Crochet Coral Reef Patterns – a Worldwide Phenomenon!

The crochet coral reef exhibit has finally come to Ontario and I’m excited to have an opportunity to be a coral reef contributor with my own artistic interpretation of a coral reef (I’m one of 20,000 participants who have contributed to creating crochet reefs around the world).

Crocheting a Coral Reef

I love to crochet! You may remember the crochet pillow cover that launched our crochet for a cure fundraiser at the beginning of this year, after both our moms’ lost their respective battles with Alzheimer’s.

If you don’t know about the coral reef project, it’s an international exhibition established by twin sisters, Margaret and Christine Wertheim. The coral reef combines art, science, the environment and activism. In 2005, scientists were beginning to realize that the devastation of coral reefs, which was happening all over the world, was due to global warming and rising sea temperatures.

Crochet Coral Reef Exhibits

The Crochet Coral Reef has been shown in 45 communities around the world to increase awareness of our ‘rainforests of the sea’. Exhibiting locations include all over the States, in Italy, the Netherlands, United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi), Denmark, Germany, Ireland and presently Canada! It’s now being featured here in Canada at the Ontario Science Centre until the end of October (2021). If you are in the Toronto area, the coral reef exhibit is a must see. 

Coral Reef Exhibit at the Ontario Science Centre

Coral Reef Exhibit at the Ontario Science Centre

Birdz of a Feather is all about eco-conscious upcycling. So we’re jumping at the opportunity to contribute to such an important work. The Crochet Coral Reef shines a light on the devastating impact that climate change, and plastic waste, is having upon our marine eco-systems.  

Keeping Plastic Waste Out of Our Oceans

When you put your garbage out at the curb, you may not realize that almost 8 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean every year. That’s why, when we see plastic waste like this on garbage day….

… we show you how to transform it into this wooden wall art DIY.

You can breathe new life into discarded items and turn them into beautiful and functional home decor, as our upcycling projects will attest! Our goal is to inspire you not to throw items like this away in the first place. However, we also encourage you to keep an open mind by ‘shopping the curb’ on garbage day and upcycling like we do!

Plastic Takes A Toll

Plastic waste takes a disturbing toll on marine life with 1.5 million animals killed every year. But did you know it has an impact on coral reefs too?

Many coral reefs used to looks like this:

Photo by Q.U.I

And now? You can see how deep a toll global warming has taken. Witness this bleaching (dying off) of a once colourful, thriving reef. Along with climate change, plastic debris promotes the development of disease causing damage to coral.

If we can inspire some of you to upcycle plastic, we can feel good about creating content for our blog! Projects like this shrink plastic idea, making cement planter molds from plastic packaging, basketball planter, and painting vinyl fabric all keep plastic waste out of our landfills and oceans.

Crocheting the Coral Reef

But I digress; lets get back to the crochet coral reef! When I crochet my pieces, I’ll keep the fact that plastic waste is harming our oceans in mind. So I’ll be creatively incorporating plastic waste into as many pieces as I can.

For instance, this crochet sea urchin uses a plastic coffee pod – saved from the trash long before they became compostable. I knew I’d have a use for them some day!

Crochet coral reef sea urchin

Likewise, a plastic coffee pod adds structure to this crochet coral. You’ll find the free patterns for these below.

Crochet coral reef - red and yellow coral

Materials for Crochet Coral Reef

* [If you’re looking for some of the things we used, we’ve got you covered (disclosure): Clicking on the affiliate links below means we may receive a commission. But don’t worry, you don’t pay a cent more and it helps us make more unique crafts to share with you! Thanks for helping to support our blog!]

The Scrubby Sparkle comes in tons of fun bright colours. It make great tentacles and provides a textural contrast against the cotton coral reef designs.

blue, green and purple Red Heart scrubby sparkle yarn for Crochet coral reef

Right before we went into lockdown a year and a half ago, we bought up all the cotton yarn we could find in anticipation of crocheting my coral reef!

Rainbow of colours of yarn for Crochet coral reef

I’m also using these mini cotton yarns to supplement where I need a finer cotton.

Colourful cotton mini yarn for Crochet coral reef

You’ll need a large eye darning needle.

Package of darning needles for Crochet coral reef

And lastly, some coffee pods. Use the kind with just the ring and strip away the coffee pouch (after having your morning java, of course)!

K-cup ring - waste plastic for Crochet coral reef

How to Crochet Hyperbolic Corals

A crochet coral reef wouldn’t be complete without hyperbolic corals! Crochet hyperbolic planes were the discovery of mathematician Daina Taimina. She was studying hyperbolic geometry and experimenting with crochet to create the ideal medium to bring the concept to life!

All you have to do to create your own crochet hyperbolic coral is to increase the number of stitches from one row to the next in a constant ratio.

Along with all the others, you’ll find the free pattern for this crochet hyperbolic coral below.

Hyperbolic crochet for Crochet coral reef - pink, yellow and red

Coral crochet pattern

Free Crochet Coral Patterns

For each of the patterns below, here is the crochet terminology:

  • ch – chain
  • st(s) – stich or stitches
  • sc – single crochet
  • sl st – slip stitch
  • dc – double crochet
  • hdc – half double crochet
  • incr – increase (two stitches in a single stitch)
  • blo – back look only

How to Make Your Crochet Look Like a Coral Reef


1. Hyperbolic Coral

For the hyperbolic coral, I just kept crocheting until I came to the end of the yarn. There’s no need to join the rounds, just keep on going!

Using pink cotton, create a magic circle and sc 8 into the middle. Crochet 2 dc into every stitch until the pink yarn almost runs out. To finish, taper off by making a HDC in the next  st, sc in next st, sl st in next st. Fasten off and weave in end.

Switch to Red Heart Scrubbie yarn in yellow.

Red Heart Scrubby yarn in yellow for Crochet coral reef

2 sc in every st around the perimeter. Join to the beginning and fasten off.

Closeup of crochet work of hyperbolic crochet for crochet coral reef

Middle Section – Medallion

I’m using a vintage crazy daisy loom to make the centre medallion. Twist the knob in the middle to extend the prongs. You’ll use it with the opposite side facing up.

Using a crazy daisy loom for Crochet coral reef

Wrap the crazy daisy in orange scrubbie yarn at least twice around.

With a piece of red mini yarn, thread a darning needle. Weave around the centre as follows: move under four threads, then insert the needle one back and move under another four threads. Continue around in this fashion.

This is how it will look on the back after you remove it from the crazy daisy loom. But don’t do that yet.

The back of the crazy daisy creation for Crochet coral reef

Drop the red yarn for now. While still on the daisy, attach yellow Scrubbie yarn to one petal. I’m using a vintage 11 hook for this part.

Ch 5. Sl st to 3rd st. Ch 3 and attach to next daisy petal. Continue all around until back to beginning. Join, then fasten off and cut. Weave in all threads.

As you can see by the remote control, I’m multi tasking while watching TV. I’m likely binge watching ‘Better Call Saul.’

Reattach the red mini yarn to the darning needle. Embroider bullion knots around the centre (I went around the needle 4-5 times.

Twist the knob to retract the prongs; that will release the medallion from the loom.

Closeup of embroidery on crazy daisy creation for Crochet coral reef

Once the ends are woven in with the darning needle you can attach it to the main body of the hyperbolic crochet coral.

Crochet hyperbolic coral for crochet coral reef

Crochet coral pattern

Now stitch it onto the hyperbolic coral in the middle.

2. Tube Anemone

This tube anemone starts with a spiral rope and flares out at the bottom. Then add tentacles.

Crochet coral pattern

Create a magic. sc 8. sc in blo for the  first round. Then crochet in back horizontal bar for as many rows as desired. Finding the back horizontal bar can be tricky if you’ve never done it before. So if you need help learning how to crochet a spiral rope, check out this tutorial and video from Nicole at Nicki’s Homemade Crafts.

Bottom flare. For each row, sc around.

Row 1. Incr every other st

Row 2. Incr every two sts

Row 3. Incr every 3rd st

Row 4. Incr every 4th st

Change to yellow for the tentacles. Insert the hook into the centre. ch 13, sl st in 3rd st from hook, then sc back until you reach the end. sc into next st and continue around in the same manner. Fasten off, then reattached the yarn right below the first set of tentacles. This time, ch 15 and create tentacles as before all the way around. Fasten off and hide all ends.

I’m using this plastic medical waste to create a stand for the single stalk.

First I insert a dowel.

Then I feed it up through the middle.

If provides just the support this coral piece needs to stand on its own.

With all the tentacles done, you can barely see the centre opening where the anemone feeds, but it’s there!

4. Sea Urchin

I find a bullion knot is extremely difficult to do with a crochet hook, so I’ll let you in on a little secret to execute it perfectly! I’m substituting a rug hook for the crochet hook.

It’s brilliant to crochet with because the latch closes and prevents the stitches from falling off the hook!

With purple cotton, create a magic circle. Ch 4, wrap yarn 9 times around the latch hook, then through circle and pull through bullion, sl st, repeat 11 times. Tighten magic circle. With orange cotton, sc around for two rows. Add a K-cup ring, as shown.

Continue with sc for one round. However, wrap the yarn around the K-cup first before completing the sc.

Fasten off yarn and hide all ends.

Even though this cheap dollar store yarn tends to split when you crochet with it, the latch hook does a great job of preventing that!

Crochet coral reef patterns free

3. Crochet Coral

Using a 4.5mm hook, create a magic circle with red plastic lacing.

Row 1. 4 sc into magic ring

Row 2. 4 sc

Row 3. 2 sc into every st (8 sts)

Row 4. 8 sc

Row 5. 2 sc into every st (16 sts)

Row 6. 16 sc

Add a K-cup ring. Change yarn to yellow Scrubbie. Use 3.75 hook to attach plastic ring with 2 sc in each st. (32 sts).

work in progress for Crochet coral reef - red plastic lacing and yellow scrubby yarn shown in hand with crochet hook


In the first grouping of 3, sc 7. *sl st into 3rd st from hook. Then sl st along the rest of the chain to the beginning*. Sl st into next st and ch 9. Repeat from *. Ch 11 and repeat from * again. That completes the first set of 3 tentacles.

In the second grouping of 3, Repeat chaining tentacles as above. But this time the pattern is 9, 7 and 11 chains.

Continue repeating the two grouping patterns of tentacles around the K-cup until back to the beginning again. Sl st and fasten off. Using the darning needle, hide ends and cut.

Here’s an overview shot of how it should look. You’ll have longer and shorter tentacles.

crochet coral reef pattern

The Coral Reef Ideas Keep Coming

Last last night I was browsing Google looking for inspiration and found this picture of a polyp formation. Of course I had to pick up the crochet hook to try and replicate it.

In the morning I started to join them together to build the colony.

Before long, this is what I have.

The plastic I’m using as support underneath is a piece of of basketball. You may remember it from this basket ball planter upcycle. No plastic goes wasted around here!

As my work progresses, I’m sure I’ll have more patterns to share (like this coral reef pattern)!

The Ontario Science Centre is just starting to fill its display cases with contributions for the Ontario Satellite Reef. I can’t wait to complete my coral reef project so I can add mine to the exhibition! Perhaps they’ll go into a display case like this one. Or if I’m super creative and prolific with my crochet coral, I’ll bring them all together into the crochet coral reef sculpture I’m envisioning!

The Ontario Satellite Reef will remain on display after the main exhibition moves on to its next destination at the end of October, 2021. You can click here to see What’s On at the Ontario Science Centre to plan your visit if you’re local.

Crochet coral reef

You can see my final creations here in this instagram post.

Want more ideas? Click here to browse more fibre crafts from Birdz of a Feather.

Pin Crochet Coral Reef

Please pin to help bring awareness to what the coral reef exhibit represents with these crochet coral reef patterns!

How Can you Participate in the Crochet Coral Reef?

You can find Satellite Reefs at art galleries, science museums, universities, colleges, civic centres, and schools. If the main exhibit hasn’t come to your area yet, contact one of these cultural institutions to ask them to host it. They can visit this page for more info on inquiring to exhibit the coral reef.

There are actually five new satellite reefs in progress now (including the one I’m contributing to here in Toronto at the Ontario Science Centre). The Baden Baden Satellite Reef underway in Germany will be exhibited at Museum Frieder Burda in 2022, alongside the core reef collection. At the Tang Teaching Museum in Sarasota Springs, the reef will be a centrepiece of the exhibition Radical Fiber: Threads Connecting Art and Science. New reefs are also being made at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and in Mexico City, hosted by the radical art collective Red de Reproduccion y Distribucion. A recently completed Helsinki Satellite Reef is now on-show at the Helsinki Biennial (June-Sept, 2021).

Creative Craft Blog Hop

It’s time for another blog hop! I’m excited to share the fun and crafty creations of 5 other bloggers. If you are visiting from the Painted Apron, welcome! I just love the Fall Lantern that Jenna shared!

In the next section, I’ll be directing you to the next stop on this venture. But don’t forget to check out the other stops too. Be sure to drop back in throughout the week to visit them all!

Creative Craft Blog Hop
Now I’d like to send you on to Mary at Home is Where the Boat Is. She has a fabulous Sunflower Embellished Fall Pillow for you!

When you are finished visiting Mary, please remember to come back to visit these other amazing talents below:

23 thoughts on “Crochet Coral Reef Patterns – a Worldwide Phenomenon!

  1. What an exciting opportunity, Sara, and your coral reef is just lovely! Thanks again for hosting us this summer! Blessings, Cecilia @My Thrift Store Addiction

  2. Your crochet coral reef looks amazing, Sara! You are so creative and talented! I wish I could crochet. My mil tried teaching me many years ago but I just couldn’t pick it up! I really admire anyone who crochets! It’s such a beautiful way to create!

    • Thank you Gail! I’ve been wanted to post some beginner crochet how to’s because a number of people have mentioned that they’d like to try to learn again. Hopefully I’ll get around to it soon.

  3. Wow Sara, what amazing creations you have created and for such an important project. I donate to a group dedicated to free plastic from the oceans, so devastating this problem is…all your upcycled projects are so cute and clever and the coral reef exhibit must be incredible to view in person! Thanks so much for hosting our hop this summer,

    • The plastic problem really is devastating; it breaks my heart to see the domino effect it’s having all over the world.

      I enjoy participating in the hops; It’s been a pleasure hosting this summer :).

  4. How cool that you’re a contributor to the exhibit Sara and congrats on your blog award nomination! I’m not a crocheter but you share the best tutorials and it is super creative! Thanks so much for your organizing efforts. Happy to be hopping with you!

    • Thanks Mary! It was fun filling in for the summer; it sure went by fast!

  5. Wow, sara, I’ve never heard of crocheting a coral reef. I only thought you could crochet sweaters and blankets. Very impressive skills. Thanks for hosting over the summer.

    • The exhibit has been shown at art galleries, science museums, natural history museums, universities, colleges, and other cultural institutions. So you can always approach some of these institutions in Edmonton to see if they will host it there!

      You’d be an amazing contributor with your crochet skills Marie! If you can drum up some interest, here is the page with contact info for inquiries.

  6. Whoa! Gobsmacked by this. I don’t crochet but am a lover of our oceans and all things to save sea turtles. Plastic is evil. Restaurants near us on the coast no longer do plastic straws; grocery stores only do paper shopping bags.

    • Thanks Cat! I’m with you on that and hope more areas ban plastic. It’s so important to save our oceans.

  7. Amazing! Though to do all the examples, it might overwhelm younger kids, what a great project idea for them! I’m sending this to my daughter for her kiddos.

    • If the kids learn basic crochet stitches, I’m sure they can pick this up (hopefully your daughter can show them?).

      I think it’s wonderful to pass this craft down through the generations as my grandmother and mother did with me.

  8. This is amazing! I didn’t know that coral reef crocheting was a thing and yours is so beautiful and so colorful. You are so talented!

  9. What a great opportunity for you. I love to see special exhibits like this when we travel. Do you live near Toronto? We visited there a few years ago, coming from Niagara Falls. Would love to visit again.

    • We do live near Toronto! You should come back and feature it in one of your blogs; there’s so much to see and experience 🙂

  10. I agree, you are so talented. This turned out perfect. Can’t wait to see what else you have up your sleeve.

    • Thanks so much Brooke! I love unleashing my creativity on new things; this was definitely a fun experience!

Leave a Reply