Tuesday, August 23, 2016

My New Lighting Solution

Sometime last year I picked up a clamp-on magnifying Ott Lite. It had a clamp, ran on batteries, and had two LEDs. I'm thinking, "Hey, an Ott Lite, can't go wrong!"

Wrong. Here is the exact model I bought, so that you know which one to avoid.

There were approximately a half dozen things I hated about the Ott Lite. It ran on BATTERIES. Which means that shortly after I acquired it, I accidentally bumped the on button and drained the batteries because THE LIGHT WASN'T BRIGHT ENOUGH FOR ME TO NOTICE THAT IT WAS ON. More to the point, it ran on watch batteries, of which there are about five thousand different varieties, none of which I keep in the house. I never did get around to replacing the batteries. 

Second, it only had two LEDs. Now LEDs are bright but two is just not going to cut it. The magnifying glass cast more of a shadow than it did illuminate my projects. See point 1 above.

Third, the clamp was weak. It moved way to easily, often resulting in me knocking the magnifier sideways and sometimes it fell off my stand all together, especially when I tried to adjust the position. Which brings us to Fourth, the arm is pretty short and not really that flexible.

Fifth, the lens was 2x with a 5x spot magnifier. Ugh. It distorted everything, the edges were wonky, and that annoying 5x spot really drove me bonkers. 

And thus, after starting The Princess and the Dragon on 32 count fabric and deciding that rather than go blind trying to see the holes, I would just whip out my magnifier, the darn thing ended up being flung across the living room straight into the trash can. 

So begins the Long Dark Road of Moria....

Okay, not really but I had to start searching for another solution. At first I figured I would just drop in at the local drugstore and get a pair of reading magnifier glasses. The problem I ran into with these was that the focal length was so short, I was better off without them. I had to smush my face right up against things to bring them into focus. I'm pretty sure I left nose prints on the mirrors in the store.

Discouraged and forlorn, I wandered back home and began pursuing options on my go-to solution, the Online Retail Giant Amazon.com. I rapidly discovered that there are a lot of options out there. Some cheap like the Ott Lite (and judging from experience, worthless) and some very expensive but with great potential. All with mixed reviews for needlework.

After many hours of wishywashy searching, I finally settled on a Bright Tech brand light, with 30 LEDs. It has a CORD, so none of that battery nonsense. People complained about the clamp being too strong - no such thing in my opinion. The flexible neck looked longer that the previous iteration and there was no 5x magnifier spot.  A couple reviews said that they didn't like it for needlework but I figured (a) it was affordable and (b) if I didn't like it, Amazon will take it back with no questions asked. 

Bright Tech LightView Flex
The utility you will get out of this is dependent upon having a place to clamp it that is close enough to your work to make it useful, and also, being strong enough to work the clamp. I can do it with one hand if I put a lot of effort in but two hands works better. I am able to clamp this directly next to my work on the arm of my floor frame. 

It has rubber grips on the inside of the clamp, an added bonus.

So how bright is it? Really Freakin' Bright - as in I have to angle it away from my husband when he's watching TV with me. 

Here is an example of the magnification. I attempted to take these photos at the same distance away but I suspect the top one is just a few inches further away than the bottom one. 

Regardless, the magnification is good without being overwhelmingly huge. I also find it helpful to have a smaller area of the project on which to concentrate. There is a smidge of distortion around the edges but its not really too bad. 

All in all, this is one of my favorite craft tool purchases. Its much easier to see the project, I have no trouble finding the holes, I can stitch much faster, and my stitches are prettier. 

One thing to note is that the ridged ring you see just outside the magnifying glass actually spins in to hold the glass. The first time I flipped the light over, the ring and the glass fell out, but all I had to do was put it back together and tighten it down properly. I haven't had the problem again.

I feel obligated to inform you that I am not getting compensated in any way for this review, nor have I been asked to write this review by a third party. I purchased the lamp at the advertised price. The opinions here are my own.

I hope this is helpful and gives you some things to consider when you are looking for a magnifying lamp. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

A Multi-Project Update

The Dreaded Project is done. Well, honestly, it could use a little more love but I'm afraid I have none to give it. 

 It has progressed to "good enough" and made its way into the donate box.

I have some leftover yarn, so I started a crochet water bottle carrier. This one has alternating popcorn and v-stitch rows and a chain stitched drawstring. It does not have a strap, so I'll have to figure that one out on my own. I'm trying something new with this one - color changes with carrying the yarn instead of cutting and weaving in.

I have also made quite a bit of progress on the Magnificent Wizard.

The colors are much closer to the first picture. I seem to have a lot of trouble getting a good photo of this, so I'll have to play around with it a little more as I have time (haha!). I've had a few people ask about my lighting solution for dark fabrics, so I will share that in a future post.

Library Kittens was gifted to my niece, who oooh'd and ahh'ed over it and told me it was beautiful. She handmade my birthday present. I will also be sharing that soon, as well as the many many projects I need to do this week for the Dagorhir Event we are running on Saturday.

I'm off to my newest hobby, Modern Arnis. I have class two nights a week and I'm really enjoying it. Happy Stitching All!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Repurposing Quilt Blocks

Anyone remember this quilt? Designed probably four or so years ago?

I actually did start it, finishing two blocks out of thirty and cutting out pieces for quite a few more.

And then it languished in my closet for a few years and I never did feel like getting back to it.

I decided that it was an abandoned project and cut my losses. The two completed blocks became a lined zipper pouch and I am now storing a cross stitch project in it.


I have a stack of squares that were cut out that I will now need to find something to do with them. I'm sure I can manage :)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Next Generation

I remember learning to cross stitch from my grandmother and needlepoint from my grandfather. I remember my mom encouraging me to sew and giving me her old machine for my very own. Little did they probably imagine that twenty years later I'd still be obsessively stitching away on anything I can get my hands on. They taught me the basics and things blew up from there.

I suppose I'm feeling a little introspective because I find myself recently taking on the mantle of sharing hand crafted art skills with the next generation. The youngest two in the family have been experimenting with crochet, latch hook, knitting, sewing, and most recently painting.  I'm not really used to the idea of being a mentor and I don't consider myself to operate on a teaching level, but I am fortunately not the only person sharpening these young minds. They are surrounded by adults who are happy to pass on new skills and are encouraging them to learn everything they can.

I hope you will take a few moments today, slow down, and hand stitch something. I will be working on the Wizard and Dragon Cross Stitch later this afternoon. I have recently come up with a lighting solution that suddenly makes stitching on this black fabric enjoyable.

And in the meantime, if there happens to be a miniature human somewhere around you today, take the time to show them some new awesome skills. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Project that Won't Go Away

Ever have one of those projects that you can't wait to complete, but not because you're enjoying it anymore?

This shawl is one of those.

It started out innocently enough and then, disaster. Look at how uneven it is! I lost those extra stitches at the end of the rows that make everything all nice and shawl-like. I attempted to block it, but the material just wasn't there.

I had abandoned this for a few months out of frustration but now I'm back at it in an attempt to clean it up and get'r'done.

Now here it is, with one side filled in, completed while I watched the Olympics.

We're on the verge of something mostly shawl-shaped, so I plan on filling in the other side and then using whatever yarn I have left to crochet a border type thingy. After that, its off to the donate box for this shawl and I sincerely hope someone loves it like I can't.

In other, more exciting news, I've finished Library Kittens and set it up for the bell pull hanging.

I sent a picture to my niece for final approval and I received an enthusiastic "i LUV IT!!!!" in response. I will bequeath it to her next time I see her.

I also redid Jack's green hood from Ragnarok this year. He picked it up after the heat was bad and it was one of the few remaining. This thing had a bright white trim on it that looked well... I thought it looked awful. He didn't mind it so much but it made me wince every time I looked at it. Arguing successfully that a ranger in the woods would never wear bright white, he let me take off the trim and add some embroidery.

I was really glad I did, because even though it had only been worn a few times, the white was very dingy and dirty - definitely not combat friendly. I like the new improved version better!