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Sewing and Eyeglasses

Theodora | Posted in General Discussion on

This is making me insane, and I’m getting very little pleasure from an activity that once defined me! Please let me know your strategies!

It’s these da**ed bifocals. I’m 44 and have been wearing my first pair for eight months. They are fine for everyday use, and reading, although I think it is probably time for a new reading prescription already.

But they just aren’t workable for sewing. I’m taking them on and off constantly. Trying to find the best result. This is really interferring with my productivity. I can’t see as close up as I’d like with them on, and off, I can’t see well at all eight inches beyond my eyes. And now that really close vision is going too. I don’t want to give this up?

Are there choices for sewists? Is it possible to have a dedicated pair that have the focal lengths for both up close and mid distance sewing acivities? I hate this! Help!

“Our country is not the only thing to which we owe our allegiance.  It is also owed to justice and to humanity.  Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong.”  ~James Bryce


  1. Imzadi | | #1

    Try checking out http://www.magnistitch.com/products.html . They may have a special magnifyer for you to attach to your sewing machine or sewing hoop.

    Also, you can have another pair of glasses made. Instead of reading glasses, they would be your sewing/crafts glasses.

  2. FitnessNut | | #2

    I think you need to have your eyes checked again, even though your new pair are only eight months old. I found with my first pair of bifocals (at 42), the reading prescription seemed to change rather quickly and I first noticed it with sewing, not reading. Talk to your optometrist and explain the problem. I'm sure a solution can be found, so don't despair!

  3. suesew | | #3

    Maybe you're ready for tri-focals. The executive style, withthe correction going all the way across the lens, works well for me.

    1. Lword | | #4

      Trifocals work well for me, too. In an ideal world I'd have about 5 pairs of glasses. The only problem with my trifocals is that when driving you do have to turn your head a little more than normal to get the full effect of what used to be your peripheral vision. It doesn't take long to get used to this however.

      Theodora, I wonder if an 8x11 magnifier, or other sizes, would help at your sewing station.

  4. Elisabeth | | #5

    Yes, you can get prescription glasses for any seeing zone in your life. I have worn glasses forever and when the age of reading glasses hit about four years ago I asked for a reading, computer, and sewing pair so they made some with a little bit farther range than just reading. They are great for sewing where my world is most of the time within four or so feet. My motivation was to not have bifocals as I spend enough time outside that I didn't want my field of vision narrowed for distance especially with the relatively narrow lenses fashionable glasses have these days. I change glasses for outside.

    Very soon I am going to have to do something more since really close up with my mid range reading glasses is getting tough. I put drugstore readers on top of them sometimes now. I have the option of making my midrange glasses into bifocals. That sounds like the kind of glasses you would like.

    From personal experience I can't stress enough how important it is that the doctor that checks your vision and the lab that makes your glasses be really good ones. Plus, if you have a young doctor that is good he/she only knows this aging thing in theory, you may need to really describe well what you want. As for the labs that make glasses, wow, at the discount ones you can get some total junk or you can get a gem. Glasses can be checked for the perscription if you have any doubts about your eight month old glasses. There is a tolerance the lab has to be within and some places push that limit so glasses may be off from the prescription.

    Giving up is not an option! Good luck with the glasses!


  5. carobanano | | #6

    You may also want to investigate progressive bifocals. There isn't a defined field for close-up vision; rather, they fade from distance to close-up prescription. It's more of an aesthetic thing, but you may be able to find a space on the lens suitable for sewing.

    In any case, definitely talk to your doctor about it. He/She may recommend progressives, or be able to set you up with another pair of glasses. I have progressives for normal everyday life (except I take them off for viewing things up close- sewing, reading, the computer, etc.) and another pair for reading music when I play the cello. I hope everything works out! Sometimes my eyes frustrate me so much I wish I could just rip them out and stomp on them. That is, if they weren't so dead useful the rest of the time. ;)

  6. SewTruTerry | | #7

    I am also 44 and just went into bifocals for the first time and told my doctor that sewing is my business first and formost I could easily get away from reading altogether if it wasn't for the Threads magazine and forum.  Also besides looking at the glasses look at your lighting situation if you do not have good lighting and lots of it, it won't matter what kind of glasses you have on.  Also are you doing a lot of black on black or white on white type of sewing because that is also the worst for me.  Somewhere I think it was on HGTV on Simply Quilts I heard that after the age of 40 you need to add another source of light for every decade of life.  I added the Ott light and have had tremendous success with it.  Just something else to think about among the other good suggestions on this thread.  Good Luck.

    1. Theodora | | #8

      Thanks for the suggestions and support, everyone. I'm wearing progressives now and have been thrilled with them except for sewing. I'm going to print out this thread and take it to the doc to discuss some issues. And as for the bargain outlets for glasses........there are two things I don't mess with. I am willing to spend money to get the best possible vision, and the best possible (comfort) shoes!

      1. jandheurle | | #9

        I think your problem is the progressive lenses.  A pair of regular bifocals will give you much more area of focus.  Your optician should have discussed the difference with you when you first had your prescription filled.  Some people never adjust to progressive lenses.

        1. Theodora | | #10

          I love the progressives for everyday use. I initially adjusted to them in about seven minutes. Sewing is the one activity where I'm having problems.

  7. louise | | #11

    Dear Theodora

    I see that you have many replies, but here is what I have done.  I started wearing those cool little half  (Ben Franklin-type) glasses years  ago for reading.  I have a separate slightly stronger prescription for sewing, my optitian and opthamologist know well just how much stronger to make them.  I use these only for sewing and needlearts - close work in general. 

    When I graduate to bifocals, which I must any day now, I will get blended bifocals and hope that I will move into their use easily as I am already used to flipping my eyes up and down to read through or over my every-day reading glasses.  So my friends assure me!

    Good luck!

  8. MegVT | | #12


    When you are being fitted for glasses, try to find a technician who also sews, or at least does some handcrafting.  I am loyal to my optometrist's wife, who sews, and she understands my language when I explain what I need in my glasses.  A godsend!!


  9. carolfresia | | #13


    Thanks for posting this question, and thanks to the rest of you for your answers. I'm just about where you are, Theodora--I wear progressives and also feel as though, in less than a year, I need to increase my prescription. Gee, it's fun to pass the 40 mark, isn't it?!

    Actually, though, when it's not summer here in New England,with all the pollen and stuff that flies around, I successfully wear contact lenses for just about everything--except when I'm sewing, and then I put on OTC reading glasses as well. That's the absolute best for me, so I'm frustrated when my eye allergies prevent me from wearing my lenses for a few months every year.

    One of the copy editors here at Taunton has found that she has to spend a lot of time explaining to her optometrist exactly what level of detail she requires for her job. Once she does, she finds they'll set her up with a very good prescription that enables her to differentiate, for example, a 10-pt. comma from a 12-pt. one. I found that encouraging, having decided that I was going to have to settle for squinting.

    Which reminds me, I really need to call the eye doctor for an appt!.


    1. sarahkayla | | #14

      the last time I saw my eye doctor he gave me an extra strong prescription because I needed the glasses for sewing rather than for reading...actually...now that it has been a couple of years.. I use the glassses for reading as well.. and stronget drugstore glasses for sewing...

    2. rjf | | #18

      I have a friend who measured the distance from her nose to the music for a handbell choir and then marched off to the optometrist.  That worked just fine.  One eye doctor I went to assumed that by "sewing",  I meant the occasional button or holey sock.  When he finally accepted the idea that some women sew 5 or more hours a day, I got a pair of glasses that worked.  Of course, I can't wear them to walk downstairs where the sewing machine is.         rjf

      1. carolfresia | | #19

        Wait a minute. You mean some people sew on buttons and darn socks? How strange. If that's the kind of sewing I had to do routinely, I don't know if I'd care much how good my glasses were!


        1. Elisabeth | | #20

          Hey now, wait a minute, I sometimes darn socks! :-} And I need my close up glasses to do so. My scandinavian mother taught me proper sock darning technique and she even has one of those wooden darning mushroom things (what are they called here?)

          But back to the issue, I think that giving the doctor an exact measurement of the range we want to see in is a really good idea. They know what to do with those numbers while what we actually do in that range might be a mystery to them.

  10. acrrola3 | | #15

    I have run into the same problem and i went to the drugstore and tried on the reading glasses (with my regular bifocals on) until I could see my embroidery.   Now when I do handwork I am wearing two pair of glasses....My regular bifocals and my new reading glasses pushed down on my nose....looks really funny but gets the job done.   I plan to show this to my eyedoctor on my next visit and see if this means I just need stronger bifocals...

    1. softfurn | | #16

      I wear progressive lenses and do not find it a problem. My Doctor suggested from the get go that I try to get used to using them. Here is something VERY IMPORTANT for you to tell your Doctor during the next exam. .... Explain exactly how far you sit from the machine. My first glAsses were made incorrectly because the doctor thought I read and sewed 12" away from everything. I usually have a book on my lap and I try to sew with good posture, not to mention , we need to be aware of flying needles. If an adjustment is not made for the distance you work at , everything will be distorted.

  11. EileenB5 | | #17


    I also have worn progressives and regular bi-focals.  I had a pair of glasses made up with some old frames just for reading and close work.  My issue was I didn't have enough space to "see" with.  This is the best sollution for extended work in one place.  Less eye strain.  However, if you are moving around alot ( ironing etc.) it may not work. 


  12. LINDAMARIE | | #21

    If your progressive lens cause a problem with work at a sewing machine and you do a lot of sewing, perhaps you should invest in an "intermediate" pair of glasses.  I work at a computer all day but my bifocals were causing awful headaches and neck pain from trying to find the right angle.  The same holds true for sewing.  My optometrist fitted me with a pair just for working at the computer that allow me to see plainly at arm's reach (i.e., sewing machine or screen) and really up close for reading fine print in instructions, etc. and they have made a huge difference in my life.  True you can't drive in them and walking down the hall can be challenging as you don't have the distance vision in the lenses, but it is a small price to pay for being able to read/sew in comfort.

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