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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Love Your Eyes: Lighting for Embroidery


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We can talk all we want about favorite needlework tools – the best scissors, the necessity of a good hoop or frame, the perfect needle, our favorite accessories, the can’t-do-without somethings that we habitually reach for when we stitch – but there’s a non-contestable Absolute in the world of needlework that I think we can all agree we can’t do without if we want to stitch.

These are built in tools. They are unfathomably complex. And, if we’re doing needlework, every one of us uses them.

You know what I’m talking about:

Our eyes.

Love your Eyes: Lighting for Embroidery

The accuracy and clarity of our eyes depends a lot on eye health, age, and other factors. If we are avid stitchers, we tend to go to great lengths to make our eyes work as well as they can for us, so that we can continue enjoying our needlework. Corrective lenses, magnification, lighting – anything we can use to improve our visual perception while we stitch, we enthusiastically embrace – especially if we are prone to vision problems.

I Have Lousy Vision

While I am ever grateful that I have eyes and that they work, I have lousy vision.

I’ve had rotten vision all my life. I remember they day I first got glasses when I was a child – about seven years old – and I saw, from a distance, individual leaves on trees for the first time. It was a wonder to me! I really thought that trees from a distance looked like those blobby things I drew with crayons.

I’ve always worn corrective lenses of some sort since then, but they always did their job, so it was no big deal to me.

But then my poor vision was exacerbated by chemotherapy, which sped up the development of cataracts to the point that, at a relatively young age for the procedure (three years ago), I had to have cataract surgery if I wanted any clarity to my quickly worsening vision.

Shortly after that (but unrelated to the cataract surgery), I had an ocular stroke that took out a portion of the vision in my left eye, and shortly after that, I experienced vitreous detachment in the same eye, so that the remaining vision in it is rather gooey, for lack of a better descriptive word. It’s as if there’s a gelatinous cloud swirling in my eye around the blind spot. I can still see, but I have to fight to control that cloud when I really want to clearly focus my left eye.

I still wear glasses all the time, though I have a couple different pairs for different tasks. When I’m stitching, I wear glasses and I sometimes use magnification.

But the glasses and the magnification would be of little use to me without good light.

Good Lighting

The best way to ensure good and clear vision when you stitch – at least to ensure the best good and clear vision you can muster – is to make sure that you have good lighting. The strongest magnification is nothing compared to having a good light.

In fact, often stitchers mistake the need for good lighting as the need for magnification. They invest in a magnifier when a good light would have helped them more than a magnifier would. If you have good lighting, in other words, you might not actually need magnification.

Of course, you might need both – but the first thing to address is lighting.

Past Information

Over the years, I’ve written frequently about task lighting. I’ve tried many of the task lights and lighting solutions available on the market, and I’ve reviewed them here on the website.

I’ve also written about the various lights I’ve used in my workspace.

If you want to do some research on lighting and read about the lights I’ve used over the years – or the ones that I’ve tried and found to be good, including solutions for a range of budgets – you can find previous articles related to lighting here.

Current Lighting Preferences: Coming Up!

My lighting preferences have shifted considerably in recent years, especially due to innovations in lighting. Our lighting options have expanded and improved a lot over the past 18 years, and especially in the last decade.

In the coming days, I’ll be writing a detailed report of the dedicated task lights that I use now – and why I use them, with pros and cons – for practically everything here in the studio. I also use them when I travel and at home. I’ve been using some form of these lamps for the past ten years, and as the budget allows, I’ve slowly acquired improved versions of them. They have proven to be excellent lights.

In the meantime, though, if you have been considering investing in new lighting, I wanted to give you a springboard for researching different types of lighting options. The articles in the list I linked to above will get you started. It’s a good idea to explore what’s available, to see how lighting has changed over the years and especially in recent years, and to get familiar with options that you might like (or dislike).

While you’re exploring lighting, the most important point to remember is that you gotta love your eyes! Pick a light that’s good for them, because those little orbs are going to be your most tried-and-true stitching companions for the rest of your stitching life!


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(10) Comments

  1. The timing of this is wild–I was literally just last night thinking I might need to improve my current lighting and magnification situation! Looking forward to the next post 🙂

    Ps. I also had that exact same reaction about trees when I first got my glasses, haha!

  2. I’ve found the very best way for me to see these days is to always pick daylight bulbs. It makes a tremendous difference for me.

  3. Hi Mary,

    I have the same vitreous problem as you. My retina specialist says the correct term is filmy for that annoying floaty business. There is a procedure called a VICTRECTOMY that is being performed on my eye this month. In essence, it’s a vacuuming out of the crinkled vitreous that detached. It’s apparently a quick procedure. You might want to talk to a retina specialist and see if it will help you.


  4. Mary,
    I sympathise with your challenges and applaud this post to the hilt. I started wearing corrective glasses for distance when I was eleven. Over the years, I wore contact lenses but as age came to the fore, I needed reading lenses and changed to varifocals, because bifocal contact lenses were not for me.
    I have to say that given the choice, I am happy to be generally more shortsighted than long, because at a pinch, I can take my glasses off and work close AS LONG AS THE LIGHT IS GOOD!
    The other strange thing I found out was that the optic nerve in one of my eyes is not at all straight. This may explain why I was rubbish at certain ball games. Being picked last for any side of a team always held a sense of failure but now I know the reason for my inability to whack a ball when it came to me, so I am finally OK with that.
    Live long and prosper, in good lighting conditions.
    Regards, Elsa.

  5. Thank you for sharing Mary. I will patiently wait for your new post on lighting. My eyes have started to need more and more light with early cataracts. Sigh. Not knowing what type of chemo you had, I have to wonder if my chemo played a part, not that it matters as the damage is done.

  6. I too was astonished that trees had leaves when I put on the first pair of glasses when I was little. My eyesight was such that simply taking off the glasses and holding the work a few inches away worked quite well. Except for when I wanted to watch TV across the room while stitching. Sadly age related vision changes means now each eye has a different focal point and I can’t do that any more.

    I agree about getting good lighting before magnification. I *think* I’ve got magnification covered between various readers over glasses, and sometimes adding still another magnifier in some situations. But all that’s for naught without good lighting first.

    I’m looking forward to reading what you use now. And hope your eye woes don’t increase.

  7. Hi. I am wondering what your current lighting preferences are as I can only find links to old resources. I would like to purchase lights … thank you. Regards. Elayne

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