Fabric designs : 25 types of commonly used Pattern Repeats

The job of a textile designer is so fascinating – ideating and creating beautiful prints and patterns on fabrics all day long. After all Textile design is  the art of designing those prints and patterns on fabrics. A textile designer creates patterns keeping in mind current trends, style specifications, motifs, their own drawings, colours as well as the technical and ethical and cultural considerations and then communicate it via the medium of textiles.

But how do they arrange these patterns?. It is the Innovative and creative way of arranging the prints and patterns that form the crux of textile design. How do they get it right everytime? Are they randomly placed or are they the result of deliberate planning? As a layman How can I decipher these prints and patterns in a language I can understand. These are all questions that came to me when I was writing about the different kinds of ( about 80+) fabric patterns.

First and foremost there are many industry standards that these patterns should adhere to. Then there are considerations like the use of the fabric (whether it is apparel fabric, furnishing textile etc) and type of the fabric itself ( whether it is woven or knitted etc). Then finally comes the task of arranging the motifs.

In all patterns and prints on textile, you will find there is a repeat – ie the identical or dissimilar motifs are arranged with horizontal or vertical distance between them in a repeated manner. There are infinite ways of arranging these repeats on the fabric – but some basic layouts are commonly used individually or collectively to form the patterns that you see on fabrics

25 classifications of patterns in textile designs according to the arrangement of motifs in the pattern

Allover layout (Overall)
textile design types
Allover basically means covering the whole extent or surface. This is  a layout with motifs  distributed all over the fabric – Here the motifs are randomly placed with regular or irregular spacing between them, but usually very close to each other and facing different directions

Block Repeat

(other names are Basic repeat, Full drop repeat, Square Repeat,   Straight-across repeat, straight repeat)

fabric design

In this type of repeat, the motifs are placed directly on a horizontal line to the left or right of the original motif. ie they are laid up and down and/or side to side. It is the most simple layout; when complete it looks as if the motifs are stacked in an imaginary grid

Tossed layout

(Other names random layout or irregular pattern layout)

textile designs types

In this layout the motifs are scattered randomly; there is no symmetry or any formal arrangement to the motifs;  the motifs are placed in a repeating fashion but without a specific plan or calculation.
Border layout
fabric design
This is designed so that the motifs are placed on the edge of the fabric
Brick Layout
This is a layout in which every second row is placed halfway to the front – it looks like the way bricks are laid out on the brick wall. ( Sometimes called Half brick layout as well)
Half drop repeat layout
fabric design layouts
This is a very popular layout in fabric pattern design. In this, the motif is repeated vertically such that the motif on the  next column is placed down half of the length of the motif above it ie motif is repeated halfway down the side in the vertical direction. The end result is a pattern that steps downwards each row. In a half drop layout, the repeat can be said to be staggered vertically or horizontally
Diamond layout
In this motifs are placed in a pattern resembling a diamond shape
Striped layout
fabric design classifications
In this layout motifs are arranged in a line across the fabric; it could be vertical, horizontal or diagonal
Check layout
The motifs are placed so that  the whole pattern looks like a plaid / check design
Turnover layout
fabric design layouts
This is a pattern in which the motifs are flipped horizontally or vertically

Composite repeat 

textile design

This is a repeat of patterns with two or more symmetrical motifs in one pattern – these motifs are mirrored or reversed or rotated to create new designs. A composite overlay refers to the pattern formed when  two or more motifs are placed on top of each other. New motifs are created as a result of this combination or superimposition and the new colour  which results from this creates new designs.
This refers to patterns in which the motif and the background reverse in colour- a two colour symmetrical patterns.
These are small scale intricate multi coloured patterns formed by interlocking geometric shapes

This pattern has motifs/elements/threads which overlap – this results in a different colour than the original where they intersect. You can find this on tartan patterns

This is a layout with small motifs repeated all over the fabric in a block repeat layout.
Non-directional layout
(Un-directional pattern)
This is a layout which results in the pattern looking the same from any direction
pattern layout in textile design
This is a layout in which the pattern has a distinct top and bottom – you would get a good view only from one direction. Same as One-way Layout; the motifs will all be facing one single direction
Two-directional Pattern
In this kind of layout you will find that the motifs face two different directions. Similar to Two-way Layout ; In this half the motifs face an opposite direction, for example, up and down.
Four-way Layout
pattern repeats in textile design
In this layout the motifs are placed so that they face all four directions
Positive-Negative layout
In this, the motif ( positive) and the background (negative area) have identical shapes or atleast they look like shapes not just a background and the motif
Freize pattern layout 
A frieze pattern is an infinite strip with a repeating pattern. This pattern repeats in only one direction and is usually used as a border design
Gradation pattern
pattern repeat
This pattern type has motifs of different sizes and/or shades of colours
Interlocking Pattern
In this layout the motifs are linked together or connected to each other in someway or the other
repeats in fabric designs

This is a layout in which the motifs are placed close together

Asymmetrical layout 

pattern repeat layouts for fabric designs

This is a layout in which you will not find any symmetry in the placement of motifs or the motifs themselves – no rhyme or reason why they are arranged the way they are but can be as equally captivating as any carefully planned motif placements

Fabric Designers do not consider these layouts in isolation – they are most of the time overlapped – a single pattern can have many of these elements in it.

Now that I know some of these names and where they are used, next time some one asks me what pattern I have made with my sewing or painting I suppose I will sprout high jargon like “This is a Two directional turnover layout with foulard pattern” or such. Hope you will too.

Must reads if you really want to learn more on fabric design :

Repeat Patterns: a manual for designers, artists and architects, by Peter Phillips and Gillian Bunce.

Pattern Design By Lewis F. Day.


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