a pen, a plane, and a near-tragedy

(Ok, the story might be a bit less dramatic than the title suggests if you’re not a knitter. If you are, you’ll understand me.)

This might look to you like just an ordinary a work-in-progress. It’s not. There’s a story behind it.

I was coming back from a short trip yesterday, on a plane. As usual, I took some convenient, not-too-complicated knitting with me. (When I fly, I take care to choose needles that are least likely to be confiscated by security, such as wooden ones or very light circulars. I haven’t had a problem so far. Though, to be fair, I’ve only flown within Europe with my knitting, they might be stricter on longer flights.) I was quite enjoying my knitting and looking forward to two hours of flight-time during which I could make a good deal of progress. I was thinking about how I’d tell the recipient that her item had been knit at an altitude of 7,000 meters and how she would like that little fact. And then I took my Uni-ball pen out to mark that I had finished another pattern repeat. This kind.

- click image for source -

A second later, I had ink all over my seat (luckily the seat next to me was empty), all over the plane wall, all over my brand new jeans, and all over my project.

What ensued was panic, anger, frustration, running to the toilet (several times) to try to wash some of it off (of course, it had to be in the middle of the food being served), and wanting to bang my head against something really hard. An older gentleman who sat across the isle from me, and who had been looking at my knitting interestedly earlier, offered compassion with his glances now. When I finally regained some semblance of calm, I remembered that I had had the same experience with the same type of pen a few months earlier, when I tried to use it on a plane to make notes on my course reading. So here’s a lesson I will never again forget: for some reason, Uniball pens leak (in an exploding fashion, if I may add) on planes.

All that said, there is a happy ending. I managed to refrain myself from throwing the whole project in the trash (as I felt inclined to do in my frustration), and dunked it into warm water with detergent instead (with the needles and everything). Honestly, I didn’t take before photos because I was convinced that they would be exactly the same as the after photos. And then, magically, after just a few minutes, the ink blotches had disappeared! The project is now drying, and I’m still kind of incredulous that what seemed like such a huge problem was resolved so easily, but unless my eyes deceive me… my lesson will have been a little less painful than I imagined at first.

And I will definitely have a story to tell when I hand over this item.

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About fridica

I started knitting completely by accident, when I was visiting my parents for a holiday in 2008. On a boring Sunday afternoon, I decided to dig through their stash of books to see if there was anything interesting to take back to my apartment. A knitting manual happened to be one of the books I found. I got curious, my mom immediately dug out her old needles and yarn stash (which she hadn’t used in a decade at least), and in a few minutes we were both casting on - she by memory, I by following the instructions from the book… :) Since I normally prefer learning from books, this was ideal.. I took the book home with me, and very very soon - I was an addict.

28 thoughts on “a pen, a plane, and a near-tragedy

      • I’ll definitely be crossing my fingers for you, since I can sympathize. I have a terrible tendency to spill stuff on new clothing. But then, don’t most people?

  1. Great story! Wish you have photos with ink on that little dress. Maybe you could write Uniball people to tell them about pressure problems with their pens in planes. They really need to make them better :)

    • To be honest, I’m glad I don’t have photos of that. I want to forget it as soon as possible. :( On the other hand, maybe the Uniball people know already, and rather than make their pens not-explode, they made the ink washable? :D

  2. oh no!! that’s such a terrible experience, but thanks for the air plane warning on those pens. I’m SO glad that your project could be rescued! How did your jeans fare?

  3. OMG! I would have freaked out just like you! I’m glad the stains came out, though. I’ve had more than one pen explode in an airplane, though luckily none of them got on me or anything else at the time!

    • I also missed half of the food they served because I was running back and forth to the bathroom. Finally I fly on a plane where the food is free, and then I miss it. That just added insult to injury if you ask me :D

  4. So, not only do these pens explode on high altitudes, but they also dissolve in water? Huh… I’m glad that the second part of it is true and that you were able to save your project. I would probably have thrown it out the plane window if it were possible.

  5. meni bi se svakako svidilo imat nešto ispleteno u avionu. super mi jeova info za igle, na sljedeći let ću probat unit pletivo, i to nešto za sebe :)

    • Hmmm… I was so convinced it was impossible to wash because a Pilot ink pen once leaked on my jeans bag, and the blotch stayed there forever. It hadn’t occured to me that they’d use significantly different ink. Perhaps in the end Uniball will come out of this story really well :)

  6. You were not over exagerating about the near-tragedy! Glad this story has a happy ending, well, except for your jeans but there’s still hope for them, too. I always use a pencil to mark off my rows, just in case I have to rip back, I can erase my marks.

  7. I’m so happy the project survived! I actually have a couple of Uniball pens, so I’ll be careful to not take them on trips and I’ll keep them far away from my knitting!

  8. ha! Yeah, I’m a little weary of gel ink pens on planes now too. I guess that’s the only thing I’d prefer ballpoints for. They have some sort of special ink that WON’T explode in airplane pressure. What a story!

  9. Ohboy! Glad you got that out!! The same thing happened to mom when she visited me here last month. But she came overseas, her pen just about exploded in her hand, and this was at the BEGINNING of our shopping trip to town LOL… she was VERY blue ;) different pen though.

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