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Low-Vision Quilters

Sandra Hatch

Low-Vision Quilter


Donna comments. "I enjoy your writing a great deal. The help quilters are willing to give each other is amazing. I am legally blind and have to enlarge the article quite a bit to read it, but I feel it's well worth the time it takes.

"I am a recently retired kindergarten teacher. I have loved quilts for as long as I can remember. Years ago I made a few quilts for my grandchildren, and I promised myself that when I retired I would really learn how to quilt. My blindness happened right after I retired, but I'm still trying to learn how to quilt. I have to use 1/2" seams when I sew, and then trim them as best as I can.

"I've been trying to find a group of legally blind or low-vision quilters online, but I've had no luck. Do you know of any online groups that might meet my needs?

"I understand you may not be able to answer my question directly, but perhaps you could ask in your column. I feel sure I must not be the only quilter with serious vision problems. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

"Once again I would like to thank you for your wonderful newsletter."


I don't personally know of any groups for the legally blind, but I am sure there are Quilt Connections readers who might be able to help. Please write to me with information. Something that might help Donna are the daylight lamps with magnifiers. Several companies make this type of light in many different styles. I bet one of these would help make sewing much easier for Donna and many other quilters, including me.

Gloria writes. "I read with great interest your recent newsletter about the lady who is legally blind and is having difficulty sewing her quilts. My mother has macular degeneration and has had to overcome many obstacles, especially related to her favorite hobby, sewing. "There are some practical helps that are available. For example, with assistance she can place a bright-colored strip of quilter's tape to the sole plate of her sewing machine at the 1/4" mark to better assist her with the seams. She can also attach a magnifier over her sewing area. She can contact her state's rehabilitation department; they also have visual aids for her at no charge."

Marie wants to help Donna. "I love the newsletter and enjoy receiving it via e-mail. Donna asked about low-vision quilters. I also am legally blind. Luckily I have been quilting since I could hold a needle, so I'm not struggling with learning to do a new task, just adapting to no vision. I use a sheet magnifier all the time. It is page-size and invaluable. It is the only way I can look through magazines. The natural lights do help a lot, as do the magnifiers on stands, so that you can hold your work.

"One tip I have is to always put your light where it doesn't shine into your eyes -- just over your shoulder or toward your work. Reducing the glare in your eyes helps you focus better.

"In addition to the light on my machine, I use overhead lights, a natural light on a movable arm behind or to the side of me, and a regular light on an arm mounted to the wall above my machine so I can adjust it just where I need it most. Sometimes this still isn't enough light. I think I'll try using the light stuck to the back of the machine and see if that will help, too."

Mary Lou has a solution. "I too have poor vision. Good lighting plus a pair of cheater glasses from a dollar store help. The higher the number on the cheaters, the closer you must get to your work. Give it a try; it will only cost a buck."

Marie adds this to help Donna's situation. "I purchased a magnifying glass with a clip-on end and an adjustable neck for $20 at a quilt show. It clips onto the plastic bed of my sewing machine. I can position it so it shines right at the needle as I sew. I've also been to our local dollar store to purchase reading glasses for close-up handwork. The glasses come in varying strengths. I hope these ideas help. Enjoy this day!"

Karen writes: "Thanks so much for your helpful newsletter. Being fairly new to quilting, I appreciate any help, wherever it may come from! In response to the lady looking for low-vision help, I purchased a clip-on magnifier lamp with a built-in light and flexible goose-neck. I'm finding my vision is getting worse with age. The lamp is so handy because I can clip it to my floor lamp, quilt frame or desktop. It even fits in my suitcase quite easily for traveling. It's available from, where I've purchased several lamps and other aids for retirees. Hope this helps."

Sandy's response to the quilter with low vision: "I have a magnifier that fits on the presser-foot area of my sewing machine. I do not have poor vision, but it helps when I stitch in the ditch, especially on dark fabrics.

"I have an interesting quilt that was given to me by my great-great aunt. It is now 120 years old. It was pieced for my great-great uncle when he was 6 months old by his aunt who had been blind for three years, proving that blind quilters can still make quilts. It shows a lot of wear on the edges, but I will treasure it forever and pass it on to someone that will do the same.

"I love your newsy column and Quilter's World magazine."

Kathy adds: "Regarding the low-vision quilter. I don't know if she has been to see a low-vision specialist, but there may be many aids and devices that could help her. You are correct in recommending a true-color or daylight lamp -- a good one is the Ott-Light which is widely available. I recommend them to even my non-quilting or sewing patients. In addition, there are different types of glasses and telescopic devices that may work. She may have to hunt a little, but a low-vision specialist may be able to give her some assistance and save her some frustration."

Sheila shares her recommendations. "As a legally blind and very stubborn person, I have managed to keep sewing and knitting. I haven't been able to find any low-vision groups for sewing/quilting either, which surprises me as an adaptive computer is a lifeline to folks with vision problems.

"There are several items that make sewing possible for me. I use Schmetz handicap needles found in most quilt shops, and keep a multi-lens folding pocket magnifier (Bausch & Lomb Folding Pocket 5X-20X Magnifier 81-23-67) by my machine to aid in threading other needles. It's tiny enough to get next to the needle. It's also quicker than fiddling with the threader on my machine or the threader the Federation for the Blind provided. I cannot see the stitching line, so I rely on a stack of sticky notes aligned with the needle at the proper distance. By butting the fabric up to its edge I can maintain an even seam. Sufficient lighting has been an ongoing problem and I'm investigating Peggy's tip (see previous newsletter)."

Wanda adds: "I would like to share my mother's experience of joy after she became visually handicapped at age 65. Prior to that time she was an accomplished painter of oils and becoming blind nearly devastated her.

"Mother joined a club/group in Oakland, Calif., sponsored by the Lions Blind Club. I do not know its true name; however, she always referred to it as 'The Blind Center.' She lived approximately 20 miles away from the center, but she managed to find transportation enough to diligently attend each Tuesday for around six hours. They had craft classes there, and she took up many crafts including basketmaking, clay modeling, some sewing and dollmaking, and eventually she became enthralled with quilting. The center accepted fabric donations and eventually, the blind participants there made enough quilts to enter in the yearly Alameda County Fair. Well, guess who won first prize for her special category quilt? Yes, my mother, Lillian Connors did.

"The Center really helped her with her self-esteem and changed her from a person who could have become very depressed and self-destructive.

"I share this because, in honor of my mother, I would like to see if in my small way I might pass on what was a beautiful experience in my family. I do not know if the Blind Center has an online group or not, but I do know the Lions Clubs meet all over the United States and they do support blind people. It is worth investigating."

Thanks, Wanda. I investigated and found information about the Lions Club at Anyone with vision problems should visit this site or have someone visit the site with them to find out more information about this group and how they help blind people.

Maria would also like to help Donna. "Like many others, I thoroughly enjoy and look forward to your newsletter, Sandra. It is always interesting, informing and inspiring. I am e-mailing regarding Donna's question about finding an online group for legally blind or low-vision quilters.

"If you are able to put her in touch with me, I'll be happy to confer with her and another quilter I know of who is legally blind and start an online group for them and others. With their help, I can make sure it meets their needs. I own/run several online groups so I have the experience to create another one and would be happy to contribute in this way."

For some unknown reason, I can't find Donna's original message, so I can't put her in touch with you. If she writes to me again, I would be happy to make the connection.