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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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Embroidery and Eyesight – Magnifier Lights are Magnificent!

 

If you enjoy needlework and you spend a lot of time at it, you know the value of taking care of your eyes, right? I’m going to talk to you today, very candidly, about a sore spot of mine. I’m going to be open and honest. I’m going to talk about…. *gulp* ….

….. my magnifier light.

Magnifier Light for Needlework

When it’s stretched above me and I look at its undersides, my magnifier light reminds me of something out of… I don’t know…. Body Snatchers? But after being in my possession for not even a day, I fell in love with this little device.

You see, it all began this past spring.

I crept past 40 this year.

And I found out this summer that my eyes definitely crept past 40, the naughty things. In fact, taken together, if you think about it, they’re past 80. (But let’s not think about that.)

My optometrist, when I went in for the first eye exam in five years, said, “You’ll probably need bifocals,” to which I promptly responded, “Pshaw!”

The exam played out as he predicted, and I procured my first pair of progressive lenses. No one knows I need them (ok, now everyone does), and I don’t really care that I need them, but I was a bit surprised that my eyes had played this Horrid-but-Apparently-Predictable Trick of Nature on me, without my ever realizing it.

And then, while I was out shopping a few weeks ago, I encountered a Magnifier Light.

I walked into the shop. I’m pretty sure beams of light from heaven fell upon the thing.

I walked up to it. I turned it on.

And I said, “WOW.”

I couldn’t believe the difference in what I could see. First of all, the light from the lamp was fantastic, and secondly, the magnification of the piece below the magnifying lens was a sight to behold!

I wasn’t actually thinking of the magnifier for me at the time, to tell you the truth. My niece, who is 17 now and loves needlework and tiny paper crafts, is far-sighted, and detail work, even with her glasses on, is difficult for her. Her birthday being right around the corner (the next day, actually, and I had no idea what to get for her), a magnifier light was a perfect gift! I walked out of the shop feeling quite inspired and very happy in the knowledge that I had just secured my position as The Favorite Aunt.

And then I went back in and got one for me, too.

When I stitch, I use really good lighting, and for regular stitching, I don’t absolutely need a magnifier, as long as the lighting is good. But I’ll tell you what – the magnifier sure makes a difference, whether I need it or not. It makes everything so clear. So Visible. So …. Large!

Since using the magnifier, I’ve caught little mistakes that I’ve been making – like picking up just a tiny fiber from another thread, accidentally. Or “just missing” the hole and picking up a tiny thread of the fabric on the way down. These things aren’t so noticeable to the naked eye, but it’s nice to know that I’m not doing them anymore.

I’ve also discovered that stitching on 40 count silk gauze is a whole lot easier with magnification. I could “see” it before, but I don’t think I was seeing it well.

I admit it. My eyes aren’t what they were, and magnification helps. It’s not necessary on all types of stitching that I do (for example, on the felt, or on the spot sampler), but it’s nice to use, anyway. And for certain stitching (high count fabrics, 40 and 63 count silk gauze), I don’t mind admitting that it’s necessary! It’s just part of life, you know. Besides, eyes are precious. We should take care of them!

And I’m so happy we have solutions for people who do have eyesight problems! A hundred years ago, folks didn’t enjoy such a luxury. They just stopped stitching – or suffered severe eye strain.

So here’s my question: do you use a magnifier? If so, what kind, what do you like about it, and do you use it out of necessity or just because you like seeing your work magnified?

Tomorrow, I’ll give you an in-depth review of the magnifier light I bought, its pros and cons, and hopefully provide a few resources, in case you’re looking for one. (It’d make a jolly Christmas present!)

Enjoy your Saturday! See you tomorrow!

 
 

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(43) Comments

  1. Hi Mary
    Love your posts – and this one “fits” me perfectly. Combined, mine are over 100 – haha.
    I use a lamp that looks regular, but has a little lid on top which when opened reveals the magic lens. Love it! But I only use it for very minute/detailed stitching as the design loses its perspective when viewed so close up.
    Have a good weekend!

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  2. I’ll turn 37 at the end of the year. I’ve been a serious stitcher for just over a decade… and the eyes, they are starting to slip. Just a tiny bit, and if I wasn’t a stitcher I doubt I’d notice.

    I can still work on 40ct. with no strain, but I have pulled out a magnifier to help speed up some over 1 thread work.

    By my figuring, I’ve got about 5 years before the cheaters come into play.

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  3. Good morning Mary,
    As usual, it is a delight to read your comments early in the morning, you are better than a cup of coffee .. I have been using a magnifiing glass, the one you hang on your neck. It is not fantastic but it sure helps.
    Hummm Christmas gift you said….
    Good day to you Mary.

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  4. Last year, December 2009, the ophthalmologist told me that my eyes were better than in 2008 — 20/15.

    So, says I — ‘why do I then still need reading glasses to read and stitch?’

    Alas, with both parents and brother needing rather thick glasses, I spent most of my life saying “What’s wrong with me that everyone wears glasses except me! ”

    Doctor told me when using magnification, to make sure, even by setting an alarm, to stop every 20 minutes or so, and look at things at a distance!! So, that’s what I’ve been doing.

    It is imperative to stretch your eyes — just like muscle exercises — in all directions.

    Enjoy!! (Oh, I use a floor model Ott and travel with a portable table model folding Ott)

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  5. Hi Mary, I feel your pain. I also had to get bifocals- the month I turned forty. That was a few years ago, and as you said the gadgets now available have allowed me to keep stitching on as small a scale as before. After trying the magnifiers that hang around your neck and magnifiers that clip onto your embroidery stand, I finally settled on inexpensive reading glasses. You can get them at your local pharmacy or at craft stores such as Michaels for around $5 – $15. The reasons I prefer them are that they are very portable, inexpensive (nice when my 5 year old steps on them), they don’t get glare/reflections from surrounding lighting, come in a range of magnifications and best of all I don’t have to reposition them every time I change position. That was the most bothersome trait of the other magnifiers- keeping them at the proper distance between me and the embroidery.

    Best wishes in successfully making it through the busy holiday season and the transition to “optically enhanced” stitching!

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  6. I love this thing already. I am really nearsighted so doing up-close stitchery has never been a problem for me. But I take off my glasses to sew, then when I look up the world is a total blur. For bright clear lighting, I use a flexible goose-neck lamp that I can get angled just right over my shoulder. But his like looks like the best of all possible worlds. Thanks for showing this – this will definite go on my Wish List.

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  7. Yes, I use a magnifier. I got it about halfway through doing the silk work on Tricia’s Floral Glove Needlecase course, not because I couldn’t manage without, but because it just made it easier. It doesn’t have a light, because the work I use it for I don’t attempt in other than natural daylight. I’m still slightly ambivalent about the light from LEDs.

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  8. Hi Mary, I have to admit to owning 3 magnifiers, which I use all the time. I have a tiny pair that clip onto my glasses (I’m far-sighted, like your niece) I have a slightly larger one that will clip directly onto my frame or hoop and I have a large, heavy based one that sits on my desk. I also have 3 daylight lamps – one for each magnifier. I know, it’s overkill, but I couldn’t work without them. They each have an important place in my stitching!

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  9. G’day Mary,

    Yep, I have one but it’s lent out for now. I manage ok with glasses for the time but I do miss the lamp.

    My Dad is reader and since his stroke is mostly what fills his time. We eventually went through the large print section at the library a few times until he began thinking he’d “read that one before”! I offered my magnifier lamp for a try and he can now read ordinary print easily and for extended periods.

    I got it a couple of years ago after waiting for a decent one to come on a good special. I’ve now got to wait for another special so he can buy his own!

    The lamp is a Daylight brand, screw onto the table model with good strong arms and joint. A round swivel magnifier with a circle fluro Daylight tube in underneath. I’d have to look to see the strength of both magnifier and fluro but are both stronger than weaker. There is a floor stand one can get for it too.

    I feel it’s definitely worth getting a better quality one in all ways. Light, magnifier and construction. Friends got cheaper models and are disapointed. The joint and spring where the arms connect and adjust up and down isn’t strong. Imagine having to stop stitching regularly to give your lamp a jab in the ribs and make it sit up! Coupled with lesser quality lighting and magnification, it’d be enough to give you a pain in the…eyes!

    I’d like to suggest, if anyone’s considering a magnifier lamp, ask for $$$$$ for Christmas. You can get away with a cheaper handbag, letterbox, birdseed, Sports Car but not a lesser stitching lamp. If you don’t look after your eyes you won’t be able to find your things, let alone drive the Sports Car.

    Looking forward to your in-depth post. Your niece is a lucky girl. Your lamp looks good enough to rival Kate Middleton’s (Diana’s) engagement ring! Are they LED lights.

    Cheers, Kath.

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    1. G’morning, All! And thanks for your reassuring comments! Yep, I think it’s inevitable for some of us! I’ve been near-sighted since…. well, for as long as I can remember.

      Kath – you crack me up. True, driving a sports car is probably not the best idea if you can’t see! And I agree that, when it comes to the eyes, it’s best to save up and buy good quality lighting, etc., rather than to suffer lesser-quality stuff that might not solve sight difficulties. Yes, they are LED lights.

      Carol – you sound like my kind of stitcher! While I only have one magnifier, I do have a proliferation of good lights for different stitching places. I’m not quite sure I’ll do the same thing with magnification – this thing is so light, it’s easy to move about. But hey, who knows?! I’ll probably follow suit eventually!

      Rachel – the LED lights work well for lighting up the stitching area, and since they’re pointing down onto my work, and are covered by the casing of the lamp, and I only get their “glow” on the work (so not direct from the source), they don’t bother me. I would not like to have them above me, shining down on my work, where I would be looking up and seeing them directly, as they are very bright. But since they’re between me and the work, covered with the casing, they seem to work out well. But, yeah, I have a thing about LED lights. Generally, I can’t stand looking at them.

      Maya – that’s what sold me on this: the complete flexibility of it. I literally can get it into any angle I could conceivably need!

      Lisa – good tip on the reading glasses! Thanks for your best wishes – I wish you the same! And now we have an official term for it: OES: Optically Enhanced Stitching.

      Marny – good tip on eye “exercise” – I totally agree. I’ve tried to make it a habit do the “ten minute relief” – every ten minutes, I’ll look up, look around, focus on something in the distance, and so forth. I’ve only had my eyes get Really Tired from stitching once in my life – about 10 years ago, when I was doing some tiny whitework in a dim room, under a not-so-good light, for about an eight hour stretch, without a break. I had no real sense that I was causing a problem, but the next day, my eyes were swollen and bloodshot, and the experience petrified me. I’ve been Very Careful ever since!

      France – Absolutely! The Christmas List!!! It’s the perfect spot for it. I think you’ll like it better than the neck things. Well, I don’t know. I tried using the neck thing once, but I couldn’t get it to stay in any position. The base part kept slipping down, so it didn’t stay horizontal. I just couldn’t get the hang of it. But definitely test before you buy – you may find that, if you’re used to the neck thing, the other won’t be as satisfactory.

      Celia – I saw the lamp you’re talking about. I think it’s made by the same company that made this one. You’re right about perspective! I’ve found I’ve had to look at the whole piece outside the magnifier, then concentrate just one the part I wanted to stitch, thinking “in perspective” as I stitch it, and then looking at it outside the magnifier, to make sure it’s working as I intend. It seems to work ok so far….

      Well, I’m off to get some necessary Saturday stuff done (like… uh… laundry, housework, all the fun stuff!) and then heading to KC to retrieve a niece from the airport. Woohoo. I know how to have fun! Hope everyone has a terrific weekend!

  10. I don’t use a magnifier….but tonight I will I am going to by one today! I wish I knew the brand on this one, but I will find one. That is for sure!
    Debbie

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  11. Yes, I was 42 when the “old eye” thing happened. It was almost overnight! I learned of it when I had difficulty reading a restaurant menu (you see, I had been using magnification for embroidery at times already, since I was doing such tiny stuff AND my mother had given me a Dazor back in 1492). Love it. Whatever it takes to do my embroidery. So, I have bifocals, my magnifier, AND I have been known to throw on an extra pair of drug-store reading glasses (250x) for the REALLY small stuff. My husband calls me “ole six-eyes.” Anyway, welcome to the club!!

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  12. I have a Selden Craft Enlarger-Lite that I’ve used for years. The light is bright and clear but does take a special bulb. The typical bulb tends to make a ring of light on the fabric. The light is on a gooseneck and the magnifier is on a separate gooseneck so I switch them around to any angle I want. Right now my husband is using this since he’s working on a larger complex pattern.

    I went out and bought myself a small (5″) magnifier alone that I can tuck next to me in the chair and bend it around to where I need it. But I’m also stuck using the floor lamp next to me. Needless to say I’m doing only small projects right now like ornaments.

    I checked out the led light magnifiers and so far I wasn’t thrilled with the quality of light. Then again, I’m a whole lot older than you. 🙂

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    1. Hi, Irene! The small gooseneck sounds great… I haven’t tried magnifiers without lights attached (that fit onto the same stand as the floor lamp, but are separate from the lamp. I’ll check those out next time I’m around a needlework shop that carries them. I’ve always wondered about them!

      Bobbi – that was funny! Six eyes! I’ve been called four eyes before, that’s for sure, but not six!!!

  13. Oh Mary. I can sympathize. The same thing happened to me when I hit 40. It was such a shock!!! I use one of those magnifiers that has a sting on it and goes around your neck. But I really need to move on and get something with light on it. So I look forward to your post about types of magnifiers. Yes, indeed, Christmas is coming…

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  14. Hi, Mary
    You are not alone. I just got my pair of bifocals this August and I feel the need for lots of light for my needlework. Looking forward to your review.

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  15. I am well past 40 and have really pushed my eyes since I love higher count fabrics and threads that are in small diameters. I learned alot of needlework using sewing thread. When I am out I use a clip on magnifier from daylight(multiple lenses)for my glasses and at home I use a natural light magnifying clamp on lamp from an office supply store.

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  16. I’m only 24 and I use a magnifier and a daylight lamp! I got it from my aunt(just like your niece!)who didn’t use it, and though I don’t *need* it, it just makes stitching a lot prettier and easier. They’re certainly worth the money(although I got mine as a gift..)!

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  17. I don’t need a magnifier yet but I do use a high-powered LED head torch in my travelling work kit – people say things like it makes me look like a Chilean miner, or that talking to me is like being interrogated by the CIA. That as may be, but a lot of the places I go are very poorly lit, so I need it if I don’t want to go blind.
    It leaves a crescent-shaped imprint on my forehead for some time afterwards, though I’m wondering if I should just glue a foam ‘H’ onto the back…

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  18. Mary, I’m so happy you’ve written about this topic! And I cannot wait to read your review tomorrow! My eyes are almost two decades older than yours, so this is certainly a relevant topic for me.

    Lisa and Mary: So, we can all say we are “practitioners of OES.” Sounds downright guru-like! See the benefits of aging? 🙂

    Cheers,
    Linda

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  19. What a coincidence! I just turned 37 and was given a Daylight floor standing lamp with magnifier as a present (I sure the gift did make you a favourite aunt. I was finding myself straining when doing tiny work and the lighting in the space I stitch is pretty poor at night so I was getting desperate to improve it, worried about the damage I might be doing to my eyes. I have coveted one of this magnifier lamps for some months and now I have one I LOVE IT to put it mildly..
    I dont use the magnifier all the time, but sometimes I want to see up close a particular stitch placement and it is perfect for this and the lamp is so mobile that I can direct the light exactly where I want it and its so bright I can see all the shades differences between similar colours at night now.
    Im not embarrassed about wanting/needing it, I suppose I should get my eyes checked (I never have needed to before) but so long as I can see clearly for stitching I am happy, I just see it as another tool that will enable me to improve my skills and technique, like a laying tool or a hoop or frame, maybe I would see glasses as different though – best off to the optomitrist and find out me thinks!
    Thanks for all your hard work on this site Mary
    your a gem and I am loving the new videos – have tried out the new stitches as youve added them- its been fun.

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  20. Dear Mary,
    It was really good of you to post about this magnifier lamp many times we are negligent about our own eyes unknowingly we stress our eyes beyond limits,everyone who reads this will be so much benefited by your post.And will take care of their eyes.

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  21. Oh dear, such wonderful things to look forward to in a few years time… I still don’t use a magnifier, and I’m not excited about the prospect of needing one one day. But I’m sure it will happen. In the meantime, I revel in the fact that I don’t need one yet!

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  22. “WHOAH Bobbi, What old eyes you have”?
    “All the better to see you with my dear, sort of”.

    Yours is one for the OH&S books Helen. Anything to keep the attention sharp though eh!

    Sorry ladies. I’ve contributed my share well and truely (probably some this time), even with hand writing when I can’t blame it on a keyboard typo. We can always blame our eyes!

    Glad to be reminded of giving the eyes a rest and exercising them. Have wondered about the magnifying glasses too but, duh, never thought of wearing them over my own glasses. Thought they weren’t suitable because I need a prescription! Lights on, no-one home, that’s me!

    Kath.

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  23. I enjoy your posts very much. I don’t use a magnifier yet, but I did find myself taking off my glasses (I’m nearsighted) to stitch and do other close work. I finally got bifocals, but my first pair weren’t very good and I was still taking off my glasses for close work and reading. I got a new pair and the optomitrist was so good, she really listened to my complaints about my bifocals and revamped the Rx on my progressive lenses. I found I could read easily with my glasses on and do most close work, too. But not cross stitch. I was still taking my glasses off to stitch. I did invest in a really good lamp for extra light and that helped for most counts (I usually work in 14 or 18) but lately I’ve been working on 25 count black Lugana and am really struggling. I think I will drop a hint to my personal Santa to check out magnifiers! Thanks!

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  24. Mary, when you write your review tomorrow would you mind mentioning where you bought this? In Lawrence, perhaps? It sounds like just the ticket, and I’m hoping to I can buy it locally so I don’t have to pay shipping. Thanks.

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  25. I’m on my second Dazor magnifier light. I could not stitch without it. It is pricey but the lens is excellent. Be sure to buy the rolling floor stand.

    Elaine

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  26. I was nearsighted all my life, until spring of last year, when I had cataract surgery (turned out I was nearly blind in my right eye!). The doctor replaced my damaged lenses with implants, and lo and behold, I had distance vision for the first time in my life! The trade-off, unfortunately, was that my close vision was pretty much gone. So, I started using cheaters and bright task lights, which helped a lot. Last week, I got a Mag-Lite desk lamp with a 3-diopter magnifying lens on it, and it’s been a big help. I’ve had some trouble adjusting to the magnifier, though – finding the right distance to hold my work below the lens and still have room to actually do the stitching. And, as someone else mentioned, there’s the perspective issue – being able to see only a portion of the work at a time. So mostly I use it cocked over to the side so it sheds some much-needed light on the subject, which is all I need much of the time (well, that and the cheaters). Then I swing the magnifier into position when I’m working with something really tiny.

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  27. I’ve worn bifocals since I was 4 and had the first pair of progressives made at the optician where I lived then. They are really nice for stitching (and steps!) and you’ll love them. By a couple of years ago I’d moved to a Dazor 5 diopter magnifier and then this spring I got exasperated that I still couldn’t see, back to the eye doctor. Cataracts. But I found that the remedy (lens replacement) is a fast and easy deal these days, if not cheap. And, boy, can I see now! I use a Dazor 3 diopter now, but only if I’m working on 30ct or higher evenweave; otherwise just my glasses. I also noticed that my depth perception was drastically improved–no longer do I drive into a flat plane (or so it seemed) and when I aim for those little holes or exactly beside a stitch or whatever, I can get it on the first try, instead of ‘walking’ the needle alongside a finger to keep from stabbing a blank spot 2″ away. Looking back over the last 5 years or so I now realize that the depth perception was the first thing that gave me trouble but I didn’t recognize it as the cause of the trouble. So if you find yourself losing depth perception, suspect an eye exam is in order.

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  28. I recently bought a small Daylight magnifier (no light) and really love how it helps to stitch needlelace. I’m stitching with Au Ver a Soie 100/3 and having the magnifier makes a huge difference.

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  29. I LOVE my magnifiers and lights. I want enough light to stock an operating room when I stitch. And for me it is impossible to have too much magnification. When I started using magnifiers, I found I stitched faster. I could see what I was doing. The challenge I run into is that sometimes with the magnification I may tend to piddle too long with teeny tiny imperfections that once I take it out from under I can’t see. I use all kinds of magnifiers from cheater glasses to Mag Eyes, Optic Aids and Daylight Flexi-lens. I have been known to use more than one at a time to increase the magnification when needed.

    Also now when I go to have my eyes checked, I take my needlework with me so he can see what I need.

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  30. Hi Mary,

    Ah, I understand! I recently started doing Trish Burr’s threadpainting, and I found myself getting frustrated at not being able to see what I needed to do with that one strand of thread. So, as Trish recommended, I got a Daylight slimline magnifier, very similar to your magnifier, except it has a circular lamp. I cannot tell you how much it changed my stitching experience! I love it, love it, love it! Now I really enjoy threadpainting. I did get the floor stand that comes as an extra accessory, and it also is wonderful. I got them both through JoAnns online, using coupons, so they weren’t too expensive, and believe me, it is money well spent.

    As always, thanks Mary, for your daily newsletters 🙂

    Tomi Jane

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  31. Crept past 40 last year – you’re still a youngster! I’m near-sighted, but….as I get older my eyes haven’t changing the same. As a result, now I have a range of about 1/2 inch on a good day where both eyes focus the same without glasses. And even with the bifocals, I still can’t focus on little items as closely as I’d like. Also the lighting needs to be better the older I get.

    I’ve tried –
    a. hang from the neck magifiers – hated them, have to hold the work too close and the lights reflect off the lens
    b. clip-on magifiers for my glasses, OK but always afraid I’m going to scratch my glasses and I can’t see when I look up.
    c. head-mounted magnifier – need to try it again and figure out why I don’t use it.
    d. Ott Light with magnifier – the way the magnifier is attached prevents me from getting it where the light is best (the little slide arm is totally unneccesary).
    e. stand-alone Ott light magnifier – works great as long as I have a table to work at and a light that can be adjusted.

    I’ve always wondered about Dazor, but never got around to ordering one. The LNS had a small magnifier/LED light, I may have to re-investigate. I think it only had 1 LED though and was intended to clip onto the embroidery hoop? I may need to give serious consideration to this one you’ve found, Mary.

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  32. Like many who have commented, I am also nearsighted. Very nearsighted. I’ve been in bifocals since about 35, but much of the time when I’m stitching (or doing my crazy small knitting), I take my glasses off — letting most of the rest of the world float away in a blur.

    I’ve tried several kinds of magnifiers, but never really settled on one I like. For me, it has to be at *just the right distance* between my eyes and the stitching, and I often find it hard to get just that right distance. My glasses-free vision is very very clear at about 7 inches from my face, so I just hold stuff up to my face when small. I need to look at magnification again, though as I prepare to work on a big piece I can’t hold up so I don’t have to bend way over it….

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  33. I have a 2x magnifier that hangs around my neck. It has a little section of 4x. I would love to find a hands-free magnifier that was 4x. I find I just can’t do any counted work without a magnifier and 2x doesn’t really do it for me any more. I have floor standing Ott lights at each of my “stitching” places so I have enough light, and I have a floor standing Daylight at my sewing machine, but I need something better for my hand stitching. I look forward to hearing more of what everyone else uses.

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  34. Greetings from Florida! I’m bored to death at work so I decided to browse your site on my iphone during lunch break. I love the info you provide here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m surprised at how quick your blog loaded on my cell phone .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, wonderful blog!

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  35. Good morning,I need to buy strong magnifying floor glass for embroidery,but I don’t know haw, can you help me pl.Zofia

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  36. Help! I didn’t see the link to where I could buy the magnifier. I’m 66 and I love to sew, knit, and cross stitch. However my eyes aren’t what they use to be. I was ripping out a seam tonight and I couldn’t see where the thread was on the fabric. Can you please tell me the name of the item and where I can purchase it. Thank you so much.

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    1. Hi, Patty – Well, the Dublin light is harder to find as a floor lamp. I don’t know if they’re making it anymore. But there’s a lamp by Brightech that does the same thing, and it has pretty good reviews. I haven’t tried it myself yet, but I’m thinking about getting it as an extra magnifier for my workroom, if I ever get the place re-organized! Anyway, here’s a link to the Brightech one on Amazon, if you want to take a look at it: http://amzn.to/2eYK958 You might read all the specifications and browse through the reviews and questions and answers, to see if you think it would work for you!

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