Are magnifiers worth it for cross stitch?

I recently won the best miniature cross stitch in the National Needlecraft Awards this year with my miniature traditional pirate samplers and as a result I won a fancy magnifying light. This was the first one I ever got, and whilst it gave me loads of ideas for miniature cross stitch, I didn’t realize the problems it would have.

mini pirate cross stitch samplers by Lord Libidan (source:
mini pirate cross stitch samplers by Lord Libidan (source:

The Positives

I initially planned on using my magnifier on a few small count projects, think 32 count, however before I got to that point I ended up pulling it out to check something on my cross stitch project using 14 count. I would normally have squinted or pulled it close to my face, but for the first time ever, I could just use a magnifier to see it with ease!
Not only that, but cross stitching on black aida has been made considerably easier with the massive light source the magnifier has brought me. I actually use my magnifier a lot, far more than I thought I would, and whilst the super magnification area gets a lot less use, it being there means I have something to use a back up if I still can’t get that dang stitch to lie properly.

Clip-on magnifier by 123stitch
Clip-on magnifier by 123stitch

The Negatives

So what exactly are the negatives I’ve refered to?
Well, whilst it’s great having a tool at your disposal, relying on a magnifier is a whole different thing. Its bright lighted area and magnification cause havoc with your eyes. And stitching with daylight lamps when it’s not daylight can cause problems with sleep cycles too.
However, the biggest issue is that magnification requires a lot of eye use, and it’s very common for people to get involved in what they’re doing and not taking regular breaks. For those with good eyesight, this can have long term effects on your eye health, and for those who already have eye issues, it can make is substantially worse. That doesn’t mean you have to give up cross stitch if you rely on one though; magnifiers are great to use non-regularly, so consider stitching less, lighting your stitching area better, or reducing the count of your fabric so its easier on the eyes.

Is it worth it?

All in all, I think magnifiers are a fantastic tool for a cross stitcher, even those without issues seeing things in detail (why strain your eyes when you don’t have to) however they should be used as a tool in your armory, rather than something to rely on all the time.
If you are one of those who need it regularly, try reducing your aida count, or using a smaller magnification, taking regular breaks and lighting up your stitching area as much as possible with natural light.

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Robin P Stalcup

    Thank you for the tips and cautions! My eyes are not good. I got bifocals in my late 30’s partly because it helped me see the stitches better. My parents got me a magnifier years ago and it is still in the box. Eventually I went to trifocals, but the last prescription doesn’t work at all for stitching even at 14 pt. Stitching with and without the glasses now and thinking about unpacking that old magnifier. Also, went to chiropractor last night and we figured out that the left underarm pain was from doing cross stitch too much during our New Years vacation to the beach (poured rain most of the time). So under doctors advice, I would also add doing appropriate stretching during those breaks!

    1. LordLibidan

      100% agree with you there about the arm pain! We’re planning a post sometime this year that will not only state where cross stitch can cause you pain, but also some stretches to help you guys out too!

  2. Elaine Cochrane

    I use a floor-mounted magnifying lamp for the fine work. It’s wonderful and I couldn’t do some of my work without it, but it also has drawbacks. My biggest problem is that it’s fixed, unlike a magnifier that clips to your hoop. As a result I tend to sit very still and end up with a stiff, sore neck after a long stitching session.

  3. Kerry Aggen

    Great post!!! I had to go to a lighted magnifier in order to work with anything smaller than 14 count, and it’s had it’s ups and downs… I still haven’t worked with darker fabrics yet, so am taking note of what others, including yourself, suggest when working with those. 🙂

    Your suggestions are great: 1) try stitching less; 2) lighting the stitching area better; 3) try reducing the fabric count; 4) using a smaller magnification; 5) taking regular breaks; and, 6) lighting your stitching area as much as possible with natural light. I’ve tried all these, and they are tried and true. I would add one more, however; 7) try using a magnifier that’s larger in size – that can help reduce eyestrain while stitching. Taking regular breaks is probably the hardest one for me, just as you noted, once we stitchers get going, it’s hard to stop!

    Your mentioning that stitching with daylight lamps when its not daylight can cause problems with sleep cycles was very appropriate. That’s crossed my mind many times while stitching away at midnight, 2am, etc. lol. One needs to decide what is more important to one – stitching or sleep. lol. As I’m now retired, that’s not as big an issue for me any longer than for those still working regularly and on regular hours. But, when I was working, I would hang up my stitching after about 9 or 10pm on the weeknights, and be none the worse for wear. I would, though, if I found myself wanting to get back up and stitch some more, have to remind myself that work makes the stitching possible… lol

    Again, great post!!!

    1. LordLibidan

      Sadly I find myself stitching to 2am despite having to get up for work the next day. Apparently stitching is far more important than sleep. 😛