Needle In A Haystack News
Last time I wrote about lighting, which I think is about 80% of the problem with stitcher's not being able to see their work well. The other part of the equation is magnification. As I mentioned, I can stitch 40 count linen over one and 45 and up counts, without additional magnification. But I have fine tuned my glasses with the help of my eye doctor. I have progressive lenses and have worn glasses since I was 6 years old. When I go the eye doctor and something has changed I go with props. My recent visit it was my laptop as my progressive lenses don't have quite the right "spot" at 18", the distance to my laptop on my desk at home. Previous visits it has been my iPad or my stitching or a book with really fine print. Why the props? Your eye professional is much better able to help you if they know what you need to see. Telling them you stitch doesn't mean much to most of them (a bit for my doctor since he actually sews). So going with what you need to see (and knowing your working distance), whether it's 10 count mono canvas, 14 count Aida, 28 count linen or 45 count linen will help them. The close up part of my glasses is set for 2.5 times what it normally would be and this was based on what I needed to see (fine needlework, tiny print and beads). Takes a bit of time to get used to the first pair but after that your golden unless there's a huge shift. If you wear contacts, again, go with props. You might think you only need a pair of decent readers, when something better will improve things substantially.
I personally don't use a separate magnifier as I find they make me nauseous after awhile. It's why I sold my Dazor a few years ago. I found I couldn't stitch with it for extended periods without feeling queasy. Most of you don't have that issue, but it's one of the reasons for the bump up in my progressive glasses prescription. If I'm going to stitch for an extended period and I don't need to see anything else, I use my reading glasses, which are just the close up part of my progressive glasses. Again, a conversation with your eye doctor can go a long way towards solving your particular issues. And I'm usually stitching with my Stella Edge or a 200 watt light bulb - I will repeat this ad nauseam (speaking of nausea). Fix your lighting problem first!
If you do decide you want a magnifier what you need to look at is the size, shape and quality of the magnifier. It's rare to find one that's made of glass these days - they are too heavy and it's hard to make in the sizes most people want for portability (Dazor is one of the few who still use glass). Most are made from polycarbonate, the same material most corrective lenses are made from. Check to see what the magnification the lens is and if it includes a small section that's even higher power if you need the extra "spot" help. You might find that it mentions the diopter vs. the magnification power. There are complicated math formulas to get from one to the other, but the simplest way if you only have the Diopter value is to divide by 4 + 1 to get Power. For example, a 5 diopter lens would be 5 diopters รท 4 + 1 = 2.25X power. There's a good, and fairly simple explanation on the Dazor website that also has a good table reference. Most craft magnifiers are in the range of 1.75x - 3x magnification. The focal length gets shortened the higher the power - so you have to hold the work closer to the magnifier for it be clear. And when you're choosing to wear something like the Magni-Clips (they clip on to your glasses) be careful not to get too strong of a power. You do need to test them out to find the right power for you. As with all things the cost will reflect to some degree, the quality of the lens. You want a smooth, clear lens.
If it's a clip-on for your stretcher bars or part of a lamp, keep it covered when not in use. This both protects the lens as well as prevents accidents. We burned a 1" long, almost 1/4" deep hole in a table on Webster because we left a clip-on magnifier on the table without a cover and the sun hit it for a couple of hours before we came in. We were very lucky we didn't burn the store down! So keep it covered when not in use. Some will come with a cover but most don't so use an old pillow case or make a little pouch for it.
CraftOpticsFor my fine jewelry work I use a pair of CraftOptics Telescopes. These look like small binoculars mounted to a pair of glasses. If like me you have a prescription, they'll make a pair of single vision lenses for the glasses (and they'll update them for a decent cost). If you don't wear glasses, the lenses are non-prescription. What I like about them for my jewelry work is that I can see at the distance I work at (they can be set for a focal length of 12", 16" or 18" when you order them) and flip them up when I don't need them. I have referred a number of shop customers to them who have vision problems and they have found them to be a helpful tool for stitching, particularly if you've got serious vision issues. I met one of the family owners (Jeff Caplan) at a bead show a few years ago and finally took the plunge about 14 months ago. For my fine jewelry work they are very helpful since I'm staring at a small area for a lengthy period of time. You can always call them and talk to them, which is great if you're not sure you want to spend the money or if it will in fact help you.
You can also get magnifiers that you wear on your forehead or around your neck as well as those that clip to your work or sit on a table. Unless you're buying one to help you read a book on a plane, personally I wouldn't spend the money on the tiny book light/magnifiers for needlework. Yes they are cute - I own one myself. But it's like buying a Yugo when you need an 18 wheeler. While spending more money doesn't necessarily mean you'll get the top-of-the line solution, spending $$ on something too small doesn't usually get you the solution you need. If you need a strong light like a Stella but need a bit more oomph for magnification, consider a desk or clip-on magnifier. I have talked to the Stella folks several times about a magnifier that would attach to the lamp body and they are looking at it as a future option. If that ever comes to pass I'll definitely be announcing them and ordering them (they have done a few trials but they are not there yet).
Types of Magnifiers
There are a number of types of magnifiers on the market. This is a short description with photos in the table below.
  • Cheaters - smaller profile glasses you can wear on their own or layered over your glasses. Found both in needlework shops as well as drug stores (and Costco).
  • Magni-Clips - these are the lens part of the glasses on a clip that fit over your regular glasses. They flip up out of the way when not needed. These come in magnification from 1 to 5.
  • On-The-Head - this unit mounts around your forehead and has a part that lowers over your vision area.
  • On-The-Neck - this unit hangs from a strap around your neck and sits on your chest for balance. The strap controls the distance and a bit of the angle.
  • Stand-alone Clip-On - these clip onto a frame or your work (e.g. clipping onto stretcher bars or a scroll frame)
  • Built-in - these are an integral part of your lamp, like the magnifier in a CraftLite Dublin, Brighton or Dorset (or Dazor, etc.)
  • Stand-alone table - a separate magnifier that sits on a desk
  • Integrated Magnifier - these are a separate magnifier that's attached to the lamp. Examples are Ottlite lamps with magnifier
Magnification Options
Bohin Neck                                                  Magnifier
Craftlite Clip-on Ultra Magnifer
Clamp Magnifier
Dorest Magnifier
CraftLite Dorset Table Lamp & Magnifer
Table Magnifier
Table Magnifer
Ottlite                                                with integrated                                                Magnifier
Integrated Magnifier
Craftlite Brighton
Craftlite Brighton Lamp & Magnifier
Vusion 2 Book Light & Magnifier
Vusion Book Light & Magnifier
If you need a solution that takes care of both light and magnification I recommend the Craftlite Dublin. Given the Brighton is their next generation LED/magnifier lamp customers are surprised by this recommendation. My reasoning is this - while the Brighton has a built in re-chargeable battery, it lasts about 2 to 2.5 hours before it needs to be recharged, which means it has to be plugged into the wall. The Dublin has a separate battery attachment that takes regular batteries. Purchase rechargeable batteries and keep 3 sets for the lamp. One in the battery unit, one in the charger and one set that's charged, ready to use. So if you're in a class you can swap them out as the day goes and never be without light. And then you've got your magnification built in. If you don't need the battery swapping capabilities, then the Brighton is a good choice, especially since it gives you more color spectrum choices.
Since I have dealt with the magnification issue with my glasses my personal solution is my Stella Edge and my pumped-up glasses. I have more control over the light color and intensity with the Stella and the more portable personal solution of my glasses.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. You'll find options at needlework & craft stores as well as online places that specialize in magnification for those with serious vision concerns. First, figure out your lighting issues and if then you still need some extra magnification, know there are options out there - either with your eye care professional's help (remember to bring the props) or general solutions.
Thanks for joining me for these needlework articles and as always, Happy Stitching,
Cathe (February 2016)
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We have two parking lots for the office complex. One is off Mariner Square Drive on the courtyard side of the building. The other is behind building #2417, which is next to us. There is no dedicated handicapped parking in either lot and the best place to park for a really flat surface is in the back lot and come in the Mariner Square Loop door. Yes, we are at the corner of Mariner Square Loop and Mariner Square Drive (go figure!). We keep both doors unlocked during store hours. There is no metered parking here to worry about - it's the two lots and plenty of street parking on Mariner Square Drive.
Needle In A Haystack
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