Mattress ticking is too marvelous to stay hidden away on a bed. Museums are finally beginning to discover -- and exhibit -- wonderful designs found in the most commonplace objects -- the sort of things we look at every day and never really see. The new interior design trend of hi-tech has also brought mattress and pillow ticking out into the open and on the sofa.

I've always thought the classic ticking stripe was one of the handsomest around. And as an embroidery designer, I find that ticking makes a super background for stitchery. The stripes are the perfect width to fill in with marvelous patterns and, being parallel, they form ready-made guidelines. Ticking is tailor-made for trying out new stitches, sampler style. Make a symmetrical design by working outward from the center stripe, or fill in the spaces randomly with a riot of stitches and color. And your learning effort doesn't have to go to waste. After you've mastered the stitches, turn the completed work into a pillow, decorator style!

But if you don't have time for hand embroidery, don't despair. Ticking makes a marvelous background for machine embroidery too. I find machine embroidery fascinating to watch as it comes pouring out of the sewing machine like magic at the twist of a dial.

Frankly, however, I've seen very few applications of it that I like. Sewing machine salesmen tend to run rows of arrowheads or little duckies on everything and the effect can be uninspired and pretty tacky.

That's a shame, because, in the right application, machine embroidery can be super. I think one of the most interesting uses is on mattress ticking since rows of embroidery combine so nicely with the stripes. Experiment on some scraps of fabric ticking, using all of those clever stitches that come out of your sophisticated sewing machine (but that you haven't ever found the right use for).

Then try sewing garments -- jackets, and vest, particularly -- from ticking. Cut out the pieces and fill in the stripes with rows of machine embroidery. You can use a single stitch in a single color or make a crazy-quilt effect, using every possible pattern in every possible color. You can balance the effect of all of these rows of lacy machine stitches by sewing down ribbons, flat tapes or seam bindings as solid color stripes. Or use fine cotton threads for couching rows of bold rug wool along the ticking stripes to add texture and contrast. Then when you have the color-and-stitch combination right, assemble the pieces and admire your creation.

Q. I love to do all sorts of needlework projects, but I hate finishing -- the blocking, mounting, framing or pillow-making that's required before my creations can be displayed. So I switched to latchhooking a small rug, since it doesn't require any of those things. Now that it is completed, I find I must bind the edges of the rug canvas and sew in place. Isn't there an easier way?

A. Great news! Your local craft or fabric shop should be getting in a new product that will make those finishing chores so fast and easy that your rug will be on the floor (or wall) in no time. "Fuse 'n' Bind" from the Pellon Corp. is a non-woven rug binding, sold by the yard, that is simply ironed in place along the raw edge of your canvas.