(this is a 30 count hand dyed linen by Weeks Dye Works in my hoop)
A good light placed above your work or above your shoulder
A hoop. If you're not a hooper, become a hooper! (I never used to use a hoop until I found this sweet little wooden hoop in an antique shop...i love it as there are no little metal screws to get my threads hung up on and it just has a nice lightweight feel to it.)
White sheet of paper
Place your black linen in a hoop, making sure your linen is drum tight. The tautness of the linen in the hoop will help separate the threads, making it much easier to see. Place a white sheet of paper on your lap, the white will show through the holes in the linen and WOW does this help! You will need a good light source above your work to allow the light to show through the linen onto the white paper.
Oooppss, forgot one more thing...reading glasses or a magnifier! There is no need to strain the eyes ladies, they allow me to stitch for more minutes (or hours) at a time without eye strain & the stitching goes so much faster when you can see what your a stitchin'!!
With thy Needle & Thread,