How To: Make a Pattern Repeat, Part 1

This post started off as a "How to Cut Your Own Stencil" and evolved into a multi- part how to with melt downs and hating on Martha Stewart, so bear with.

Many of you have asked me how I figure out repeats when I am painting a design or making a stencil.  A lot of it has been due to luck and a bizarre math gene I inherited from my father, but until recently I never truly "knew" how to make a pattern.  I just had my weird ways of figuring it out.
Let me introduce you to the right, easy way to make a repeating pattern.
Lets start with spots. Who doesn't like a good spotted pattern?
I bought this book about a year ago and I highly recommend:
It explains it all, and I just had to share.

So here is what you'll need to do a basic straight match repeat:
If you want a BIG pattern, get BIGGER paper.

Start drawing your design.  I am using graph paper because it is easier to line up when making a stencil, but if you are scanning this into a computer, go for a white background.
 Continue and leave some space around the edges:

 Now fold to find the center and make little crease marks, and add "1, 2, 3  & 4" in pencil to the four quadrants of the paper (I forgot to do this in this step so: 1 in top left, 2 in top right, 3 in bottom left, and 4 in bottom right):
 Now cut it in half horizontally. (Use a ruler to make a line if you aren't using graph paper).
Take the bottom half and put it on top. Tape to hold together:

 Now continue filling in your pattern in this space. Stay away from the side edges though:
 Now cut in half vertically, switch-a-roo & tape together:
(you should have clockwise from top left in this order 4,3,1,2)
 Fill her in, leaving space at the top and bottom:
 Now untape.  
Arrange in the following order clockwise from top left: 2,1,3,4
(you can faintly see the pencil number in the photo below)
You will have a blank space in the center.  Finish the design:
 That is it!  
You can now rearrange it back to the layout ad scan it into a computer, trace it or do what you'd like with it.

In my case I was making a stencil, and I didn't wan't to cut all those half circles on the edges, so here is how I dealt with it.

I cut around the edges of the circles along the bottom keeping them whole. I then taped them directly to the top where they matched up.
I then did the same thing to the right side:

and taped them to the left side:
The result was a complete pattern with no broken "dots":

 I didn't have any clear mylar on hand so I had to use what I found at the big chain "Arts & Crafts" store.  I will refrain from cursing Martha & her crappy blue stencil blanks, but screw it...  I suffered through misery with her shit... it was terrible, do NOT recommend.  It was so tight curled that it was impossible to lay flat and even with tape it kept popping up.
Note: Always buy FLAT CLEAR stencil mylar.

This part will be brief since I have to get better mylar to finish this.

Trace your pattern:
Hey did I mention the stencil blank was BLUE? How the heck am I suppose to trace through this?????
It was like driving in the fog after a few cocktails.
Yeah it is a pretty color, but function over aesthetics please.  Come on Martha, fix this please!


At this point I am just annoyed, pissy and hating.

I broke out my heated stencil cutter and a piece of glass to cut on, and had at it until the curling plastic decided to pop up and curl...

After cutting about 1/5th of it I decided to do a test run:
The plastic buckled right when I went to apply paint and it smudged.  
At this point I am DONE, my nerves are shot and Martha's crap is going back to Michael's. 

I am going to be painting this big white slipcover, so there is NO WAY 
I can use that stuff and not commit crimes:

So, I will be back with better stuff and "How to for Drop Repeats" next.

Peace out and a big glass of wine x3.









6 comments:

Emily McKenna said...

This post is great. I never put much thought into making repeating patterns...i just figured it required a computer program or something...this opens up my diy world tremendously. Also...never knew there was a stencil cutter like that. I learned so much.

I hate when projects hit a wall like that. Is there nothing you can do to flatten the mylar? Iron it between some sheets or something? At least you got a good post out of it!

Thanks for the info...I will be sketching ideas for the rest of the night!

Dina @ Honey + Fitz said...

Awesome post! I always get hung up on repeats like this and I can totally apply this quadrant cutting and taping technique in Photohop. Thank you!!

Lesley Grcich said...

You are hysterical!!! I love to read your commentary and how real your keeping it. Not sure I have the patience to do all the cutting and taping to make the stencil. I think I might be better off letting the 2 year old have at it. Look forward to seeing the finished product. BTW, love your recommendation of Wave Machine. My 15 year old thinks I am really cool and isn't that what it's all about.

Cindy Flournoy said...

Poor you, been there, done that...you choose the best solution...A glass of Wine and try again tomorrow...It will be wonderful in the end!

Fletcher @ High Cotton Style said...

Would be great for spoonflower! Good tutorial!

mrs. V | Chez V said...

where have you been all my life?! how did I not know about this book and this method? I have been fumbling through pattern repeats by total feel, which for me is more parts wine, less parts math. This will be a life saver! I hear you on the rolled mylar - really rolled anything. How about some flat contact paper sheets, Martha?! Ones that I can run through my printer. 'nuff said. thanks for sharing!

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