Let there be light…

… and behold, there WAS light!

Let me start by saying I didn’t just hold out my hand and say the words, I went shopping for it! I’ve long found the light on my sewing machine a bit feeble and yellowish. I tried an LED bulb instead of the incandescent one it came with, but something about the frequency made it flicker in a very headache-inducing way. The light was great, but not at that cost. I searched the shops for an LED strip I could plug in, but they all came as separate strips to which you had to solder a connector and then a power cord and adaptor. I could, but I wasn’t going to; there had to be an easier way. Today, while shopping for something else, of which more later, I found a small box with a home-made label on it, bearing the legend ‘LED light strip for sewing machine’. Below was a photo – and it was all cabled up. Not cheap, but perfect for what I need. The brilliant Ray of Needleworx (‘The Hardware Store for Ladies!’) had made several of these up, and had sold them all in a matter of days.

Here’s the difference: Top, normal light only; Bottom, with LED strip

I was actually in there because my light pad had died. The connection between cable and pad had give up the ghost, and 9 times out of 10 the touch-switch for turning it on wouldn’t work without endless jiggling. I find it invaluable for paper piecing, and Ray had just sent me an email to say the Triumph A4 light pads were now a good $150 cheaper than when they first came out. Well, you can’t ignore a bit of serendipity like that, can you? The photos show the same piece of paper on the light pad; Top, with the pad off, Bottom, with the pad on. You can see it’d make paper piecing a whole lot easier… (and for those still looking vaguely puzzled, you sew the fabric onto the back of the paper, but the design is marked on the front, so seeing the lines through the paper really, really helps!).

So now I have a working light pad too, which turns on first time, every time, is bright as day, is thinner and lighter than the old one, and has just eliminated my last possible excuse for not getting on with the paper piecing of teal star blocks for the Scinteallate quilt.

How deLIGHTful…

27 thoughts on “Let there be light…

  1. Conor Bofin says:

    Illuminating indeed. We just upgraded the kitchen lighting to new LEDs. They have come a long way since I did them before about seven years ago. I have a stick on strip of them under the kitchen presses lighting the countertop too. Very swish.

    • katechiconi says:

      We have a series of LED strip lights which clip onto magnetised strips under the edges of the shelves. You can slide them along to illuminate a particular task, and they have motion sensors to turn on so are not fussed about sticky fingers. Battery operated, it’s true, but we have solar so the charging is free! It does make an enormous difference to have decent task lighting, doesn’t it?

  2. tialys says:

    I don’t know why they make sewing machine lights so feeble – there must be a reason. Mustn’t there? I have a big daylight lamp that can be adjusted to cover most of my sewing machine area but I bought Mr. Tialys one of those LED strips for his industrial sewing machine and they work really well.
    I did try using a home made mock up light box when you first mentioned them to me but I generally just hold the paper and fabric up to the light (the daylight one) and do it like that. I can see your new light box is the business though.
    May the light continue to shine upon you (or at least on the stuff you’re working on).

    • katechiconi says:

      I have a lamp too, but somehow it doesn’t seem to get under the harp of the machine like this little strip does. I expect that LED lights are more expensive and the manufacturers only put them on the pricier machines; I’ve noticed the big computerised jobbies have much better lights in them. And when I discovered these LED lightboxes I was in heaven; up till then, I’d been using the big, bulky, hot ones. They do make life so much easier for paper piecing that I’d be hard pressed to do without one now… 🙂

  3. Nanette says:

    I’m very glad to see you’ve seen the light, and are very happy having done so. Seriously, good lighting is very important for what we do, and can make such a difference.

  4. Kerry Davidson says:

    What a good idea! I never thought about using my light box for foundation piecing. Will give it a go next time.
    PS: I am committing to 3 star blocks for you. 2 are nearly finished and I’m thinking about doing a crazy quilt centre for a third, with all my leftover little bits.

  5. KerryCan says:

    Those two new tools will be huge! And make your work the much easier and more enjoyable.

    • katechiconi says:

      I’ve missed my light pad and it’s nice to have that back, but the sewing machine light has been a major step forward. It’ll make my piecing more accurate, which can only help!

      • KerryCan says:

        The only light pad I have is really sold as a children’s toy. It works, sort of, but I should spring for one that’s designed for grownups to do real work!

      • katechiconi says:

        This one is very simple, but very effective. I really do encourage you to get one, at least A4 or letter size.

      • KerryCan says:

        I’m seeing a friend today–she has a good one and I’ll ask her where she got it, etc.!

  6. mlmcspadden says:

    I need better lighting for my machine, even after getting one of the new LED bulbs for it (which is better than the old bulbs). On my someday list…. I do have one of the light pads like you’ve got. It has been a true game changer for my applique and pp’g.

  7. Nothing helps more than the right tools for the project. You are only most often as good as your tools allow. It applies to all areas. I agree with the lighting. Once upon a time, I had my whole sewing room with full spectrum lights but under the machine was always a little dodgy. Now, I just make due with table lights that have daylight bulbs. Light is so very important. Glad you had a little synchronicity on your side.

  8. anne54 says:

    I use the window to trace my drawings onto the good paper. it’s fine, because I only want an outline, some guide lines which help me to do the freehand drawing. However, if I ever go back to the more precise detail of botanic art a light box like yours would be invaluable.

    • katechiconi says:

      I use it for every piece I set in a complex block, checking the fabric is the right size and that there’s enough seam allowance, and then checking again once it’s sewn in to ensure it hasn’t slipped out of place before I trim out on the back. I’d walk kms for each block if I had to go to a window!

  9. kathyreeves says:

    Excellent tools for sure Kate, nice comparisons of the lighting options, too!

  10. Great stuff! Yes, I’d love to have better light at my machine. I tried a battery-powered stick-on LED light, but it didn’t hold the charge well enough, and though it added some light, really wasn’t bright enough, either. So NOW I have a stick-on LED light…

    As to light pad, I rig it up the cheap way with a utility lamp underneath a piece of plastic. It would not be sufficient if I did a lot of paper-piecing, but it works for the little I do.

    • katechiconi says:

      I use the light pad a lot, and I do a fair bit of paper piecing, so it was totally worth the money. One of the things I like best is that you can vary the output from moderate to very bright, but the light is still kind to the eyes, not like staring into an incandescent light bulb.

  11. Hooray for Ray! I get by with the light on my 1960’s era machine plus a gooseneck lamp angled just right (even though that lamp gets in my way).

    • katechiconi says:

      I used to do that, but found my hands were casting shadows in exactly the wrong place. Thanks to Ray, I’m not peering and squinting at my sewing any longer.

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