Mummy Ask & I agreed to sew 150m of fabric bunting for the Adelaide Fringe Launch Party as part of our ASG Fringe Event (so much more on that coming soon!). This post is really focused on the bulk amount we made and the hints that I googled but couldn’t find. The flags themselves are one sided and cut with pinking shears which works fine for our large outdoor event. If you have more time or less bunting you can make double sided, sewn ones and this tutorial will still help you out. Trust me, you can sew 150m of bunting with two and a bit weeks notice and not go crazy but you’ll need to know this stuff!
Fabric & Binding Selection:
As our flags are one sided we chose fabrics that were still colourful on the wrong side. We also tried to pick fabrics with similar weights. Bear in mind that your pattern will also be shown both right way up & wrong way up. I think it’s easier to avoid stripes and stripe like patterns because it adds extra stress to the cutting out but choose as you please! We used 5 different fabrics and got 4-5m of each fabric. Be sure to press your fabric before starting, marking is impossible on rumpled fabric. Pre wash it if you plan to reuse and wash your bunting in the future.
Double fold bias tape is ideal but not easily available locally/in Australia. If I had time to wait for it to arrive, I would have ordered from the US but as I was in a hurry I got 1 inch single fold bias. Some of my bias was thinner fabric and really stretchy. It was much more fiddly to work with and had I known I would have bought differently. I chose bias tape that was opaque enough that the flags would not show through. All of my bias tapes were patterned and included the colour white so that I could sew without changing thread colours. That saved lots of time! Of course you’ll need 150m or more if don’t include the ties at each end. I wanted my bias tapes in lengths of 20 – 25m so they could be versatile, you can always tie them together for longer sections plus any longer is really awkward to work with.
Pattern, Marking & Cutting:
I (well, Mr Ask) created a pattern for our flags, click here to print it. Match the number 8 square on each page, tape and cut out. If you fancy smaller flag, just mark a line across the top of the flag but further down. If you are going to sew them together for double sided, remember to add seam allowances. We used water erasable markers and went through a couple, so be prepared!
The pic above shows the way we laid out the pattern. We created a straight line running from selvage to selvage, along the cut edge (if your fabric tears nicely, you can work from that). We then measured up 28cm and marked another straight line parallel to the first. Then we laid the top line of the flag pattern along the second line, so the pattern fits between the lines. Mark a dot/line at the edge of each of the three points and repeat until no more flags fit on your fabric width. Join the dots with a ruler to form a strip of tessellated triangles. Measure up 28cm and mark a third parallel line, selvage to selvage. Extend the lines from your first strip to create the second strip of triangles. We used straight scissors to cut off our strips and then pinking shears to out the triangles. That should leave you with pinked long sides and a straight edge at the top of the triangle.
Marking out more than 2-3 rows at a time (without going back to the pattern) will create lots of distortion. It’s not with it! Plus swapping activities between marking and cutting is kinder to your body. Trust me! It helps to set up separate marking and cutting stations. Another option is to just do the marking and straight cutting and then pink the rest over a towel (hello fabric dust) while you watch tv. Be careful with your markings if you do this, some will fade/disappear if there is a few days between marking and cutting. Keep your fabric neatly piled flat with each fabric pattern/colour together.
It took us about 10 hours, no breaks or slow downs included.
Using Single Fold Bias:
If that’s all you can get, you will become very good friends with your iron! I bought 1 inch single fold bias tape and set up the iron and ironing board where I could sit comfortably and watch tv. This takes a while and my set up stopped me from wanting to run down the street screaming! All you need to do is fold the bias in half and press. Spooling the folded bias onto the plastic wheels it came on did not work for me and it will tangle if not controlled. I taped the pressed end to a toilet roll (all class here!) and used a hair sectioning clip to keep it firmly spooled and from unrolling. In fact I used hair sectioning clips through this process because that’s what I had on hand. Bulldog clips might work but the length of the hair sectioning clips worked really well. I highly recommend them! I pressed a few metres, the spooled onto the roll and clipped. Repeat until you have it all done. I had my ironing board at chest height. It’s a little harsher on the arms but puts you more eye level with the tape which I found helped my folding accuracy.
Pinning & Stitching:
As I said earlier, I chose bias tapes with white in the print so I could use white thread throughout. I highly recommend one thread for everything. Do your self a favour and pre wind some bobbins. Trust me, when you have a lap full of flags with pins poking you, complete bunting at one end and a spool of bias at the other, you will not fancy stopping to wind bobbins! This is thread intensive, I went through 7 full bobbins. Please start with a fresh needle and a spare or two as well.
I set up my five different fabrics in front of me, in the order I wanted them in. I had plenty of pins, a seam gauge (or a section of cardboard cut to) to 6 cm. I unclipped my toilet roll of bias and set it on the floor where I could control it with my foot. Leave at least 40cm of bias at the beginning for ties before pining the first flag. I used three pins per flag, beginning, middle, end and none in the gaps. More is too fiddly and I found three worked well. Make sure to poke them into and back out of the bias part, not into the bias and out through the flag only. Otherwise they will fall out. Be sure the flag is right up in the fold, the whole way along. Measure 6 cm from the first flag and insert the second. I found that 15 flags (approx 5 m) is the most you can pin before things fall apart, so I worked in 15 flag stretches. Once I had 15 flags pinned, I re clipped my bias, gently picked up everything and moved to the sewing machine.
I used a 2.5 straight stitch, as I wanted lots of security and not too much stretch. If you ironed your own bias (or even if you bought it) it’s bound to be unevenly folded in places. I picked a marking on my machine where I could align the folded edge and worked from that rather than trying to make my stitch line run parallel to the open side. My stitches were around 3-4 mm from the open edge, to ensure I caught all thee layers. I started at the beginning of the tie, backstitched, sewed a little way and trimmed my threads. Religiously trim thread! You do not want to have to go through later. I sewed to the end of the last flag (removing pins as I went), backstitched and trimmed threads. I then folded the completed flags into a neat pile (no way I’m ironing it!) and keep them from shifting with more hair sectioning clips. Then repeat everything. Start sewing where you left off and remember to leave a tie at the end. Please, for the love of God, keep an eye on your bobbin thread! It goes quickly and you will not be happy to repin your air sewing.
I found I could pin and sew a 15 flag section in 40mins. Like marking and cutting, the swap of activity is less harsh on your body.
Woohoo! You Have Bunting!!!!
I really hope my little tips have saved you some frustration if you are making giant quantities of bunting for a wedding, party, Christmas or other event. These are all the little things that make for a smooth, fluid process and I learned them all the hard way! It’s been a rather intensive time line and I am literally dreaming about bunting but it’s been amazingly rewarding. The pictures here are on my trashy clothes line but I can’t wait to show and tell you about the actual event. So, do stay tuned! As always, I’m happy answer questions and I’d love to hear your bunting stories, so hit me here or on Facebook xxxx