Scale is a very interesting thing. A most ordinary design takes on a whole new dimension -- figuratively as well as literally -- when the scale is altered.
For example, some of those marvelous Scandinavian fabrics use prints in the very simplest motifs: a square, circle or a flower in basic line. It's the giant scale that makes it so interesting.
If the fabric were reduced photographically, you'd wonder why you ever liked such an "ordinary" apron print. And, of course, it works both ways; making something smaller than ordinary also gives a new effect.
The very same thing can happen with embroidery designs when you change the scale. Take the lazy-daisy stitch, for example. If you are at all serious about embroidery, you are probably turning up your nose as you read this.
Lazy-daisy? That's what we all did as children, putting the awful things on tea towels and dresser scarves, all ghastly pink with yellow French knots. Yes, they're boring and mediocre that way. But reduce them in both scale and spacing and the effect can be lovely. Dots and daisies can be wonderful and very contemporary when done in one color and/or worked into a very tightly packed area in which the French knots fill up the empty spaces.
Or go to the opposite extreme and experiment with giant lazy-daisies worked with thick wool yarn. I've seen some lovely examples of this done on felt jackets or linen bedspreads. In very bright colors, it takes on a Mexican folkloric flavor. Done monochromatically (such as white on dark blue) it looks very Scandinavian. Sometimes the size of your thread determines the scale automatically.
And the nice thing about the lazy-daisy stitch is that you can place pins in the position you want for each flower, work French-knot centers surrounded by lazy-daisy, and the stitch makes the design for you. No need to draw a design, or mess about with transfers or carbon paper. Scatter your daisies freely; the position of each one will give you the placing for the next.
Q. After working for weeks on a crewel embroidery wall hanging, I find I must cut out one huge section of long and short stitches. What's the quickest way to go about it?
A. Get a pair of curved scissors and cut through all the close stitches on the right side, where the stitches are longer and easier to cut. (The curved scissors will prevent any horrifying snips into your backgroud fabric.) It's much easier to unpick if the whole thing is stretched taut in a frame, since you can scratch away at the cut stitches first on the underside, then on the front, to loosen them quickly. With a mistake in needlepoint, you would attack the stitches on the reverse side, where the longer stitches are easier to cut. In that case, too, it's easier to do if your work is in a frame.
Q. I heard someone talking about a special needlepoint canvas called trame. I love doing needlepoint and am always looking around for new materials, but I've never heard of a trame canvas.
A. Trame needlework canvases are getting scarcer than hen's teeth, but they are well worth the extra dollars if you can find them. The design on trame canvas comes with a strand of the correct color of wool laid across the canvas threads. Not only does this make it simple to identify the color to use, but this strand helps to completely cover the canvas and to fill out the stitches worked over it. You can choose to combine your needlepoint stitches with petit point for fine shading and detail. Many of the trame canvases today come from Dritz Art Needlework Co. and are patterned after famous paintings.