How To Make Your Own Flag

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Why not celebrate the Fourth of July by making an American flag?  All you need is a little patriotism, a few supplies, and a simple layout.

I made my flag about ten years ago without a pattern and in the folk art style.  Thanks to a previous project of making curtains, I had plenty of red and blue plaid scraps, so I put them to use.  The beauty of this project, however, is that any print or style can be used to make a flag.  Search your craft closet or visit your local fabric store to find the perfect print to fit your taste.

Photo and handiwork by c.b.w.

Finished Size:

  • 31″ x 24″

Supplies:

  • 7 red, 2″ x 31″ strips
  • 6 white 2″ x 31″ strips
  • 1 blue square 13.5″ x 13.5″
  • Red DMC embroidery thread
  • 50 1″ star studs
  • Spray paint (optional)
  • 31″ x 24″ piece of fabric for backing
  • needle and thread or sewing machine
  • Steam iron

*Special Note: All measurements do not include seam allowance.  Be sure to add your chosen seam allowance to each measurement.

Steps:

1) Cut out red and white stripes.  Sew them together, (start with red at the top), by hand or by machine. Press seams open.

2) Cut out blue square.  Place it in the upper left hand corner of the stripe block and pin into place.

3) Count out 50 star studs. These stars come in gold and silver, but I decided to paint them white with spray paint.  Paint or no paint, place star studs in alternating rows of six and five, (starting with six at the top) until evenly distributed.   Pierce the brackets through all layers of fabric until every star is firmly in place.  Carefully flip the flag over and bend all brackets to secure the stars.

4) To give the blue section a folky look, fray the right and lower edges of the square.  Then, use red (any shade) DMC embroidery thread to stitch the right and bottom edge of the blue square to the stripes.  Use large stitches for that extra folky feel!

5) Cut out fabric backing (an old sheet works really well!).  Layer flag and backing right sides together and pin along all four edges.  Leave a four inch gap to allow for turning right side out.  Sew along all edges and then turn right side out.  Press in the four inch gap and seal with a hidden stitch. Press the entire flag, paying special attention to the newly sewn edges.

This beautiful flag is can be displayed in a number of ways.  Throw it on a table, tack it to a wall, or lay it over the arm of a chair to add a beautiful bit of patriotism to any home. The best part is, you made it yourself!

Happy 4th of July!

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c.b.w. 2012

Penny Rugs: Boot Scrapers to Placemats

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The penny rug has humble beginnings, but the beauty of this textile art has endured for more than 200 years.  Homemakers in the 1800s never let anything go to waste, so old clothing, hats, and blankets would be recycled into mats or rugs.  They would use coins as templates to make circles of different sizes, (hence the name “penny” rug) which were then sewn together in a variety of designs using a blanket stitch.  The name “penny rug” also has roots in the practice of sewing pennies inside the rug to make it lie flat.

19th Century Pennsylvania Penny Rug, Photo from J.Compton Gallery

Initially, penny rugs were used as door mats. Concentric circles were layered in stacks of three to give enough texture to clean the bottom of boots.  Burlap bags or feed sacks would also be reused to served as a backing to the rug to make it sturdy.

However, as time went by the penny rug evolved from a boot cleaner to a beautiful way to decorate the home.  Circle designs became more elaborate and were often fused with traditional folk art images, (i.e. quilt patterns, animals, trees, flowers, etc.).  Penny rugs got up off the floor and started adorning everything from tables, dressers, mantles, and even beds!

I started making penny rugs about six years ago.  They are a fantastic alternative to buying placemats that no one really likes and searching endlessly for a table runner that never truly fits the table!  In addition, penny rugs are a wonderful decorative touch for holidays and changing seasons.

Here are some of the penny rugs I’ve made over the years, (with exception to the 19th century Pennsylvania penny rug):

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While penny rugs look to be very intricate, most are actually very easy to make.  The most traditional layouts consist of nothing but circles, so the most difficult part of the entire process is deciding what colors to use.  Thick wools and flannels come in a variety of colors and patterns.  Raid the closet for fabric scraps or visit a local fabric store for a wide selection of wool felt.

The tradition continues to evolve as penny rugs now come in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and patterns.  Modern motifs and folk art mainstays combine seamlessly with the classic penny design. Get those needles out and start stitching!

Penny Rug Wisdom:

  • When using felt, be sure to use 100% wool, (or at least a 70/30 blend).  The acrylic stuff warps easily and pills, while the real thing is incredibly sturdy. Besides that, wool felt has a more traditional look that befits a penny rug.
  • DMC Pearl Cotton #3 is an ideal thread to use for stitching.  It’s thick without being chunky and strong enough to handle the weight of wool felt.  When working with smaller pieces, use 2 strands of DMC embroidery thread.
  • Tapestry needles are perfect for wool appliqué.
  • The only stitch you’ll truly ever need is the blanket stitch. I love this stitch because it’s simple and it hides little mistakes.  Stitch School has a great tutorial on a blanket stitch, here.
  • Always work in layers.  Complete the rug one layer at a time in a way that allows stitches to be hidden and protected by subsequent layers.
  • Always put a backing on a finished piece!  It makes the penny rug more stable and it protects/hides all knots and stitches under the design.
  • Use a tiny dot of Aleene’s craft glue to hold a piece in place prior to stitching. This may sound like cheating to some, but I’ve found it be a lifesaver when laying out pieces. Trust me, it works!
  • The best way to transfer a pattern to wool is to use freezer paper that has one side coated with plastic. Trace every piece of the pattern (if the pattern calls for 26 circles, trace 26 separate circles).  Cut out the pattern pieces and lay them on the wool plastic side down.  Press them down with a hot, dry iron until all edges are completely bonded.  This makes it so much easier to cut out each piece without the pattern slipping.  The freezer paper will peel right off when no longer needed.
  • There’s no such thing as making too many penny rugs!

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c.b.w. 2012