Once upon a time, just around when I turned seven, my teacher suggested to my folks that I should have my eyes checked.
Lo and behold, the discovery was made that I was very near-sighted. That’s when I got my first pair of glasses.
I remember coming home the day we picked up my glasses. We drove through winding New England roads, where the sun glints between tree branches and leaves, and I discovered, for the very first time, that it was possible to see individual leaves on trees. What always looked to me, from a distance, like a kid’s cartoon of a tree – you know the type, with a brown trunk topped with green blobs – now came to life, with quivering leaves and delicate branches.
That was the best ride home ever! I could see! And while, before, I didn’t know what I was missing, now, I was completely enchanted by it. Trees with leaves. What a wonder!
My enthusiasm for sight only got better as that first week in glasses went by. TV? Oh, yeah! I could sit on the couch and still see it. Chalkboards and bulletin boards at school actually had some kind of meaning to me now. And every ride home from school was deliciously detailed with distant houses, farms, people, and animals.
Then, Sunday rolled around and we went to church. Our church had a big stained glass rose window at the front. Before glasses, it was a kaleidoscope of blurred colors running over on each other like backlit watercolors all merging on the same round canvas. I thought it was beautiful! So much color!
When I saw it with glasses for the first time, though, I was floored. There were pictures in it! Saints and angels and stories, all there in a glorious arrangement that I could see for the first time.
Eyes are important. In most cases, they are the primary receptors of sensory information for us. As we get older, our eyes change quite a bit, and that can have a huge effect on what we can and can’t do, comfortably, with our needlework.
Take, for example, the Hornswoggled Project that I told you about a couple weeks ago.
For that project, my initial plan was to use a 30 count embroidery linen – specifically, a Dower quality linen by Legacy, called River Stone. That’s the linen you see in the background of the photo above.
It’s a great color – kind of neutral, but with a bit of a clayish pinkish natural color to it. It’s almost a putty color.
When working a project like the counted project I’m starting, and the project is covered entirely with stitches (in this case, tent stitch, which is like a half cross stitch), it’s best not to use a bright white as a ground fabric. Off white, cream, and even light browns and natural colors are a better choice, because the bright white could glint through the stitches here and there, depending on your coverage.
So, with that principle in mind, and having to make a choice between a white 30-count linen and the river stone linen, I chose the river stone.
When I worked this miniature Cluny tapestry project on 40-count silk gauze just over four years ago, I was able to do a good bit of the stitching without magnification. The only time I needed a magnifier was when my lighting wasn’t ideal.
My magnifier (this Dublin craft light and magnifier that I’ve reviewed before) was a good option in low light situations, because it provided good light and magnification. But in really good light (like these lights that I use in my studio), magnification wasn’t necessary.
Imagine my dismay when, just over four years later, I threaded up a needle and readied myself to stitch on the 30-count linen, only to find that, even in ideal light, I couldn’t see the fabric well enough to stitch. And trust me, I tried and tried!
So I tried my Dublin magnifier and then I tried my CraftOptics, which I’ve reviewed as well.
The more I thought about it, though, the more I rebelled against the idea of having to bother with magnifiers on a piece that will most likely take some four or five years to complete.
You know, I am awfully glad I had that rebellious moment now, and not some 100 hours into the piece.
So, I’ve switched linens. I’ve switched to a 25-count round yarn linen in French Bisque, which is not as white as it looks in the foreground of the photo above. It’s more of a deep creamy-golden color.
The piece of linen for the project is slightly larger because the thread count is lower, but the weave is not so large that the finished piece will look pixelated.
25-count round yarn linen (also by Legacy) is a magnificent linen. Unfortunately, this particular linen is being discontinued this year, so if you want a good 25-count linen, now’s the time to get it. Once it’s gone, it’s gone – which is too bad, because I love this particular linen. It’s perfect for surface embroidery and counted samplers.
And while it’s expensive at $80 / yard, you’d be surprised how much fabric you get in a fat half, for $40. You pretty much get a square yard of linen, which is a lot of fabric!
So, now you know why I’ve switched to the 25-count linen for this crazy project. I blame it on my eyes! But the nice thing is, I can see the 25-count linen easily, without magnification, which will make stitching much more comfortable.
On that point, though, remember – if your eyes are uncomfortable and you’re having a hard time seeing your fabric – don’t force yourself to keep working without some kind of visual aid. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of increasing your lighting, but other times, slight magnification might be necessary.
The latter can be achieved a number of ways, including using over-the-counter reading glasses, if that’s all it takes.
Whatever you do, don’t strain your eyes. You only have one set of eyeballs, and they’re worth taking care of!
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