Materials; design; creating; mounting

A glimpse at the history of banners/flags

Banners are fun and can be any shape and made with a variety of materials.  Use them to identify a group or idea and in colours that are bright or pale. Designs can be painted, screen printed, tie dyed, sewn, glued, or …. The range is only limited by available materials and imagination.

This article can be used by your children or students to help them create their own banner.  What a fun project to do with your children or grandchildren during school vacation time.

A glimpse at the History of banners/flags

 In ancient times there where no flags; only the Scythians, who lived anywhere in a vast area covering present-day Central Asia, Russia and Ukraine  - known until medieval times as Scythia, carried flags in war: "Scythian Signs, which they hold in war, cloths adorned with color, on which design of snakes are pictured, and which are hung from high poles"

The Greeks in place of flags had shields bearing distinct and symbolic signs, which they called episema and through which they recognized their fellow-soldiers in battle. These signs were in the centre of their shields.

The flags of Greek ships were also called episema and were usually hoisted on the foremast.

It became a custom for the leader of a group of Roman soldiers or his designated bearer to carry a long pole with some sort of identifying emblem on it which allowed soldiers to locate their leader during the confusion of battle. Romans flags or banners were made of cloth. They were square and fastened to a cross-bar attached to a pole or spear.

The Karavas were the only Sri Lankan community traditionally entitled to use flags. British Government Agents studying Sri Lankan flags during the early 20th century noted that not a single flag could be found even in the residences of Kandyan chiefs, the Radala nobility of the Kandyan Kingdom, as even they were not entitled to use flags.


 Banners can be made of any suitable material …but what does suitable mean?

Cardboard is easy to use, but it would only be suitable to hang inside. It would tear easily in any wind. The colour would fade in the bright sun and the banner would fall to pieces if it was wet by rain.

Plywood or any other type of wood seems suitable but could be very heavy to carry. Banners are usually light enough to carry in a procession or hang from light hooks. A banner made of wood is more useful as a sign.

Fabric is most suitable. It is light in weight. It is strong and can be decorated in many ways. It can be painted;  it can be screen printed;  it can have designs embroided on it or even tie dyed.  It can have other materials sewn or stuck onto it. It is like a blank page ready for you to create a banner in the way you want.


The design of your banner is very important. Here are a few questions you should consider before you decide your final design. Why do you want to make a banner? Is it to promote your club or school or perhaps a special activity?

Should your banner have a name or logo on it? What colour or colours should you use? How will you make it?  Paint it, sew it or use a combination of techniques. Will your design be easy to make and do you have the necessary materials on hand.   Finally, how do you plan to carry or mount your banner?



Banners made of fabric collage offer a wonderful opportunity to use your imagination. It is easier to work in sections. It allows for more individual participation and the smaller sections are easier to create.

 I suggest that you have a lot of different materials available so that those making the banner can be deliberate and choose the colours and patterns they like. Cut and lay the pieces in place. Pin pieces in place with safety pins.

 Use a needle with a large eye and strong cotton to sew the pieces in place. Running stitch will probably be the most suitable type of stitch.  The sections can be put in position on a backing material and machine sewn into place. The edges of each piece can be turned under and the backing material left to show as a border around each panel. As an alternative the panels could be placed very close to each other so that the backing is not seen. A third method would be to place ribbon, braid or bias binding over the joins and stitch in place.

Dye or Tie-dye


Calico is an excellent material; to use for banner making. New material should be washed, dried and ironed smooth before dyeing. This gets rid of any dressing in the material.  Cold water dye is probably the safest to use. 


Materials required:

Cold water dye in selected colour/s


Washing soda

Wooden spoon

Rubber gloves

Plastic bucket for dye

Half litre container

Rubber bands, corks, pebbles (for tie-dyeing)


Use your rubber gloves throughout the duration of your dyeing session.

1. Dissolve cold water dye in the ½ litre container of warm water (it must not be hot) and stir well then pour into the plastic bucket. You can add more water at this stage so that it will be deep enough to immerse your fabric. Add the salt and washing soda; these make the dye react with the material. Half a cup of household salt and a quarter cup of washing soda are plenty. Alternatively you can buy dye fixative at the same shop where you purchased the dye and use it instead of the salt and washing soda. This mixture should be used within two hours as it goes off.


2. Place your fabric in the bucket and stir with the wooden spoon or piece of sturdy dowel rod to make sure your material is fully submerged. Leave the material in the dye for about one hour. Remove the material and wring it out while holding it over the bucket.  You can use the remaining dye for another project but remember it only stays active for two hours. Rinse your dyed material then wash it in hot water with washing powder. Peg it out to dry.


3. To tie-dye your material, draw circles onto it with chalk. Pick up the material at the centre of the circle and use a rubber band to tightly bind the material. Make a second binding about 10 cm away from the first.  You can draws circles of differing sizes and tie as many sections as you wish.

An alternative method would be to place a cork or pebble in the centre of a chalked circle and bind tightly with a rubber band. Repeat the bindings at desired intervals.  Finish off by following instruction 2.




Now that your banner is finished how do you plan to mount it?  Here are a few suggestions.


Machine narrow hems on the sides and wide hems at the top and bottom of the banner; slip dowel rods through the wide hems. The rods can be longer than the finished banner is wide and large wooden beads can be put n the ends to stop them slipping out. The beads should be glued in place.  If your rods are not to be wider than you banner cut then a little bit shorter and sew the hems closed to keep them in place.  You might select to sew the bottom rod in place but have the top rod longer and finished with beads.


The banner can then be hung on two cup hooks or a cord can be attached to each side of the banner which is then hung by one hook.
Tassels could be made at the ends of the cord.


Another method would be to narrowly hem all four sides and stitch tabs to the top of the banner. The rod then goes through the tabs. The banner could be hung as previously suggested; on two cup hooks or by a cord on one hook.