The distance between the top and bottom of a printed or woven design is the pattern repeat: it can govern the suitability or practicality of the fabric for purpose, the economy or otherwise of cutting placement, the matching point and the joining marks for two or more widths.
Any pattern repeat, whether it’s a few cm or well over a metre, can be very straight forward or highly complex; and it’s this difference that defines the textile. A small pattern can be so tight that it almost reads as a weave, whilst a small motif with uneven balance or fine detail can be demanding to match or conversely, it may almost disappear, just depending on the scale and the colour contrast.
* Always look carefully at a small geometric motif at planning stage – it may well repeat in both directions, which offers many design opportunities, but it’s just as likely that it is deceiving – being even a mm ‘out’ in one direction or the other can catch you unawares at the point of joining.
* An allover pattern should ramble over so that it can be used and placed equally ramblingly, and will almost always repeat itself at least once within the width, and perhaps many times .
* Stylized patterns will always have a strict repeat that needs to be respected – as strict as the single repeated motif relative to the overall size and scale.
* Many patterns are, or contain, distinctive forms – perhaps bouquets, or vases, or circles, often on a less obviously pattern ground. These definite designs and clear repeats are relatively simple to plan and to join, the match is usually designed to be between patterns but can be halfway through. Matching within the pattern makes a perfect join more difficult, but when well done is much less obvious than the joins on plain or almost plain ground. For this reason many of the classical floral designs are designed with half patterns at the selvedge.
* Very large pattern repeats can look amazing – just the one repeat on the back of a chair, as a blind or bedcover makes a really strong statement. When the pattern repeat falls exactly where you need it, no problem, but if it falls far outside it can also be a logistical nightmare to work with. ( We recently worked with an oval design that fitted the chair seats perfectly, but when it came to fitting the outside backs, no matter how much manipulation we tried, we couldn’t avoid cutting through the turquoise and white indented edge design, so that for a small section at the base we had small white ‘teeth ‘ to deal with. We managed to make it look good, just to say that there is always some sort of balance or compromise to be made within every project.)
* Clever planning is the key to keep both pattern and budget on stream. Most benefit with a deal of pre-thought. It’s possible that just by changing the preferred heading, or dropping the fitting by a cm or so, or taking a couple of cms from the hem allowance that a huge amount of potential wastage and cost can be saved.
* Unless the given repeats fit almost perfectly to the cut lengths needed, the larger and smaller items of any project should be planned and cut together. Perhaps the pelmet or a cushion or bed valance cuts, even the box cushion gussets, could be planned between the curtain drops to minimise both wastage and cost.
* Small pattern repeats are very easy to deal with, they require barely any more fabric than that required for a plain material and the placement is relatively easy to plan. When small repeats do present a problem it’s often because they’re straightforward and it’s easy to take the eye off the ball, allowing them to run off a mm or so – perhaps because the fabric is printed slightly off grain, or if you haven’t been absolutely particular in the placement of the pattern pieces .
Refer to the pieces on matching pattern, planning cuts and preparation within the basic techniques section.