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Lighting problem working with black

Digi | Posted in General Discussion on

I am working a lot on black fabric these days (shortening husbands’ jeans) and am having difficulty seeing clearly, i.e. marking, cutting etc.  Does anyone have any ideas as to what kind of lighting would help the situation.   I hate to admit it, but I think it’s an “age” issue …you know …tired old eyes.  ;-(.   Sewing it isn’t a problem because my machine has great lighting, but the rest …well,  HELP!  Thanks!


  1. Crazy K | | #1

    Try an Ott-lite......or a less expensive solution is the new compact fluorescent 'daylight' bulbs that fit in most lamps.  We just installed new lights in our kitchen and are using the daylight bulbs...........its almost like having a sky-light!  Awesome!  The full-spectrum bulbs are good....which is just about what the Ott-lites are I believe.  Someone out there may correct if I'm wrong.  Anyway, some of the new lights are great.  My eyes aren't as young as they used to be either and I really appreciate having the brighter lights for close work.

    Hope this gives you some ideas.


  2. User avater
    Becky-book | | #2

    I'll admit it... I am over 50 and I NEED more light now.
    Try putting the highest wattage bulb your existing lamps will hold.
    Try bringing in an extra lamp from another room to experiment!
    I have a ceiling light in the center of the room, a hanging lamp over my sewing machine and a clamp-on lamp for my serger desk that can be swiveled to shine on my cutting table. Try to arrange your lights to avoid shadows!
    Take care of those eyes, you will need them tomorrow!
    Ha! Ha!

    1. Digi | | #3

      Thanks so much to both Kay and Becky for your terrific ideas.  I like them all, and will put a plan together tomorrow, if not sooner.  I have not used the full-spectrum light bulbs, but they sound great.  I had an Ott light some years ago, but sold it to a friend - which I now regret.  Ah, well ...she still enjoys it, and that is fine, too.

      Thanks again for your quick and helpful responses.  Happy sewing!

      1. victoria0001 | | #8

        I have similar difficulties with lighting and tried a small halogen adjustable light which I could use for each machine.  Unfortunately I left my light on when I left the room for an hour and halogen bulbs become extremely hot.  My serger suffered a small melt down due to the heat but fortunately it hasn't affected the function so anyone who is considering a small halogen lamp please keep this in mind as it could have set the machine and house on fire!  I now use a "magnifier lamp" which is a dual purpose lamp which has a flip up top with a wonderful magnifier for use reading needle sizes etc.  I got this lamp at Lee Valley in Vancouver BC. 

        I hope this information and warning helps other sewers who are looking for better lighting.  I didn't try the Ott light but hear that it is wonderful too.

        1. MaryinColorado | | #10

          Thanks for the warning!  I have some of those bulbs in a pole lamp that I move around my sewing room.  It is warm to sit under in the winter but I've been meaning to change those bulbs as soon as Spring arrived.  I will do it now!!!  Thank You so much for helping me to avoid a potential disaster!!!

        2. damascusannie | | #11

          I use some halogen task lights in my studio and they do get very hot, but I like them because I can really pinpoint the light onto the presser foot. I have most of my outlets wired into the overhead light switch so when I turn off the light, everything on that circuit goes off, too. I use a battery operated clock, so that I don't have to reset the clock every time I leave the room. I don't use an iron with automatic shut-off because I found that I was spending way too much time waiting for my iron to reheat. Instead, I plug the iron into an outlet strip which also has a big task light over the ironing board plugged into it. I always shut off the power to the strip, so I know that if that light is off, the iron is off, too. That outlet was installed before the rest of the wiring, so it's not on the wall switch. In my next studio (notice the optimism in that statement!) all outlets will be on wall switches by the door. I've tried to get in the habit of always shutting off all the lights ANY time I leave the room, even if it's only for a few minutes. Too often I get sidetracked by something and don't return for an hour or two and I like to know that there is nothing on up there.

        3. scrubble4 | | #14

          Victoria:  " I now use a "magnifier lamp" which is a dual purpose lamp which has a flip up top with a wonderful magnifier for use reading needle sizes etc. "

          I use this on my sewing counter and like it a lot.  The flexible arms on it allow me to position it in front of my sewing machine when the fabric texture or colour makes it challenging to see.  I also use it for work on my lap when I need it. 

          I have been wondering about a better type of light for our family room, as I do a lot of hand sewing there as well.  It sounds like a full spectrum or daylight fluorescent may be the answer. 

          This is a topic I have often wondered about, but never when I was at my computer.  Thanks to Digi for bringing it up. 


          1. victoria0001 | | #16

            I don't think I could do without my "Magnifier Light" with the flip top and adjustable arm when sewing.  I just move it to whatever machine I'm using and it's wonderful to rip out stitches using the magnifier.  In our den we now have "Optix" daylight lamps for reading purposes.  These are rather expensive specialty floor lamps but well worth it and they prevent eye strain.  I do think it's really important to take care of your eyes 'as time goes by' and I must admit that I have a fear of loosing my vision should I live to a great age.  I love sewing and find it gets me into a wonderful space and I would be horrified if I couldn't use a needle and thread or a sewing machine later on in life - well, let's face it - I'm well on the way to later on!!!!!!!!  So good lighting is well worth the extra expense if at all possible.

            The Optex lamps use "Verilux Natural Daylight" florescent type bulbs CFML27VLX.  I hope this information will help others who are looking for better lighting in sewing spaces and reading/hand sewing spaces as well.


            Edited 4/1/2008 6:09 pm by victoria0001

  3. CATLOVER | | #4

    You need an Ott-light!! They could probably use me for their ads. I never have a problem working with dark colors day or night.

  4. mygaley | | #5

    I had my cataracts removed last summer. If your eye doctor has mentioned this, DO IT! My vision has improved so much, I've cut the wattage in my sewing lights by one-half. I never would believe it could make so much difference in how much I can see (beware, you also can see yourself more clearly in a mirror now :).

    1. Ralphetta | | #6

      I inquired about this before, but didn't get any responses. My doctor said it would be a while before my cataracts were serious enough to require surgery. What has me concerned is identifying colors. I don't THINK I'm having any problems but there aren't any tests to find out for sure. It has me concerned because my mother, who was very artistic, began to wear some strange outfits and her makeup started looking strange. I thought it was because she was in poor health and didn't really care as much. It was her cataracts. I wish there was a way I could test myself from time to time to be sure I was seeing things accurately. My doctor said he wasn't aware of any tests and that it was because insurance companies don't see it as a dangerous problem. Has anyone else had problems with colors and how did they solve it?

  5. starzoe | | #7

    I find that working with black, daylight is the best source; advice from another B.C. girl.

  6. starzoe | | #9

    There is an item available at auto supply stores, used by mechanics down under the car in the dark, that looks like a heavy reading-glass frame without the glass. There are two lights, powered by batteries, one at each side of the frame. My son bought this for me at Princess Auto in Calgary but other places must have them.

  7. JennyNZ | | #12

    I also use Halogen task lights.  But I have found the trick for lighting when cutting out is to use the Halogen flood lights that you get for DIY style projects, from hardware stores.  Extend the pole so the light is really high and it gives a really good flood of light, minimising shadows.  (If its cold you will not need a heater with these.)

    Edited 3/27/2008 8:26 pm ET by JennyNZ

  8. woodruff | | #13

    I have, ahem,"mature" eyes, and have found an Ott-Lite a tremendous help when sewing on black or navy blue. However, in very difficult situations, like working with dark colors at night, a magnifying device such as "Mag-Eyes" PLUS the Ott-Lite really brightens things up a lot!

  9. Josefly | | #15

    Check out the light mentioned in Marcy Tilton's newsletter:


    This looks like a great light, and one user said she used it immediately after purchase at the Puyallup Sewing Expo, in her hotel room, at night, sewing on black fabric with black thread!

    Unfortunately, the inventor/vendor sold out of them at the show, but I'm eager to hear that they're available again.

    1. scrubble4 | | #17

      Josefly:  "in Marcy Tilton's newsletter" 

      Josefly thank you so much.  I did not know about this newsletter.  I am now subscribed.  Scrubble4

  10. BernaWeaves | | #18

    You definitely want an OTT-LITE.  They do NOT get hot at all.

    You don't want to risk melting machinery or catching your fabric on fire that halogen lights have been known to do.

    Halogen torchiers can be good for bouncing lots of light off the ceiling, but for close work where you need the light right there, go for the OTT-LITE.



    1. Digi | | #19

      I want to thank EVERYONE who has taken the time to share your thoughts, experiences and great knowledge with me as regards to my lighting challenge.  I am SO very grateful to each and everyone one of you.  Thank you, thank you.

      After taking in all of the information you share, and considering the way my sewing room has to be set up, I am going to implement several of your ideas, including different ceiling lights as well as an Ott light that can be moved from my sewing machine(s) area over to the pressing area.  The cutting table will work fine with the new ceiling fixture.  I did find a great desk lamp with the "natural, daylight bulbs" (I think that is what they are called) and it is a terrific help already.  Next will be the ceiling fixture and then ...when I feel a little more flush, will be the Ott light.

      Thanks again, everyone.  I truly appreciate all your help.  Bless you!

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