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Before winter fades . . . By the fire; Needlepoint by Design: Variations on Chinese Themes, by Maggie Lane. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 114 pp. $9.95.

The trend in home decoration going toward things Chinese, here's a timely book by Maggie Lane, an Oriental design specialist in needlepoint, which will capture the interest of stitchers.

''Needlepoint by Design'' is for the beginner as well the experienced. Directions are given for the author's method of working on unmarked canvas from charted designs.

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She suggests that one of the best ways to learn a craft is to start with something small, like a footstool cover or a pillow. Then the final product and its reward come much sooner.

Directions are given for Chinese-inspired designs all the way from bumblebees and dragons to scenes and geometrics. Central motifs and borders are interchangeable giving many possible variations.

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