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Knit One, Purl One for the Road: Isabelle's Cross-Country Road Trip!

Our friend and Purl Bee writer Isabelle is moving!  She'll be heading west from New York City to Seattle at the end of this month.  Along the way, Isabelle will need a car-friendly craft to work on when she's not driving or taking pictures out of the window.  To help her prepare, we have a question for you:

What is your favorite road trip craft? 

What crafts translate best to the highways and byways? Have you been inspired by a quirky roadside attraction, a diner's blinking neon letters, a farmstand, or a monument?


Please share your most memorable road knitting, sewing, or other crafts with us in the comments section below!

Reader Comments (33)

I don't sew, but I find knitting to be the best companion on long road trips -- when I'm not driving, of course! I would never knit and drive..... However, I always opt for something not requiring a ton of squinting at charts or rifling through notes, because that can lead to car sickness or simply too much fuss.

I also love listening to audio books, both while driving and while knitting, so of course while knitting in the car!
October 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterEva
Well, welcome to Seattle, Isabelle! That's good news for us.

As far as knitting on the road goes, I like to bring along a couple (ok, who am I kidding, a PILE) of small stuff - couple of pairs of socks, couple of hats, maybe a scarf. I try to remember to wear cargo pants so I can stuff the yarn ball in the leg pocket and the sock-in-progress in the hip pocket. That way I can knit as I view the roadside attractions. Who doesn't love a sock that reminds her of the two-headed snake in a gallon pickle jar from that trip through Arizona?
October 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKristin
My new favorite roadtrip project is crochet-decorated dishtowels. First off, you need very few supplies--hook, a few skeins of cotton, a tiny sewing kit for attaching, and of course, some store-bought dishtowels. Making a sweater on a long trip seems like a good idea until you have to pack 8 skeins of wool. Second is the variety you get out of that project. You can do shells, picot, Filet or Irish inserts, flowers--anything really. What more do you need from a road trip craft--small, portable, varied. And when you get to your new place, you've already got some decor!
October 16, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterriotinside
I did not drive, but flew cross-country the other day. I took a knitting project along with me and imagined that all those spare hours of sitting still were a perfect time for some complicated cables! they definitely were. But there is nothing more exciting than picking up a ball of yarn in one city and touching down with a completed project in another. Though I didn't quite complete mine...

You can see my bit of progress in my blog,
October 16, 2007 | Unregistered Commentervanessa.e.
A couple of years ago I visited a friend who was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa. I had to pack light but I threw in two balls of cotton and a crochet hook on a whim. We had two full days of travel to get from the airport to the village where she lived, all of it on local busses and the entire second day on dirt roads. We were lucky to have seats, people were literally packed in like sardines. One of the men seated in front of us had a crochet cap on, and my friend loved it. I spent the whole ride copying his cap, trying not to get caught staring at a strange african man! At the end of the bus ride we had to crawl out the windows of the bus because there were too many people in the aisles... but my friend had a brand new cap! I taught her to crochet and left the hook and second ball of cotton with her when I headed home.
I usually prefer knitting, but crochet is great for traveling.
October 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie
I used to do small cross-stitch projects, but now I knit something simple (no charts, no instructions) like a scarf or a tank top on circular needles. It requires a minimum of tools and fuss. I also second what Eva said about Books on CD---they are great for long car trips and knitting! Good luck with your move!
October 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSusan
congrats isabelle! we drove from NYC to montana for my move this summer, and crocheted the whole way. I ended up scrapping the project (a baby blanket) in the end (I was too distracted and it wasn't working). On the way down to texas, though, I crocheted earrings- much better! They only take a short amount of time so I could finish something and not forget where I was in the project. Truthfully, I really enjoyed looking out the window and I didn't want to craft.

Also- comedy CDs are good to keep you awake.

Good luck with your move!!
October 16, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterlinda p
Crochet is definitely good for travelling - easier to pick up and put down than knitting and less potential for losing stitches and unravelling. I've crocheted on crammed commuter trains into London where there's no way I could have wielded knitting needles.
October 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRos
good old mindless crochet cannot be beaten! you can drop stitches and unravel and its no problem. maybe some granny squares or a lap sized ripple rug. maybe a different colour for every state. that and some good sounds, i'm a happy traveller. happy travelling isabelle!
October 16, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterlouise
Isabelle, We're so happy that you're going to get to see this beautiful country. Don't forget your little postcard sized sketchbook and your Caran D'arche water soluble crayons. You'll be making tons of drawings for new ideas as you observe from your perch at the head of the UHaul. And sharing some postcards, I hope. We look forward to your posts from exotic places.Thanks for all the archived ones.
i knitted warshrags across country and gave them to people we saw/stayed with along the way. bad me was only able to find cotton at walmart, but it was cheap!
and then, if you go through Kansas, you NEED to see the "Garden of Eden" in Lucas ( . It is truly amazing..We drove through way to early to go inside, but it was still incredibly impressive.
Have a great drive and watch you speed limit! Act dumb if you get pulled over and be very nice! It helps!!
October 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
I like to do redwork/embroidery when I travel. I just mark my designs before I leave, then I can stitch whenever. The only supplies you need are your project, a hoop, embroidery scissors, a needle, and floss.
October 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTiffany
I agree that knitting and crochet are best for road trips. But what I really want to know is who made that adorable embroidered map?
October 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLiesl
Wow, thanks everyone! I think all of these ideas and inspiring stories might require an extended vacation, more than just a quick couple weeks across the country!

Liesl -- I embroidered this little map of America in anticipation of our trip. Thank you!
October 16, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterisabelle
Hi Isabelle! I'm happy to hear you'll be joining our fair city.

I agree with the above posts. Usually I have to drive, so I don't get to knit or otherwise create in the car. But when I do ride the train, for example, knitting is very handy--I don't recommend DPNs because they slip so easily into the bits of the car where your hand cannot easily follow. Last train trip, I knitted 3 squares for a group blankie (though 1 ended up being ripped). The squares are great because you can switch patterns with each new square, and they never get too big for your vehicle. I also like hand-sewing projects, especially if you have a bunch of tiny quilt squares or similar that you can just grab and stitch away on with a single color thread for hours and hours. I really like to have some variety of projects; it makes the time go faster!
October 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDaphne
That looks great! My car craft is knitting.
October 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJessica
oh, isabelle, i miss you already - even though you will be closer to me in seattle than you are in new york!


October 17, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterjen
Congrats! That sounds like it will be amazing.

My favorite craft for the car is knitting. I remember six years ago my boyfriend was driving me to Toronto and I was knitting a sweater. The whole way he joked that it felt like he was driving his mother around. Who would have known that we would end up married?!
October 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKelley
Knitting is the best craft to take with you! I have had many nice chats with people on the train that has started from my knitting! However my most roady piece of craft was made at home by the sewing machine, but I use my road bag wherever I go:
October 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKajsa
Good luck Isabelle! What a fun US grid~ Lovely idea for a sofa pillow with some fun purlsoho fabric around the edges!
October 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLaurie
Socks are the best roadtrip craft, in my opinion. They're small and easily transported, but provide hours of knitting enjoyment. The pattern is usually quite simple and can be done without a written pattern, or with one page of directions. And you get the added benefit of all of those stitches that need to be knit - you can stay busy for hours.
October 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie
I like makng altered books: just simply folding pages of a thrifted hardcover book. Just make sure the pages are not so old and brittle that they break during folding. YOu are only limited by your to the patterns/repetitions you use for folding. Try to find an interesting book: here is a photo of an old shorthand can see I was not super precise...i think it was a twisty road. But repetitive page folding definitley lends itself to raod trips.
October 17, 2007 | Unregistered Commentermims
I get carsick if I don't watch the road most of the time, so things that require too much of my attention are out of the question. Unless we want to make extra rest stops for special emergencies, of course.

I stick with simple knitting. The kind I can do without thinking or looking much. A stockinette scarf with a garter edge or a log cabin blanket work well for me.

Happy road-tripping! I love driving; so I a bit jealous.
October 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer
While it was not my favorite road craft, I wrote all our wedding thank you cards while driving from Ottawa to Quebec City (6+ hours). I packed my favorite old hard covered suitcase with my cutting board, my olfa knife, my metal rulers, my special paper that needed to be measured and trimmed, raffia, our group photo for the cover, large needle for weaving the raffia corners, pens, pencils, dictionary, stamps, envelopes etc. With the suitcase on my lap, I had the ideal travel desktop and drawer. When we got to our destination, the hand made cards were finally, (after months of procrastination) ready to go! When given the choice, I much prefer knitting something simple!
October 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNathalie
I agree with the tip about having several types of projects. I also like to look out the window (and sometimes get carsick), so I try to bring something simple. One good way to pass the time on a car trip and to get through some boring knitting is to work on something that has several inches of a simple stitch pattern like garter or stockinette. I like to have it all cast on and ready to go before I leave so I don't have to fumble with it in the car; I usually cast on for a few projects so I can switch if I get bored or can't work on something. Sweaters knit in the round are especially great for road trip knitting, and so are socks.
October 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCaitlin
I took two trips this year one on a plane and one in a car. On the plane trip I croched a ripple afghan I had to take an extra bag for the yarn but it was light. On the auto trip I embroidered,the time just flew by. Both were fun, I liked the embroidery in the car because I could look out the window without losing my place.
October 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKathleen
There's nothing quite like a chauffeured car(husband is chauffeur),and a smooth motorway stretching ahead, the radio playing, preferably BBC radio 4, and knitting. I use my knitting to relax so I like to just follow a pattern, my job involves being creative, so it's nice with the knitting just to be told what do do, whilst still being creative.
By-the-way, the Purl Bee is a beautiful blog, very inspiring.
October 18, 2007 | Unregistered Commentervanessa
We love to needlepoint on our road jaunts (we loved doing it while flying, but all those new restrictions have prevented two necessities-needles and scissors!)
October 18, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterkari & kijsa
crochet can't be beat for road trips. one needle, a ball of yarn. so simple. i make purses in single crochet. i love the density of the fabric that it produces.

welcome to seattle! it's a gorgeous place to live.
October 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTere
When I get to be a passenger on a road trip I love to listen to a book on tape while hand quilting on a small sized quilt. That is when I get my best hand quilting done. Have a great trip to Washington. You will love it in the northwest!

October 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterElizabth Joy
Welcome to Seattle! My favorite new car craft is making squares with my weave-it, a small hand held loom. You can do a plain weave, or simple patterns and each square works up in about 15 minutes. You can find out all about these cute little looms at
October 22, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterdawn
Welcome to the Pacific Northwest!

I once was a guest aboard a Coast Guard cutter that was traveling up the Columbia River from Astoria to Portland for Rose Festival. Ahead of time, I drafted a drawing of the ship, the river, Portland and of course... a rose. Long story short, I did redwork while on board for the all day trip. Not only did I have a project to do on the slow trip upriver, I now have a quilted and embroidered memory of the event.

All of my car trips I usually do some quilting or some kind of redwork that I'm working on. One day I'd like to do multiple images (for quilt blocks) in redwork of things I see (and or do) along the way to someplace - and then make the blocks into a quilt. Some day. Some day.

Happy travels!
October 23, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterhappy zombie
Since I get car sick I never really thought I could do anything but look out the window as a passenger. I have since found that knitting something that does not require reading or checking directions works. So I usually knit socks when on the road. Good luck in your new surroundings. Karen
October 28, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterkaren

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