On Handbag Knitting

I've been a proponent of 'Handbag Knitting' since I first felt confident about leaving the house with my needles and yarn, and was sure I'd already written about it... until I tried to find the post. It turns out I have mentioned this most excellent method of project completion on various occasions without explaining exactly what I am referring to, which means this is several years overdue.

What is 'Handbag Knitting'? 

'Handbag Knitting' describes a small portable project which lives in one's handbag (rucksack etc) and which is only worked on while the knitter is 'out and about'. For this reason, the project should ideally require little concentration - simple patterns with minimal-or-no-counting are perfect. My personal favourite is a plain sock in self-striping yarn, with an afterthought heel. If you've never tried them, find various tutorials here plus a free sock pattern (with step-by-step tutorials and pictures) here.

Why have a 'Handbag Knitting' project? 

The main reason I knit 'on the go' is to counteract boredom. With a simple project like a plain sock I can still chat and watch what's going on, but it stops me feeling fidgety - in fact it is very relaxing. It's great to be able to engage with the surroundings while still doing something useful, and it's the perfect an alternative to mindless scrolling on my phone (something I do way too much already, how about you?), or having to find something else to occupy myself.  While I don't consider myself as smart as the Yarn Harlot, I am certainly as prone to getting myself into trouble! 
[T]he number one reason knitters knit is because they are so smart that they need knitting to make boring things interesting. Knitters are so compellingly clever that they simply can't tolerate boredom. It takes more to engage and entertain this kind of human, and they need an outlet or they get into trouble. - Stephanie Pearl McPhee, aka Yarn Harlot.
I also find 'handbag' projects knit up surprisingly quickly. Knowing that I'd have lots of (school) meetings and hanging around (at rehearsals, exams etc), I cast on a sock specifically for this purpose a couple of weeks ago. After LM's ballet exam yesterday (I had to wait in a corridor with the other parents) I'm almost ready to work the toe of the first sock - see bottom picture. 

Rucksack from MiaTui, I have no idea where the DPN holder came from.

If you like to give hand-knit socks as gifts, this is the perfect way to get them done - in fact they seem to whizz together so quickly, it's not even a chore. 
Sometimes, people come up to me when I am knitting and they say things like, "Oh, I wish I could knit, but I'm just not the kind of person who can sit and waste time like that." How can knitting be wasting time? First, I never just knit; I knit and think, knit and listen, knit and watch. Second, you aren't wasting time if you get a useful or beautiful object at the end of it. - Stephanie Pearl McPhee.

Handbag Knitting Kit *

I've been refining my 'kit' over the years and seem to have stumbled upon a pretty sweet combination at the moment. This is my current preference. 
  • Regia Pairfect (I'm using the Candy colourway) - This yarn knits up into two perfectly matching socks. If knitting cuff-down, as I am, you simply knit all of the first colour in ribbing, then start knitting the leg. After a certain point (the thin stripes) it's time for the heel - or the heel marker in the case of an 'afterthought sock'. The yellow 'starter thread' (an off-cut) happens to be perfect for marking the spot for the afterthought heels too! So the only measurements you need are the usual number of stitches you use for a sock, and the length required between the toes and heel placement.  
  • 2.5mm Knitpro Zing double pointed needles - I'm pretty sure this particular project is going so quickly because I'm using double pointed needles. I normally use long circular needles and knit two socks at-a-time, but these little DPNs have only 16 stitches on each needle so I'm more inclined to do a little more if I have a few moments - I don't need to worry about being able to finish an entire round. So not only is it taking half the time as it's only one sock¹, it's also quicker as I'm more likely to pick it up in shorter bursts. 
  • Accessories -  This set has everything I might possibly need, and is still lightweight - I'll carry the whole thing for longer trips but for simple socks, I usually just take a few things out ( a hook for dropped stitches, and needle for grafting the toe, and the snips) and pop them in my project bag. 
  • I'm carrying it all in the brand new Mia Tui Ruby Rucksack which I've been trying out for the last few weeks (spoiler: it's great for knitting on the go the yarn can even trail out of it when it's closed) but I'll write more about that later in the week when I will also be able to share a discount code with you - stay tuned! 

Merino Blanket from the National Trust shop

Today, I'm off to see MB's matinee performance as Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream. For the next two days I'll be at the evening performance. While I have no intention of knitting during the play - my hands will be busy mopping my proud-Mum tears when he sings his solos - I'm thinking that the queue will be a perfect opportunity to finish the first sock and get started on the other! 

Leave a comment below with your favourite Handbag Project and if you want some more strategies for keeping your crafts up over the summer holidays, check out this post from the archives. Have a great day x

*DISCLAIMER: As a founding member of The Flock, LoveKnitting affiliate links are included in this post. 

¹ Beware of 'second sock syndrome'!


  1. This is my current handbag project - it is amazing how those little pockets of time mount up and I am making good progress with the cowl:-


  2. "sit & waste time" ! LOL.. I always reply.. I can't JUST sit, I have to always be doing something useful :-)

  3. Have you tried the really small circulars? They are specifically for socks or wee jumper sleeves? Much easier than log circulars and all that endless pulling of wire?

    1. Yeah, I didn't get on with them. I think it was a combination of the way I hold my needles and also I have quite big hands. I'm very happy with these DPNs though :)

  4. I have a no-fail method for avoiding "Second Sock Syndrome".

    I always knit the second sock first! Problem solved!!!!

  5. I just love everything in this post - the sock project, the needles, the project, the rucksack (love this!!), even the blanket. And I just adore the accessories set. Have convinced myself that I really need it (I don't really need it, but shhhh...). Am motivated to sort out my knitting so I can take it on the go. Thanks for the ideas!

    1. Haha great - enjoy! Post some pics when you have your set-up sorted!

  6. I found a small plastic school 'supplies' box perfect for holding all the odds and ends and current sock on double points between knitting sessions. It fits in almost any bag and keeps its contents clean and orderly. It snaps shut and stays shut and the yarn is thin enough to not be a problem in closing the box. (The ball is on its own in the bag.) Helen


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