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Ralphetta | Posted in General Discussion on

I’m curious to hear if any of you have noticed a difference between sewing with bifocals and progressive lenses.  After wearing bifocals for years, my neck got tired of struggling to read the computer and I got progressive lenses.  It took me a very long time to get used to reading with them.  I read very, very, fast and was accustomed to taking-in  much larger chunks of print than I could with my new lenses.  I’ve gotten used to that, but decided a few weeks ago that they may have contributed to my lack of interest in sewing during the past year.  Has anyone else had difficulty adjusting to sewing with progressive lenses?


  1. Gloriasews | | #1

    I've had progressive lenses for 20+ years & adjusted easier to them than I did my first pair of marked bifocals (with the demarcation line visible).  You are right, though, that it is VERY hard on the neck when sewing - not the sewing itself, but I find that replacing machine feet, winding the bobbin, etc. is what really gets me.  I'm a great reader, too, but have no problem with that, except I have a lot of difficulty lately reading white print on a coloured background, especially if the background is a light colour - that drives me mad!

    Unfortunately, I can't help you with your problem (just commiserating :) - I end up my sewing sessions by rubbing Tiger Balm on my neck - it helps.  Sometimes, if I've sewn too long, I have to resort to the heated bag for my neck.  Guess it's the price we pay for aging eyes, eh? 


  2. KimK | | #2

    It took me 3-4 years to "adjust" to bifocals (progressive) and I've come to the conclusion that I'll never be completely comfortable with them.  But, it's much better than going without!  A couple of years ago my eyes had changed enough that I couldn't use the distance part of the lens for working on the computer, something I do all day.  Tilting my head back all day was ridiculous, so I got a pair of computer bifocals.  I'm not sure of all of the details, but they're designed so that most of the lens (I think it's called a Brio lens, or something like that) is the progressive part, and when you look through the center of the lens the computer screen, about 2 feet away, is in perfect focus.  Then there's more of the lower part of the lens for reading and handwork.  I usually keep them at work because the frame I picked doesn't fit in a case very well, but when I do bring them home I've found them to be excellent for sewing at my machine.  And there is a bit of distance viewing at the top of the lens, which works perfectly for glancing up at the TV, which is higher on the wall in my sewing room.  They aren't inexpensive, but if your regular bifocals really bother you, and your vision is pretty stable, you might give them a try.


  3. User avater
    suesewing | | #3

    Hi Ralphetta

    I am an optometrist as well as a sewer.  Progressive lenses are great, but they are not all created equally.  You need to discuss your hobbies with the optician and your eye doctor.  Is your sewing at a different working distance than your regular reading working distance? Some of the progressives have a differs in the size of the near portion. I'd wear the best quality progressive I could afford that is designed for my needs.  As a sewer I would want one that has a larger reading area than other such as the Varilux Physio.  The ability to adapt to the progressive may also be affected by who made them.  In my practice, those patients who had problems were more likely to go to a chain optical as many of the "opticians" are just sales people. Go to a guild optician who actually will have a degree in opticianry.  In addition, if you tell your eye doctor your working distance for sewing, he might have to change your near prescription to adjust for it.  When all else fails, you may wish to consider a second pair of glasses just for sewing.  Most doctors and opticians that I know will do free glasses checks if a person is having difficulty with the prescription so call your doctor

    Good luck

    1. Ralphetta | | #4

      Thanks for your suggestions.  I did check out the person making the glasses.  We discussed the potential problems and he drew me pictures, etc.   I didn't like the smaller lens, but he showed me how using them would allow there to be a larger ratio to see through.  The "dead" area in a larger lens just drove me nuts.  I was happy with bifocals before.  These lens are fine for the computer and I will just leave them on my desk and get new bifocals.  I have one near-sighted eye and one far-sighted eye so there is sometimes difficulty getting a RX that works.

      1. jennys | | #6

        I have progressive lenses and they have been fantastic, except in bookshops, as I really have to just about stand sideways. I did pay a staggering amount for top of the range lenses and frames, which are really light and comfortable to wear, and give me really pinpoint clear vision.
        I found getting a daylight bench light to take over the lighting for machine sewing made a huge difference . So, I have an overhead light, the machine light comes on automatically, but the real illumination comes from the daylight fluorescent table light. I has almost stopped sewing at night before I got one.
        jenny s

      2. jillebean | | #23

        Last year, I had LASIK done for monovision. So, now I have one near-sighted eye, and one that sees distance. My "near" sighted eye is perfect for computer, but to read I now need to move the books away (same as people who are ready for reading glasses or bifocals). Anyway, I use 1.0 strength reading glasses for reading in bed or working at a desk where materials are about only 1 foot away. My optomotrist suggested popping out one lense of inexpensive reading glasses (distance eye). I haven't tried it yet, as I do just fine using reading glasses to read in bed or at the desk. Hope this helps!

  4. Crazy K | | #5

    My very first glasses were bifocals.........then after a few years, trifocals.  I got so sick of the lines that I decided to try the progressive.  I loved them from the get-go and when I put an old pair of regular trifocals on one day I wondered how in the world I managed with them!  I guess I don't even notice that I can't see out of the whole lens!  I have been told that either you love them or hate them (DH won't give up the lines!! ha ha)........I guess it's a big personal preference thing.  Good luck getting used to them.........once you do, you may like them a lot.


  5. Tatsy | | #7

    Whether you can wear progressive lenses or not depends on the kind of eye problem you have. I've worn bifocals for over 25 years and love them. I never saw the line after the first week. My husband got progressives several years ago and pressured me into getting them. I was sick to my stomach for the whole ten days I had them and more than scared to drive with them on. They definitely are not for anyone with any kind of strabismus. Even a slight tendency to crossed eyes puts your line of vision outside the focused area of the lens. It was like trying to see through crumpled Saran Wrap.

    1. jjgg | | #8

      This is a fascinating topic, thank you all for starting this.
      I had laser surgery on one eye so I have whats called Mono vision.One eye sees near and one eye sees distant. For the most part I love it, I can function inside without needing to wear glasses I can see the computer, see the clock across the room and read most things, but when I read a book I find it easier to wear glasses, also I need them to drive to correct both eyes for distance. So You can see my problem.. I have 2 different pairs of glasses for sewing, one pair is for super close up - ripping tiny black stitches on black fabric, doing tiny bead work etc, my other pair is form reading and working at the sewing machine, these glasses stay on a string around my neck. I had a pair of bifocals , just broke them, I hated them anyway. I could see near and distant with them, but couldn't see mid range. I'll try the progressives next time, I just really wish I had 20y.o. eyes again!

      1. GailAnn | | #9

        I have naturally occuring Mono vision.  One eye sees distance, one eye sees close up.  Went through 4 Opticians and an Opthomologist before we figured that out!  I functioned well in the house and in the world, but tired easily and failed drivers license vision tests.

        Now I have 3 pairs of glasses, reading, distance, and bifocals.  Except for needing a bigger purse to carry them, it works out pretty well.  If I go without glasses, I still function well, but still tire easily.  Gail

        1. Ralphetta | | #10

          I have the same situation.  In my case at least, it causes a lack of depth perception.  It took years before anyone realized I needed glasses.  I can remember being really surprised when I looked through my new glasses.  It was like looking at one of those pop-up books!  My world had been pretty flat.  I remember loving 3D  movies in the 50's...I didn't realize the world looked like that all the time to everyone else. That's why I've been mystified by people deliberately getting surgery to have that kind of vision. ( I frequently had bruises on my hips, shoulders, etc., because I would be moving too fast through doorways and miscalculate.)

          1. GailAnn | | #12

            Yes, Exactly!  Gail

      2. Pattiann42 | | #11

        I did the mono thing several years ago, but with one contact lens.  Many people couldn't believe it was possible. 

        When my distance vision began to be a problem I used the bifocal lens.  Same response from those disbelievers. 

        My answer to them was, you have to relax and let your brain make the transition. 

        My "brain" theory also worked when I went to the no-line bifocal glasses.

        Edited 11/29/2007 9:34 pm ET by spicegirl1

  6. mau | | #13

    ... get a pair of reading glasses ... I've found I don't have neck and shoulder problems from reading, sewing and other close activities... I tried only progressives and ended up with a stiff neck and a headache ... I have progressives for everyday so I can read tags, menus etc. ... L.

    1. Ralphetta | | #14

      I did!  That worked if I was absolutely stationery, but that rarely is the case with sewing.  I was moving from ironing board, to machine, etc. Also, I couldn't watch TV while I was working.  If I'm doing something repetitious that doesn't take full concentration, I like to have the TV on.  The progressives are great for the computer, so I'll just leave them at my desk and go back to my bifocals. I've got a doctor's appointment next week, so  I hope to have my new glasses in couple of weeks. Wish me luck that they cure my frustration with sewing, y'all.

    2. sewtimely | | #26

      I'll try that.  Same problem as everyone else.  I take my glasses off to sew most of the time, scoot up close and end up with strains and pains in my neck and shoulders.  If that doesn't work I'll do as our optometrist friend suggested and talk to my dr. about having problems with certain tasks, particularly sewing.

      important topic, good suggestions.


  7. suesew | | #15

    I use executive trifocals - the correction goes all the way across the lense. This allows me to look off to the side and still see the work at my machine or sewing table. I found them very easy to adjust to.

    1. Ralphetta | | #16

      That was what I asked for!  I can't remember how they convinced me against them.  Are the lines visible?  That may have been it.  Please tell me more.

      1. suesew | | #18

        Yes, the lines on executive trifocals are visible. But I chose to see over vanity, I guess. I had trouble with the invisible - progressive ones - was constantly nodding my head up and down trying to see properly. The executive ones allow me to look from side to side without moving my head. They work well for me.

        1. Ralphetta | | #19

          Yes!  I especially dislike the way it limits my left eye while driving.  My periferal vision is good...without these dumb things. I was used to reading big chunks at a time, and found myself having to just focus on smaller groups of words.  I've had them for almost 2 years and even took them to my ophthomologist to be sure the RX was correct.  I've given them a fair trial and I'm moving on....without  them.  Do yours do w ell for reading the computer?  I don't do much work on the computer at work, so I could probably get by with regular bifocals and just keep these annoying things here by my home computer.

          1. suesew | | #20

            I use them all the time at my computer. In fact, I use them all the time!

  8. maggiecoops | | #17

    I'm not sure what you mean by progressive lens, unless it's what we call variable lens here in England. I wear the tri- focal variables constantly and love them as I can look down at my knitting and see it or up at the TV and see that. Even better I can see the dash in my car, read the dials and see the road ahead clearly with no noticeable changes. I have astigmatism, which though great when looking at 3D pictures (I don't need the special glasses)  is a pain when trying to thread a needle, I don't see double, I just have eyes that can operate independently of each other, so my variable lens correct it. For my computer I wear reading glasses 1.5 strength, as my optician pointed out to have a variable lens that accommodated the varying focal distances I use, 14" for reading, 8" for engraving, 24" for my monitor, and then my close mid and long range sight was asking too much of an artificial lens. The only problem I have with my variable lens is coming down a flight of steps, or stepping off a kerb. I've got used to the kerb issue but have to remove them to walk down steps as my field depth is affected by them otherwise and I see the steps as shallower than they are.  As for sewing, well I couldn't if I didn't  have them, I did have the pebble bi focals for about a week, but couldn't sew, found reading made me nauseous, I tripped on rugs, steps, kerbs, and couldn't knit. They actually made my eyes feel bruised, and the sudden change in magnification if I looked down made me giddy

  9. etmom | | #21

    I have a separate pair of glasses for when I'm working up close
    as well as my progressive glasses.
    The progressives are fine for short term stuff but
    when I need to work and look straight ahead,
    the "reading" glasses are favorite.
    I then avoid the stiff neck from looking up to
    look down through the progressives.
    If that isn't the route for you, my optometrist
    also recommended getting the max on the progressives
    to be GREATER than what I need. The reasoning being
    that then I will be looking more in the middle of the
    lens most of the time.

    Hope this helps,

    1. Ralphetta | | #22


  10. Teaf5 | | #24

    A lot of good information in this thread!

    I learned a very important tip from a colleague about wearing task-specific or reading glasses: always blink when you are shifting from one focus to another.

    I was getting dizzy and nauseated when I first started wearing glasses; blinking briefly between changes solved that problem and helped me get used to the glasses faster.

    1. Ralphetta | | #25

       I have another question that I'm hoping someone has the "right" answer for.  I have cataracts in the early stages and it will be a while before I can get the surgery.  I know many people who have had the surgery so I'm not worried about that.  I AM worried about color recognition in the meantime.   Are ther any tests, etc. that can help you evaluate how distorted your color recognition is?  I was told that since the insurance companies don't see it as a problem there are none. 

      I remember that at some point my Mother's makeup and clothes started looking a little strange.  She was not in good health and I just thought she wasn't making it a priority so I didn't say anything to upset her.  One day she mentioned something about the pink shirt I was wearing and I just froze. I was wearing a really bright clear orange T shirt.  She had no idea that her color recognition was that bad.

      I don't want to accidentally make strange colored garments.  Has anyone found a way to deal with this?  Surely there is some way I can test myself to be aware of any changes. 

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