Christmas at Sea

The Seamen's Church Institute invites you knit or crochet a garment to warm mariners’ hearts and heads this winter. If you need patterns, scroll to the bottom of this page. Want to know more? Keep reading.

Since 1898, during the Spanish American War, volunteers of the Seamen’s Church Institute have knitted, collected, packed, and distributed gifts to mariners who are miles away from home during the holidays. The gift consists of a handknit garment, a personal letter, and information on SCI’s services for mariners. In addition to this, SCI also includes several useful items like hand lotion, lip balm, and toothbrushes—things difficult to come by when working long stretches on the water.

Knitting groups around the country connect with SCI in weekly knitting meetings at churches and at knitting-sponsored events. Through sites like Ravelry and the Christmas at Sea Facebook Group, the Institute works with hundreds to make the program effective.

The historic name of this volunteer program, Christmas at Sea, only partially describes the work of the people who make holidays a little warmer for mariners. While gift distribution happens during winter months, collection and creation of items happens year round, and while many gifts go to international mariners working "at sea," thousands of gifts also go to mariners working on inland waterways here in the United States.

Participation Guidelines

Knitters and crocheters may choose any of the patterns published by SCI. Please use machine-washable yarn for your projects—washable wools and wool-blends are preferred. Our projects require worsted weight yarn, except for the sock pattern, which calls for sock-weight yarn.

When choosing colors, remember most mariners are men, and their work environment can get dirty. Rose, pink, lavender, and other pastels are not appropriate colors. You may add stripes to your projects, or use ombre, variegated, tweed, or flecked yarns. We cannot accept hats and scarves with pom-poms, tassels, or fringe as these embellishments present a safety hazard in maritime workplaces.

Send finished garments throughout the year to Christmas at Sea, The Seamen's Church Institute, 118 Export Street, Port Newark, NJ 07114. Please include your name and address within the package so we can acknowledge its receipt. Also, SCI encourages knitters to include a personal note or photograph.

Gift packing begins not long after Labor Day and continues right up until Christmas. While we receive donations January through December, it is most helpful to us to receive your donations in the fall.


As free downloads, SCI makes available all of its Christmas at Sea patterns for mariners’ garments. (Links below.)

SCI’s specially designed articles of clothing meet needs of mariners working on the water in extreme conditions, harmonize with their work environment (and unique work attire) and conform to safety standards for clothing worn on board.

The packages SCI delivers to mariners working at Christmastime typically include a scarf or a hat.

Ready to Mail?

Please send your finished handknits to:

The Seamen’s Church Institute
Christmas at Sea 
118 Export Street 
Port Newark, NJ 07114

Include your name, address and email or phone number so that we can acknowledge your gift. If you are sending on behalf of a knitting group, please include the group’s name and contact address as well.

Associated PDF: