Tutorial: Drawing a rectangular (not square!) repeat of diagonal stripes in Adobe Illustrator

Recently, when creating coordinating patterns for my Maypole fabric collection, I was stumped how to make a repeat with diagonal stripes on a rectangular tile. There are many tutorials online on how to do this for a square tile. But I prefer to make my tiles in the dimensions of the Spoonflower preview of 21 by 18 inches. I eventually figured out a way to achieve this. If you’re a “Spoonflower designer” and ever want to make a diagonal stripe design, or want to use a rectangular tile shape for other reasons, then this may be useful to you. Any CS version should suffice for this, as the functions I’m using are quite basic. (Update: When I wrote this, I didn’t realize that any dimensions/format can be uploaded to Spoonflower. It is therefore not necessary to upload a rectangular tile.)

I will show you how to make the easiest version of diagonal stripes, using a single colour only. With my method, I find that the more colours are used, the more complex the process (I will touch on that at the bottom though).

1. Set up the artboard & make reference points

Create a new document, measuring 21” in width and 18” in height.

Go to “View –> Show Grid”.

Then go to “Illustrator –> Preferences –> Guides & Grid”. Here I chose “Gridline every 0.3 inches” and “Subdivisions: 8”. Yours can be different, but I’d stick with this if you want to follow along better.

Go to “View –> Snap to Point”. Make sure “Snap to Grid” is unchecked.

Starting at the bottom left corner of the document, zoom all the way in and use the ellipse tool to draw a dot with fill only. Centre the dot exactly over a grid intersection outside the document margins; I chose to place it 1 horizontal grid line down and 1 vertical grid line to the right of the bottom left corner of the document. [It is important that our first stripe overlaps with 2 opposite corners of the artboard to ensure a perfect repeat.] Then, copy the dot over to the intersection of the 1st vertical line to the left and the first horizontal line above the corner. The dots will serve as reference points in a moment.

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2. Copy reference points to the next “tile”

Select both dots, then go to “Object –> Transform –> Move”. Enter 21 for the horizontal and 18 for the vertical values, and click into the “distance” field for the value to adjust. Click COPY. You will now see the copied dots kitty-corner from the original dots.

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3. Create diagonal stripe shape

Uncheck “Snap to Point” and check “Snap to Grid”.

Select the line tool and connect the dots with diagonal lines originating from and ending in the centres of each dot.

Now uncheck “Snap to Grid” and check “Snap to Point”.

Shift-select each end of the lines and extend them further beyond the document margins. It is crucial to hold“shift” while dragging to keep the lines in the same positions, but the exact length of each line is not important. Repeat this at the opposite corner of the document.

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Close the shape with the pen tool to form a diagonal rectangle. Delete the dots. Remove the stroke and fill with a colour. Go to “View –> Hide Grid” for easier viewing. You now have one diagonal stripe that needs to be evenly copied across the page.

4. Copy the shape

Select the stripe and go to “Object –> Transform –> Move”. Enter 0 for the horizontal and 18 for the vertical, click into the “distance” field, then click COPY. Repeat this procedure entering 21 for the horizontal and 0 for the vertical. You now have 3 diagonals intersecting the margins at the correct places.

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5. Use the Blend Tool to fill your tile

Select the diagonal in the centre and one of the two on the corners. Go to “Object –> Blend –> Blend Options”. Set the Spacing to “Specified Steps” and enter 68. [I determined this number by playing around with different values to see how many stripes fit between the two existing ones, spaced out the way I want. You could enter a lower number to get fewer stripes that are more spaced out.]

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Click OK. Go to “Object –> Blend –> Make”. This is what you’ll see:

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If you’re not happy with the spacing, undo the action and redo step 5 with a different number.

6. Expand & Ungroup your stripes

To proceed, click “Object –> Expand” with object and fill checked off:

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Then go straight to “Object –> Ungroup”. You now have individual stripes.

7. Repeat

Select the centre stripe again and repeat steps 5 and 6. You now have evenly spaced diagonals all across the artboard:

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If you’d like a different background colour, make a rectangle, colour it and place it in the back (“Object –> Arrange –> Send to back”).

8. Testing your tile

To test whether the stripes form a perfect repeat pattern, you need to duplicate this “tile” and line them up. Make a rectangle measuring 21” in width and 18” in height. With the rectangle selected, go to the Align toolbar and click the “Horizonal Align” and “Vertical Align” buttons. Select “Align to Artboard”.

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Make sure that the rectangle is stacked at the top. Select everything on the artboard. Go to “Object –> Clipping Mask –> Make”. This is what you’ll get:

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Select the “tile” and go to “Object –> Transform –> Move” as you did earlier on. Enter 21 for the horizontal and 0 for the vertical and COPY, then select both tiles and copy them again downwards with values 0 (horizontal) and -18 (vertical). You will now see whether or not your repeat is seamless. Zoom in and carefully check the joint edges shared by the 4 tiles. Sometimes, even when the repeat is perfect, a line shows up that seems like you made a mistake, but when you zoom in closer, the lines disappears. If your pattern forms a ‘broken’ repeat, you may want to start over, make that first diagonal stripe, and make sure that it repeats seamlessly – then the remaining ones will do as well.

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The task is completed! You have made a simple seamless pattern with diagonal stripes.

For a multi-coloured diagonal stripe pattern, the process gets more complex: unless the colours of your lines are supposed to be randomly laid out, the trick lies in figuring out the number of “steps” when using the Blend tool in order for the colours to repeat in a certain sequence, such as a rainbow. At this point, the best advice I can give is to experiment. In the example above, 68 steps with the Blend tool works for repeating 8 colours, like in my Rainbow Stripes fabric pattern:

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I hope you learned something new – if not, perhaps you have some tricks to share on how to make diagonal stripe repeat patterns for rectangular tiles!

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‘Veganish’ Design made the Top 10 of Magic Show Contest!?

When loading Spoonflower’s weekly top 10 page for their ‘magic show’ contest, I was shocked to see my name in the pool! Of course I’m always very grateful to make it to the top 10, and it was no likely occurrence with 120 contestants in this one (featuring many stunning designs). But I’m even more excited – and surprised – that this happened with my “Utopia Animalia Magica” design. It is, after all, somewhat critical of traditional entertainment involving non-human animals. And those types of shows aren’t going to disappear for probably a long time, if ever, which means that most people want such entertainment. Perhaps that message is more subtle than I thought in my drawings. What do *you* think when look at it? What comes to mind?

If you voted for me – many sincere thanks to you! Spoonflower contests mean a lot to me; much time, work and thought goes into each submission. Making the top 10 can be helpful in different ways: I don’t have to purchase a proof to make it available to the public (I can only buy and store so much fabric); it increases exposure in a highly competitive field, thus potentially increasing sales (which, in my 3rd month on Spoonflower, are still very humble); and it gives me motivation to continue pursuing my dream – to do surface design for a living one day. Could there be a better job than that?

Here are two close-ups that Spoonflower took of the fabric:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/spoonflower/12093381554/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/spoonflower/12093298883/

Recipe of the month: ‘Eggnog’ Cake

This is the first in a series of monthly recipes I’d like to share with you. As you may have read here before, I love baking, which means that many recipes here will probably be cakes, cookies, pies etc. Plus, this is the cookiecutter blog, so I better be sharing about baked goods!

I hope that those who end up trying the recipes to leave me a comment as to what could be improved, or if you enjoyed it. I’d also like to get an idea about what people like and dislike, all the way to how a recipe is written.

Today I’m presenting you with one version of a vegan ‘eggnog’ cake. Some health-food stores still have vegan eggnog from the holiday season in stock, even at a discount. I used “Almond Fresh Noel Nog”; here a quick overview of my impression of it:

Pluses:
*tastes close to the ‘real thing’ without the alcohol
*is soy-free

Minuses:
*colour is white as opposed to yellow
*texture is just like vegan milks, not thick

If there will be a next time, I will buy So Nice Nog because it is yellow and thicker, which matters in some recipes. I find that adding turmeric can give a cake a greenish tinge – careful when using turmeric in flour products!

Depending on what brand of eggnog you use, it may also be a good idea to add spices like nutmeg to the batter, as I would not add more than 150 ml of eggnog to the batter; it gets too liquid. But if you use eggnog to make your own yogurt and use that instead of the tofu, then you might get an extra-noggy result! You could also try condensing it by bringing it to a boil and simmering it (lid off) for an unknown amount of time. :)

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Here my recipe for Eggnog Cake (copyright Christine Witte):

200 g (1.5 cups) flour
1/2 t baking powder
1 pinch of salt
200 g (2 cups) silken tofu, blended smooth
150 g (3/4 cup) sugar
75 ml (1/4 cup + 1 T) oil
150 ml (a little less than 3/4 cup) vegan ‘eggnog’
1 t vanilla extract
For dusting: powdered sugar

Instructions:
Oil a baking form with approximately 1 litre volume. I used a bundt form with a diameter of 6.5” / 16 cm.

Preheat oven to 350º F / 180º C.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In a larger bowl, combine the blended tofu, sugar, oil, eggnog and vanilla extract. Mix together with a hand-mixer.

Transfer flour mixture to the larger bowl and stir a bit with the mixer (to avoid a flour cloud). Then mix together for no more than 15 seconds until smooth.

Transfer batter into oiled cake form, tap several times on the counter (to settle the batter), and place into the hot oven. Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for 20 minutes on a cutting board. Then unmold cake by slamming the form hard on the plate or cutting board a few times (to prevent the cake from getting soggy). Once cool, cake can be dusted with powdered sugar just before serving.

Happy baking, everyone!

Utopia Animalia Magica – A show for and by animals!

Non-human animals, really.

Those of us who cringe at the thought of animals being forced to serve for human entertainment may sympathize with the sentiment behind this design. Bears with nose-rings forced to dance, tigers jumping through burning hoops, monkeys on bikes, or, in the case of magic shows, rabbits pulled out of hats by their ears (or in other ways) – with this one, I couldn’t resist reversing the roles. We’re all used to animals drawn in more or less ‘cutesy’ ways in designs, something I likely won’t stop anytime soon either. But animals running the show at the expense of humans (really only hinted at with Mr. Rabbit’s man in the hat – HIS man!) is uncommon, at least beyond the world of cartoons.

Fantasizing about spring – Cheater quilt design

For the last little while it’s been very cold where I live; the other day the high was -20°C. Judging by the number of contestants in the current Spoonflower “Spring Floral Cheater Quilt” contest (246!), it seems that many people are looking forward to spring (I do realize that some people prefer colder weather).

Here is my entry, with at least 24 patterns that could be turned into coordinates. I have started my “Floral Fantasy” collection with 13 patterns for now. Which ones do you prefer?

My first Spoonflower order & project

A few weeks ago I received my first Spoonflower order, and I finally got out my sewing machine and tackled my first little project with my own fabric – a winter scarf. Even though I was making something very simple, I wanted to be extra careful at every step to not waste any of the precious fabric.

Here it is, my double-sided winter scarf made with 2 of my Spoonflower fabrics: Blackforest Kitchen and the coordinating Blackforest Landscape on organic cotton knit. This material is very soft and densely woven – excellent quality! Not your typical t-shirt material but of course can be used as such. Much like the fabric that many baby onesies are made of. I could hardly take this scarf off at home because it feels so nice against my skin, making me feel like a baby in a blanket. I highly recommend this material to anyone considering it.

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I had also ordered a fat quarter (21 x 18”) of my other coordinate for this still-growing collection, Blackforest Couples on “basic cotton ultra”. This is what I’d call a spring or summer scarf. It’s the easiest thing to sew: simply hem the edges. This material relatively thin (perfect for blouses, shirts, dresses, linings, quilts, etc); I haven’t ordered anything on Kona-cotton yet, but I assume that Kona is a bit thicker and smoother with a denser texture than this one. My next order will include Kona-cotton.

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I was also curious to see my 2014 tea towel on fabric. I love the large size, the linen-cotton blend texture and feel, and the way the colours turned out. Definitely suitable as a wall-hanging, a placemat, or for drying dishes.

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For the remainder of my fabrics, I only ordered swatches for now (all on regular cotton). At 8 by 8 inches, they would be large enough for quilting or making handkerchiefs.

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Have you ever ordered anything from Spoonflower? I’d love people to share their customer experiences here!

Dancing around the maypole into 2014

Finally, today Spoonflower continued with business as usual, at least as far as their contests go, and published the results of their party hat contest. Two weeks ago, voting for the party hats started, and last week was skipped for a new contest due to the holidays. I’m pleased to have made it to number 6 – it’s nice to not have to purchase my print to make it available for sale, and of course being featured in various ways by Spoonflower. Thank you to everyone who voted and commented!

But there’s little time for resting, with a never-ending string of contests coming up! This year is kicked off with “Hand-lettered New Year’s Resolutions”, which I almost skipped as I find hand-lettering is a bit of a drag on the computer. I sometimes fantasize about a tablet, such as Wacom or Samsung Galaxy Note II. Does anyone here have any experience with either one?

Hand-lettering (or drawing) with Illustrator involves time-consuming extra steps: first, draw on paper. Second, scan it. Third, trace in Illustrator, which takes the most time. Fourth, fine-tune the lines so that it flows. While the text can obviously be scaled in size, it can’t easily be wrapped around objects as one could with computer fonts- this is especially tedious with continuous script that’s all one line. If one wants it to be written in a circular shape, then this has to be done in the first stage (by hand on paper). Circles are easy, but what if I want the text to flow in a very irregular way? That would require a lot more planning at stage one. Sometimes I skipped the first step and wrote straight with the mouse – but I find this technique limiting. A mouse is simply not like a pen!

A happy start to the new year to everyone!

Fabric photos by Spoonflower:

Cut and Sew Party Hat Design Challenge Top Ten Winner: Mix & Match Maypole Party Hat by christinewitte

Cut and Sew Party Hat Design Challenge Top Ten Winner: Mix & Match Maypole Party Hat by christinewitte