Contributor Jaqueline Anderson – Adaptive Sewing Tips

I am diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa and have 20/400 central vision acuity.  As a result, I do several things in order to sew and I hope that these tips will help you in your own creative sewing endeavors.

1. First of all, I use magnifying glasses (spectacles).  I use a 6X power.

2. I use a dental floss loop “threader” to thread needles. Self-threading needles for hand and machine are available at most sewing notion shops and online as well.

3. I have an Ott light on a floor stand, and it has a magnifying glass attached. I always use the light, but I have not found the magnifier helpful. It is difficult to position to get the optics right.

4. I use moleskin, cut in a strip, to give a raised edge on the throat plate of the sewing machine so the fabric can move along its raised edge. Moleskin has a sticky back that adheres to the throat plate on the sewing machine. There are also various types of metal guides that you can buy.  I have a magnetic one and a metal one that screws into the bed of the machine or throat plate.

5. I bought a Viking machine, the Sapphire 270 Quilt, to do more things automatically. It takes some effort to learn a new machine, but it does have some nice features.

6. I use a lighted handheld magnifier to help read the screen. I am thinking about trying an Acrobat Reader (CCTV) to make reading it easier. That will be expensive, so I need to be sure it will work before I buy this big electronic magnifier. Of course, the Acrobat can be used for lots of other tasks too.

7. When I cut out patterns, I sometimes put it under my CCTV and mark the cutting lines with a 20/20 pen. This is tedious, and sometimes hard to manage large pattern pieces. What also works is to ask for help from my live-in sighted person! Lucky for me, his mother was a home-economics teacher and taught him a few things.

8. I love quilting rulers. They come in lots of sizes, have defined edges, lots of markings of various kinds, and are relatively easy to read with my special glasses. I suppose locator dots with self-adhesive backing would help to make the ruler marks more tactile to locate. I use a rotary cutter when possible to get nice, clean, straight cuts.

9. I pin and baste a lot more than I used to. I don’t assume it will stay in place.

10. I have learned to trust my sense of touch and my sewing machine to do the right thing. This is not a foolproof strategy, but it helps reduce anxiety about the project.
I always try to be patient with myself. If things get too frustrating, I put the project aside and go back later with a fresh attitude. I rarely sew when I am tired. No more late night sewing for me!
I hope these suggestions help you all. I think that if sewing is a passion someone wants to continue with, it is worth finding solutions for. Part of the creativity of sewing is finding ways to do things that work for you. And, as Nancy Elmore says, “It is handmade; it doesn’t have to be perfect.”
Some good resources and websites:
a. Elegant Stitches:; an easy to use site for various notions and supplies
b. Nancy’s Notions: Patterns, Fabric, Supplies & More for Sewing, Quilting & Embroidery 

c. Fred’s Head for tips and hints:

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