Have Your Say

21st April 2023

Eye Opening II

As promised last week, we’re continuing to share the eye-opening responses we’ve received to Marcia’s call for help in All Stitched Up! issue #369:

‘I enjoy embroidery and cross stitch, but recent cataract surgery has left me far sighted. I am now having trouble seeing well enough to stitch. Although I’ve bought magnifying glasses and a hands-free headband magnifier, I’m wondering what others do when they have vision problems with their stitching.

Based on her own experience with cataract surgery, Rebecca wrote in with a little reassurance for Marcia.

‘My own cataract surgery resulted in a very low period filled with fear and despair for me. My doctor had not adequately described what vision I would and wouldn’t have after the procedure. Eventually I came to realise that she truly didn’t understand how important stitching was in my life, or how a stitcher uses her eyes.

However, a friend pointed me to a story about the research of Adrian Chopin, PhD, into dimensional or 3D vision. He found that seamstresses had the best 3D vision. While it didn’t solve my problems, it gave me vocabulary and understanding that helped ease my deep concern that I might never stitch detailed pieces again.’

‘I’d like Marcia to know that my eyesight has continued to change, and that my near vision seems to be rebuilding a bit as time goes by. In addition, I’ve found that strong lighting helps, and whilst sunlight is still the best, a good light on my work at night is now essential. 

I also have two strengths of readers, one for reading and a stronger pair for stitching. My ‘stitchers’ are stronger than my doctor recommended, but they bring the fabric weave into sharp relief, the 3D vision that we stitchers really need.

Don’t despair, Marcia! Keep on stitching and when you look up from your work, enjoy the wonder of farsightedness and the clarity of the world around you.’

Struggling with both older eyes and a touch of dementia, Judy found hardanger increasingly challenging as the accuracy of her counting and steady handedness weren’t what they used to be. Although the initial heartbreak of her inability to continue with her favourite technique brought with it a sense of sadness and grief, in time she found a solution.

Although prescription glasses helped a little, it was a simple five-stitch knitting pattern that pointed Judy in the right direction. Initially she would look at the pattern and know how to do the stitch, but when she turned to the needles in her hand, she’d draw a complete blank. She did, however, stick with the knitting before her and although she may have ripped out more rows than she completed in the blanket, she did eventually finish.

Judy attributes the never-ending rhythm of the five-stitch pattern as well as checking each completed set to have broken through both the mental and visual fog of connecting her brain to the pattern, the pattern to her hands and her hands to needle and thread.

Judy has since returned to a simple cross stitch on 32 count linen and is able to stitch for an hour at a time using a floor lamp for illumination before eye strain sets in. There is also a partially finished hardanger piece she’s going to tackle next.

But, if all else fails, not only has Judy learned to look back at her 41 years with needle and thread with a sense of pride, but she also knows there is always 14 count aida cloth!

Preferring to stitch on very small count linen, canvas and silk, Lisa found herself with a predicament, and one that many of us can relate to.

‘If I took my glasses off, I couldn’t read the chart. If I put them on, I couldn’t see the stitching before me.’

Lisa did, however, come to learn of CraftOptics, a company based in the US that manufactures a product specifically designed for those who create with their hands. Similar to what a dentist wears, CraftOptics make magnifying eyeglasses for the home hobbyist. They were everything Lisa had hoped for and have allowed her to return to a project on 36 count linen that had been shelved for years.

Finally, Janice, an expert in the field, wrote in with some words of advice we can all heed when it comes to our time with needle and thread.

‘As a retired Optometrist I have learned a great deal about getting the correct spectacles for the task you are trying to see. 

Marcia needs to see her local optometrist and have a full eye assessment. She then needs a pair of custom-made glasses with a +4.00 addition for embroidery. They will be much stronger than she has worn before but will make it quite easy to see stitching that is 25cm (10”) from her as that’s how close most of us do our embroidery. In fact, she should visit the optometrist with her embroidery so they can test it out. The other thing she will need is a closely situated lamp to light up her work. She also needs to be shown how to use the head mounted magnifier with the correct spectacles. All this can be shown to her by the optometrist.’

Marcia, Janice also went onto to mention that if your surgery was not a great success, you may have developed low vision and could see a specialist optometrist at a Low Vision Clinic who may be able to assist.

Over the last couple of weeks, the emails we’ve shared have provided a wealth of information not just for Marica but will be something each of us can refer back to when we experience the inevitable changes in eyesight we’re bound to experience as the years pass us by.

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