Through the Looking Glass

I know a lot of you will be thinking I’m a little slow on the uptake here, but I wanted to share with you my great ‘discovery’ of actually using the magnifier I have when working. For whatever reason, I assumed it would make no noticeable difference to my stitching life, and would ‘get in the way’. I wear glasses, so there’s no secret my eyesight isn’t fantastic, but its for distance that I need them. Anything ‘book reading’ distance I’m fine with! So why would I need any more magnification when stitching?

Boy was I wrong! I knew, and had in the back of my mind that Trish Burr recommends the use of both a magnifier and a good quality light, but as I said before, I really didn’t take it seriously on the magnification front. Light, yes. I splurged a few years ago and bought this Daylight Company Floor lamp, and now I rarely do any stitching without the lamp, but the magnifier – no I didn’t need that! If nothing else, I could never quite get it ‘set up’ comfortably.

This was the story until I was struggling with the small scale of the Trevelyon Cap Course I’m doing. It became obvious fairly early on in the stitching process that if I was going to get something close to the result I wanted to achieve, I basically needed to ‘see’ better. I was struggling to get the stitches in just the right position. So out came the magnifier and I put it into place in the lamp. Getting ‘comfortable’ and working out how to position myself, the work frame and the work took some time to sort out. I’m not convinced I’ve got it quite right just yet, as I do find myself hunching over the work, and needing to take regular breaks. Not a bad thing, as we all need to remember the importance of taking breaks and not sitting in the one spot for too long, however tempting that is! So a bit more work on getting everything positioned properly, but definitely getting there! Here’s my current working area for my Trevelyon Cap, all set up with the magnifier and light!

TCC set up with light and magnifier

What is the big deal you ask? Does this really make any difference to the end product? After all, it is going to be viewed with the naked eye, and not through a microscope (well, for most of us anyway)! I have found, in these short few weeks I’ve been using it, that it helps with getting a much more accurate stitch placement. With this particular piece of work being on such a small scale, to get a nice, clean finish, I have found there is much less ‘margin of error’. Each stitch seems to have a very precise placement. And whilst I regularly look at the result with my naked (and by that I mean with glasses!) eye to make sure I’m happy with it from that perspective, all the stitching is completed with the aid of the magnifier. I’m also finding that as I’m getting more confident with what I’m seeing through the magnifier, I am relying on doing this less and less. It is very similar to taking a close up photograph of your work and then looking at the photo for feedback. It’s just you don’t need to stitch an area before getting that close up view, you get it as you stitch it!

TCC close up of microscope

One really important thing to remember when using a magnifier for any reason (be it stitching, reading, fixing electronics) – please, please, please remember to cover it when not using it. If a magnifier has the sun shining directly onto it for a prolonged period of time, and there is something flammable under neath (like your working papers or pattern), it can start a  fire. And fires move very quickly, so please be careful! I was horrified one morning when I walked into the room where I work to discover I had forgotten to do just this. In England at this time of year the likelihood of having sun for a prolonged period isn’t high, but a bad habit to get into none the less!

So I am converted! At least when it comes to the finer silk and cotton embroidery. I’m sure the same applies to wool embroidery – I will try it in my next crewel work piece.

How about you? Do you use a magnifier? If you do, how do you think it helps your stitching?

6 thoughts on “Through the Looking Glass”

  1. What a great blog post! Your arguments are super convincing. I, like you, cannot see very well from a distance, but see fine close-up. I have refused to wear glasses even for distance seeing as I love my Monet vision of the world! You can guess, I am sure that I have never used a magnifier to embroider,but your post has convinced me to give it a go! Thank you!

    1. I’d love to know how you get on! It certainly takes some getting used to, but I’m converted! I’m glad I’m not the only one in denial about my eyesight – until I became a hazard on the road and had no choice!

  2. I’ve recently retired and am trying to get back into embroidery (along with other crafts), I bought a lamp with a magnifier and was amazed at how much neater my stitches were after using the magnifier. I use it now for all my stitching pieces.

    1. How lovely you’ve got the time to enjoy the these things! It is amazing how much difference the added ‘help’ from the magnifier makes isn’t it! Enjoy the extra time with your stitching

  3. Hello Catherine,

    I am doing Trev cap as well but struggling to focus. Could be that have too many projects in progress etc.
    I agree withthe magnifier, isn’t it incredible that the tiny thread and where you put the needle makes such a difference to the shape.

    What stand are you using?

    1. Isn’t the magnifier brilliant? I couldn’t manage the Trevelyon Cap Course without it. I am using a slate frame with a cheap daylight stand to rest it on. I too am struggling to.stay focused an motivated with the project. I have now had a break from it, and since I am close to the entire course behind, I am going to.change tactic and work one side in full at a time and see if that helps!

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