Wednesday 7 April 2010

Lights for Stitching

The most favoured lighting for stitching is natural daylight. Today, as in the past, many women take their stitching or lace-making out of doors on fine day. When the day is not so fine, and the light is less than bright - well that is what bay windows were invented for! There is an old saying that the English love their oriel windows and it is true. The light provided was also a servant to vanity and if you walk up and down any bay-windowed avenue of houses, you will probably see the upstairs window blocked by the mirror of a dressing table. Sitting in a bay surrounded on three sides by window, there is plenty of light for stitching and reading in the day time. But what about the dusk and evening?

The answer for most would be that it was the signal to put away stitching and enjoy singing, cards or pleasant conversation. But for those who had to stitch, because their household economy depended upon it - what then? There was candle light and rush light. Both could be focused through a water filled glass ball to give a brighter beam, and this is the arrangement in the first picture above, the light of which could be shared by 4 lace-makers. Also there were glass lamps, seen in the second picture, which could be filled with oil and a wick lit.


  1. This reminds me of the stories that my Dad told of studying by oil/kerosene lamp when he was a child in the late 30's. They lived in rural Iowa in the U.S. kind of back in a wooded area. My family still have the oil lamps, they are all clear glass along the lines of these pictured.
    Thanks for sharing, I love your blogging topics. It is the highlight of my days to read your posts.

  2. i so enjoy each and everyone of your posts
    always interesting and thought provoking
    thanks so much

  3. Because we like in a rural area we have kerosene lamps for lighting in emergencies and use them a couple of times a year. They have a thick cotton wick that is flat and about an inch wide that a wheel on the side of the neck of the two part lamp (separating base and lantern glass above) you can raise and lower the wick for lighting, dimming and to move up the wick as it burns away. They give good lighting for reading but sewing wouldn't be easy. I imagine a water filled focusing device would improve that, however.

    Interesting to think of our stitching ancestors using these things. I won't light mine without thinking of them from now on.

  4. Especially since our power went out last night for over 6 hours and I had to use my kerosene lamps to finish the last bit I was stitching when we lost it!