I’m finishing up my block printing basics series today talking about 10 common pattern repeats for fabric.
We’ll get into what a print repeat is and why they’re important when you’re block printing. Designing fabric can get really complicated really fast. The cool thing about block printing is that making block print repeats is really straightforward. Most of the time your best tools are no fancier than a ruler and your own two eyes.
Let me break down the options for you so you can get on to making your own fabric!
What is a pattern repeat?
First things first: what is a pattern repeat?
Whatever design is on a fabric, a pattern repeat is the vertical and horizontal distance to the next pattern.
Repeats can be teeny-tiny (think a houndstooth plaid)
or gigantic (think Marimekko prints or some of the large floral Ankara prints).
For block printing, the size of your print repeat can be no smaller than the size of the stamp that you’re using.
You can space block printing impressions out for larger prints or combine them with other stamps for more complicated designs.
For block printing, simple pattern repeats are really effective. Here are several of my favorites. And if you have your block printing supplies all handy, you’ve carved your own block print stamp and understand how to block print fabric, this is the next step in creating block printed textiles you can really be proud to use in your sewing.
10 common pattern repeats for fabric
The simplest block print repeat is a block design. Literally, just line up your prints in vertical and horizontal rows. It’s like graph paper!
You can eyeball your rows, or you can use a ruler for extra precision.
For diamond repeats, ink and press your block print stamps in striped rows that intersect on an angle. With this kind of repeat, you definitely want to reach for your ruler.
This one is with a very simple little border stamp I carved from some scrap rubber. It’s proof-positive to me that the best designs are often the simplest.
Dots might be the one of the most classic print repeats out there. We’ve all seen polka dots, but a dot design repeat can be made with pretty much any small motif.
“Dots” only need to be spaced out in rows. They can be on an even grid design (like dot paper) or off-set like typical polka dots are. Dots are great little filler designs if you’re putting together a collection of fabric prints. Dots go with just about everything!
Brick patterns are things we often see in houses, but they’re common in fabric design repeats too.
To make a brick block print repeat, make 1 horizontal row of impressions with your stamp.
Make a second horizontal row below the first, but start printing in the vertical middle of the first row. I added the lines so it’s a little easier to see the repeat on this vintage scissors print.
5. Half-drop repeat
Half-drop pattern repeats are the vertical version of brick patterns. To make one, first make a vertical row of stamp impressions.
Start your next vertical row half-way down the design from where you started the first row. Super simple, and half-drop repeats can be really dramatic!
Read on for all the stripes, directional prints, and the dangers of the random…
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.