Now that Labor Day is behind us and the summer travelers are home, you're no doubt wistfully remembering that recent vacation. One way to relive your travels is to work a map of them -- a souvenir that you can hang on your wall and "visit" all year round.
You can work your map in needlepoint or crewelpoint. Or it would look marvelous with outline or details stitched onto an interesting background fabric. It's ideal for tiny counted cross stitch; you could do it in quilting or, for something novel and elegant, entirely in blackwork. And instead of your vacation spot, you could stitch a map of your home city or state.
Whether you're planning a map of your travels or your state, first get hold of an atlas or road map of the area, some tracing paper or acetate (that clear, glasslike paper available in art-supply stores) and a permanent, felt-tipped marker. Trace the outline of the area onto your paper with the marker and don't forget to mark in the main roads, rivers, lakes and other points of interest.
Then buy some postcards of the area's landmarks and trace them onto position on your paper. (In a map I designed of our favorite summer spot, Nantucket, I included sailboats, seagulls, some of the island's native animals and even a sprouting whale.) Finally, add in those landmarks that are special to you -- your own house, say, with its address on a tiny mailbox.
To transfer your design, fold the canvas in four, fold the paper in four, lay your canvas over the paper and place a piece of white paper behind the acetate or tracing paper so the black lines stand out clearly. Make sure the corners and folds of both canvas and tracing paper square up (if you wish, you could mark the folds of each with straight lines as a guide). Trace the outlines of the design onto your canvas with the black marker, and instead of painting in the details, just crayon in the colors on the paper pattern to follow as you work.
If you're working in counted cross stitch on canvas, work out your design on graph paper, crayon in your different colors and landmarks, and just count the colors on your canvas, stitch by stitch.
Now take needle in hand and begin stitching in your little landmarks first, working a forest of tiny trees, say, in leaf stitch and buildings in raised stitches. Because it's boring to do huge areas of flat color, work the sea or other bodies of water in gobelin wave stitches or any other gobelin stitch for a tapestry effect. (Encroaching gobelin would be lovely because it would look almost like fabric.)
Work your compass quite large in fishbone stitch, and underneath it, stitch in the name of the area. If you're doing a state map, a nice finishing touch would be to replace the compass with your state bird, perhaps combined nicely with your state flower.
You could quilt a giant map by appliqueing simple silhouettes of the geography and the points of interest onto background fabric. Or how about transferring photos of the area to fabric? Karee Skarsten, one of the winners of the U.S. Historical Society's Great Quilt Contest (which chose a winning quilt from each state) drove around her home town of Buffalo, N.Y., stopping every five miles to take a snapshot. After working her quilt in large pieced patches (one gray-green to represent the industrial section of town; another pink to represent an area with lots of pink flamingos), she placed here photos in the appropriate spots and transferred them onto the fabric through a special photosensitizing technique. The result was not only a whimsical travelogue, but also an environmental statement of her home turf.