In spite of that movie "The Last Married Couple in America," with its provocative subtitle, "The Endangered Species," people seem to be getting married more than ever nowadays. And the best wedding gift remains something with his and her initials combined, making it theirs alone.

One tradition that seems to have fallen premanently by the wayside, through, is the hope chest. And it's a safe bet that the 1980 bride has not had time to hemstitch her bed linens, so a present that would be appreciated would be monogrammed sheets and pillowcases.

You can get books of initials and monograms in your local needlework store or work out initials on graph paper (10 squares to the inch is a good size). Baste a piece of canvas of the same size mesh in the center of one side of pillowcase and, with four threads of cotton floss, cross stitch the initials right through the mesh and the sheet together. When the stiching is complete, draw out the canvas threads one by one, and there will be your cross stitch letters, crisp and clear, with no evidence of how you kept the small crosses so even.

Another way to do initials is to fill in a large letter with tiny flowers to make a bold silhouette. Outline the letters on thin cardboard, then cut them out and lay them on the sheet, which should be taped down to a firm, hard surface. Now trace around the cardboard letters, using a hard "H" pencil or a fine-tipped permanent marker. Finally, you can fill the whole letter with simple flowers freehand and butterfiles drawn and close together. Now stitch them, using satin stitch, French knots, bullion knots, lazy daisy, etc., in rainbows of colors -- or keep everything in classic white-on-white. Backstitch around the outline of the letter afterward to make a clear outline. b

You can also satin stitch these tiny flowers on a crewel or needlepoint pillow to go with the sheets. Make it heart shaped, and edge it with lace to match the sheets.

Q. I bought an embroidery kit of a Williamsburg sampler reproduction. The colors are very delicate. Unfortunately, the stamping on the sampler is very dark. I opened the kit and began to work on it before I realized I was going to have a problem. The stamping will show through the colors. The background is off-white. Bleaching it might help the stamping but would destroy the background. What can I do?

A. You have two alternatives: One is to trace the design onto a new piece of material and begin again. The other is to work a layer of stitching (satin and split stitch), in a neutral color, OVER the dark lines and then stitch over this in the colors of the design. When you do this, two things are important: One is that the final design will appear raised and padded, bolder than the original but still in the pastel colorings. The other is that this first layer of stitching must slant in the opposite direction from the top stitching to keep each layers separate and clearcut and the final stitching smooth and even.

Q. I'm having trouble figuring out how to make certain letters -- such as B, C, S -- that have curves. Is there any information you can give me so that I can get started on a motto I want to do for my kitchen?

A. Needlepoint is a very mathematical form of needlework with unlimited possibilities of design. The science of the computer has made it possible to turn the realism of a photograph to an easy-to-follow graph. By the graph method, any design from the colorul geometrics of a Vasarely painting to the soft shadings and contrasts of a Dutch masterpiece can be equally easy to transfer into neelepoint.

For example, try drawing a circle on a piece of graph paper with a compass. Then, with a crayon, fill in each small square along the line you have drawn You'll fnd the circle, when resolved into blocks, looks just like a square with the corners cut off. Now that you've achieved a circle, you can follow the same technique for curved letters, drawn first on graph paper. Don't worry that each block is a square and your needlepoint stitches are slanted. Treat such stitch as an identical block and the visual effect will be the same when the whole design is filled in.

Q. I purchased several needlepoint canvases with colorful designs typical of Central America while visiting those countries.

I am anxious to get started on them, but have been told that the ink the designs were made from might run. How can I be sure if such is the case and what can I do to correct it? Also, what are the pitfalls if I just went ahead and started working on them?

A. Don't start yet. Run down to the art store and buy some fixative spray in a can (one kind is call Krylon, but almost any will do if you explain why you need it). If you go ahead without the spray, then wet the finished piece to block it; the colors will bleed into the wool. You can wash them out with a cake of Ivory soap and cold water (after stretching the needlepoint square in a stretcher frame), but the colors may never be quite as fresh or brilliant as they were before.