There are two basic styles of flags twirling flags and ordinary non-twirling flags. This page is mainly about making non-twirling flags, however if you buy flag batons from one of the suppliers mentioned on the styles page the information on this page will help you make flags to use with them.
Choosing the design and colour
This basically depends on the effect that you wish to create. The best flags are created after asking for advice and guidance in the form of prayer. Some are the result of visions or dreams. The colour may depend on the symbolism that you want to achieve so shades of blue for water, white for a bride. Some flags are trimmed with lace or fringing again depending on the effect that is desired. There are some guidelines for designing flags in the uses of flags book (see link on the left). The size of the flag depends on who will be using it.
Choosing the fabric
Taffeta makes a flag that makes a snapping noise which creates a useful sound effect for warfare praise. Other lining weight fabrics can also make a noise. Lame gives a flag with a metallic shimmer that can create a stunning visual effect. Lame comes in a variety of colours, some like gold and silver are never out of fashion other shades might be available one year but not the next. Other lightweight fabrics work well such as chiffon which is soft, sheer and has a matte finish and organza which is sheer and a bit sparkly. Some flags are made of pure silk as this is seen as an expensive fabric worthy to be used in worship. Another consideration for the choice of fabric is how well it can be printed or dyed which includes colour and what fibres were used to make it.
If possible test the way fabric moves and sounds before you buy it. You could even use this as a evangelistic opportunity to explain what you want it for and how you will use it and invite the shop assistant to come and see what you do with fabric in a worship service.
The size of the flag partly depends on the width of the material you use. If you can find one metre wide fabric and you want to make a large flag you will find it easier to use two pieces of fabric and make a narrow seam down the middle. On the other hand if you wanted to make a small flag you could take 150 cm wide fabric and cut it in two to make two flags. Everyone seems to make flags of a size that suits them in terms of what they can handle, what size poles they can find and what width of fabric they can find. Don't worry about there being right or wrong dimensions for flags for worship. Flags are made and used to give God glory not to satisfy the demands of man.
Be ware that if you reuse fabrics that you do not know where they have been. For example you may find the most beautiful piece of material that has been worn wrapped around someone who attended various non-Christian religious activities. It will have picked up some of the spiritual atmosphere that it has been in and therefore be unsuitable for using in Christian worship.
Making the flag handle
I use bamboo canes partly because they come in reasonable lengths for making flags such as 90 cm (3 ft) 120 cm (4 ft). Dowel rods are more expensive and harder to transport, (well have you tried taking a number of 8 ft poles on a bus). Some supermarkets sell them by the packet and some garden stores by the bundle, so you can make 10 or more handles in one session.
The next step depends on whether you want to make an ordinary flag or a twirling flag. You don't need to do anything else to the handle for an ordinary flag. For a twirling flag, I glue a paper ball on the end. These are available from craft shops or the craft department of some department stores. I use one that is about an inch (2.5 cm) in diameter.
Before gluing the ball to the handle, I press the bamboo gently into the paper ball to make an indentation about 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) deep. Then I glue the two together using a craft glue like Uhu.
I am not sure if the next stage is to help keep the ball and the bamboo together or to make a decorative effect or both. I make some small paper strips that are about 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) by 6 inches (15 cm). I happen to have a small guillotine or paper trimmer that makes this task quite easy to do well. I start by cutting a A4 paper in half so that it becomes A5 size i.e. 6 inch (15 cm) wide. I then slice up this sheet to create strips that are 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) wide 6 inches (15 cm) long. I then put glue on two of these pieces of paper and put the middle of them on the top of the ball and carefully press down the paper so that it sticks to the underside of the ball and then onto the bamboo. The final stage is to paint the top of the handle, I used some gold spray paint from a DIY store.
Making the flag
I tend to try and keep the selvage edge at the handle side as I find this helps reduce the bulk that can develop at that point. I started by making the hem for the side opposite the handle. After that, for twirling flags, I cut a piece of firm interfacing that was long enough to go down the selvage edge and was about 2 inches (5 cm wide) I used this to stiffen this edge. Then I made hems on the other non-handle sides of the flag. The idea being to enclose the edge of the interfacing within the hem. Finally, the selvage edge with its stiffened edge was folded over the bamboo, with the interfacing inside and out of sight. The selvage edge was then sewn down to leave a channel for the bamboo to go through. You must make sure that the ends are well fastened off as they easily come undone or develop trailing ends of thread.
Keeping the flag on the handle
I used a rubber washer to do this. I found that B & Q did packets of 5 half inch hose washers that can be pushed up the handle from the bottom to just below the flag and so stop it coming down the handle.
Flags for twirling batons
Once you have the baton you can make the flag to fit. When cutting our the fabric remember to allow for hems on three sides and a channel on the fourth side. Rather than including interfacing within the channel you will need to include some pieces of velcro. This will enable the flag to stick to the velcro attached to plastic sleeve of the baton. Remember to measure this carefully so the velcro is positioned correctly within the channel. Make sure that you sew the correct side of the velcro onto the flag. (Velcro tape comes in two pieces one with a collection of hooks and another that is a collection of eyes and to make it stick you need to put a piece with hooks next to a piece with eyes.)
Other ways or attaching fabric to the 'stick'
The obvious ways of making ordinary flags is to attach fabric to dowel rods or bamboo canes using staples, glue even drawing pins. An interesting alternative is to drill a small hole in a dowel rod you then then literally stitch the fabric to the stick. A large flag can have a cord attached to it and then that cord can be tied firmly and carefully to the pole.
Finishing touches for flags
Some people paint the poles but depending on how this is done there is the possibility of this coming off onto the users hands or wearing off the pole in time. Another useful idea is to round off the top and bottom edges of the poles so that they do not damage the fabric or anyone handling them. You might also want to add some small identifying feature to your flags such as a tiny coloured dot or stripe on a particular location on the pole so that you and others can tell which are your flags and which are not.