The Dawdler's Studio - Gail Ruth

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Go fabric shopping with the Holy Spirit!

There are some glorious fabrics out there in the fabric shops. Pick something lightweight for best results, and whip yourself up a worship flag. They're easy to sew. Or hire yourself a seamstress if needed.

a jumble of shimmery, airy flags reminiscent of a flower garden
A pile of my friend Maile's flags

a closeup of the tip of the flag with the grommet, trim, and poles visible with a glorious array of autumn-like fabrics in the background
Close-up of the top grommet & trim

The lower grommet on the flag, and its construction, with brilliantly colored flags in the background
Close-up of the base grommet & trim

How to Make Worship Flags That Spin Freely!

Flags that spin greatly increase the expressiveness possible with worship flags. The following are the instructions I developed for making such a flag. Feel free to use these instructions to make your flags. If you share the instructions, please reference the source: Gail Ruth,

Click here for printer-friendly version

Equipment needed
Size & measurements
Preparing fabric
Preparing dowels
Assembling small dowel
Assembling large dowel
Troubleshooting the spin
Care & maintenance of your flag

List of supplies for each flag:

  • 1 yard fabric (this pattern does not require quite one yard, but the extra assures enough fabric so edges can be straightened). Lightweight fabrics are best for flags, as heavier fabrics can quickly wear out a strong arm. The lighter weight fabrics are wonderfully expressive in the air.
  • Thread that matches the fabric
  • One 7/16" x 36" dowel (IMPORTANT NOTE: Roll it on the floor and make sure it rolls smoothly and is straight. Also, check to be sure it is smooth when you rub your hand over the wood. Warped and/or rough-grained dowels greatly decrease the ability of a flag to spin.)
  • One 1/8" x 36" dowel (Straight is not as important with these thin dowels.)
  • Two 1/2" brass grommets (Buy these at hardware stores. Use the tall half only, not the flat half.)
  • Six inches or so of a medium-width or medium-thin-width decorative fabric trim. (You don't want to take up too much pole length with the trim, so avoid the wide trims. Choose a color that will complement either the grommet or the flag color. Some trims are less prone to unraveling, and therefore easier to work with, but it's up to you. If you love it, it may be worth the extra bother.)
  • Optional: a couple inches of electrical tape

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Equipment list:

  • Optional: large piece of paper to make pattern
  • Measuring tape
  • Fabric scissors
  • Ironing board and iron
  • Pins
  • Sewing machine
  • All-purpose scissors or knife
  • Sandpaper
  • Hot glue gun (preferred) or fabric glue
  • Optional: stain & varnish for large pole

Size of finished flag:

Approximately 40-43" wide; 29" long

Size of cut fabric:

42-45" wide; 31" long

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Make a paper pattern: Optional: Make a paper pattern 45"x31". If you are going to make more than one flag, it saves time and work to use a pattern. Use butcher paper or any other large paper. Use the pattern to cut the fabric.

Preparing the fabric: If not using a pattern, make sure one end of fabric is cut square. (Fabric is rarely cut straight enough at the fabric store. Determining what is straight can be quite a challenge with some of the fabrics. Chiffons, for example, can be very difficult. Just do your best; it won't be a big deal when your flags are flying, especially with the wispy chiffons.)

If your fabric is 42" or 45" in width, it works to use the entire width. Otherwise, cut fabric width to 42" or 45" wide after cutting the length, unless you want a longer flag.

Measure and cut fabric 31" long.

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Hem the 3 non-pole edges: Along both 42" (or 45") sides, fold, iron, and pin a double-folded 1/2" hem in order to finish the edges of the fabric. (Turn the edge twice so that no raw edge is showing.)

Do the same for the non-pole end of flag. Note: an unhemmed clean selvage will not hold over time with flag use, so be sure to hem this edge even if this side has a clean edge.

Sew close to the edge of the hem to finish edge.

line illustration of hemmed 3 sides of flag

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Pole end of flag: To prepare the pole end of the fabric, you need to make a channel for each dowel.

Fold over 5/8" of fabric on the selvage edge and iron.

Then fold over 1 1/2" of fabric, iron, and pin. Be sure to measure the 1 1/2" fold so that it is accurate. If it is too small, the flag will have difficulty spinning.

Sew with a straight stitch close to the edge of the hem.

Sew the second row of stitching 1/4" from first stitching. This will make a channel for the thin dowel.

line illustration of sewn pole end of flag

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Prepare the dowels:
Sand both dowels until smooth. This is most important with the larger dowel. Be careful with the small dowel, as it can break easily.

Optionally, stain and varnish the larger dowel.

Inserting the small dowel: Carefully slide the small dowel into the 1/4" channel.

Cut the dowel to fit the channel, so that it almost fills the length, but does not protrude. You can cut the dowel with a knife or a sturdy pair of all-purpose scissors (cutting with your fabric scissors can ruin them.) Your aim is to cut the dowel so that it fits comfortably, with a tiny bit of wiggle room end-to-end in the pocket. The purpose of the dowel is to keep the flag from collapsing on the pole, but a flag stretched too tightly over the dowel (the dowel cut too long) will cause the small dowel to break of it's pocket easily.

Optionally, you can wrap a piece of electrical tape around each end of the dowel, extending a couple millimeters beyond the ends of the dowel. This adds a bit of cushion and prevents frequent re-sewing of the dowel pocket ends.

Hand stitch the 1/4" channel closed at both ends so the dowel cannot slide out.

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Inserting the larger dowel: At one end of the larger dowel, glue a short length of trim around the dowel at the very end. (The purpose of the trim is to be an attractive obstruction so the grommet cannot slide past it. Depending on appearance, thickness needed or desired, and personal preference, you may glue one layer of trim to the pole or continue winding so that you have two or more layers.)

Slide a grommet on, so its flanged side is against the trim. The tube side will be hidden by the flag fabric.

illustration of flag top with trim, grommet, and fabric on poleSame image shown as finished flag

Slide the larger dowel through large channel in the flag. Fit the flag channel over the tube side of first grommet.

Slide on the second grommet, mirror image to first, fitting the tube into the channel in the flag.

Leaving about 1/8" of slack between the second grommet and the trim, glue a second piece of trim around the dowel to hold the grommet in place, as you did with the top piece. If the grommet is held too snug to the flag, it will be prevent the flag from spinning, but very little slack is needed to allow the flag to spin.

Your flag is ready to fly!

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Troubleshooting your flag

If your flag doesn't spin well, there may be one or more of several reasons:

Problem: The larger dowel is warped.
The fix: Replace the dowel with one that rolls easily on the floor.

Problem: The larger dowel is rough, catching on the fabric.
The fix: Sometimes you can sand this out, other times it requires replacing the dowel.

Problem: The pocket is smaller than recommended (either the fold-over was smaller than 1 1/2 inches, the first line of stitching was too far from the edge, or the small dowel pocket was too wide.
The fix: Remove the stitching and re-sew OR use a smaller (5/16") dowel, with correspondingly smaller grommet size.

Problem: The second grommet is placed too close and holds the flag too tightly.
The fix: Remove the trim and any glue residue. Hold the grommet in place with your hand as you try to spin the flag to determine proper grommet placement.

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Care and maintenance of your flags

To preserve your investment, read about the care and maintenance of flags.

• Gail Ruth • Palmer, Alaska • all contents © 2010 Gail Ruth, all rights reserved •