Creating patterns for fabric

The magic of patterns. I've been a bit obsessed with creating my own patterns using drawings after I picked up this book at the Design Museum called Designing Patterns by Lotta Kühlhorn. It's as much delicious inspiration as stories about her iconic patterns and tutorials on how to make your own.

She sets out a few basics that will help when you, like me, go crazy and potato stamp everything in sight. Stamps, blocks and potatoes at the ready? Here are the basics for creating patterns for fabric. 

Simple forms to create patterns

This is the simplest way to make a pattern with one basic shape repeated in a pretty grid-like manor. This is called a SIDE REPEAT.

If you want to switch it up a bit, try introducing a second shape to fit in the blank spaces in between.

Instead of stamping in straight lines, try staggering the basic shapes height wise. This is called a DROP REPEAT. You can also stagger the shapes sideways to create a similar but different effect.

When printing fabric, don't forget to have a portion of the design running off the side of the material. Even when printing a pattern on a small piece of fabric, this will give the impression that it was cut from a much larger piece. (And whatever you do, do not drop your paintbrush while you're printing like I did!)

Have you ever tried to print your own fabric? What did you make with it?

Potato stamping everything in sight

Think potato stamping is only for reception kids? No way. Potatoes are not only cheap but they make great stamps for block printing fabric. The only downside I can possibly think of about using them is that they really are only one-time-use so you'd better do all your stamping in one go because that spud isn't going to be looking so hot by tomorrow.

Tips for making the perfect potato stamp:

  • Choose the right potato. The best ones for this are nice and round, thick in the middle
  • Use the right tool. X-Acto knives, box cutters and craft scalpels work really well for this
  • Do some test prints first, just to get the water out of the potato (they're rather juice, believe it or not)
  • Clean your stamp as you go to avoid build up with paper towels

A humble potato goes a long way. I printed tea towels, a few metres of plain calico and some nicer fabric that turned into piped cushions and zipper pouches.

How to make stamps

I'm quite bad at hoarding craft materials until I find the perfect thing to do with them. Hence why I've carried around a speeball rubber pad from Canada to Hungary (twice) and to England for the past three years hoping that one day I would decide what to carve into it and finally make some use out of it. That day came this week after I saw this pin from poppy talk.

The simple shapes were a definitely draw, so I decided to finally cut up my pink pad and gouge into it with my carver. I skipped the striped one and embellished the house. Lessons learnt: take your time. Even the slightest knick can screw up the shape. Patience, patience, patience.

The process: