foreign city, or will you be spreading out your beach towel like me? In what places will you knit this summer? What will you be knitting? We’d love to know. Let us know where you’re going and what you’re knitting. Send us a photo so that we can all “take a vacation” together.

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