To the Chinese, the butterfly is the symbol of happiness. So when I received a gift of a magnificent Chinese robe with butterflies and medallions and a phoenix -- symbol of the empress -- straight from Peking, I immediately set to work to make an evening bag in silk stitches, discovering all kinds of Oriental secrets as I worked.

For a rich background, instead of brocade I used suede cloth -- that wonderful American invention that looks and feels like silk velvet but is washable and durable and will never fray, and consequently needs no turnbacks and seldom requires blocking.

I put my design on the fabric with the Trace-Erase pen. This magic from the Far East -- Japan -- is a felt-tipped marker that can be erased by touching the lines with a Q-Tip dipped in cold water. Any mistakes can be erased and drawn again, which is a great boon.

You can work the design with one, two or three threads of six-stranded cotton floss, depending on your patience, eyesight or love of fine things. Working with one strand will take longer but will look magnificent, and you will find it easier to keep the stitching smooth.

In the Orient, the art of embroidery has always been equal to the art of painting, and one influences the other. The stylized representation of pine needles with little fans of straight stitches radiating from one central hole has a lovely effect and was used by both painters and embroiderers. The stitches used for the whole design are simple -- long and short, satin, straight stitches and French knots. It's the way they are used that is fascinating. For instance, the Chinese felt the design, whether painted or stitched, should be an integral part of the background, so that the veins of the statin-stitched leaves were separated to show the fabric between. The centers of the peach blossoms have a fan of stitches radiating around the circle -- worked on top of the long and short shading of the petals.

Pekinese stitch, the stitch surrounding the circle, has the most romantic history of all. Some believe it was called the "forbidden stitch" because hundreds of Chinese children were forced to do it and went blind at an early age. More probably its name came from the Forbidden City, the almost-sacred residence of the emperor of China who dwelt behind moated walls in the center of Peking.

To do the Pekinese stitch, work a line of back stitches in four threads of cotton floss. ywith a blunt needle, interlace the back stiches with real gold thread. Bring the gold thread up at the left of the line, slide the needle upward under the second stitch, slide it down under the first, slide up under the third stitch and down under the second. Continue lacing them in this way so that a broad band of loops appears on one side, just like a braid.

Make the finished butterfly into a simple evening bag with drawstrings and a tassel, perhaps with a Chinese bead to weight it down.

Q: Where can I get more information on printing on fabric with the Xerox 6500 color copier? Also, I'd like to get a photograph on canvas. Any ideas?

A: Yours is just one of many letters I have received expressing interest in printing on fabric, that marvelous new art form. To learn more about this process I suggest you write directly to the Xerox Corp., Xerox Square, Location 862, Rochester, N.Y. 14644. Address your inquiry to Al Morganstein, product marketing manager.

Needle Pix Inc., P.O. Box 11679, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 33339 will put photographs on canvas in any size up to 16 by 20 inches.

Q: Several years ago bought a piece of needlepoint canvas with the design stamped on it and the yarn to do it. But I never got around to starting it. Now I've decided that I'd like to use it to upholster a chair. I have the canvas, but how do I duplicate the design?

A: Overlay the painted design with acetate, tape it in position and, with a felt-tipped permanent marker, trace its outline. Then put a piece of white paper under the acetate to make it opauqe. Lay your canvas on top, tape it down and trace the outline on the canvas. Make sure the selveges run vertically and that the canvas is square and runs parallel to the straight a 4-inch margin all around. You can always cut off the extra canvas but you can't add! Finally, trace the pattern onto the canvas with the same permanent marker.