True Colors Flag Project: Creating The US Jack

If you've been following my Instagram @tiger.lilys.threads, you've probably seen the massive project I've been working on for the Museum of the American Revolution; I started working on the project on the first weekend of May. 

Normally I sew 18th and late 19th century gowns and hadn't really taken on a project like this before, however, I was thrilled when I was considered to be part of the project. In fact, I saw it as a challenge I wanted to take on. To use my skills to reproduce a 5x7 foot flag meant for a Sloop. As soon as I received the materials, I immediately got to work.  

First, I laid out at least 20 seperate pieces on the floor to get a feeling of what the flag should look like. Using the diagram and drawings as a reference, I interchanged the colors to red, white, and blue, then started piecing everything together to make the long strips. At first glance, this fabric looked like lightweight linen as it was coarse like linen and frayed heavily (more on that later). However upon further inspection, it turned out to be wool bunting; fabric traditionally used for flag making. 

Next, I started felling the seams. To do this, I sewed two pieces of fabric together with 1'' seam allowance. Then I cut one of the selvages down by 1/2'' and folded the other side over into a hem. Finally, I sew that down by using a running stitch (with a few back stitches to lock things into place). 

This project took me at least until early June to complete, because of all of the small 1/2 '' long stitches and making sure that all of the felled seams were tacked down correctly. In fact, since I was on such a time crunch, I devoted 90% of my time to sewing this massive flag; I would wake up at 6am to sew till 9am. Then go to work, come home, have dinner, and then continue to sew till 3AM...and do the whole thing all over again for weeks. In some cases, I would have to take a day or two off to gain some sense of feeling in my fingers, and to keep my sanity. I'd even sew some of it on the train and in hotels when I went away on vacation or business trips. Needless to say, this was time consuming.  

Words could not describe the feeling of relief when I finally finished the last couple of stitches, I took a week off from sewing to recover and get some well needed rest. I also felt the feeling of patriotism. To be part of a team of sewers who painstakingly put together and recreated, by hand, these massive flags which were once flown on battleships during the peak of the American Revolution definitely leaves a lasting impact on me as a historian and a seamstress and feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to be part of a project such as this that will be seen by people all over the world for many years to come.    

You can see the flags that I and the other talented sewers have made on display right at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, PA. 


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