The most fun about traveling is discovering local color -- something completely different from the way things are back home. The next best thing to being there is to bring a bit of the place back with you.
One of the easiest ways of doing that is with a few well-chosen words added to your stitchery. Our grandmothers know how effective that was when they stitched verses into their samplers. The words can be the whole design with a few small illustrations around the border and you can stitch them in cross stitch by counting the letters out from a graph. Get some of that fabulous Aida cloth, the kind with even mesh, and, with three strands of cotton floss, cross stitch your letters on to the plain fabric.
In Los Angeles, where gardens bloom all year round and every house on Sunset Boulevard looks like a little bit of paradise, the following verse is appropriate. Surrounded with delightful cross-stitched flowers, you can imagine it fitting everywhere, the perfect gift for your gardening friends: Great God of little things Look upon my labours Make my little garden A little better than my neighbor's!
In Aspen, where throngs of skiers arrive during the winter, and almost as many visitors fill the town in summer for the music festival, houses are apt to be overflowing. I found this in my bedroom: GUEST You are welcome here Be at your ease Get up when ready Go to bed when you please. Happy to share with you Such as we've got The leaks in the roof The soup in the pot. You don't have to thank us Or laugh at our jokes Sit deep and come often You're one of the folks.
At the Grand Canyon, where I was awed by the scope of nature, in the local store was a picture of a pine tree with a sunset behind it and the uplifting suggestion: Make every day a masterpiece.
In Arizona, riding in gardens of cactus under a sky of postcard blue, you can imagine yourself part of the Old West. Cowboys have always had down-to-earth advice to offer, and I often find myself repeating one of their bits of wisdom: Stay happy, my friend, hang easy and loose Gettin' rattlesnake-riled is just no use So here is a slogan that's sure hard to match There ain't no use itchin' unless you can scratch!
And, finally, returning to New York via Denver, a friend gave me a saying which my husband felt was particularly appropriate for me. So I immediately blocked it out on graph paper and surrounded the words with simple motifs -- a four-leaf clover, a black cat, a white horse, a horseshoe . . . . (you'll see why in a minute). The slogan read: No amount of planning Can ever replace dumb luck!
Q. In a needlepoint book I saw a reference to a needlework form called Libra-point, which is being done in Florida. Could you explain?
A. "Point" means "stitch" in French, and so the word "needlepoint" means a stitch canvas with the look of woven tapestry. The stitch that gives this lovely, smooth effect is called "tent stitch". The different sizes are "petitpoint," "demipoint" and "grosspoint" (little, medium and large, depending on the scale of the canvas mesh).
Back in the '60s I designed some needlepoint kneelers for St. Mark's Church in New Canaan, Conn., with all kinds of stitches -- buttonhole, chain, Gobelin and French knots -- combined with tent stitch. I thought I had discovered a whole new thing until I found an 18th century example in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
So Libra-point is one of those new-old techniques in which you combine stitches on canvas. "Libra" means "free" and is another way of saying "any thing goes." Let your needle do the experimenting. Try all kinds of stitches.
Q. I just finished some cross stitch placemats and napkins, and I'm a little distressed. The fronts are fine but the backs are a mess. What did I do wrong?
A. Next time be sure to work your cross stitch in rows as much as you can. This way you can take a straight repeating stitch on the reverse side. If you do have to jump, conceal your stitches on the background material by weaving them in. However, it is best not to jump from one place to another to avoid the backside scramble.