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Tools & Supplies

Lighting and Magnification for Sewing

Tools to help you see better ensure more accurate results

Video: Cari Delahanty

Setting up good lighting and taking advantage of tools that offer magnification can improve visibility, reduce eyestrain, and give better results when you do close work. You need it, whether you are hand-sewing, ripping out seams, or clipping threads. A clear view of your work ensures that you avoid mistakes and keep stitches nice and even.

Lighting

There are several options for lighting your sewing space. You don’t need all of them, but consider your usual sewing and crafting practice to decide what types of illumination are most important.

Task lighting: A tabletop lamp with an adjustable neck makes it easy to direct lighting exactly where you need it.

Illustration of task lighting at a sewing machine setup
Illustration by David Moore, represented by IllustrationsOnLine.com.

Portable lights: If you like to stitch on the go, a small, battery-operated lamp can be your best friend. Table-top or clip-on styles are available that can slip in your tote bag.

Floor lamps: Adjustable lamps that can stand beside your sewing table or ironing board enable you to supplement ambient or overhead lighting.

Daylight lamps: Some lamps have bulbs that mimic natural sunlight, and are helpful for accurately matching colors. Others offer light than can be adjusted to different color “temperatures” and brightness modes, which makes it easier to see your work under different ambient lighting conditions. These are especially useful when working with dark-on-dark materials, or light-on-light.

Magnification

Sometimes you need just a little magnification—for example, when you’re reading a pattern’s guide sheet. And sometimes, you want to get a close view of your work, such as when you’re applying tiny fell stitches or seed beads.

Thread on a needle under a handheld magnifying glass
Photo by Sloan Howard.

Sewing, hobby, and craft suppliers offer lots of ways to expand your view. Most of these are surprisingly affordable, so treat yourself. No doubt, you’ll find it well worth the small investment.

Jeweler’s visor: I love wearing a visor with 3x to 5x magnification. It fits over my regular glasses so I have no trouble focusing, and it frees my hands to stitch, or unstitch, accurately.

Free-standing magnifying glasses: There’s a wide range of options in this category, including magnifiers with lights, and some with clamps to give you an extra hand when you’re managing really fussy tasks.

Magnifying sheet: For a few bucks, you can purchase a letter-size plastic sheet that’s fantastic for blowing up text and images. This isn’t the highest-quality magnifier, but it makes it easier to read instructions—especially those printed in pattern magazines, in small-size font. I added narrow strips of colored tape on the edges of my sheet so I can always find it on my worksurface.

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