I Can See Clearly Now…

Probably the top two non-stitching questions we are asked are:

  • How do I choose a good lamp?
  • What is the best magnifying system?

This is a very personal choice because everyone is different and what works for me may not work for you. So, we have decided to try and break these two questions down so you can make an informed decision. In this newsletter, we will look at lighting and choosing a lamp. In the March 2nd newsletter we will tackle magnifiers.

Have you ever thought much about the lamp you currently use to read or stitch with? You probably take it for granted until your electricity goes out or you go tent camping with a lantern. At those moments, my thoughts go to my great-grandmothers stitching by candle or oil lamps. The flame flickers and the burning wax and wick let off a smoky residue. How fortunate we are today to have lighting that won’t ruin our eyes and our needlework. But, how did we go from flame to L.E.D.? (I’ll apologize right now for some of the technical jargon used in this newsletter. My eyes glazed over at least once as I did the research. However, I felt like some readers would want to know definitions, so I gave the basics and provided links for those of you who want more.)

History of Light

Human beings have had some artificial light sources for thousands of years, probably since man discovered fire. To save time and paper let’s skip ahead to more modern times, say the 1800’s.

Candles were a primary lighting source for centuries and still play a part in how we look at light today. The basic components of a candle are a wick, a burning agent (such as tallow or wax such as bee’s wax or spermaceti from the head cavities of the sperm whale) and a container. The quality of materials made the difference between a sputtering or steady light. Candlepower is one of the ways people measure basic lighting. Candlepower is defined as “illuminating power, as of a lamp, or gas flame, reckoned in
terms of the light of a standard candle.” Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) It was established back in 1860 using a very specific type of spermaceti candle with a set weight and burning rate. The measurement was revised in 1948 to candela (cd). The technical description of one candela is “equal to one square centimeter of a blackbody radiator at the temperature at which platinum solidifies (2046 degrees Kelvin).” (

When you are looking at modern options, you want to find the best lumen which is illumination, not power. “The lumen (symbol: lm) is the international system of units of luminous flux, a measure of the perceived power of light. Luminous flux is adjusted to reflect the varying sensitivity of the human eye to different wavelengths of light.” ( )

Along comes the invention of the incandescent bulb. While most people think of Thomas Edison as the inventor of the light bulb, historians credit over 20 inventors who worked on the theory of incandescent lamps. The reason we think of Thomas is because his version was a better quality product in terms of materials and construction. In addition, he didn’t stop with the light bulb, but developed an entire system to deliver the electricity to use the product. Pretty smart thinking!

An incandescent bulb produces light by the transition of electrons from one energy level to another. The measurement for these bulbs is watts. “A watt is a unit of power where one joule of energy is transferred in one second, the watt is relatively small so power is often measured in kilowatts which is 1000 watts.” ( ) An incandescent light bulb produces more heat, thus consuming more power, than a fluorescent lamp. Incandescent light bulbs tend to put out a yellow or white light. A typical lifespan of an incandescent lamp is 1000 hours. People often wonder how much a light bulb costs them to use. To figure the cost for an incandescent bulb you take the wattage multiplied by your cost per kilowatt-hour (kWh) and divide by 1000. So if you have a 75 watt bulb and your kWh is 6.2 cents then your cost is 75 x 6.2 / 1000 = .4875 or about a half a penny an hour.

Along came fluorescent lamps. The world saw the first fluorescent lamp at the New York Worlds’ Fair in 1937. “The fluorescent lamp is a low pressure gas discharge source, in which the light is produced when electricity is used to excite mercury vapor. The mercury atoms produce an ultraviolet light that causes a phosphor to fluoresce. Fluorescent lamps have a ballast that regulates the power flow.” This source has a lower energy cost to operate and generally lasts longer, but tends to be bulkier and cost more in the initial purchase. A fluorescent lamp has a lifespan of 10,000 to 20,000 hours. Compact lamps can vary from 1,200 hours to 20,000.

One of the drawbacks for crafters is colors may be distorted under this light source. Have you ever noticed that under some fluorescent lights your face may look washed out or clothes don’t match, but they did when you were outside in the sun! This is caused by the light’s spectral composition and is measured by its Color Rendering Index (CRI). “CRI is a measurement of the color shift an object undergoes when illuminated by the light source, as compared to a reference source at the same color temperature. Color rendering is measured on an index from 0 – 100, with natural daylight and incandescent lighting both equal to 100. Object people viewed under lamps with a high color rendering index (CRI) appear more true to life.” (

The most modern lighting invention is the Light Emitting Diode (LED). “An LED is a semiconductor diode that emits light when an electric current is applied in the forward direction of the device.” An LED is usually a small area light source such as flashlights. The color of the emitted light depends on the semiconducting material used and can be infrared, visible, or ultraviolet. LED’s have some benefits, among them are high efficiency, small size, durability, and mercury free. Their life spans average 50,000 to 60,000 hours.

Don’t give up on me now because we’re getting to the good stuff! Having the right light source is the first step to stress-free stitching. Here are some things to keep in mind.

  • The older we get, the more light our eyes need. Ever marvel at the kids who can sit and read in the dark?
  • Where will you use the light most? Will you be sitting in your favorite chair, at a table, or going to classes?
  • Where will the lamp sit? You will probably want the lamp on the opposite side of your dominant stitching hand, so the shadow of your hand stitching will be reduced.
  • Did you know that having a glare on your work will wear you out faster? To find out if there is a glare, put a small mirror on your frame where you are stitching to see if any light hits your eyes. If so, adjust the location or height of the lamp.
  • Don’t use your stitching light as the room’s only lighting source. You need to have natural or room light on when you stitch because it will strain your eyes looking between a darker room and your lighted work surface (

Now that you have a little knowledge of the types of lighting available, here is some information about the more popular companies and the lamps they manufacture. I have listed them in alphabetical order. All the information contained in the description comes from the companies’ websites.


In 1990, Patrick Jacquelin discovered the daylight bulb on a trip abroad. Recognizing that natural daylight is the healthiest and more comfortable light for our eyes, he realized that this ‘daylight simulation effect’ could benefit thousands of individuals who need natural light for everyday tasks, or more specifically for hobbies that involved intricate detail and color matching. All Daylight™ lamps are fitted with high quality Daylight™ bulbs or tubes! The bulbs are made with a high quality blue glass which reproduces the effect of the yellow sun (the yellow filament) filtered through the blue sky therefore emitting a white daylight light. Some of the reason the company suggests you use Daylight:

  • Daylight™ light enables you to see intricate details and the finest of designs with ease.
  • Daylight™ light ensures you see colors accurately at anytime of the day or night which is essential for color matching of material like paint, threads and wool.
  • Daylight™ bulbs and tubes are environmentally friendly as they are low energy light which dramatically reduces the amount of electricity used. Also, the bulb or tube itself runs cold so you can enjoy powerful light without the uncomfortable heat.

Click here for All of Our Daylight Lamps

Mighty Bright

Since 1985, Mighty Bright has been on the vanguard of personal lighting for the book, music, and craft industry. The company headquarters and warehouse are located in Santa Barbara, California.

Click here for All our Mighty Bright Lights


The invention of the Ott-Lite is a true Cinderella story. Dr. John Nash Ott was a photobiologist who was given the task by Disney to record the growth of a pumpkin through time-lapse photography which would be used for the transformation of Cinderella’s magical carriage. It turned out not to be as easy as it sounded and after several experiments Dr. Ott discovered the proper range of light wavelengths needed to grow the pumpkin indoors. So what does that have to do with us stitchers? Turns out that some wavelengths let you see colors better, others emit a glaring light, and others let you see high contrast. Each one has its positive and negative effects. Ott-Lite balances them for the best contrast and brightness. Colors are vibrant and details are clear.

Click here for All our OttLites

Ott-Lite has several lamps designed for table usage including:

Ott-Lite Battery-Powered Task Lamp

Attractive white and light gray task lamp provides up to three hours of light with a full battery charge. To charge, simply plug the charger into a standard electric outlet (U.S. and Canada). You can even use the lamp while it is charging! Charger and 13-watt TrueColor tube included.

Ott-Lite TrueColor 13 watt Flexible Craft Lamp (6875)

This flexible lamp bends and flexes for maximum versatility. The shade pivots and the neck flexes to easily position light as you create. Light and portable, this lamp rotates 180 degrees and the height adjusts from 9.5″ to 22.25″. True-color light helps you see fine details easily and low glare reduces eyestrain. Includes an energy efficient 13 watt Ott-Lite TrueColor tube rated to last up to 10,000 hours. Uses replacement tube #6888. Please note that this item uses 120v AC only.

They also carry some floor lamps that work great for reading or stitching.

New Designer Series Ott-Lite combines a clean, sophisticated look with proven technology. Bring natural daylight indoors with beautiful furniture-quality lamps from Ott-Lite! These TrueColor lamps have top-quality construction with gorgeous marbleized glass shades, sturdy weighted bases and 18 watt natural light that is easy on your eyes and perfect for color matching. The head of the lamp is adjustable and the height of the lamp is adjustable so you can move light wherever it is needed! Lamp includes bulb. Uses replacement bulb #6882.

Ott-Lite TrueColor 18 watt Wing Shade Floor Lamp (6878)

More affordable Ott-Lite Wing Shade Floor Lamp has an adjustable shade that rotates to direct light exactly where you need it. The gooseneck twists and bends to extend height from four to five feet. Ott-Lite TrueColor lighting is essential for people who love to create. It is specially formulated to show colors accurately and details clearly with low heat, low glare, soothing illumination. Make everything you do easier and get a more professional result. Energy efficient, long-life 18 watt Ott-Lite TrueColor bulb is included, and lasts up to 10,000 hours. Please note that this item uses 120v AC only.

Inquiring Minds

We had several emails after the Organizing Your Stash newsletter. A couple other great ideas for donating your supplies were to give them to local elder care facilities and women’s shelters.

Several readers asked about copyright laws and whether we can legally give away or sell patterns in our stash. Sue had discussed copyright laws in her Sales Newsletter #129, sent on 6/24/07. She was given permission to reprint an article published in the June 2007 EGA Needle Arts magazine prepared by Matthew Booth, an attorney. Here is the pertinent segment from that newsletter:

“What rights are you entitled to when you take a class or purchase a stitch guide or buy a pattern or painted canvas? Copyright law actually gives you many rights regarding these items. For example, you may make a working copy of a stitch guide or pattern or canvas to make notes, enlarge difficult areas, or to plan out new or different color paths or stitches. You may give away your stitch guide, a pattern, instructions or the entire kit from a class. You may sell them at a garage sale, auction, stash sale, chapter benefit event or even on eBay.

What you may not do is to keep a copy for yourself when you do this. You may not turn one set of instructions which you have purchased into two sets of instructions, one of which you have not purchased. In other words, you may not make a copy for a friend and keep the original, you may not sell it and keep a copy, you may not make copies and sell them or give them away (even for a chapter program), and you may not stitch multiple pieces from one instruction booklet unless specifically permitted by the copyright owner.

Making copies not only deprives the designer of the proceeds but it violates federal copyright law as well. Think of a paperback book. You know it’s okay to lend a book to your friend or to sell it to a used bookstore, but you know it’s not okay to make copies of it and distribute them to your friends. The same basic rule applies to stitch guides, class instructions, patterns and so forth.”

We hope these "helpful hints" make your stitching easier and more enjoyable!

For those interested in using this article or others published by Nordic Needle, Inc., please use this copy when referencing the information:

“The following article was written by Debi Feyh of Nordic Needle and published in their weekly e-mail newsletter. Permission was granted by Nordic Needle to share this article in (name of your publication). For information on subscribing to their weekly e-mail newsletter, visit A free mail-order catalog is available to you upon request if you live in the USA or Canada.”

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