Patterns and Pattern Families

Our Grid Journey produced a ton of new step-outs. Variations of patterns are endless!

The questions came up:

  • when is it a new pattern
  • when is it a variation
  • and when does this variation require a new step-out?

A pattern consists of different shapes. One, two or three different shapes put together in a particular way creates a new shape. Repeating that shape in an specific manner, creates a pattern.

Heart shape

A: The heart is the shape

B: The shape is repeated and creates a pattern

C: The shape is rotated and repeated. This creates a different pattern.

D: This shows how the pattern C is repeated.

I would refer to the pattern C as a base pattern. By adding more shapes or other embellishments, other patterns can be produced.

Heart with Spiral

Now we did exactly the same, but we added a spiral – creating a new pattern from the base pattern.

A: The heart and spiral combination is now the Foundation of the pattern. The heart and spiral being the root of the family tree.

B: The Foundation repeated linear creates the ribbon style pattern.

C: Rotated and repeated creates another branch of the family tree.

D: This branch of the family tree is repeated.

To summarise so far:

  • We have different shapes: Line, waved line, circle, heart, spiral, rice corn, drop …..
  • By arranging and combining these shapes in a particular manner, we create the base pattern (the root system of the family tree).
  • Modifying the base pattern by adding another shape (they get married now), we create a family.
  • This family is going to have kids. LOT’S of kids! Creating cousins, aunts and uncles .. and when cousins get married, it really becomes complicated .. just like in real life ..hahaha..

But when is it a VARIATION of a pattern?

  • Replacing one shape with another
  • Adding another shape to the existing combination
  • Adding embellishments, like auras, striping, fill etc

When should a variation have it’s own step-out?

  • Whenever a new tangler cannot figure out how the variation is drawn, the pattern requires it’s own step-out.

When should a variation have it’s own name?

  • As soon as a separate step-out is required
  • If the pattern cannot be clearly identified as being a variation of the same pattern.

What should be done about the name of variation step-out?

  • In order to allocate the pattern to it’s family, the family name of the pattern should come first, then an additional portion added. This way the pattern variation will appear in an alphabetical listing within the family.
    • Smith John
    • Smith Mary
    • Smith Peter

Well, these are MY thoughts on the subject on a rainy Sunday morning 🙂

I would love to hear you views!



6 thoughts on “Patterns and Pattern Families

  • June 5, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    Thank you so much – an enormous amount of work has gone into analysing patterns & explaining it so clearly, it certainly gives me a bench mark for future categorisation of patterns.

  • June 5, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    I love the variation on the heart. I started a project with a circle of hearts and now I know how to fill a portion of the heart.


  • June 5, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    This explination makes slot of sense. I now envision family trees of patterns.mwould be a cool visual way to arrange them.m

  • June 6, 2016 at 5:56 am

    Neat and tidy explanation clear, concise and to the point. I get it and see how it works. Genious! Well done

  • Pingback:Monday Links to Tangles, Tutorials and Giveaways #zentangle #Giveaways #ArtJournal | Life Imitates Doodles

  • September 23, 2016 at 9:17 pm

    I agree with your idea about sorting patterns. It is the same principal as filing in an office or placing books in a library.

    I have several patterns in my my collection for which I’m trying to locate the names. Most of them I collected via a “screen capture” on my computer or saved on Pinterest. For some, I have the creator’s name, but not the name of the pattern. I’ve been searching for them on your site. So it’s great to have an index by author! Ironically, one of them was this “Hearts with spirals” pattern that you used as an example here!

    I print my collected patterns “4-up” on an 8.5X11 page of card stock, then cut them into cards that I carry around with me in my Zentangle bag until I’ve learned to draw the pattern. I don’t try to learn every one I see — just the ones that most appeal to me. I tend to like flowy, art nouveau type patterns best.


Leave a Reply

Skip to toolbar