Knitting on the road

Two people on a motorcycle, the one in the back knitting on a purple project.

Farms are a green blur at the edges of my vision as my husband, Jim, and I motor down the highway. We’ve decided to head south on this trip. First stop, Indiana to visit friends. This couple could use some encouragement as one half has been in the hospital frequently.

These routes from our home in Wisconsin and through Illinois are how many of our road trips begin.  Jim won’t need the assistance of the GPS in my jacket pocket, and there’s unlikely to be anything new I’m going to want to photograph. Time to pull out my knitting. I’m only a couple of rows into a prayer shawl, so the project still fits in my jacket pocket. When I get farther into the project, I’ll stow it in a drawstring bag attached by carabiner to my belt. I must stay connected to my knitting, because, I’m a passenger on my husband’s motorcycle.

I didn’t start out knitting on a motorcycle. After all, it was impossible (not to mention illegal) to knit while driving my own motorcycle. And, even as a passenger, I’m busy enjoying new places, taking photos, helping to navigate, simply relaxing, or even dozing. But when I’m not doing any of that, I often knit.

I’m not sure who this prayer shawl is for, but I have faith that it will be revealed before I complete the project. After Indiana, we continue south to the Wing Ding conference in Knoxville, Tennessee. My husband recently retired his Gold Wing 1500 and had his new-to-him Gold Wing 1800 converted to a trike with a California Sidecar conversion. The trike class at the conference was just what we needed to adjust to this new ride. The class was focused mostly on the driver’s interaction with the trike and the road, and included tips for the trike passenger as well. But no knitting tips!

Through decades of knitting on a motorcycle from Wisconsin to Key West and from Utah to Massachusetts, I’ve learned much about how to make the experience easier and more comfortable – and safe. Here’s what works best for me. Most importantly, don’t knit and drive! Do I even need to write this? Be a passenger.

Selecting a project

Keep the project size limited to something that can fit in the working space. For me, I hold the needles at about chest height, so the working space is from there to my lap and between my tummy and the back of my husband’s backrest. As my project gets bigger, I sometimes squish the start of the project down into that area. The pattern should be easy to memorize or one that I can write in large print on an index card in my pocket. The project uses only one yarn – multiple yarns add bulk and complexity.

Selecting the yarn

Use worsted weight or heavier yarn, although I sometimes use fingering-weight yarn, now that I’m experienced with knitting on the open road. Smooth yarn is easier to work with in this sometimes-bumpy position. I’m not an archer, but an archery release pouch works well for holding the skein/ball. The archery pouch size accommodates a typical full skein and has a drawstring top to feed the working yarn. I attach the bag to my belt or jacket with a carabiner. Yarn control is best achieved with a center pull ball, center pull skein, or a ball small enough to move freely in the pouch.

A man and woman on a motorcycle.

Road knitting technique

You must be able to easily see your knitting. I wear bifocal glasses all day, so no problem there.  And my full-face helmet does not interfere with my line of sight. Weave in the cast-on end right away so that bit of yarn doesn’t end up getting blown around and frayed. Use circular needles, so you are less likely to drop the needle — yup, that happens with straight single-tip needles. Don’t use stitch markers, cable needles, or other notions that can also be dropped. If I need to keep a count, I use a row counter that slips onto the needle. It’s easier than marking off finished rows with a marker on the back of my husband’s helmet! Fingerless leather gloves give me the safety I want and still allows me to manipulate the yarn and needles. And I know that if you end up scraping some fingertips on the pavement, your fingerprints do grow back after your fingers heal. Don’t ask – it was a long time ago, and I was not knitting at the time. No stitches dropped!

Just as in knitting, the unexpected does happen. Keep your knitting simple enough that you can stay in tune with the driver and your surroundings. Lean when you should lean. Be prepared to quickly stuff the knitting down into your work space or in a project bag attached to you.

After the Wing Ding conference, we continued south to our first time in Key West before heading back to Wisconsin. The prayer shawl was finished. The recipient of this knitted gift was clear. Upon our return home, I placed the shawl in a box and addressed it to our friends in Indiana. Years later, after he died, his widow still treasures this road knitting memory of our friendship.

One thought on “Knitting on the road

  1. Pingback: Road Knitting guest blog | Rita Schunk

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