Do This Sound Familiar?
Many people who enjoy cross stitch are familiar with that feeling of tired eyes and a headache that follows a satisfying evening of stitching. We all love to achieve great results, but we shouldn’t have to suffer afterwards for our pleasure. So, how to avoid eye strain? Good question, and fortunately there are several things that you can do to prevent straining your eyes when you are stitching…
When did you last have your eyesight tested?
This is something we often overlook. But it is most important to make sure that your eyesight is tested regularly and that your glasses, if worn, have an up to date prescription. Anyone over the age of forty is likely to suffer from deterioration of eyesight – so reading glasses may be essential.
Your eyes are quite good at repairing themselves when suffering from tiredness or strain. But it’s in your own interest to treat them with sympathy. We’ll look at what you can do to reduce eye strain in the remainder of this article.
How good is the light in which you’re stitching?
The next consideration is working in sufficient light. Ideally you should be sitting next to a window, with the natural light shining over your shoulder onto your work. Try to avoid facing the window, as this could cause glare to the eyes on sunny days.
If natural daylight is lacking then a good artificial light is essential. Daylight lamps may be a good choice, although they can become rather warm. They have a slightly blue-toned cast too.
Halogen bulbs are also popular, although they are usually more expensive – these give a bright uncoloured light and do not produce so much heat. It’s probably a good idea to try out a few lights in a shop before deciding on a light that is just right for your needs.
Helpful stitching aids
A magnifier will also help you to see your work better. They are many different types you can buy, ranging from those that hang from your neck to those that are fixed to stands and even have a light attached too.
Buying a lap-light (light box) that sends light up through the fabric can help you to see the holes in the fabric through which the needle should go. A less sophisticated way of doing this is to place a piece of material of contrasting colour to your fabric underneath your stitching.
Hints & tips to reduce eyestrain
Adapting the materials you work with can also help. Especially, if your vision has deteriorated, then working on 18-count fabric is not a good idea. Try to use projects that use 11-count instead, so the stitches are bigger. Many people with poor eyesight successfully use 7-count binca with tapestry wool for their cross stitch.
Your work should be held about 18 – 30 inches from your eyes, which is an important feature of how to avoid eyestrain. Bringing your work closer to your face can not only strain your eyes, but also create bad posture, encouraging a hunched back or neck muscle strain.
If you gaze at something for too long, then your eyes can tire. Eyes need to focus at different distances from time to time. Experts suggest that every fifteen minutes, we should glance across the room, focussing on objects that are farther away.
Rather than jerking your eyes to focus on various points, concentrate instead on ‘soft focus’… let your eyes wander around some distant objects for a few seconds, concentrating on a part of a picture, a door knob, a light switch or something else that takes your attention.
Soothing and relaxation exercises
When you have completed that, you can try a soothing exercise known as ‘palming’. Put down your stitching, and cup the palms of your hands over your eyes, leaving your eyes open so that you see only blackness ahead. Let your eyes relax in this darkness for a minute or two.
Here’s a short video (about 4 mins) showing some gentle exercises for tired eyes:
You’ll also benefit from getting up and walking around the room, stretching your arms up to the ceiling, as you make your circuit. This need not just be a physical exercise – stretching your arms and legs while boiling a kettle to make a cup of tea is time well spent. When you return to your work, you will feel refreshed, ready for another session of stitching.
I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. I’d love to hear from you with any tips, in the comments section below, of your own on how to avoid eye strain; I always reply.
Scarlet, in the UK.