I have always had a great appreciation for the gift of sight. Yeah, I’m one of those weird people who will walk around sometimes with their eyes closed just to experience how to perform easy tasks. And I’ve known some amazing and inspiring visually impaired people!
That said, I admit I have never tried to teach a visually impaired person to sew or perform any other needlecraft. But I have thought long and hard on the subject and done some research. Even my own eyesight is not what it used to be, and I hope to continue enjoying the crafts I am so fond of for a lifetime. Though I see fine now with glasses, one never knows what the future holds.
So, I’ve put together some tips I’ve learned to help anyone learn or continue various needlecrafts, either after or despite visual impairment. Here is a list of ten tips to help you get started or carry on with these beneficial and relaxing activities.
Sewing and Needlework Tips For The Visually Impaired
1. Choose the Best Basic Sewing Tools
With a bit of practice, most sewing tools can be used competently by the visually impaired. However, simple modifications have made some tools more manageable for the visually impaired to use. Here are a few to try:
- Self-threading Needles. These miracle needles eliminate the need to try to insert that slender thread through that tiny eye. Seriously, self-threading needles are one of the best sewing ideas to come along in the sewing world.
- Tactile Measuring Tape. This measuring tape marks inch and half-inch increments with different-sized holes for making sewing measurements easy.
- Magnetic Seam Guide. This little guide keeps your seams even as you sew with your machine. Just place it on the faceplate at the desired distance from the needle.
- Sewing Machine Finger Guard. This guard keeps fingers from coming too close to the needle while sewing a seam. So you can control the fabric as much as possible without injury.
- Magnifiers and lights. There are hands-free magnifiers, either with or without additional lighting, to aid those with limited eyesight to see both written instructions and the project they’re working on with greater ease.
There is no substitute for time, practice, and determination for bringing success to any endeavor, including learning basic hand sewing. Here are some more tips for the visually impaired that will make simple repairs possible, giving increased confidence and independence.
2. Replacing buttons:
A two-hole button may be a better choice. Protect your fingers with finger guards of leather or metal. And always use a thimble when performing any hand-sewing task.
3. Repairing Hems
When repairing hems, use an adjustable measuring gauge to turn up the fabric the correct amount. You can tack the hem in place with fabric adhesive to keep it in place while you sew. It will take practice catching a small amount of fabric for an invisible hem. You may find creative ways to control your stitching by the way you place your fingers, etc.
4. Making Seam Repairs
The best tip I can give you is not to worry about what others think. You can repair torn seams on stuffed animals, pillows, and other non-clothing items with a simple slip stitch. For repairing garment seams, turn the garment wrong-side out. Use an adjustable gauge to mark the seam width. Sew a simple straight stitch, as small as you can handle, along the edge of the pins. Your results will be a source of awe for your friends and family with a bit of practice.
5. Reading Instructions, Using Patterns
If you desire to make garments from scratch, you may need to enlist a friend’s aid to help copy patterns onto heavier paper so that you can feel the edges easier. Use fabric weights instead of pins, so there’s less chance of being jabbed.
If you read braille, you can make labels to glue on the pieces along with instructions such as“cut two” or “place edge on fold.” Use patterns that don’t require the need for darts or other special features.
For needlework such as knitting and crocheting, instructions may be available in braille, large print, or audio versions. Again, you may be able to enlist the aid of a friend or family member to record the instructions for you. There are also electronic devices specifically designed for magnifying print.
- Skirts with an elastic-gathered waist require no pattern at all. Your tactile measuring tape will help you measure the correct length and width of fabric needed.
- Throw pillows embellished with your own sewing machine’s stitches in contrasting thread become your personal decor touch in any room.
- Curtains are easy to make and allow you to express your style and design preferences.
- Scarves are another simple sewing project that makes great gifts or adds to your personal fashion statement. A specialized presser foot will help you with narrow hems around the edges.
6. Keep It Simple
As already mentioned, using simple patterns can help the visually impaired succeed in learning to sew or in maintaining that enjoyable pastime. The same principle applies to other needlework pursuits.
Working a pattern with a single color, or using multicolored yarns, will save you the hassle of changing from one yarn to another as you work. Basic stitches are beautiful in themselves and make it easier to keep up with where you are in your work if you need to set it down and return to it later. Using yarn markers will let you know when you’re at the end of a round or row, so you always pick up the right stitches and keep an accurate count.
- Simple crocheted scarves and hats make great handmade gifts.
- Hand-knitted baby blankets never fail to receive lots of oohs and aahs.
7. Use Large Gauge Materials
Bulky yarn is quite trendy at the moment. Using a bulky yarn with oversized knitting needles or crochet hooks makes projects fun and quick to make. For the visually impaired, the larger gauge also helps make needlework more doable. It’s easy to feel exactly where the yarn is at all times and easier to tell if a stitch has been dropped, as it will probably leave a good-sized hole.
Don’t get discouraged if you must sometimes pull out some stitches as you knit or crochet. Every needlecraft hobbyist has to do it sometime. It has less to do with being visually impaired and more to do with being human. Learning to knit in the round can also be a way of keeping control of the yarn and pattern progression.
I will mention here that simple embroidery work is not necessarily out of the question. Use more threads and a larger needle with simple embroidery stitches such as a chain stitch and french knots. No doubt, there are creative ways of making embroidery pattern lines touchable or easier to see.
8. Use Stark Color contrasts
Black and white, blue and red, or other starkly contrasting combinations of colors are easier to distinguish when either sewing or doing needlecraft. This is also true when it comes to making and using paper patterns. A white paper pattern is easier to see on dark fabric and vice versa.
This is also true for quilting patterns. Simple patterns with highly-contrasting color schemes will make the project more enjoyable and easy to handle.
- Make placemats with a simple, highly contrasting, quilted pattern.
- Doll clothes are easy to make and will thrill all the young people in your life.
9. Adjust Your Finger Placement
As a visually impaired person, you will need to use your fingers to determine how close your yarn is to the end of the knitting needle, where to begin the next embroidery stitch, or the location of buttonholes. You may need to hold fabric differently as you’re feeding it through your sewing machine to ensure an even seam. You may also need to use a few more pins to hold layers in place where your fingers can’t.
Finger placement will need to be adjusted if your impairment is new to you and your accustomed way of holding hook, needles, or fabric isn’t working. Keeping control of your project by touch instead of by sight will take some patience.
10. Organize For Success
A many-pocketed organizer for sewing tools, special containers for needles, a magnetic keeper for pins, and large-print or braille labels are some of the ways to keep your projects organized and easy to access when you need them.
Extra-large Ziplock bags are great for keeping the same color yarn in. Try wrapping embroidery thread around cardboard for easy labeling. Some spools holders are designed so that larger printed or braille labels can be easily affixed to them. Yarn organizers are also available for organizing and storing colors together for easy access.
The more organized you are, the easier your crafting projects will be. Don’t be hesitant about trying different ideas until you find what will work best for you.