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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Portable Lighting Solution for Needlework: Coast Headlamp


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I’m always on the lookout for good lighting solutions for hand embroidery and other needlework. Short of your needle, I think the most important “tool” when you’re stitching is your lighting.

And while excellent lighting can be had naturally in a sunny window or sitting outside, the fact is, many people don’t stitch during the day, and even if they do, they don’t always have the right situation to take advantage of the sunlight.

So, yep. I’m always on the prowl for lighting solutions to share with you so that you can find your ideal light.

As the summer winds down here in the northern hemisphere, with the days getting shorter, good lighting is even more important. And with seminar and workshop season going into full swing, with holiday travel coming up, with football season kicking in, and all the other myriad reasons we might take our needlework away from home, easy, good portable lighting solutions are ripe for consideration!

Today, I want to show you my latest lighting acquisition. I bought this on the recommendation of a friend who hikes and knits.

Coast Rechargeable Headlamp with Needlework

If you’ve not experienced headlamps outside of the realm of miners, spelunkers, construction workers, and plumbers, then you might be surprised that they’re used for a boatload of other endeavors, too. A good headlamp is the ultimate hands-free flashlight for any situation where you might need one. They’re popular with runners, hikers, bikers, and campers for outdoor use at dusk and beyond.

Now, using headlamps for needlework is certainly not a new concept. I’ve had friendly stitching folk recommend headlamps to me for several years. I’ve tried different headlamps, but never with much luck – either because they’re uncomfortable, or they didn’t stay put, or they went through batteries like a kid through a bag of Skittles.

But recently, a knitting pal who happens to be an avid hiker and camper told me about this particular headlamp and said, “You’ve got to get one. You will like it.”

So I got one.

And I like it.

Let’s look at this headlamp (it’s a rechargeable headlamp by Coast), and discuss pros and cons for the needleworker.

There are, I think, more pros than cons when it comes to this little beauty.

Coast Rechargeable Headlamp with Needlework

A headlamp is a small light situated on a band that fits on your head (or on a hard hat). There are different types. This particular type uses a rechargeable battery, but it can also take standard AAA batteries for those times when you don’t have access to a charger.

So you’ll find in the packaging both the rechargeable battery and a set of AAA batteries. (I love it when batteries are included!)

Coast Rechargeable Headlamp with Needlework

You’ll also find a charging cable and a wall charger and car charger – along with a collection of clips, if you want to clip the headlamp band onto your favorite hard hat while you’re stitching at the local construction zone.

Coast Rechargeable Headlamp with Needlework

The main body of the headlamp opens by tilting it away from the back panel, to reveal the battery access.

The headlamp locks into several (three) tipped-forward positions like this, so that you can angle the lamp downwards to direct the light where you want it while you’re wearing it.

Coast Rechargeable Headlamp with Needlework

The back of the lamp is very easy to open, and here is where you can insert either the rechargeable battery or the AAA’s. The rechargeable battery is lighter and more economical in the long run, so that’s what I use.

Coast Rechargeable Headlamp with Needlework

This feature, I think, is very handy.

You see, you can recharge the battery two ways: either by removing it entirely from the lamp and plugging in the cord directly to the side of the battery, or by simply using this small recharging port hidden at the base of the lamp.

Coast Rechargeable Headlamp with Needlework

The on and off buttons are located at the top front corners of the lamp, so that you have easy access to them while you’re wearing the thing.

There are two power buttons – one (on the right) operates the main lamp. The other (on the left) operates the two red lights on the lamp if you want to preserve your night vision.

When you click the main lamp power button on, the lamp comes on at full brightness. You can click the power button to dim the lamp to three different degrees of brightness.

Coast Rechargeable Headlamp with Needlework

The light from this little thing is Tremendous and Mighty. It works so well for stitching in a dimly lit room!

You can focus the light in a direct beam by turning the dial on the front of the lamp (this gives you an extremely bright, direct beam of light shooting onto your needlework – and frankly, I find it a bit extreme!), or you can “flood” the area with a softer but wider coverage of light, which is how I use the lamp.

A Comparison with Neck Lights

Not too long ago when writing about my grab-and-go hexie quilt project, I wrote about a neck light as a portable lighting option. It works… but I like the headlamp oh-so-much better. These are the reasons:

1. The headlamp moves with my head, directing the light where my eyes are going. The neck light doesn’t. I have to frequently readjust the neck light, to encourage it to shine where I want it to.

2. The neck lamp catches the hair at the back of my neck. I know this seems minor, but it happens frequently enough that it can be really annoying. (You know what it’s like to have something suddenly tug on one single hair right at the nape of your neck, right? Ouch!) The headlamp’s strap that goes around your head (I wear it like a headband, beneath my hair, behind my ears, and out onto the forehead) is soft, comfortable and it doesn’t snag. It’s adjustable even while you’re wearing it, but I’ve never actually had to readjust it. It hugs and stays in place, without feeling tight or uncomfortable.

3. The neck lamp is not as bright, and it doesn’t cover as much area. It’s only directed light. This headlamp has an adjustable flooding option, which covers so much more area with good light.

The Cons of the Headlamp

There are only a couple cons that I’ve discovered with this particular headlamp.

Coast Rechargeable Headlamp with Needlework

This is what the headlamp looks like on… and this brings up one con. It looks kind of weird to be sitting around with a headlamp stuck to the front of your forehead.

I don’t take selfies well.

Coast Rechargeable Headlamp with Needlework

And unfortunately, this is the other con – and it’s the Bigger Con.

While there’s something kind of fun in feeling like you’re some kind of super hero – Ultra Man or Wonder Woman or the like, with a Massive Shining Star on your forehead – the fact is, that little light is darned bright.

If you’re stitching in a social situation, you really want to make sure that your lamp is pointing downwards and on the dimmest setting (or turned completely off), before you turn your glorious, sunshiney face to the rest of the world. Otherwise, you will blind everyone around you.

Other than that, though, I haven’t found any other negative aspects. It is a little pricey, but so far it has worked so well for me – it’s comfortable, it’s got a nice range of features for adjusting the light, it’s easy to wear and direct the light exactly where I want it while stitching… and it’s rechargeable, which saves on batteries and on weight. But it also has the battery option, for those situations when I can’t charge it. These are features that I think are worth paying for.

So, if you’re looking for an excellent quality, easy, small, portable lighting solution, here’s one to consider. It doesn’t even have to be for portability – I’ve been using it as my stitching light in my studio, just to give it the heave-ho and see what it’s all about. It’s a champ!

Where to Find It

I did not have any luck finding this particular rechargeable version locally at hardware stores (Lowe’s, Menards, Home Depot, True Value and the like). They had several other Coast headlamps, but not this particular rechargeable one. I ordered it online through Amazon. There are several color choices, some less expensive than others. It worked out well for me, because I wanted the red one, and it was the least expensive.

You can find the lamp available here on my Amazon Recommendations Page, under Tools & Accessories. If you travel a lot or attend seminars and have a rechargeable light (or a light with a USB connection), you might consider investing in a power bank, too. You’ll find the one I use right next to this light on the same page. It is a game changer for charging devices and lights when you’re on the go!

This article includes an affiliate link to my Amazon Recommendations page, which means that Needle ‘n Thread receives a small commission on items purchased through that link, with no extra cost to you. Thanks!


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(24) Comments

  1. Thanks for showing that light, Mary! I have a couple head lights (not the good ones from Coast, mine are just cheapies) that I keep forgetting to try. I do a lot of machine sewing and got them to put on the sewing machine. I find them when I’m cleaning or sorting and then promptly forget about them again. I’m going to try them today!

  2. Dear Mary

    The Coast headlamp from your photos looks like a good bright, clear light and useful for showing embroidery in a dim light, small and compact which would be great for using it as a travel light to various venues, but I feel I do need a magnifier. I am looking for an appropriate light to take to my stitching and knitting group I’m using my magnifier at the moment, although it’s alright, but I need a plug mains and a it’s difficult to clip on the table, I wish I could buy a table desk for the magnifier. Thank you for reviewing the Coast headlamp and sharing your views with us.

    Regards Anita Simmance

    1. Anita, I use a small magnifier from Needle in a Haystack (they have styles both with and without a light) that clips onto a folding mat from Omnigrid (https://www.amazon.com/Omnigrid-4-Inch-Foldaway-Portable-Pressing/dp/B001CEANBY?ref_=ast_bbp_dp). Together with my rechargeable folding lamp, I can stitch anywhere with enough space to sit down. The mat acts as a work surface the size of my lap. Hope that helps with ideas on stitching while traveling!

  3. My husband bought a head lamp this summer when he had to go looking for a starling nest in our attic area. It worked quite well. 🙂 Wasn’t this brand however. A question came to mind since he had this result: after you wear the head lamp for awhile and then remove it, are you left with a big splotch on your forehead from the pressure of the lamp?

    1. Hi, Irene – Nope! No splotch on my head, that I could tell. I wear it right up at the hairline – even slightly into my hairline, like you would a headband when you’re running or sweating or whatever. It works better with my hair that way – and it doesn’t flatten the hair around the crown of my head. So I put the band on and pull it down over my face / neck and then pull the whole thing up so it’s under my hair across the back of my neck, goes up the sides of my head behind my ears, and lifts just the front of my hair (bangs) and sits about halfway into my hairline. So it’s not in the middle of my forehead. I didn’t have a red spot that I noticed.

    2. The trick to splotching is to make sure the band runs as Mary shows it in the picture–so that the band is against your forehead, not the plastic of the light. The other part of the trick is to not wear it quite so tightly. If you still have splotches, try various kinds of foam between the band and your forehead until you find one that works.

      I simply don’t give a darn 🙂 , so it’s not a big deal for me–and it goes away in a few minutes.

  4. I LOVE your selfies!! Take more, please!

    We have quite a few headlamps around because my father and brother use them for hunting (and they’re always losing them). I can attest to the unsettling brightness, due to the fact that they walk around with them during blackouts, unconcerned about the sight of others and using the highest setting they have. But if you’re being a considerate person, like you said, it really shouldn’t be a problem.

    A good place to find these are at hunting stores. They will usually be camouflage, but also waterproof, so… yeah. I’m trying to think… Bass Pro Shop? Is that a thing? Cabella’s? I usually tune out my relatives when they discuss hunting. Anyway, chances are everyone knows someone who hunts and shops for that… hobby? Is killing considered a hobby as long as you’re not killing people or inappropriate animals (dogs, cats, etc.)? My father and brother shop for it like a hobby. Oh, well. My point is that hunting stores are a good place to look.

    1. Incidentally, I don’t recommend taking selfies when you have a headlamp like this on. I think you can damage the sensor on cameras with intense light. Well… I damaged the sensor on a Canon I had, thanks to intense lighting. I don’t know if the same principle holds true with phone cameras, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

  5. I’ve used smaller, less professional headlamps while stitching on road trips, and in the hospital while accompanying my post-burst-appendix daughter. I really liked the illumination, especially compared with other types of portable lights, but as you note there can be minor drawbacks.

    The chief among mine was the need to keep my head tilted at just the right angle to light the work. It may be that the optimal use angle on mine was smaller (it being less elaborate than your model), or maybe I tend to squirm around a bit while stitching, and hadn’t noticed that before, but the requirement to attain and hold posture while using my headlamp did present a fatigue factor. I can stitch far longer with a nice spot over my left shoulder than I can with the forehead light.

  6. Your pals who recommend headlights are no dummies! LOVE my headlight, for everything from stitching to checking on rabbits at night, walking around the house without turning on lights, reading in fast food lanes at night–but oh, I LOVE your recommendation on which light you got. 530 lumens is very nice indeed, and I’ve been looking at rechargeable lights for a while but you know how it is–you don’t want to plant that kind of money on something that might not work as advertised.

    You’re such a blessing all the way around, lady–keep up the awesome work! 🙂

  7. I have a similar light that I’ve used working backstage as a dresser when doing quick changes in the wings of the theatre. Mine has a couple of settings because we have to be careful of light spillage. Mine is a cheapie from the supermarket and found on the stand with the batteries.

  8. Hi Mary,
    I too turned to headlamps long before I was in needlework on a serious basis. My husband is “light annoyed.” The bedroom has to be pitch black to sleep, and

  9. I am sorry, Mary, for sending another tangential post. I have now idea how it was sent I had a SELECT ALL to move to Notebook And the next thing I saw it was up for moderation.
    I have sent texts to my brother that he immediacy pings my husband to find out if I hurt anything other than my head.
    We are seeing yet another neurologist at yet another hospital. We are lucky here that we are 50minutes by train to Grand Central Station &2 hours by car.

    I think if d like to post you, I’ll either go on the larger iPad for a bigger screen where I can use the stylus to both be more accurate in spelling and be able to see how long a comment is as the slips of paper actually did lead me to using long ago with my husband’s objection to a end table lamps to I could sketch or design by so I now have the Craft Optics system with a headlamp that at least that part is perfect.

    Again, though, I will use Notebook to write in from now on and can type without the fear of my dying little finger sliding over the SEND button before I am able to write as much as wants to jump from thought to screen. And then can take the 3-5 sentences I REALLY wanted to send to you through copy and pasting to your box.

    Than you again for all you do.Please know that you have been a life line for me that last year or 2. My brother is the only family both my husband and I have left. To be able to read someone doing beautiful work that can sit in a lap! Something I might still be able to do!

    Kim Davies

  10. i’ve used headlamps to stitch for years. with that and my clip on magnifier, i’m good to go. of course, my whole family makes fun of me but i’m the one they run to whenever there’s a blackout. revenge is sweet.

  11. I’m probably not thinking straight, but how would the headlight work along with a head magnifier? The type of magnifier I have also fits around my head like a sun visor, and I am not sure how both would work together. Thanks for any help you can give.

  12. Well ! well ! My husband has a similar thing that he uses ..I never even thought of how useful it would be for little ol’me ….. hmmm ……I might just have to borrow it ! 🙂
    Thanks for this Mary ! 🙂

  13. Thank you very much for this recommendation. It’s exactly what I needed to begin stitching a project on black material.

  14. I know this post is a couple years old but it’s never too late to say thanks! And you had me hooked from “ if you want to clip the headlamp band onto your favorite hard hat while you’re stitching at the local construction zone.”

  15. I can not find the lamp in your recommendations page? Can you please share the name brand of the product so I can try and find it myself? Thanks!

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