If you've ever wondered how fabric repeats work, this simple how-to will give you a basic understanding of the methodology. And it's fun! ANYONE can do this - you don't need to be an artist!
Case in point.
I used this activity with my son's 7th grade class 2 years ago as well as the ladies in the Berks Quilters Guild a few weeks ago. Two very, very different audiences, and both loved it and created some wonderful designs. In my son's class, some smart alecks thought they'd be funny by scribbling on the page instead of drawing. I made sure to tell those kids, "Wow - that is going to look incredible when you're done!" And those designs truly looked great. Those same kids did an about-face when they realized you can't outsmart art. A little evidence that it doesn't matter what you put down on the page!
Couple of notes before we get started:
- This method of creating repeats on paper is not my original idea. I saw it done first by Julia Rothman on Design Sponge a few years ago. Julia's is very cool!
- I created this random design on sleepy eyes way past midnight on a desk that was crammed with crap, including a coffee cup, a tea mug and a wine glass. Not ideal conditions as it was an after-afterthought. Point is: Just go for it! Don't overthink it. Don't hover over the page with nervous hesitation. Put something down. If you don't like it, try again.
- As I completed each step, I made a copy of it so that I could show each progression of this particular repeat at my Quilt Guild presentation. (Sort of like a cooking show.) Because my copier doesn't copy 100% of the page, you'll see little slivers of white borders on my pages.
- Once my paper repeat was done, I scanned it and used Illustrator to resize, color, and tile it (above).
Ready to get started?
Step 1 / Create a doodle of any sort in the center of your page. You can fill as much of the page as you like as long as you don't go over any of the edges.
Step 2 / Cut your paper in half lengthwise. Move the right side to the left so the design is now on the outsides and the center is blank. Neatly and precisely tape the two halves back together on the back.
Step 3 / Cut your paper in half widthwise this time. Move the top half to the bottom so the design is now in the four corners and the center is blank. Neatly and precisely tape the two halves back together on the back.
Step 4 / Add some design elements to the center of your page, staying away from the edges again. At any point after you have your original design element in the four corners, you can call your repeat done. If you want to add more, do so. If not, that's cool beans, too!
Step 5 / Add texture or other filler to any negative space, if you think your design needs it, but stay away from the edges. I added the criss-cross lines around the flowers.
Voila! You are done. If you were to make a bunch of copies of your page and tile them horizontally and vertically, the edges would match-up seamlessly and look like any surface or fabric design that is created in repeat.
When designing in Illustrator, I create a square or rectangle on my screen. I tend to focus my design across the top edge and down the left side first, dragging copies of those motifs to the opposing edges as I go. Then I'll go back and fill in the spaces in-between. Once the artwork is cropped to the size of the square or rectangle, all edges will tile seamlessly when it is printed onto fabric. These repeats can take a couple hours or a couple weeks - depends on a lot of variables!
To give you an idea where you can go with your repeat if you have access to Illustator (or Photoshop, I guess - I don't use PS so I don't know what its capabilities are). This is when you could scan your paper repeat drawing and vectorize it in Illustrator to create points and lines that can be manipulated and colored, as I have shown above and below. This is ridiculously fun to play around with - dropping colors in, resizing motifs, rotating stuff around, pulling bits out of bigger elements and plopping them around the background..... so. much. fun.
Below, you can see what it would look like if the motifs were smaller. This is also where you can see if you've created an unintentional pattern in the design (like the blank space in my texture), and you can correct these.
Hope this all makes sense! Have fun giving this repeat method a try! Let me know how it goes.