Your Ultimate Guide to Travel Knitting, with 32 Free Patterns

Whether you’re hitting the road or flying in a plane, these free knitting patterns are perfect for your travel knitting needs

I stand by this assertion: the most important part of packing for travel is choosing the knitting projects.

I mean, I suppose I could purchase new yarn and needles and find a whole new pattern while I’m traveling. But there’s so much margin for error — what if you can’t find a yarn shop or a craft store? What if the cellular reception stinks and you can’t find a pattern?

Who needs that kind of stress, am I right?

(Also, I’m really cheap. But anyway.)

Preparing for Travel: Pack That Knitting

To avoid the stress (and, well, expense) of hoping to find yarn and needles and a pattern on the road, I always take the time to prepare the knitting. Either I pack WIPs (works in progress), or else I create little bundles out of patterns, yarn, and needles.

I do a lot of traveling (living halfway across the country from your closest relatives will do that!), so I’ve gotten my knitting packing down.

Not all of us have this experience, though! Some of us may be packing knitting for travel for the first time. That’s why I gathered suggestions from knitters–and used my own experiences–to offer the list below.

What Makes a Good Travel Knitting Project?

There are a few schools of thought that we see when we consider patterns for traveling.

1.  You want something small. That’s clear enough, right? Space is usually at a premium when we’re traveling, so you want something that will fit easily on your lap, as well as in your knitting bag.

2. Difficulty varies from person to person. Some people prefer to knit something easy and mindless while traveling. Others prefer something that engages their brain at least a tiny bit more. (I’m in this camp, mostly because knitting tends to relax me so much I get sleepy…and you can probably see where I’m going with this.)

If you’re not sure which category you fall into, try bringing one of each and see which one works better for you!

3. Some people would rather knit flat items while traveling, because they don’t want to deal with circular knitting. Others prefer circular knitting while traveling because it often requires less “lap” space.

Again, if you’re not sure whether you would prefer a flat-knit project or a circular one, take one of each. Then, in the future, make note of which project you found most satisfying during your traveling.

I tried to take these various ideas into account while compiling this list of patterns. Hopefully I’ve found something for just about any traveling knitter!

Free Patterns for Travel Knitting

Cowls: For the knitter who wants a simple yet cute cowl to knit, try It’s a Cinch, which can be either a small cowl or a head wrap. Want something more adventurous? Try the Drop Stitch Cowl.

Declan's Hat - Travel Knitting
Declan’s Hat
Photo: Samantha Kirby

The Hurricane Hat shows off an adorable swirling pattern. If you want to knit a hat with even more interest, try Declan’s Hat – it features cables!

travel knitting
Preemie Hats for Charity

And if you dream of whipping up as many preemie hats as possible while you travel, check out my go-to page for preemie hat knitting for charity. This page is called, of course, Preemie Hats for Charity, and I love that this one pattern features five different varieties of hats.

Mitts and Mittens: The most basic mittens possible might be these precious Basic Children’s Mittens that are an absolutely fantastic option for charity knitters. If you’d rather knit some cute fingerless mitts for adults, try the ridiculously simple Swatch Mitts. Want some fingerless mitts with a bit more meat to them? Try the the charming Lambing Mitts, featuring an attractive garter rib stitch and a cuff that you can roll up as needed to warm the fingers.

Henry's Bunny - travel knitting
Henry’s Bunny
Photo: Sara Elizabeth Kellner

Toys: Toys make great charity projects, and they’re also a great knitting option if you’re traveling to visit with young relatives. Think of their thrill when you arrive carrying a freshly knitted toy! Try this adorable Bluebird of Happiness, the cuddly Henry’s Bunny, or the crazy-cute William the Hedgehog.

novelty yarn
William the Hedgehog
Photo: Lion Brand

Socks: I found a bunch of terrific sock options. First, if you want to use worsted weight yarn and quickly knit a bunch of socks for charity, Cozy Toes is your go-to pattern. It offers sizes ranging from child to adult. Now, if you want to use worsted weight yarn but want something a little fancier, try the appropriately-named Traveler Socks.

If you want to knit more typical socks using fingering weight yarn, you can try these Toe-Up Socks with a Difference or the top-down My Knitted Heart Vanilla Socks. These are pretty basic socks. If you want something a little spicier, try Pinky.

Keks Booties - travel knitting
Keks Booties
Photo: Silke R

Finally, if you’d like to knit booties for babies, you can try Keks Booties (pattern available in both English and German), knitted in the round, or if you would prefer flat knitting, you can use the F310 100% Angora Baby Booties (of course, you can use any DK-weight yarn, not just angora).

Striped Baby Cardigan - travel knitting
Striped Baby Cardigan
Photo: Schneckenstrick

Baby Cardigans: I found two adorable and simple baby cardigans: the Striped Baby Cardigan and the Baby Kimono. As a bonus, both patterns offer preemie sizes if that’s what you prefer knitting.

Flat Knits: Most of these are dishcloths/washcloths, but use an acrylic or wool-blend yarn and they can easily be blocks for an afghan. First, there’s the venerable Grandmother’s Favorite washcloth, incredibly easy to knit and guaranteed to be beloved by all.

Next there’s the ever-charming Ballband Dishcloth, with its brick wall-like pattern. The Double Bump Scarf or Dishcloth, as you can tell, can be knitted quickly into a dishcloth or a little longer into a scarf, but either way it’s beautiful with a pleasing texture.

eLoomanator’s Diagonal Knit Dishcloth is a variation of Grandmother’s Favorite, but with the fun twist of texture in the middle. The Mitered Hanging Towel makes a fantastic gift (and I should know, I once knitted three of these babies for a bridal shower – and they were a huge hit!).

The Darrell Waltrip Dishcloth is a fabulous pattern for variegated yarns. The Leaf Lace Washcloth not only would make a magnificent gift, but I think it would also be a beautiful pattern for an afghan block.

The Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks scarf would certainly work as a square if you bind off sooner than suggested in the pattern, although it of course makes a lovely scarf. For pure scrubbing power, you can’t beat the textures found in Three Washcloths. Finally, if you know a Doctor Who fanatic, make him or her this washcloth or turn it into an afghan!

Mug Hug - travel knitting
Mug Hug
Photo: Rebecca Gunderson of inanook

Miscellaneous: I found this Mug Hug and thought it would make a terrific travel pattern. It’s small and it’s practical, especially while traveling – if you’ve ever picked up a hot cup of coffee in a thin paper (or even Styrofoam) cup, you know exactly what I mean. It would work equally well for an icy cold drink if you don’t want to freeze your fingers (or risk a sweaty iced drink slipping through your fingers and spilling).

Now we’re all ready for traveling – AND knitting!

Travel knitting tips & patterns

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  1. I really enjoy your Knitting Nuggets newsletter. You have given me so much inspiration for my charity knitting. I’m wondering if you know of a good source for fiber/care labels that I could attach to items I knit? I use a lot of yarn that contains wool or alpaca, often blended with silk and other fibers — and I think it would be so helpful to those receiving the items to have basic care information like “50% silk 50% Merino Wool; Hand Wash – Dry Flat,” etc.

  2. While travelling I prefer to use my circular needles whether it is a flat or in-the-round project. Scrambling for a dropped needle on an airplane is not one of my favourite things to do! I take my Denise Interchangeables so I am prepared for most yarn thicknesses and I don’t have to worry about losing a tiny tool to tighten the tips to the cord. I also tend to take smaller sized balls of yarn that will be used up (mostly) with each project. Since most of my work is donated, I can sometimes leave it at the destination, leaving me more suitcase space for the return home.
    Thanks for all your pattern suggestions.

    1. I’m with you! I prefer using circular needles for the same reason. I love your idea of leaving your travel project at your destination–it’s so practical, as well as offering a service.

  3. Dear Nicole, I live in Australia, in NSW, in Ettalong Beach (Google it and you will discover a lovely part of Australia) I enjoy your website and I knit a few things for charity. My knitting group send WOOLEN garments to the children in Syria. I also knit for the Australian branch of Knitter Knockers which I am sure you know about, Keep up the wonderful work you are doing for knitters and the charities you support.
    God bless you, Vicki

    1. Thank you, Vicki! I’m excited to hear about what you’re doing for Syrian children and for breast cancer survivors. Keep up the amazing work! <3