Oct 25, 2015

Needlework & the Post 9/11 World: Why Can't We Get Along?

Planes, trains and automobiles... throw in the doctor's office, soccer practice, the beach or jury duty... and you've pretty much covered what might be the very last hold-outs where our hurried world allows us a moment to sit still. To chill out.

Or to be bored.

Maybe that's what I love about quilting. Always something to do - keeps me moving. And I love taking handwork with me for these down times.

Wanna carry all this on the plane? Should be no problem... provided you're flying on a U.S. carrier.

Regulation scissors? Check. Needle? Okay. Hand embroidery project? Got it.

Try taking these same scissors to Africa. Not okay. They will end up in the trash can! And you will get a scowling look from the man in charge.

But Japan is a different story all together. I recently boarded a Japanese carrier for the first leg of my trip back to the U.S. They did not like my scissors. In fact there was much scurrying around... and I thought "oh no," I'm gonna have to toss another pair of perfectly good scissors.

But not so! True to polite nature you will find everywhere in Japan, instead of throwing my "dangerous" scissors away...

the very nice security team provided me this little box. Popped my scissors inside, and escorted me back to baggage check in where the airline attendant kindly put the box in a plastic bag and added a luggage ticket with my name. Sweet!

Sweet that I did not have to throw the scissors away. Not so sweet for the 12-hour flight with NOTHING to do but watch movies. What a wasted opportunity for hand work.

A week later, back in Texas, I was called to jury duty.

Experience from years past reminded me I could find myself sitting in the jury assembly room for 3 or 4 hours before being called to an actual court room. Who wants to sit there for 3 hours with nothing to do? So I packed my 'go to' handwork bag.

Hold your horses there, Missy!

You cannot take scissors into the jury assembly room, and certainly not the courtroom. WTF?

Let me get this straight. These scissors are not allowed? No.

Can I keep my needle, at least? No!

But all of these items are allowed? Yes.

Seriously, let's think about this for a minute. Do me and my scissors really stand a chance against this guy? He has a gun. And a tattoo.

I mean no disrespect to the peace officers. I value and respect everything they do to protect us.

My beef is with the whole security system in general. A system that's really off kilter when it comes to allowing or preventing us to engage in the very simple act of putting a needle and thread into a piece of cloth.

Very few people bother to do hand needlework anymore. And I think this may be part of the reason. The Post 9/11 world makes everything so difficult. And I feel these random security measures are a big contributor killing what little motivation is left for anyone interested in working with a needle and thread by hand.

I know that there is one possible work-around solution to this problem --- I can pre-cut a bunch of pieces of thread and work without scissors on the airplane. But that's only if you plan ahead and if you know they are going to take your scissors. If you are busy and do not expect your scissors to be taken... well then.

And when you are called for boring jury duty, you certainly do not expect your scissors AND your needle to be taken.

The randomness of these rules are killing me and my handwork.

Why can't we allow small needles, thread, cloth and tiny scissors? Randomness!

I don't recall any headlines involving frightening stories of tiny sewing scissors gone wrong. So why discriminate against these things?

Does this bother anyone else? Anyone have any solutions?


  1. For many years I travelled with children's blunt scissors with no problems but they are sometimes not useful. For the past 3 or 4 years I have been able to travel in Canada and Europe with your style of scissors and I always have in my wallet the round Clover cutter just in case they take may scissors. I always take a knitting project (circular needles) and my iPad for back up can't imagine a long fight without something to do in my hands. I also check the website of the airline I am using for their allowed list but I too feel frustrated by the fact that sometimes security does not use the same list. I once had an appliqué needle taken from me but not my pointy scissors. Bev

  2. All of these random "security" rules are simply to put you at ease while you travel. You won't get stuck by a needle or scissors, they do catch the majority of knives, we all read about the man in December of 2014 who smuggled 16 guns on a plane from Atlanta to JFK with the assistance of a TSA employee. We read the article about the number of TSA agents that hadn't been properly screened before employment. Now don't you feel more secure? Of course not. Unfortunately, we are treated like mushrooms. Kept in the dark and fed poo. Anything useful in the form of actual information we get is spun by politics or news agencies to fit their agendas.

    I wear my clover cutter as a necklace and have yet to be asked about it. They do make smaller plastic needles that you could embroider with but they're awkward and dull. I toss a loose needle into the bottom of my carry on bag and haven't even had anyone mention it. If you have a tablet you can add a design program and plan out your next quilt.

    I. think it's a really sad world we live in. Try carrying a cane. Most are metal. Want to see security at a sports event or TSA freak out. Tell them that the cane isn't for looks and no they can't hold it for a minute while I walk through the metal detector. I've actually been searched and they took apart my cane just in case I hid something there because, I was too worried about them taking the cane. I wasn't worried about the cane but more about falling and embarrassing myself. But hey you are all safe now that they've embarrassed me in front of the others on the plane or at the baseball game.

  3. I've carried a dental floss container and used the little tab as a thread cutter. No solution for the scissors! Honestly, the rules can seem random, and randomly applied.

  4. I remember being called for jury duty. Did the same thing you did and they wanted to toss my embroidery scissors. Fortunately I saw them set something aside for the attorney ahead of me and mentioned that. She wasn't too happy but did it. The dental floss container sounds clever. I'll try that next time.

  5. TSA guidelines allow for scissors with blades under 4". I travel and handstitch on hexies with metal needles & 4" scissors all the time. I keep them in a clear plastic zippered bag. So sorry for your trouble, especially a mind numbing 12 hr flight of movies.. yikes!
    Here is the link, I printed out the guidelines and taped it to the outside of my travel sewing kit using clear packing tape.