It is amazing to see incredibly fine works of embroidery from times past, which were worked when there was no electricity and therefore no artificial lighting. When you consider that many women would not have had the chance to do any embroidery during the day, because that’s when they were out working in the fields or in the home, how did they see to stitch in the evening?! I don’t really know the answer to this. If you’ve ever tried to stitch by candlelight during a blackout, you’ll marvel with me at their achievements.
If I am stitching in the day time, it is my preference to sit by a window and allow the natural daylight to illuminate my work. The colours are more accurate, and it adds nothing to the greenhouse effect or to my electricity bill! However, sometimes I want to stitch in the evening, when there is no or little daylight available. Because of this, it is wonderful that today we have the advantage of electricity and many wonderful lamps to light our work and make it easier to see as we embroider. This will assist with accurate needle placement, and with guarding against tired eyes or eye strain. So how do we use these lamps to best help us?
Incandescent, fluorescent, halogen, true colour etc.?
There are many different types of bulbs. Many needleworkers feel that true colour lamps such as Ott lights and daylight lamps are the holy grail of lighting for embroidery. They provide lighting that does not give a warm or cool colour cast to the light as many other types of light do. If colour is important in your needlework, a true colour lamp may be what you need.
However, regular incandescent and fluorescent bulbs in your lamp can also work well. They are much less expensive than true colour lamps, and there’s certainly no reason why you can’t use them. I do! Just be aware that they are not true colour, and will change the colours of the threads and fabric that you are using. If you are using these types of bulbs, do all your colour checking and choosing in sunlight.
Halogen lights are a popular type of lighting in contemporary homes, and can be used for lighting while you stitch your embroidery. Keep in mind that halogen bulbs do produce UV rays which can cause skin damage (just like sunlight). Choose a bulb that filters these rays out so that your skin is safe.
Floor standing lamps
If you are a right handed person, the best place to position a lamp is so that the light shines over your left shoulder and onto your work. This will mean that your stitching hand will not obstruct the light as it falls on your work area. If you are left handed, you will want to position the lamp so that it shines over your right shoulder. Experiment with the precise position to get the best effect.
Desk or table lamps
If you are a right handed person, position the lamp on the table to your left. This will mean that your stitching hand will not obstruct the light as it falls on your work area. If you are left handed, position the table lamp on your right. Experiment with the exact position, and the proximity of the light to get maximum benefit.
Clip on lamps
I find that small, clip-on, battery powered lamps with LED bulbs are an excellent portable option. By clipping the lamp onto my needlework hoop or frame, I can work with good lighting wherever I am, whether at my kids’ after-school classes or sporting activities, in a cafe, or in a waiting room. For right-handed people, clip the lamp on the far side of the frame or hoop on the left side, and vice versa for left-handed people.
By choosing your lighting carefully, and positioning it well, you too should be able to make exquisite embroidery too, just like in days of old!