Lights On | How to improve your sewing machine lighting

Good lighting in your sewing space is a real must; it can have a huge effect on you and your sewing projects but luckily there are different ways to achieve good lighting. Let’s shed some light on why good lighting is so important, how it can benefit your sewing experience and I’ve included a few ideas for improving your lighting.

Why is good lighting important?

It might sound a bit obvious but good lighting is important when sewing because it helps us to see our projects more clearly. Good lighting will mean you can see all the details better (guide markings, lining up fabric edges, matching seams, important labels etc) and colour matching fabrics and thread will be easier and more accurate too.

Better lighting will also help to reduce eye strain. This is especially important if you do a lot of sewing at night when there is very little/no natural light available.

If we can’t see our sewing project very well, the most instinctive thing to do is to get closer to it. This isn’t so bad with a hand sewing project (although working too close to your eyes can lead to eye strain) but when sewing at a machine, getting closer to the project will likely mean hunching over more. Improper posture when sewing will make you tired and achey, and will mean you can’t sew for as long.

Ways to improve lighting

In any sewing space you are likely to have two sources of light; the main room light and the sewing-specific light.

Main room light
I’m not going to make too many suggestions for the main room lighting as I know many people sew in spaces that are used for other things too (e.g. a family living space) so won’t be able to make adjustments. Ideally you want your main room light to create as much even light as possible and for the light itself to be bright and a white/blue light rather than a very warm, yellow light. You could make these changes without too much disruption by trying different light bulbs and a more open light shade.

Sewing-specific light
On your machine:
Depending on your sewing machine, you may not need to add any additional lighting for general projects (although I will have a tip later for quilting on even the most well lit machine!).
Have a look at the built-in lights on your sewing machine. As you can see from the photo below mine has three lights; two smaller ones either side of the needle that illuminate the needle plate, and a larger one that illuminates the throat space. Having both these areas of my sewing machine well-lit is very useful. If your sewing machine doesn’t have lighting in both these places I’d high recommend adding lighting to achieve this. There are lots of inexpensive LED lights that can be attached to sewing machines.

Free standing:
You may not want to attach anything to your sewing machine (this might not be practical if you regularly move your machine, for example) so a free standing lamp is a great alternative for adding additional lighting. And even if you have lots of good lighting on your machine, it’s not such a bad idea to add even more with a free standing lamp if you have the space and budget to do so. Free standing lamps can be desk-top or floor standing; there are lots of sewing-specific brands which often have bright LED bulbs but these can be more expensive so a cheaper alternative would be to have a regular desk lamp and improve it with a brighter bulb.

The benefit of a free standing lamp is you can move it and redirect the light depending on where you need it to be for different elements of a project. Try to choose one that is flexible so you can change the height and angle of the light. Depending on the location of your main room light, a free standing lamp could also help to reduce shadows.

Free motion quilting example

There are many ways that better and additional light can help when you are sewing at your machine but I wanted to give you one specific example which I’ve found really useful…
When free motion quilting, especially if your thread colours matches and blends in to the fabric colour, it can be hard to see where you have already quilted and where you need to go next. If you angle a lamp so that the light shines across your free motion quilting (rather than down onto it) you will create shadows where you have already quilted which means the stitching you have already done will stand out and it will be easier to see where you need to quilt next. As you can see below, I have the lamp positioned behind my machine and a little to the right; I find here is a good place as it’s less likely to be knocked by the quilt I’m working on and it won’t get in the way of my arms. Where you position the lamp is totally down to personal preference and the space you have available but remember to position the light source itself so it’s shining across your quilt surface.

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