Wood block printing patterns

Before you start printing any pattern, whether repeat or random, you'll need to plan out what you’d like to do on a piece of paper or test fabric first.

An easy way to start is to divide up your space into a grid, either by folding and ironing the paper/ fabric or using tape measure and masking tape. This will allow you to get the positioning and balance of motifs right.

Block size and colour:
Think about a theme and a mix of block sizes. Using 3 or 4 blocks will keep it interesting but not over complicated. A variety of sizes and shapes in a single colour can also work well. Use a colour wheel to work out which colours could look good together.

paisley block print

Repeat pattern options:
The basic options are block and half-drop. Block repeats are based on a square, with the same motif at the corners and any motif which appears on the left edge of the square, needs to repeat on the right edge. The same applies to the top and bottom of the square.

Your motifs can be all the same way up or rotated (45, 90 or 180 degrees).

A half-drop repeat is similar to a block repeat but the motif you have in the corners of your square also appears half way across and half way down the square i.e in the centre. What you end up with is motifs in a diagonal line. Here is an example:

half-drop repeat

Tile block patterns are a whole 'square' in themselves. They need to be printed in  the centre of your fabric and worked outwards.

tile block print

Random patterns and spacing:
Random patterns are not necessarily easier than repeats. This is because you still need to find a balance between the shapes and colours. You can either start in one corner with a group of motifs OR do one motif all over and then fill in the gaps.

Think how about much space between the motifs and how much background fabric you’ll see. Overlapping is also an option.

rabbit tea towel block print

If you want to do a border, print it first, then fill in the centre of the fabric. Calculate the length of your border, and work out how many motif repeats you can fit in. Masking tape can help finish corners neatly.