Textile Politics: The Fabric of a Flag

The Textile Society of America has announced the theme of it's thirteenth bienniel symposium in 2012. In honor of the election year (one supposes) the theme is "Textiles and Politics." If your mind buzzes at this topic as much as mine does, and if you have an inspiration for a paper, you can learn about the submission process at their website.


To put you in the mood, here are some fun facts about flag fabric. Flags were traditionally made from bunting, a loosely woven wool or cotton cloth. (Bunting is also sometimes called "banner cloth," and the term bunting has also become synonymous with flags and banners.) Bunting is ideal fabric for flags because the loosely woven natural fibers accept and retain color well. In fact, the word derives from bunt, the German word for "color."


According to the website Rare Flags, understanding the fabrics and sewing techniques used to make flags is an essential part of identifying and evaluating antique American flags. Forensic examination of flags, to the level of examining the fibers of the fabrics themselves, and the threads used to sew the flags, helps identify the period of the materials used and usually is a good indicator of the period of a flag. For example, when examined very closely, the earliest flags, dating to the 18th and early 19th century, were made of wool bunting that is very loosely and irregularly woven, whereas in the wool bunting produced by machine in the mid- to late 19th century, and into the 20th century, the weave becomes very consistent and regular. Linen was also used for the stars in some early flags. Check out the website for lots more fun flag fabric facts.

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