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Pattern Magic

Pattern magic

My inspiration this week came from an old craft book I was about to throw away, and yet one final flick through it revealed a material I would never have thought to look for. Inside was a clothing pattern, normally printed on a lightweight paper, and used for cutting out the fabric pieces needed for garment making. These are usually quite big, A2 or larger, and are covered in fascinating crisscross lines, dotted lines, number and letters. They are in themselves beautiful as abstract artworks, and I suggest looking out for them in second hand shops.

I started thinking about how these reminded me of bird’s eye view’s of cities, or the orbits of planets, stars, or asteroids. So I have created two ideas below which will help you and the kids recycle some of your own old clothing patterns.

City planning

Start with a piece of pattern paper and pens or pencils, whatever you prefer. Definitely get googling with the kids, have a look at city planning, or urban planning, and you will see how the various shapes and textures of the city come together to form a whole. Parks, stadiums, rivers or lakes, densely packed buildings, and sprawling suburbs are just some of the things to map in.

Encourage your children to take cues from the pattern’s lines, they can be the roads, so start with the biggest details first, the stadium, large parks or gardens, and pop those in the big gaps. Then dig out your browns, greys, and blacks to map in buildings, train stations, or industrial areas.

Finish up with some backyards, and more green spaces. This activity can be a great one to start a dialogue around future cities, and sustainability.


For this one you will once again need some colouring pens or pencils, and I recommend some extra scrap white paper, glue and pencil. I began my placing in some big suns or stars with yellows, oranges and reds, and also some bright white stars with a light blue. Try place these on the lines so that it looks like we are mapping the movements of these space objects. I also put in a meteorite with a nice red tail.

The scrap paper can be for a few larger elements, I made Earth and a satellite. Colour in lightly the background (avoiding your drawings) with a black or dark blue pencil.

Make sure your kids aren’t getting too bogged down in this, a light shade is all you need as you don’t want your orbit lines to disappear.

Now cut out and glue down your extra objects over the top of the picture, these will stand out the most. 

Now that is 2 x fantastic looking art works! I so LOVE this idea – using such basic limited resources, with children really going to town (literally) with their ideas.

If you can only get your hands on one or two patterns – photocopy sections of it, so children can then select which piece they would like to work with, and then keep your extras for other fun collage projects.

Let us know what you think of this idea in the comments below – or perhaps you have another idea for working with old patterns?

Until next time!

Tracy XX

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