More Lights On | How to improve your hand sewing lighting

Last month I wrote a blog post about good lighting in your sewing space. Now we’re talking about improving the lighting when you are hand sewing. Just like with sewing machine lighting, a well-lit hand sewing project is really important for several reasons. Once again, let’s shed some light on why good lighting is so important, how it can benefit your hand sewing experience and have a look at a few ideas for improving your lighting.

Why is good lighting important?

Hand sewing projects often mean you are looking more closely at individual stitches and other details. This could be checking that your English paper piecing stitches are small enough, making sure your hand quilting is following the correct guide line, correcting a misplaced embroidery stitch, and many more. Good lighting will mean you can see all these small features much better. Better lighting will also help to reduce eye strain. This is especially important if you do a lot of hand sewing at night when there is very little/no natural light available.

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. But it’s quite common for hand sewing to take place in lots of different locations as it’s so portable. Although this flexibility can give more options for the sewing-specific light, it can also mean that the main room light is less consistent.

Main room light
Just like with sewing machine lighting, 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. But as I’ve just said, the portability of hand sewing means you may be doing it in lots of different place and altering the main room light might not be an option. Natural light is also great for the detailed work of hand sewing but, again, you might not be near a window. Plus hand sewing is quite a common evening activity as you can sit on the sofa so you’ll have little/no natural light. For these reasons I’m going to focus more on sewing-specific lighting…

Sewing-specific light
I have a few suggestions for different ways you can create some sewing-specific light on your hand sewing project. Some of these are more expensive (the “sewing” options) but I’ve also given you inexpensive alternatives.

Sewing lamp:
Lamps designed for sewing use tend to be more expensive than a regular desktop lamp but will also often have more features. Look for features like natural daylight effect lighting, a low-heat lamp, and flexibility so you can position the light itself in different ways. Personally I also like a light that has various dimmable options rather than just on and off. I have the Purelite “LED Hobby Lamp” which has a little storage pot as part of the base which is a useful feature too. The biggest downside of these type of lamps is they need a surface to stand on and, depending on where you are hand sewing, this might not be an option.

Cheap desk lamp:
You may be able to find an inexpensive desk-top lamp that shares many of the features of a sewing lamp. I would prioritise looking for a lamp that is flexible and one with as natural light as you can find. Look for a lamp that uses a halogen bulb as this will give you a better colour of light for detailed work like hand sewing.

If you are doing your hand sewing in a place that doesn’t have a flat surface close-by then you’ll need an alternative to the above suggestions. Lamps similar to the ones I have already mentioned will be available in free-standing options too but if course these take up more space and are harder to store out of the way. If you don’t have room for a free-standing lamp then something that is on you is a great alternative to free-standing or table top.

“Worn” light:
Like other types of lights, “worn” lights have their pros and cons too, and have sewing and non-sewing options. There are lots of different types and brands and these very much fit into the “you need to try it yourself” category but I’ll list a couple of suggestions:

  • Magnifying light glasses: this have the extra benefit of the magnifying lenses (although you may not need this as an option), the light source is excellent and they can be more comfortable to wear than other lights for your head as they have round the eye glasses-style arms.
  • Head torch: this is likely to cheaper than the glasses but make sure the light isn’t too bright. As these are mainly designed for walking/camping in the dark they might have a super bright light which will be too much for hand sewing.
  • Clip-on book light: I see these all the time in bookshops and they are so teeny they seem like a great option for a hand sewing kit. You do have to overcome the issue of what to clip it to; perhaps a nearby cushion, your clothing or a sewing pouch. They probably won’t give as much light as any of the options already mentioned but they will be a very inexpensive way to get at least some extra light onto your project.

Special thank to my mum for letting me share this photo…

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