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Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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You Light Up My Life!

 

Every time I turn the lights on in my workroom, my internal vocalist starts belting out that song. Yooooouuuuu light up myyyyy liiiife!

I love my workroom lights!

Good lighting is essential for embroidery and for any art or craft. And among the more frequently asked questions here on Needle ‘n Thread, lighting is a prevalent topic.

So today I’m going to introduce you to the lights that I use in my workroom and tell you what I like about them. I’m not trying to sell you on them, and I’ve got absolutely no affiliation with the company. But if you’re hemming and hawing over the question of lighting, this information may help you.

And a good light may be Just the Thing to put on your Christmas wish list. You might end up with one in your stocking!

Blue Max Lighting

The lights that I use in my workroom are called BlueMax HD lights. They are full spectrum lights, and they are dimmable – that is, you can turn them up as bright as they go, or you can reduce the amount of light they give off. I use the 70 watt lamps, and I have both a floor lamp and a table lamp.

Why Not Ott?

While Ott lights are probably the most popular craft lights out there, I quit using them several years ago, except for my travel light, which I just haven’t replaced yet. I always felt that the Ott light didn’t give me quite enough light. Ott lights also never worked well for me when taking photos. The colors didn’t come out right, and the Ott light pulsates, and although you might not notice the pulsating with the naked eye, the camera picks it up. (If you’d like some specs for comparison, here’s a technical comparison between BlueMax HD floor lamps vs. Ott light floor lamps. It’s interesting!)

Because I take pictures as I go, it became really important to me to find bright, full-spectrum lights that don’t pulsate, that would work well for taking photos, and that would really light up my work well. The first light I acquired that worked as I wanted it to was an UltraLux floor lamp, which I still use but which is no longer available as a work lamp.

Blue Max Lighting

You can see the Blue Max light in the foreground here – it’s the only one on, and it’s completely lighting up my work table. (The older UltraLux is in the background.)

I came across Blue Max lights when I needed to add a couple lamps to the workroom and couldn’t find the same UltraLux – instead, the same places that sold UltraLux were selling Blue Max lights, and that’s what I settled on.

Once I bought them, I was in Light Heaven! They are, in short, amazing lights to work by.

Pros of Blue Max Lamps

1. They are bright. They’re touted as the brightest full-spectrum lights on the market.

2. They are the fullest “full spectrum” lights available, and colors are extremely clear and vivid underneath them. I always color match under these lights.

3. They are dimmable. If I don’t want the full blast of light on me, I can turn it down.

4. They are somewhat adjustable. The neck can be bent or straightened, and the head can be pivoted a little bit.

5. They vivify the work surface so much that they reduce the need for magnification. I can work on 72 count silk gauze under this lamp without magnification, but under other lighting, I need help.

6. They are Very Sturdy. The heavy base keeps the lamp stable. Still, it’s not too heavy to move, when I need to move it.

7. They are relatively cool. They aren’t cool, but they aren’t so hot that I notice them.

Blue Max Lighting

Cons of Blue Max Lamps

Of course, as with any product, there are some cons, and these are worth mentioning, just so you know.

1. They aren’t fully adjustable. It would be nice if the floor lamp and table lamp had a fully adjustable lamp head that could tilt a bit better, and it would be most excellent if the pole on the floor stand could be raised and lowered to adjust for differences in height and seating. Alas, neither is the case.

2. They are ex-pen-sive. At least, I find them expensive, clocking in at around $200-$240 for the least expensive floor variety, and around $170-$200 for the least expensive table top variety. Unlike Ott lights, which often go on sale at local craft stores for extreme percentages off, the Blue Max lights don’t often go on sale, and when they do, it’s just a “little” sale. But a “little” sale is better than no sale at all – and often, you can find free shipping deals. I afforded mine by budgeting so much per week, until I had saved enough to buy them. It was one of the best investments I’ve ever made.

Where to Find BlueMax Lamps

If you’re interested in BlueMax lamps, you can find them online by searching for BlueMax HD lighting. I bought mine from Full Spectrum Solutions. They arrived quickly, were well packaged, and were easy to put together. I did hear from one reader who had some customer service issues with them, but in my experience, I didn’t have any problems. I’ve not seen the lamps in stores, which makes it rather difficult to test them before buying them.

Your Eyes are Important!

But whether you use these lights or another good craft light, don’t skimp on lighting. You can skimp on all kinds of other tools when you’re doing needlework, but your eyes are just too important to mess around with. Use good lighting when you stitch!

So, how about you? Do you have a special light you stitch by? What do you like best about it? Have you tried a variety of lights? Any other suggestions for folks out their looking for a good stitching light? Feel free to have your say below!

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(62) Comments

  1. Hey Mary, great article on lighting. i checked out full spectrum solutions website and noticed that they sell full spectrum light bulbs…http://www.fullspectrumsolutions.com/neolite_bulbs_40_ctg.htm…..have you tried any of them? that way you could use any lamp you wanted….i’m curious as i’d light to try the bulbs but don’t want to waste my money on something that isn’t going to work well. thanks as always for the information you provide us.

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    1. Hi, Sharyn – I find the bulbs too bright for normal household lighting. They don’t have a very warm glow to them. And a normal light is not usually “directional” lighting – you can’t hang it right over your work. That being said, I’m sure the bulbs would be an improvement on normal household lighting if you’re doing your needlework by a regular lamp. But still, I like having my work light hanging over my work… MC

  2. Mary, I rely on your posts and thank you so much for them. One question: would you tell us how the Blue Max compares to the Dublin Craftlite? Thanks!!

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    1. Well, they’re two completely different things. The Dublin craft light / magnifier is great when you need magnification, but it isn’t something you’d hang over your work to do regular work by on a normal basis, I don’t think. It gives off good light when your work is under the magnifier, but unless the light is pretty close to your work, it isn’t adequate for regular working beneath, and to get it close enough to your work, without using the magnifier right in front of you, it gets in the way.

  3. I don’t have a close up light, but want to get one with a magnifier when I finally settle on a brand. My sewing room is where I do my hand stitching, and it is fitted with two four-foot long florescent lights. I have put “daylight” bulbs in them and the light is great. When walking the dog out in the front yard, with the craft room lights on, it looks like you could land a plane in there it is so bright! Huge difference from regular style bulbs.
    Kathy

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  4. Question for you Mary – I have the same kind of floor lamp as you, and I LOVE it. Only (weird) thing is – when I turn it off (but it is still plugged in at the socket), it is off, but every 5 minutes or so I get a flash that runs from the base-end of the globes to the outer end. It’s like watching car headlights reflected on it. I can’t work it out! Does this happen with yours?? Maybe mine has a malfunction…

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  5. One other huge pro is the lifetime guarantee. I have a floor model and my dog knocked it over and it stopped working. I called them and they sent me a new ballaste for only the cost of shipping ($9). So, while they may be expensive, consider it a lifetime investment with a company that stands ruins their product and even goes above and beyond!

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  6. When I was looking for a floor lamp several years ago I added one more thing into the equation. I am an eco freak, and have been for 40 years. While the flouescent lights last a long time they are poisonous when broken. And that is what happens to them when they hit the landfill. I looked for a LCD work floor lamp, and found one at, of all places, the J C Penney catalog. It is attractive in our living room. Shows me true color. Does not put off heat. The light is steady. And who knows how long the bulbs will last. Before I got it my embroidering had become long and laborious. I now have fun again. I am not writing this to say anything against Mary’s light reccomendation. I am sure that her lights are wonderful. People just don’t even consider LCD’s when looking. They are out there. Some are extremely expensive. Some aren’t. The one I ended up with cost far less than Mary’s.

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    1. In my experience, LEDs tend to be too blue in colour. Is your’s adjusted for full spectrum daylight? If it is, I’d love to know the brand. LEDs are nearly indestructible, use very little juice, and stay cool to the touch.

  7. I use a Dazor magnifying lamp. They are priced similarly to the Blue Max and are aimed at the drafting/engineering market. I bought the first one in 1988 and it is going strong with only one bulb replacement. The optics are superior to any other lamp I have tried. I usually pull threads on a sunny day, not under the lamp. The Dazors I have are not full spectrum. The only other caution I have is that one should look periodically at their work without magnification. When working long and short stitch for instance, it is possible to make one’s stitches TOO short so they don’t blend well. Or when shading, to find that colors that appear discreet under the lamp may look the same to the naked eye. So one may need to change to threads that contrast more strongly.

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  8. Until a few months ago I embroidered under a floor lamp with a center bulb that burned 250W surrounded by 3 60W bulbs – a whopping 430W. It could heat a small house – a problem in the summer. At night it would also throw shadows as it sat to my side/back a bit.

    All my embroidery is done on a work stand my husband designed for me. It rolls up to my “Embroidery Nest” chair, bends to any angle, holds working frames by just a push on 2 clamps and has a padded foot rest. Pure embroidery heaven and he will make any size frame I want to fit projects. Only one drawback – lighting.

    Last August, after much whining about the 430W of heat, he he mounted two long goose-neck lights to the back of my embroidery stand with full spectrum bulbs. No shadows, I can move the lights anywhere on the work I wish and colors show as they would in daylight. Now my Embroidery Nest is just Perfect!

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  9. So my question is-and I think I know the answer-are they a variety of fluorescent? I ask because I woul dlike to upgrade my lighting, but I and tis is a biggie- my eyes don’t “like” fluorescent bulbs-they get red very easily and my DAzor light while nice and bright dries out my eyes in a heartbeat or less so I tends to use the magnifier only or point the light away from me to save my eyes.
    Any comments would be so much appreciated. Thanks
    Bette

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  10. I have a Blue Max light and I LOVE IT! I tend to over research anything I do and awhile back I finally did it and found the Blue Max light and splurged and ordered one. My house is quite dark and often I find myself not doing any crafts, particularly stitching because it’s too hard to see it.

    This light has fixed that. I too wish it were more adjustable though. My couch where I often sit to stitch is rather low in comparison and I have to cock the light in a way that then tends to blind others in the room. LOL

    If anyone is in the market I definitely give the Blue Max my stamp of approval.

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  11. I’m working on a needlepoint rug designed by Kaffe Fassett. His colors are always finely shaded and sometimes hard to discern with my Ott lamp. So I just bought one of these! Thanks for recommending it. Got the 70 watt at Full Spectrum for $199 with free shipping. Merry Christmas to me!

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  12. As a UK stitcher, I have been delighted with my Ogle Goggle Magnifier/Light from Needle Needs (the same company that makes the Millenium embroidery frame). Many of the ‘daylight’ lamps available over here tend to have a very cold, blue light which I personally found more of a strain on my eyes than working with a normal electric lightbulb. The Ogle Goggle lamp however, has a lovely soft white light which I find very comfortable to stitch by. I can match colours easily and the low-energy 11W bulb doesn’t get too hot. Incidentally, I’ve had mine 3 years and still not needed a replacement bulb. The light clamps to my workstand (or to a desk or lap-tray as required) and the adjustable arm makes it easy to direct the light. The addition of the beautifully clear and rimless magnifier lens makes this super stitching tool one of the best treats I ever bought myself! Oh … and it travels well too. I often pop it into my suitcase and then my holiday stitching isn’t ruined by dodgy lighting.
    Hope this is a help to any other UK readers. Thanks for the interesting article, Mary. Have a nice day.
    Kathryn

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    1. Thanks for that. I’ve just got a millennium frame and was considering the oggle-goggle (or whatever it is). Thanks to your review I will start saving up for my next treat to myself. I’m sure a new pair of glasses would help, too.

  13. Compare to Danzor is the BlueMax better? I never liked Ott but could not put my finger on why. Thank you for figuring out the reason. Now I don not think I am crazy. Please write a blog on magnification; as we get older or have a health problems we might need it. Again thank you for all the beauty you bring in my life and the information you give is great. Thank you and Merry Christmas. Juliet

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    1. Hi, Juliet – this is what I use for magnification: http://www.needlenthread.com/2010/11/the-dublin-craftlite-magnifier-light-combo-review.html It’s not a heavy duty magnifier – I know there are more intense magnifiers out there, but this works for anything I need. I normally only use it for high count gauze. I like the Blue Max lights better than Dazor, personally, but I know some people absolutely swear by their Dazor lights. I did have a Dazor once upon a time – a “hand me down” from my mom – but it didn’t last, and it was awkward to use (it was a clamp light). Dazor puts out different types of lights, too. I have a friend who uses one of the LED lights, but we both have the same problem with it: when the LED lights are above the level of your head, they bother our eyes. I don’t mind the LED lights on the Dublin light / magnifier (that link up there goes to it), because the LED lights are below my face, pointing down on the work, and I never actually see the lights themselves. But when they are higher then the head, where I can see them, they bug my eyes. I’m not sure why….

      Hope that helps a little!

      MC

  14. This sounds like what I need. My workspace in the basement is not well lit. I would never try to do hand embroidery there because of that.
    Right now I am wishing to put ceiling lighting in. What do you recommend for that? For now, I can certainly remember the Blue Max lights to add to what I am using which badly needs something.

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    1. Hi, Mary – Blue Max makes ceiling lights. Maybe they would work for you? I’m more of a “lamp” sort of person than a ceiling light user, and all my ceiling lights are just regular household lights, but I can see how in a basement, a good ceiling light would be a must.

  15. Thank you for this, Mary! I sold my work on eBay and used my Ott-lite for lighting, but . . . Now I find that a good optometrist is quite a life-saver. When the Rx is wrong, magnification and lighting don’t make the difference. My VA optometrist never heard of “sphere” — at least didn’t check for it. I’ve just ordered glasses — regular and for piano and computer keyboard. You’re right about saving eyes. I might be elderly, but good vision gives confidence and excellence! XO, Mimi

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    1. Mimi, I also play piano and harp. Is the sphere you are talking about glasses? What are they? I would be very interested in finding out more about this. Could you explain a bit more or give somewhere more info could be found? Thanks.

  16. What you started! I’ve been using Ott lights, and was chatting to my hubby while reading your blog. When I mentioned the pulsating light of the Ott light, and that the BlueRay lights are dimmable, he said Happy Anniversary!(it’s the 27th of this month). So I just ordered one, and we’ll see if I can cut down on magnification when I stitch on 32 Count linen. Thank you, Mary!

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  17. We’ve been dealing with the Full Spectrum Solutions folks for several years. We use the BlueMax Full Spectrum bulbs in our overhead fixtures at the shop and they are the best for brightness and color rendition. This is the second location we’ve had them in and we love them. They are also a great company to deal with. I’ve not used the floor or table lamps, but given my experience with the regular fixture bulbs they would be a good option for stitchers.

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  18. Thank you for your comparison of the Ott lights and the BlueMax Lamps. I find them both far more expensive than I would ever pay for lights. Some years ago I purchased a “Hobby Lamp” with a 2.5 magnification, and it has served my needs very well. I have it attached to a small low stool at my stitching chair. It can be put into any position imaginable. The cost was under $30, as I recall. I consider it my most valuable stitching tool.

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  19. Mary I have an old light which has a magnifying lens it is beside my armchair where I watch TV and do most of my embroidery.
    I smiled when you said that the type you use aren’t too hot. I love my light a lot for the very fact that it is warm underneath, it is great in winter, keeps my hands warm and I often have it on for that reason even when I am not stitching.
    I have been looking recently for a replacement as it is so old, thank you for the information.

    Regards
    Sandy

    PS. – I would like to wish you and yours a safe, happy & merry Christmas, and to thank you so much for all you do for us. xx

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    1. Thanks, Sandy! To you and yours, too!

      I tend to go in the other direction with heat from lights – I like less heat, especially in the Kansas summers!

      MC

  20. I’ll look into one of these for the guestroom where I currently have a floor Ott light-it’s OK but I’d like something brighter. I use my largest floor stand in that room.
    I’ve used a Dazor magnifier floor lamp for years in the living room and when I had the switch repaired a few months ago they put in a new bulb that I don’t think is quite as bright as the old, original one. I’m going to get a full spectrum bulb for it. I also have a 30 year old desk top Dazor that I use next to the sewing machine and at the same sewing table for paper crafting and hand finishing. Still on the original bulb!

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  21. Lighting is very important, as is ones eyes. But there are many of us who have no fixed place where we do our embroidery. For myself, I move around the house, wherever there is quiet or a good radio programme, or even a few minutes wait in the kitchen. So the wish to buy good lighting is there, but the practicality of it is not.

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  22. Mary – the Blue Max lights sound wonderful. But, I can think of another draw-back that you might want to forward to the manufacturer . . . they are ug-ly. They are fine for a work room, but if your work room is in your guest bedroom (which mine is) or you want to have a work lamp in your living room at your stitching chair, they leave a lot to be desired. And I guess for that much money, I’d expect the dern thing to look a little better. Thanks for the 4-11 on the maker though.

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    1. katherine – we have 2 black similarly styled lamps in our living room. Unless they are on, they are not very noticeable. Certainly much less noticable than the white Ott light before it got moved to the sewing room. Even when on, I notice the light, not the lamp itself.

  23. I’m hearing you! I mainly patchwork, but I also do stitcheries and good lighting cannot be under-estimated. I have a floor lamp that I bought from the local lighting store and put the brightest globe in it, but I still have issues, like colour matching my thread late in the evening. I will have to check these fellas out, as lighting is too important for successful crafting.
    Thanks for the heads up.

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  24. Oh dear, why does this always happen? Just when I have asked everyone I know who might know the answer, read all the magazines, reviews etc and paid out all the money for the Ott lights, along comes something else that is bigger better prettier and pricier.

    I have to say that although I hankered a long time for an Ott light and finally got one I am not overjoyed with it – the light is not true and when I am using mostly purple colours it tends to make everything look blue. Since this was one of its touted advantages, I am pretty cross. However I can’t really afford to buy new ones and finding Blue Max in Australia might not be easy either. We are gradually replacing all our household lights with LED. In this country we are not supposed to use regular tungsten bulbs; they should be replaced with long life fluorescents. To my mind this is just stupid: as someone else said, fluoros are full of toxic chemicals and probably more dangerous than the old bulb. <*^* politicians, never know what they're rabbiting on about.

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  25. I have a floor model Ott light and magnifier at the sewing machine, and an inexpensive ($20?) full spectrum light in the living room for reading and needlework. I do like the lighting of the Ott light, but need to put work right under it if I need to remove black stitching on black fabric for example. The magnifier – lens quality is good but it is a pain to adjust. I have the earlier model with a rod between the lens and flexible part, I see newer ones don’t. In short, my current setup does the job, but I don’t love it.

    Thank you for the new addition to the ever-growing wish list based on your blog, Mary!

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  26. Hey Mary, i couldn’t figure out how to do a reply to your reply to me on this subject. i have a desk lamp with gooseneck placed on a table and it’s light shines down over my left shoulder onto my work. at this point in time i have one of those swirly energy efficient bulbs in it and am not real happy with it. i was hoping that these bulbs, http://www.fullspectrumsolutions.com/neolite_bulbs_40_ctg.htm , could do a better job for me. this lamp is not used as room lighting, just my working lamp.

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  27. Mary, Due to your great recommendation of the BlueMax light, one is on its way to my house! Thanks for letting us in on the “things” that make crafting enjoyable!

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  28. Could you elaborate a little more on the benefits of good lighting (Blue Max)versus using a magnifier light combo (Dublin Craftlite)? Wouldn’t you use the dublin craftlite for thread painting, tiny bullion roses etc. After your review of the Dublin Craftlite I was going to use my Christmas money on one but now I’m not sure if I should just buy a Blue Max.

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    1. Hi, Stephanie – I really think it depends on whether or not you need magnification. It’s great to have when you need it, but if your eyes are good and you don’t need it yet, then good lighting is more important, in my opinion. Each of us has different needs – for me, for the majority of my work, a good light is more useful than magnification; however, when I need magnification, the Dublin magnifier comes to the rescue. Incidentally, you can buy clip on, goose-neck magnifiers with the same degree of magnification for a lot less, and you can use those in conjunction with a good light. So that’s an option, too. -MC

  29. Hi Mary,
    I have a question about the Blue Max lights. I bought one and LOVE it! BUT I have misplaced my extra bulb that I purchased with the light and I need it. Do you know if I could use an OTT replacement bulb in it until I find the Blue Max bulb or break down and order another one?

    I can’t work without my light very well and I hate to wait until one is shipped or I find the one I already own. I’ve emailed the company but not gotten a reply.
    Thanks for any info!
    Judy

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    1. Hi, Judy – no, the OTT light bulbs won’t work in the Blue Max lights. I have to buy a new one, too. I usually wait for a sale, but it seems the bulbs don’t go on sale anymore. 🙁 But they do last a long, long time – I have one I’ve been using for six years almost daily. But I knocked my table lamp off my sewing machine a couple weeks ago, so I have to break down and order a replacement soon! -MC

  30. You’ve sold me on Blue Max full spectrum lighting but do you have any suggestions for lighting when traveling? Something that is light weight and sturdy enough for packing in a suitcase. I take my embroidery with me when traveling but hotel lighting is terrible. Thanks! Jane

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    1. Well, the Stella light is Very Nice – they have a clamp version and a table top. It’s light, and it folds down, but it doesn’t break down into a super compact light. If you keep the box it arrives in, it’s meant to be used as a travel box. The drawback is that they are rather expensive for a light you only intend to use for travel.

  31. Marie,
    Thank you for this. I use daylight floor, I have don’t understand the différence with my lamp. I go to full spectrum but they don’t go internationnal shipping. Yes, it is very important for the eyes,especially in winter, I live in provence (south of France), I go out with the sun,colors rendering is not the same and i can see all my faultless.Thank you Marie for all facets of embroidery.

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  32. Thank you for this info. Full spectrum has the blue max on sale at the moment. The desk lamp, normally $149 is $99.

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  33. Thanks for this information Mary – I was in the market for a new floor lamp so went to the Full Spectrum site and ordered one.

    They are on sale NOW and FREE SHIPPING!!!

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  34. Just went to this site & found a great deal floor lamp, table lamp, 70 w each, plus free gift for $351.00 , free shipping. I am a very happy stitcher!!! Thanks Mary for your time and expertise. Mama Crow

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  35. Thank you for providing the information! I’ve been trying desperately to illuminate my sewing machine area without success.

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  36. I find light is more important for me than magnification. Recently got a stella and it has made a world of difference. I need a second light for upstairs sewing. Considering trying the Blue Max. Has anyone an opinion of how the 2 compare?

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    1. I’ve used both. I prefer the BlueMax. The light shines over a larger area, and the light is brighter, full-spectrum light. The tabletop version is heavier than the Stella, and it does have a slightly larger footprint, but the amount of light it gives off in comparison is quite tremendous. It’s just excellent lighting. Of course, LEDs last longer, etc., but I’ve had my BlueMax lights for years (and I have one UltraLux lamp – the BlueMax predecessor – for at least 10 years) and I haven’t had to change bulbs. The neck of the BlueMax light is not as flexible as the Stella (and other lamps that are identical to the Stella, but less expensive). But still, for me, the quality of the light outweighs that drawback. (The neck is flexible, but it’s not as flexible.)

  37. I’m sure you’ve heard people rave about the Stella light and I love mine. It sounds like they are comparable with Blue Max except they are led and the heads adjust pretty well. However, my table Stella lost its pin for connecting to power somewhere in the base of the light. It is only 3 months old. Company is sending me a shipping label and will determine after they see it if it is replaceable or fixable. I’m praying the warranty is in effect. They cost about the same as the Blue Max also.

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  38. After reading today’s post I checked out the BlueMax lights. They are on sale right now. I ordered one because I really need extra bright light. There is a great clamp on style that will be handy for class use. Thanks Mary.

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  39. Thank you soooooo much for this advice. I have been trying to find a nice bright floor lamp to place beside my chair where I do my needlework!

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  40. Thanking you for recommendation for DIMMABLE Blue Max — am old, arthritic and blind. And yes, nothing is more important than eyes. And the Blue Maxes were on sale today! Air Kiss!

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