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Projects perfect for travel

If you travel a great deal, you may consider setting aside one or two projects just for travel. For example, I have a sweater in progress that I work on only when I travel. Granted, it is not getting completed in record time, but it comes out like a familiar friend whenever I pull out my luggage.

My particular "travel" sweater project fits all my criteria for being suitable for travel. First, it is lightweight and fairly compact. It is being knit in mercerized cotton, so each ball of yarn weighs less than 2 ounces and doesn't take a lot of space. I often tuck a few balls of extra yarn in with my luggage just so I know I won't run out.

I always review the patterns of the pieces I intend to work on to see how complex they will be. My large, cumbersome projects get left at home where I can work on them more easily in one stationary place.

For travel, I avoid items that require reference to involved charts. Such row-by-row concentration is not easy unless you plan to spend a large chunk of time alone in a situation where you can easily spread out and work with your pattern and chart.

Think about the color of your materials and the available light you'll have as you work. Traveling is probably not the best time to work on a black wool cable sweater. If you are flying or traveling by train, you'll probably encounter dim light at various times. You also might want to avoid extremely light colors that may easily become soiled.

Keep the number of colors to a minimum. This is not the time to begin a piece that requires 15 or 20 yarns unless you work on only a few colors at one time.

I recommend accessories for knitters and crocheters to work on while on the road. If you are good and fast, you can wear your hat, socks or scarf as soon as you complete them. Accessories are small and compact. If you want to include more than one for a long trip, separate them into different plastic bags. I often bag all the "ingredients" in one bag so I can simply grab the whole thing and go.

Don't forget to include a small accessory bag in your larger project bag. You should have scissors, tape measure, sewing needle, markers, counter, stitch gauge, T-pins and other such items. This will give you the needed tools to complete your projects.

You might invest in a compact needle or hook case. I have a set of circular knitting needles with ends that fit into various size wires. It's handy to have along on a trip.

I always include a crochet hook in my accessory pouch, even when I'm working on knitting projects. Crochet hooks have endless uses, such as picking up dropped stitches and working a small edge. I even use them to tag garments when I work at consumer shows.

Speaking of tags, you should always have identification in your needlework bag. I've heard horror stories from knitters and crocheters who have left their precious bags behind or simply lost them. You have a better chance of having your bag returned if it includes details about reaching you.

And don't forget about the social aspects of travel. A nice, mindless project lets you chat with your friends or help watch for landmarks in the car. It also gives you a sense of accomplishment as you travel without wasting a moment!

Easy summer bags

Get a head start on the summer season by making one or both of these crocheted bags. The backpack comes in lilac and the pouch bag comes in medium lilac. A crocheter with average skills can make both. The backpack is 12 inches deep and the pouch bag is 11 inches tall by 15 inches wide. Both are made of Bernat "Berella 4" in 100 percent acrylic fibers, using either an E/4 or F/5 (3.00 or 4.00mm) crochet hook. Refer to kit HM890514. For the pattern only: Send $2 and a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Herrschners, 2800 Hoover Road, Dept. M _ Two Purple Bags, Stevens Point, WI 54492. To order a kit for $21.99, postage included, call (800) 441-0838 (Dept. M) or send to above address.

Hints or questions of general interest will be used in the column when possible. Please send them to Nancy J. Thomas, in care of the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. The NeedleWorks is also on the Web at


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