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Vision For Quilters posted: 10/20/2003
by *See Article* Printable Page
Category: General Method: All
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What you need to know to get the right glasses and take care of your eyes!

How Does My Health Affect My Vision?

Cataracts will make your distance vision blurry, but they usually do not affect the close vision that you use for quilting. Beware— Cataracts will affect your color vision! Cataracts are a yellowish brown color. You will not notice the changes in your color vision, as they happen very slowly. If your eye doctor has told you that you have cataracts, have someone else (who does not have cataracts) help you with choosing colors— especially blues, purples and greens.

Macular Degeneration
This eye disease will affect your close vision and make it difficult to quilt. If you have this eye disease, make sure to ask your doctor about low-vision aids and vitamins that might help.

CONTROL YOUR BLOOD SUGAR! It is one of the leading causes of blindness. If you cannot see, you cannot quilt. Get regular dilated eye examinations (at least once per year), watch your diet, and exercise regularly.

How Do I Get the Right Glasses for Quilting?

Your doctor needs to know where you are looking to give you the right glasses prescription! Measure the distance (in inches) from your eyes to where you need to see for quilting projects and take this measurement with you to your eye exam.

What distances do I need to measure?

Measure the distance from your eyes to all of your types of sewing: to your sewing machine, handwork, quilting frame, etc. The distance to your handwork is probably different than the distance to your sewing machine. Consider getting a pair of "sewing glasses" that might be different from your "dress glasses." Musicians frequently have multiple pairs of glasses– this might be a good idea for you too.

How do I make the measurements?

Sit in a comfortable position at your sewing machine or holding your handwork at a comfortable position– do not worry if your vision is not clear with the glasses you have now. Have someone else measure (in inches) the distance from the frame of your glasses to the needle on your sewing machine or the needle for your handwork. You can also use a string to measure the distance from your glasses to the needle and then measure the length of the string. Write down all of the measurements and label them.

Will drugstore glasses work?

If you do not need glasses to see at a distance, it is possible that you could buy over-the counter glasses for quilting. Sometimes these less expensive glasses have bad optics, so they might not be as clear as ones from a doctor’s office. Shop around and remember that glasses are like fabric– you get what you pay for. To choose the right ones, take a piece of string with you to the store that is the same as the distance you measured from your glasses to the needle. If you measured a different distance for your sewing machine than your handwork, you will need to take more than one string. Hold one end of the string at the edge of the glasses and the other at a piece of paper with small letters printed on it. Keep trying different powers of glasses until you find a pair where the words are clear.

Why am I suddenly unable to see up close?

This is caused by presbyopia— a natural process where we lose the ability to focus the lens inside our eyes. This makes it difficult to see up close (unless you are nearsighted, and then you can take off your glasses or contact lenses to see near objects clearly). It happens to everyone and begins when we are young. We just start to notice it around the ages of 40 to 45 years. The biggest challenge for quilters with presbyopia is probably threading needles. Take a needle and thread with you to your next appointment with your eye doctor if this is a problem for you. Your eye doctor should be able to help you find reading glasses or magnifiers that will help you with needle threading.

Other Information:

  1. Get an annual dilated eye exam.
  2. Use artificial tears if you have dry eyes. Take breaks and blink often. Consider other treatments (punctual plugs, etc.) for more severe dry eye.
  3. Working without good lighting can cause eye strain and headaches. These can make long hours of quilting uncomfortable. Proper lighting will also help you to make sure you match colors correctly.

This information was prepared by
Dr. Melissa Bailey
©2003 The Ohio State University College of Optometry

If you would like printed copies of this handout for your next guild or quilt show, please contact Dr. Melissa Bailey at the Ohio State University College of Optometry.

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