Make an album (and coloring book) of your favorite patterns

Don’t you secretly want to gather all those loose leaf pages of pattern and design—from magazines, photocopies, downloaded, wherever—and turn them into one mammoth archive that is both useful and gorgeous to look at ? I have…it’s a disorganized person’s control fantasies. I’m going to give it a try, though.

We found a large Italian-English Dictionary in a rubbish pile behind some buildings in the CBD. It had been sitting on my shelf for a year when I decided to use it another way:

I’m gathering that wild pile of patterns and designs that I have been saving since I was 16 (it lives in filing cabinets, cardboard boxes, in ring binders and plastic shopping bags and large zippered portfolios), and whenever I need a break from doing other things I’m going to freehand a pattern…okay, maybe just a tiny fragment of a pattern?…onto a page in this big, yellowing dictionary. Do you think that’s crazy?

make your own pattern collection slash coloring book

You will need:

  • one of those large empty sketchbooks you hoard, or a large book with suitable paper that you want to ‘alter’ in this way. I used the dictionary because text adds quirkiness and does away with my fear-of-the-white-page problem altogether. And because it was there.
  • pencils or pens…waterproof for drawing the design outlines, and not so strong that it bleeds and blots through to the next three pages. I put a sheet of plastic behind my working dictionary page, just to be sure.
  • All those coloring materials you never use…cheap pastels, the boxes of broken crayons and colored pencils, kids’ marker sets, watercolors and poster paints, those tubes of acrylic from 1987 that are drying up. Don’t buy anything new for this, use up what you have, use up what your kids have outgrown or lost interest in.
  • Possibly an eraser and a ruler, if you want to muck around making perfectly scaled copies of patterns, or if you want to analyze something complicated and mathematical, like Islamic interlaced patterns

make your own pattern collection slash coloring book

Try not to trace or transfer the designs using the usual tricks. You can do that, of course, but you won’t understand the pattern that way, or learn how it was made, and you’ll miss out on a chance to hone your draughtsmanship skills, and become better at drawing in general.
make your own pattern collection slash coloring book

So here’s my ‘fragment’ of an old French embroidery pattern, in black outline…and it’s very different from the original, but  the basic idea of the flowers and the curving stems is there. I would prefer to do several of these pages, just the outlines of designs…to have a dozen or so designs just waiting to be colored in, like my very own hand-made coloring book, when I’m in the mood to do something fun and easy. But I colored the first couple I did, so that I’d have pictures.

I tried to use color combinations other than my usual favorites, too, to introduce myself to new palettes. I took inspiration from palettes created on

Color by COLOURlovers

The pages of a discarded Italian dictionary sprout oversized, exotically colored flowers and vines
Color by COLOURlovers
So much fun! And the results are spectacular! Is this something you’d like to try, too? Will you show me a pic if you do? Would love to see the sort of patterns you’ve been squirreling away…


About smallestforest

bookbinder, crafter, lit. major, passionately curious
This entry was posted in art materials, mark-making, Recycle That S#!T... and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Make an album (and coloring book) of your favorite patterns

  1. Louise says:

    These pages just make my face relax with love…I am so happy just to look at them. Very inspiring. {*}

  2. iHanna says:

    I must say I love your photos and this tutorial, it inspires me a lot. Such beautiful drawings and lovely colour combos! Wow! I collect patterns too though I don’t think I would copy them but maybe bind them all together in some way

    Haha, this is a huuuuge project, will you really finish that book? And when you continue will you post more? I would love to see more of these beauties!

    • Oh, Hanna, good question! I’ve been in Manila for a month, there will be sooooo much catching up to do once I get back to Australia! The book may sleep for a while, until I actually have a need to work out patterns again. It may change along the way, become a visual diary in an altered book…I am tempted, to be honest, because there would be more of myself in that, and it would be less predictable, more fluid. Yes, will post more when I get home and get back to work! Thanks for the visit!

    • I will never finish this book! Ha ha ha…but that’s okay, I’ll do what I can, for as long as it interests me, and that should amount to something in the end. Thanks, iHanna!

  3. This is absolutely beautiful! I cannot wait to get back to college just to be able to start this project. Do you plan on putting something on every page or will there be buffer pages due to the paint/charcoal/pastels? If I use pastel or charcoal, is there anything I can do to prevent it from rubbing onto the page in front of it? I have a bunch of that stuff because I’ve never gotten past that problem. . .

    • I have been really sluggish about working on this book. How embarrassing! The pages are really thin, so I will probably leave four or five blanks between, or maybe just write on them, or collage something, instead of painting. I use acrylics, markers, water-based oil pastels…for the main reason that I make a big muddy mess with pastels (and charcoals hate me). I’m sorry I can’t help with the smudging problem, I sort of think that those materials just weren’t meant to be put in book form…kinda standalone media, if you know what I mean. But what do I know? 😀 Someone who is proficient in charcoals/pastels, and who keeps a blog, will probably have a more useful reply. Good luck!

  4. ltreid says:

    I’m so glad that I came across your blog. As an artist who will recycle anything, it’s exciting to find that I have not discovered all the uses for the things piling up throughout my house. On a side note, would you be willing to share the name of the book featured in the first image? I’ve been searching for books full of patterns and that one looks humungous.

    • Hello, you do some lovely work (I’ve just had a squizz at your website)…VERY nice! The book is Owen Jones’ Grammar of Ornament, an encyclopaedic work first published in 1856. This version was published by Dorling Kindersley but as the material is now copyright-free, there are other publishers who have reproduced it, in parts or in whole…Dover Books among them.

      • ltreid says:

        Thank you! I’ve got to get to uploading my new work–but in time. I actually just purchased Decorative Ornament by Owen Jones which seems to be, as you mentioned, just a republishing of the original text. When I picked up this book for $5 I had no idea I was buying such an influential resource. Thank you for the link, it’s a great resource as well!

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