American flag quilt

American Flag quilt by Noelle Olpin

American Flag Quilt by Noelle Olpin, 36″ x 31″

I made this pattern up myself, I’ve had the idea of an American Flag quilt tucked away in a corner of my brain for awhile. A few elements that influenced it’s making: First of all, I dislike throwing any scrap of fabric- no matter the size or shape, so I had plenty of scrap fabric ready to go. Second, I admire the quilters of Gee’s Bend (this is an extreme understatement). And lastly, my love for flags has been growing throughout the years as I’ve traveled, participated in humanitarian work in Nepal and Cambodia and sent my kids on foreign exchanges and adventures of their own.

All kinds of flags have caught my eye- country flags, nautical flags, Native American Indian tribe flags– all intriguing and beautiful in their representation of solidarity and national pride. And the useful (sneaky to land lubbers) messaging aspect of nautical signal flags in the coolest. Through these aligned preferences and concepts, this quilt was born.
american flag quilt1I started by collecting up all of the tiny scraps of red, white and blue fabric I could possibly find, and began randomly sewing them together.

american flag quilt, making the stripesAs I pieced things together, I tried to roughly create the shapes I needed- long narrow strips for the red and white sections, then blocky blue and white strips for the star section.
making an american flag quiltAfter continuing to piece together reds and whites into long skinny pieces, I starting sewing them together. My goal was obvious imperfection and wavy lines- which is a lot harder than you would think. I put the rotary cutter away and cut everything with scissors… in my lap and not on a flat table.
stars on the flagI made the ‘stars’ section in strips of white and blue squares.  A tiny bit of basic math went into this part because I was striving for 50 white pieces or stars in there. I tried to make the blue and white sections about 1-2″ squares. Nine rows of 5 or 6 white chunks, semi-lined up and sewn together with blue strips in between.
making the stars for flag quiltI found this actual star fabric while searching through my collection of blue fabric scraps and decided to incorporate it, a strong mental suggestion for those who aren’t compelled by abstract patterns.

american flag quilt, abstract starsLooking at the back… very messy and in my opinion it’s intriguing to see the process and framework. As you can see, I still did plenty of ironing throughout the process.
building the quilt stars back
building the quilt starsIf you look closely, you can see that some of the selvages (unfinished fabric edges) have been left exposed on the quilt top and sewn with visible top stitching. I want the exposed edges to be visible and the slightly frayed aspect to add texture and imperfection of the finished quilt.
stars and stripes quiltIn laying out the three pieces, I found that the blue and white section was too small and needed more white stars too. So I pieced and added another small blue and white section.
american flag quilt, making the starsHere’s the added-to blue section (the part to the farthest right)- finally making the entire section the right size.

american flag quiltHere are all three pieces ready to be trimmed and sewn into one.
stars and stripes

stars and stripes quilt

And, of course,  a view of the backside.

flag quiltAnother look at the back as the pieces come together.

abstract american flagHere’s a backlit look at the finished pieced flag quilt top, showing off all of the tiny pieces that combine to make up the color portions.
american flag quilt topI love looking at the light coming through the fabric, before the batting and the back fabric get put on.
american flag quiltNow, I’ve got to decide how to quilt the top. I’m picturing simple, but hand stitched… This is going to take some time, but the end result with be worth it with a very organic, homemade and home grown feel.
red and white top stitchingI did a bit of machine top stitching to hold layers in place, then finished up with an easy running stitch with embroidery floss and pearl cotton thread in coordinating colors. Mostly straight, uneven stitching with an occasional swirl built in for some fun and curvy lines.
am flag top stitch
american flag details
topstitching on american flagI added an occasional embroidered star over the white star blocks with a couching or double running stitch.
flag quilt signature

With a final embroidered signature in the corner on the back, the American flag quilt is finished.
back of flag quilt

Here’s a view of the full back side. I always sew a sleeve for hanging at the top of all of my quilts. A flat, thin piece of wood (or metal, I’m using a yardstick in this picture) cut to the just under the width of the quilt helps the quilt hang straight across the top and keeps the quilt from eventually sagging in the middle like fabric is inclined to do.

Note: A hole is drilled into each side of the pole or stick, close to the ends. Then the holes are placed over nails in the wall to hang it up.

back of quilt

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