How To Stitch An Ocean

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Hello! It’s Monday, June 8: Happy World Oceans Day! What, you didn’t know? I didn’t either, I’m embarrassed to say, until yesterday.

Have you been to a beach, let waves splash over your feet, dreamt about or set sail on the seas? Ever visit an aquarium, did you watch “Gilligan’s Island” or “seaQuest DSV”, or maybe read “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea”? Do you remember learning about oceans in school, and can you still name earth’s five oceans? Our lives our connected to the world’s oceans in thousands of ways, every day, whether we realize it or not. “How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is quite clearly Ocean.”—Arthur Clarke

Needlepoint painted canvas by Cheryl Schaeffer Designs
“The waves of the sea help me get back to me.” – Jill Davis. Needlepoint design by Cheryl Schaeffer, Metallic threads by Kreinik,

I’ve lived near two oceans, waded in their waves, gathered their seashells, read about them (favorites: Gift From The Sea, A Little Old Man, and The Captain’s Verses), and watched them star in films (Jaws, Splash, The Abyss, Waterworld, The Hunt For Red October, The Perfect Storm, Titanic, Life of Pi, The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo, Free Willy, Castaway, Master and Commander, Bounty, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou…). I once worked for a boating newspaper where I met people who sailed around the world or dedicated their lives to working on or protecting the waters.

World Oceans Day, held every June 8th, is the United Nations-recognized day of ocean celebration and action, according to Events around the world are held to raise awareness about the health of our oceans, celebrate their beauty, and recognize that the world’s oceans ultimately connect us all. Three quarters of the earth’s surface is covered by water. Homes to billions of creatures, oceans regulate our climate and generate most of the oxygen in our atmosphere. Water is vital to every single person on earth. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t realize World Oceans Day is today; you have until next June 8 to consider celebrations, or you can check the World Oceans Day calendar to see if there’s something in your neighborhood now. You can also celebrate the oceans every day in another way: in your needlework.

Centuries of embroiderers have stitched about the ocean, its creatures and its allure, mysteries, and metaphors. If you ever have a chance to see the famous, absolutely amazing and glorious crocheted Coral Reef exhibit, don’t miss it ( Love mermaids? Then look for Nora Corbett’s cross stitch, beaded and shimmery, dreamy pattern series ( Needlepoint a beach-themed pillow while listening to songs about the ocean ( If you can’t be near the water, at least you can embroider it.

Today we have all kinds of threads, stitches, embellishments, designs and patterns to help bring ocean themes to stitched life. Let’s go with this metaphor for a moment: stitching is a chance to leave the shore of comfort and boredom, to experiment, play, ride the waves of imagination, and rinse off your burdens. It can be as relaxing as being near water, and as creative as nature itself. Here are a few photos and ideas for bringing some of the magic, color, and vibrant energy of the ocean world to your embroidery projects.

Glow in the dark threads add a little more fun to the clown fish in this cross stitch scene.
This design hangs on the wall at the Kreinik thread factory. The mix of cotton floss and metallic threads make the design more visually interesting, catching the eyes as people pass by. But the real fun is in the clown fish near the top: they are stitched in Kreinik glow-in-the-dark threads.

1. Embrace the blues. The most popular color in the world is blue. It’s associated with qualities like calmness, peace, openness, infinity, depth and wisdom. It relaxes and inspires people. If you are stressed, perhaps that’s a good time to stitch an ocean or water-themed project. Respond to the color, use it to inspire you or help your mood.

Kreinik metallic threads in shades of blue
The thread company Kreinik has over 60 shades of blue in their metallic and silk thread lines. There’s a hue for you—and every design. Visit the Threads section on to see which blues come in which thread sizes.

2. Stitch with metallic threads. You’ve probably heard me say that a few times, but tell me the truth: have you ever seen an ocean that didn’t glisten, fish that weren’t shimmery, seafoam that wasn’t misty? Metallic threads are the easiest way to make a motif look wet, to capture the real-life visual dimension of water, its creatures, its life. For cross stitch, I recommend Kreinik Blending Filament (add one strand to floss for a subtle effect), Very Fine #4 Braid, or Fine #8 Braid (both meant to be used solo, not combined). For needlepoint, quilting, or hand embroidery, choose Fine #8 Braid or Tapestry-12-Braid.html” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>Tapestry #12 Braid

. For machine embroidery, couch any of the Kreinik Ribbons (see the video, or use just about anything in the bobbin (see the video

Shimmering fish stitched on an ocean of blue canvas in this design by Waterweave
Vibrant fish stand out in this needlepoint painted canvas by designer Ellen Brown of Waterweave, thanks to the vibrant blue background, the mix of stitches, and the use of metallic threads (Kreinik Braids). For more information about Ellen’s ocean-themed needlepoint designs, visit
Use metallic threads to make stitched water look wet and visually interesting.
Water is wet, so why not make your stitched water look wet. Here designer Sally Baer uses several shades of Kreinik metallic Tapestry #12 Braid to give the water some shimmer and sense of motion. The design is a needlepoint painted canvas in her line, BB Needlepoint,
Here's how to make a stitched mermaid look real: metallic threads
One would expect a mermaid to have a shimmery tail, yes? Here’s how you do that in needlework: metallic threads. Design is by Cheryl Schaeffer, Variegated green metallic thread is by Kreinik,

3. Add embellishments. Your needlework project is about you, perhaps connecting with a memory or expressing a wish.Maybe you’ve collected seashells, beachy jewelry, pirates’ bounty, or nautical buttons…add them to your needlework to make it 3-dimensional and personal.

Designer Larkin Jean Van Horn's quilted wall hanging, A Drop In The Ocean features a large glass piece "sewn" onto the design.
“Every drop in the ocean counts.” —Yoko Ono. Full of shimmer due to Kreinik metallic threads, and movement due to the placement of stitches, this ode to the ocean also features a large cabochon. I don’t know if designer Larkin Jean Van Horn gathered this stone on her many travels, but I do know that it adds an element and dimension that makes this design more visually interesting, and gives meaning to the quilt’s name: “A Drop In The Ocean.” Designer:
Sally Baer's sea life needlepoint canvas features beads for texture and dimension
“Into the ocean went a world more fantastic than any imagination could inspire.” – Wyland. This needlepoint painted canvas design features color, texture and dimension to capture some of the vibrancy of the ocean. Metallic threads, a variety of stitches, and beads make the piece so interesting, you want to show it off in your future beach house… About the designer:

4. Escape from reality with fantasy oceanic designs. I’m not saying mermaids aren’t real, but I am saying the ocean has some pretty wild things in it. The artist Wyland describes it as “a world more fantastic than any imagination could inspire.” Let’s run with that kind of creativity: make up your own fantastical creatures, add materials and stitches and LEDs, absolutely feel free to go wild with your embroidery ideas.

Danji Designs mermaid themed needlepoint canvases
Needlepoint painted canvas company Danji Designs has a line of mermaid themed projects that can be finished as needlebooks, scissor fobs, etc. You can have a lot of fun with stitches, embellishments, and metallic threads on these small canvases. See
Mermaids can come in all mediums, cross stitch or crochet included
What’s your fancy, or fantasy? Cross stitching or crocheting a mermaid? The one on the left is a cross-stitch design by Nora Corbett of Mirabilia, The one on the right is a crocheted mermaid ornament, a free project on the Kreinik website,
This needlepoint project by Danji Designs brings motion and commotion of the ocean to a fun, stitched level.
There’s so much to see in this design of the sea: mixed stitches, beads, metallic threads, a stitched necklace, a crazy octopus, hair, and an itsy bitsy teeny weeny mermaid bikini. Needlepoint painted canvas by Danji Designs,

5. Stitch. Ok, this suggestion may seem vague, but I want you to know how important it is that you are stitching: to your life, to your circle of people, to your culture, to the Tapestry of life that depicts our world and covers our centuries. Mother Teresa once said, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” You matter, creativity matters, the stitches you create on fabric or canvas or paper or fences matter. Keep stitching.

And let’s all save the oceans too.

Octopus's Garden quilt by Andrea Stern
Machine pieced, hand and machine quilted. Machine appliqué. Machine embroidery and machine embroidered appliquéd motifs. “I wanted to explore the wonders of a coral reef in this piece and pulled out all the stops with the details. Metallic Kreinik machine threads add sparkle and texture.” – Andrea Stern. See the whole quilt here:

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