Welcome to stop number 5 on the 2018 Serendipity Needleworks Threadventure - lovely Chicago, Illinois!
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Hi there!

Are you ready for this week’s destination on the Threadventure? Great! Hop aboard the Serendipity Express with me and we’ll take our magical virtual vacation tour bus to our next stop, on the shores of lovely Lake Michigan – Chicago!


All aboard the Serendipity Express for the next stop on our Threadventure!

And here we are! (WOW…that was quick!)

Welcome to Chicago, the 5th stop on our 2018 Serendipity Needleworks Threadventure!


Have you ever been to Chicago? I absolutely adore it! There’s so much to see and do – restaurants (Pizzeria Uno!), museums (The Art Institute), sporting events (Cubbies and Wrigley Field), shopping (The Mag Mile) and more.  But the architecture tour along the Chicago River and, of course, nearby Lake Michigan are – hands down – the things that make me smile most when I think about that toddlin’ town.   

Over inside the Serendipity Needleworks Facebook group, I asked you to guess what we’ll be exploring in Chicago.

If you guessed rivers and lakes, then CONGRATULATIONS! You’re ever so clever. 😉

In a quandary about which stitches and threads to use for rivers and lakes on your needlepoint projects? Well, fret no more! I have five primo suggestions that you can put to use right away.

Come on, let’s dive in and take a look at a few first-rate stitches for lakes and rivers…

The Chicago River actually flows in reverse, thanks to a magnificent civil engineering feat.


Let’s start with rivers, since there’s a really interesting story about the Chicago River that I only learned a few years ago, on one of my first trips to the city. Did you know that the Chicago River actually flows in reverse? Yep – instead of flowing into Lake Michigan, water is fed from Lake Michigan into the Chicago River, which then flows into the Des Plaines River. (Click here to read more about this amazing civil engineering feat.)

The Chicago River flows gently (even though it flows backwards) through the center of the city, so let’s start by taking a look at some stitches that are good for quiet, calm rivers.

Our first stitch, Hungarian stitch, is a terrific choice for rivers. 

Hungarian stitch is one of the simpler stitches to execute. It’s a great choice, if you’re new to using decorative stitches, or if you’ve been away from your needlepoint hobby for a while. 

Hungarian stitch is really versatile, too. It’s relatively small (so it’ll fit in tight spaces) and you can turn it on its side and work it horizontally. And when you do that, it really does look like water flowing gently down a river.


Hungarian stitch is a great choice for stitching rivers and lakes on your needlepoint canvases.


I’m using Sparkle Rays to work this stitch.

Sparkle Rays is a flat ribbon type thread, shot through with a metallic blending filament.

What does “shot through” mean? Great question. You see, several very thin strands of thread combine to create Sparkle Rays; one of those thin strands is a metallic blending filament. When all of the strands are braided together, the metallic blending filament changes position in the ribbon, giving it an overall metallic look. (Think about how a French braid hairstyle is created – same principle.)

Sparkle Rays has 70 vibrant colors and each card holds 10 yards. It’s best for 13/14 mesh canvas, but you can easily use it to work long stitches on 18 mesh needlepoint canvas. Since Sparkle Rays is a ribbon type thread, it helps to use a laying tool (or your finger) to guide it into place. It has a slight tendency to unravel, so use a dot of Fray Check (or a Thread Zap) on the ends to keep fraying to a minimum. I also recommend using short lengths – no more than 15″.

Moving right along, our second stitch is Byzantine stitch.

Byzantine stitch creates a strong diagonal pattern. It’s a medium to large size stitch, so it takes a fair amount of space to establish the pattern on your canvas. Use it on medium to large size areas on your projects.


Byzantine stitch is a great choice for stitching rivers and lakes on your needlepoint canvases.


I’m using Water N’ Ice to work Byzantine stitch.

Water N’ Ice  is a loosely braided translucent 100% nylon ribbon thread. It’s particularly effective when you use it on painted canvases where you want the painted design/color to show through.

Use Water N’ Ice to stitch ice, mirrors, glass, dew, and frost, as well as water design elements like rivers and lakes.

There are only 18 colors of Water N’ Ice and each card holds 10 yards. Use it for working long stitches, like Byzantine stitch, on 13 – 18 mesh needlepoint canvas.

I also recommend using a laying tool with this thread, so that your stitches lay smoothly on the surface of your canvas. Use a Thread Zap to singe the ends of Water N’ Ice, since it’s prone to unraveling. (Note: I haven’t tried using Fray Check on Water N’ Ice.)  

Now, let’s take a look at some more terrific stitches for rivers and lakes…


Ripples on Lake Michigan look like Vertical Wave stitch.


If you’ve never been to Lake Michigan, you really ought to put it on your list of places to visit. It’s ahhh-maay-zing! Let me just tell you, when people say it looks like the ocean, they’re not kidding. Standing on the shoreline and looking out across the lake – all you see is water, water, and more water!

Our third stitch – and one that is quite effective for showing movement in water – is Vertical Wave stitch.


Vertical Wave is a terrific choice for stitching rivers and lakes on your needlepoint canvases.


You may flip Vertical Wave stitch on its side, too, and work it as a horizontal stitch, just like you can Hungarian stitch.

I’m using Frosty Rays and Flair to work Vertical Wave stitch.

Frosty Rays is a stretchy tubular 100% nylon ribbon that has a single strand of metallic thread running through it. It’s available in a whopping 206 colors and each card holds 5 yards. It works well on 10 – 18 mesh needlepoint canvas.

Frosty Rays has a subtle shimmer and it glitters when the light hits it just right. I recommend using it “as-is”, directly off the card. Cut short pieces – no longer than 12″ – 15″. Apply Fray Check to the ends (or use a Thread Zap), since it’s prone to unraveling. Remember to use a laying tool to lay Frosty Rays and pull your stitches taut.

I’m using Flair as a complementary shading thread, for an interesting change in textures. Since Flair is making an encore appearance, you can click here to learn more about it.

Our fourth stitch, Diagonal Roumanian stitch, is terrific for both rivers and lakes…


Sunlight glinting off lovely Lake Michigan with the skyline of Chicago in the distance.



Diagonal Roumanian stitch is a terrific choice for stitching both rivers and lakes on your needlepoint canvases.


I’m using Silk Lamé Braid 18 and Treasure Braid 12 to work Diagonal Roumanian stitch.

Silk Lamé Braid 18 is a blend of silk (72%), rayon (18%), and metallic polyester (10%). It’s actually 4 strands of Splendor and 4 very thin strands of metallic blending filament plied together to create a sparkly wonderful thread. It’s available in 221 exquisite colors and each card holds 10 yards.

Silk Lamé Braid 18 is best for 16 – 18 mesh needlepoint canvas; use it for light coverage on 13/14 mesh canvas.  (NOTE: I’m using Silk Lamé Braid 18 to work the long stitches in Diagonal Roumanian stitch.)

Treasure Braid 12 is a 65% rayon/35% metallic polyester 12 strand braid. It’s available in 48 colors and each card has a 10 yards.

Treasure Braid 12 works best on 13 – 18 mesh needlepoint canvas and it’s comparable in both size and finish to Kreinik Braid#12. It’s very sparkly and provides contrast to both matte and high sheen threads. Use it “as is” off the card and use your finger or a laying tool to guide it into place, so that your stitches lay flat on your canvas. (NOTE: I’m using Treasure Braid #12 to work the short tent stitches that “tie” the long diagonal stitches to the canvas.)


The end of the day draws near in Chicago; the sunset glows on the lake.

Our fifth – and final – “city by the lake” stitch is
Alternating Continental. 

It’s a super-terrific option for water of any kind, in my opinion. It’s a small-ish stitch, it’s easy to compensate, and it’s really fun to work, so it’s in my arsenal of “go-to” stitches. Alternating Continental creates interesting texture on your canvas while allowing the painted design to peek through. 

Alternating Continental stitch is really easy to execute, but you should work it in two steps.

First, working from top right to bottom left, execute diagonal tent stitch on every other row of your canvas, following the diagram below.


Alternating Continental stitch is a terrific choice for stitching rivers and lakes on your needlepoint canvases.


Then, working from top left to bottom right, change the slant of your stitches and work every other row in diagonal tent stitch. Use the diagram for help with stitch placement and orientation.

Alternating Continental stitch is a terrific choice for stitching rivers and lakes on your needlepoint canvases.


I’m using Petite Silk Lamé Braid to work the Alternating Continental stitch.

Petite Silk Lamé Braid is very much like Silk Lamé Braid 18, but it has only two strands of Splendor and two very thin strands of metallic blending filament.

It’s 92% silk/5% rayon/3% polyester metallic and each card holds 20 yards. There are 218 luscious colors available and it works best for light coverage on 18 mesh needlepoint canvas. You may also use it on Congress Cloth.

Use Petite Silk Lamé Braid “as is” directly off the card.


And that, my friend, brings us to the end of our stay in Chicago.

It’s been so much fun sharing these stitches for rivers and lakes with you.

Looking back at the downtown Chicago skyline at sunset from lovely Lake Michigan

Now, let’s hop on board the Serendipity Express and hit the road to our next Threadventure destination…

jazzy New Orleans!

Before you go, be sure and tell me what you think we’ll be exploring in NOLA. (Don’t be shy…I  ❤️ hearing from you and I read every single comment. Pinky promise!!!)

Leave your thoughts down below in the comments box and I’ll enter your name into a drawing for a FREE 6 month membership in The Stitcher’s Club, too. Not sure what The Stitcher’s Club is? Click here to find out more. 🙂

Until next time, happy stitching!
Stitch with a smile!



PS: I’ll share pictures of my stitched samples over on the Serendipity Needleworks Facebook page, inside the Serendipity Needleworks Facebook group and on Instagram, so be sure and follow me there. 😉


  1. Christa R Kendrick

    July 9, 2018 at 7:55 pm

    New Orleans Options- unique architectural designs, bridges, mardi gras, above ground burial vaults
    Personal Wish – how to use beads in my needlepoint

    • Ellen Johnson

      July 11, 2018 at 9:36 am

      Hi Christa!
      Thank you for sharing your ideas…they’re terrific! 😉
      Have a happy Wednesday and check in tomorrow morning first thing for the “big reveal in the Big Easy”.
      Ellen ❤️

  2. Barbara McKenzie

    July 24, 2018 at 7:28 am

    How do you give the cumulus clouds a puffy look here and there (dimension rather than all flat).

    • Ellen Johnson

      July 25, 2018 at 9:06 am

      Hi Barbara!
      Great question. 🙂
      You can use padding stitches under your surface stitches if you want to make the cumulus clouds look puffy. Have a terrific day!


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