Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How to Make a Large Kindred Banner

There are many ways to make a kindred banner.  The design, size, fabrics, materials, methods, and even the purpose of the banner can vary widely.  This essay is about how to make a large heavy-duty kindred banner from canvas, that can be hung in your kindred's hall, at a heathen gathering, or even between trees on a campout.  Essentially, this is how we made our banner in case you want to use some of our ideas or methods.

Our banner is made from duck-cloth, which is basically a heavy-duty canvas that is available in a wide range of colors, 24 colors to be exact.  All of the fabric used in our banner is duck-cloth for maximum durability.  Jennifer and I purchased the fabric at JoAnne's, a fabric and craft store.  Nearly every fabric store will carry duck-cloth or canvas.  But if you are in an isolated area and need to mail-order the fabric, here's the link:  http://tinyurl.com/duckcanvas

The duck-cloth is 59 inches wide with both edges self-finished (selvage) iin the cloth-making process.  If you make the banner 59 inches wide, then you will not need to do anything to these self-finished edges.  To make a banner of similar proportions to ours, you'll need about 3 yards of this fabric for the banner itself.  Depending on the fabric you are going to cut out and apply to this background, you'll need to calculate the amount of fabric you will need of the other colors.

For the top and bottom of the banner, you can go to the hardware store and buy two wooden rake handles that are sufficient length to run along the top and bottom of the 59 inch wide banner.  You may need to remove a metal wrap or cap at one end of the rake handle.  Both of these wooden handles need a large eye-hook screwed into each of its ends, so you'll need four of the large eye-hooks.  To avoid splitting the wood when inserting the eye-hooks, drill the ends before screwing in the eye-hooks.  A 60 inch rake handle can be bought at any hardware store, but if you need to order one on-line you can find it here:  http://tinyurl.com/rakehandle

And the eye-hooks on-line:  http://tinyurl.com/eyehooks

Decide how tall the banner will be, and then leave 8 to 12 inches of additional fabric, so you can roll over the ends of the fabric and create sleaves at the top and bottom of the banner for the wooden poles you have made.  Roll the end fabric over one of the wooden poles, and then use a simple running stitch to create the sleeve.  Use a thread the same color at the banner fabric, and it will be essentially invisible.  For durability, you may want to go back and forth a time or two with the running stitch, and put more stitches into both ends of the sleeve.  Be careful not to make the sleeve so small that the wooden pole won't fit.

With the sleeves sewn, put the wooden poles aside.  You won't need these again until the banner is done.  Now it is time to cut out the fabric design you are going to apply to the banner.  You can hand draw this design, create it on your computer and print it out, or find elements of the design in a book and blow them up on a copy machine.  Really, the sky is the limit.  Once you have an idea of what you want on the banner, its time to cut it out.

The easiest way to do this, is to use a produce called "Heat and Bond."  It comes in various sizes and thicknesses, but since you are working with canvas you want to use a heavy-duty Heat and Bond.  This is available at most fabric stores, but if you need to order it on-line here is the size and thickness that I used:  http://tinyurl.com/heatandbond

Heat and Bond is a two sided iron-on adhesive with paper on both sides.  So you can lay down the fabric you want to use for the design, and peeling the paper off one side of the Heat and Bond, iron it onto your fabric.  If your design is wider than the Heat and Bond, use multiple pieces of Heat and Bond to cover as much fabric with the iron-on material as will be needed.  You can now sketch, project, draw, or trace your banner design onto the paper of the Heat and Bond that is on back of the fabric you are using.  Remember that you should sketch, project, draw, or trace your design BACKWARDS, because you are working on the BACK of the fabric you will be applying.  So, letters, runes, and other shapes need to be put onto the paper backwards.  If you are printing from a computer printer, most of them have a check-box option to print backwards whatever you are printing.  This is great for letters on your banner.

You then cut out the shape, following what you have put on the paper.  Because the iron-on adhesive is bonded to the fabric, the canvas you are cutting out will not fray or come apart.  The Heat and Bond holds it together.  This eliminates the need for a time-consuming zig-zag stitch, or any other methods to avoid fraying.  Once the shape is cut out, you peel the paper off, place the fabric design onto your banner fabric, and iron it into place.

Using the Heat and Bond does three pretty important things:

1. It holds the applied fabric in place for any additional sewing you'll be doing.
2. It holds together the applied design fabric. Because you are coating the entire back of it with iron-on material, the applied fabric doesn't fray around your cuts at all.
3.  It completely avoids the risk of the wrinkles you can sometimes create when stitching two pieces of fabric together.

While the Heat and Bond adhesive is faiirly durable, you will want to then use a running stitch around the fabric design, holding it permanently in place.  Of course, you will want to use a thread that is the same color as your fabric design so that it is essentially invisible.

In a few places where I was still worried about fraying, I used Dritz's Fray Check. It is a nylon product in an alcohol solvent.  You just pop the cap and apply a little of the Fray Check along any edges you worry might fray.  The Fray Check can discolor some darker fabrics, so you'll want to test it first on some fabric that is not on our banner.  This step of applying Fray Check is really sort of unnecessary, but I really wanted to make sure our banner stood the test of time and didn't fray around the applied fabric.  You can get Fray Check at almost any fabric store, but if you need to order it on-line here's the link:  http://tinyurl.com/fraycheck

Once you have the fabric design applied with Heat and Bond, and then sewn into place with a running stitch, you are done.  Insert the wooden poles into the top and bottom sleaves, and then I used several thumb tacks throught the back of the sleeve material into the wooden poles to keep them from sliding out of place.  Now the banner is ready to hang.

In our Hall, I installed two hooks near the ceiling at the proper width from which to hang the banner.   I even pointed one of our track lighting bulbs at the banner, so that it is always lit up brightly when the lights are on.  

When we take the banner traveling, we take it down from its hanging place and roll it up.  Rolled up like this, it is pretty long, but doesn't take up much room on a road trip depending on your vehicle.  If you go to a gathering and have a chance to hang the banner indoors in the central gathering Hall or pavillion, you can use long nails, ropes, or a variety of means to hang the banner depending on the situation.

For hanging outdoors, you need four long ropes.  Using a rock or other heavy object tied to the end of the rope, you can throw the rope over tree limbs or any other tall object, and then suspect the banner at great heights above your camp or gathering spot.  Because you've used wooden poles and eye-hooks through the top and bottom of the banner, a lot of the stresses of being hung are taken off of the fabric and put onto those wooden poles. This should make your banner last long when used occasionally outdoors. 

There are many ways to make a banner, and this is only one way.  I've seen amazing quilted banners by Heathen "Stitch" Powers of Winterhof Kindred that would make any kindred jealous.  I've seen embroidered banners that are a testament to the patienct and perseverance of the maker.  But, if you want a very large canvas banner for both indoor and outdoor use, this method is a good place to start.

And a special thanks to my wife Jennifer, who taught me how to do this and supervised my work.  :-)

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

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