Stitching Sand

Originally posted 2009-07-23 07:06:13. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

A reader asked me a question about threads and stitches to use for stitching sand. Sand can be tough because it has an uneven texture and most of our threads are smooth. It has texture but one which is non-directional and most of our stitches have obvious directions.

Here are some strategies I like to use.

For threads there are two I recommend. You want something which has an uneven or nubby texture but which is soft not rough. Cotton Plus from Ty-Di Threads has a lovely nubby texture that works well for sand, but it has a limited range of colors. Rainbow Linen or Thread Gather’s Flax n’Colors would be the linen threads I’d try, with my preference being Rainbow Linen. Other linen threads, like DMC, are only available in sets of colors (although this thread would work) or are too hard, like Londonderry Linen.

For stitches you want something which looks a bit chaotic and doesn’t have a strong direction (unless you need wind swept sand, which I’ll talk about next). That means you want stitches which either change direction, change stitches, or have lines which encroach.

For stitches which change direction, think of Serendipity, Woven Plait, or Criss-cross Hungarian. For stitches which alternate, I like Double which mixes Upright Cross with Cross, or Staggered Cross, which mixes small and large cross stitches. For stitches which encroach, nothing beats Nobuko.

If you want to get those secondary lines in the sand that appear when the wind is constantly from one direction, then you need a stitch which is going to give you subtle oblique lines. My favorite for this is Diagonal Victorian Step. One thing to avoid here is a stitch with any kind of strong diagonal line because it will look unrealistic.

Another issue is what to do when the painting on the canvas has lines in a different color in it, as many do to indicate the changes in the sand’s shape. First, stitch those lines first using a different color of the same stitch you’ll use for the main part of the sand. Second, pick a stitch which suits the scale of the areas between the lines. If those areas are mostly small and you want a Cross Stitch,m use Double instead of Staggered Cross which needs more space to develop.

You will end up doing lots of compensating. Try as much as you can to keep the stitch pattern intact, but don’t worry if you get off pattern, it’s sand and it’s supposed to look irregular.


  1. Carol says

    My favorite stitch to use for sand is the French knot.

    Depending on what kind of texture/visual effect I want, I’ll use both solid and varigated threads, different numbers of strands, or different types of fiber, all in the same section.

    Granted, I do most of my stitching on tightly woven fabric, which makes the placement of the knots easier. You could do it on needlepoint canvas quite easily, though. Either use thread with enough substance to keep it from slipping through the holes in the canvas, or place a piece of sheer fabric (organza, for example) over the canvas and stitch through both layers. The sheer fabric will keep the threads from slipping through the holes, and the knots will anchor the two layers together. You can get the knots together enough that the fabric/canvas doesn’t show through, even when using fairly small knots.

    I LOVE making French knots, although I realize that I’m unusual in that regard.

  2. Pat says

    I am finishing a needlepoint project on 18 count and was baffled about what to do about having the sand on the beach look like sand and not a slab of cement!! After reading your article, I will try a few of the stitches on my work canvas as well as some threads. Thanks for posting your instructions.


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